• 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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Chapter 2: In Search of Acceptance

The changeling's altercation with the timberwolves had left her in a poor state, but as Locomotion had predicted, her difference in species proved no obstacle to Zecora who seemed to take it well within her stride. While the red-furred young stallion was washing the blood off his fur, the zebra set about making a healing potion for their patient before helping Twilight bandage her wounds, taking care not to use anything that might have an adverse effect on her.

As they worked, Locomotion decided to try and get the young interloper to open up a little more. “So, uh...what's your name?” he asked politely.

“Name?” The changeling looked at Locomotion as if she didn't know the meaning of the word.

“Yes, name,” Locomotion coaxed gently. “You know, the title you were given to tell you apart from the rest of your species.”

The changeling closed her eyes and sombrely hung her head, as if she were about to reveal a terrible secret. “I don't have a name,” she confessed sadly.

“WHAT?!” Locomotion's jaw almost dropped out of its sockets.

“It's true,” the changeling went on solemnly. “Back where I came from, only the really important ones like the queen and her council ever had names. The rest of us were just given identification numbers; mine was CH001FD14726198305.”

“Wow,” remarked Twilight. “Rather a clunky identity, wouldn't you say?”

Locomotion looked put out. “Clunky?! I think the word you're looking for is 'degrading'!” he retorted feelingly. “I mean...really, what kind of ruler would insist on referring to his or her subjects by number?! It's...it's......it makes you seem like nothing more than an accounting exercise!” He looked back to the changeling; “You mean to say...your kind were never allowed basic rights?!”

“Not that I know of,” affirmed the changeling. “Our queen expected us to be tough and ruthless, and didn't even let us think for ourselves. She said we all had a responsibility to the throne and to the growth of her empire, and that we had to fight other nations in order to gain more love and power. But I never wanted to be like that,” she went on, her eyes brimming once again. “I never wanted to live up to the reputation of the rest of my kind.”

“But how did you end up in the Everfree Forest?” inquired Twilight. “Had you been forced to take part in an invasion and then deserted them at the eleventh hour?”

“No. None of us were allowed out of our hives until we were sixteen years old, and even then we had to attend some...patriotic speech thingy that our queen held every year.” The changeling paused, a look of dread spreading across her face. “What frightens me is that all my friends went to that speech saying they would never be persuaded to fight other nations, and then came back all sinister and cruel. I don't know what caused it, but I was afraid the same thing might happen to me if I stayed, so I ran away.”

This made Locomotion's heart bleed, and he almost shed a few tears of his own in his dismay. “Aw, you poor thing,” he murmured, raising a solemn hoof to his chest. “That's terrible!”

“That's how I ended up here,” finished the changeling. “I wanted to find a place I could call the Promised Land – somewhere I could be welcomed with open arms, where I could be loved naturally rather than by force. I was hoping it might be somewhere north of Equestria.”

Twilight shook her head gravely. “There's nothing north of Equestria except frozen wasteland. Even if you made it up there, you'd be hard-pressed to find a Promised Land, per se.”

“Well...yes and no,” put in Locomotion. “There are inhabitable areas within the Frozen North, like Bearlarus, Yakyakistan and the Crystal Empire; but the bears would probably make a meal out of you like the timberwolves nearly did, the rulers of the Crystal Empire might be a bit slow to forgive your kind and so, by extension, will their subjects – and don't even get me started on the yaks! No need to worry, though,” he soothed, resting his hoof on the nervous changeling's shoulder, “we'll at least try and make you welcome here in Equestria, won't we, Twilight?”

“Um...hmm......” Twilight pondered for a few seconds. “...I don't know, Loco; somehow I don't think Princess Celestia will approve.”

“Aw, please, Twilight,” pleaded Locomotion despairingly, “at least try and talk it out with her. I mean, just look at the poor soul – she's got nothing. No friends, no family...nowhere to go, even! It wouldn't be fair to just leave her in the lurch like this; and besides, we've already established that she doesn't have any malicious intentions.”

“I know that, Loco, but there is a law here in Equestria...”

“...that any changeling in Equestria is to be arrested and clapped into jail for the rest of their lives. Yes, I know that, Twilight,” protested Locomotion, “but the law is wrong! All it ever tells us is that all changelings are evil, and I don't care what anypony else calls it – legislation, protection or what – as far as I'm concerned, it's nothing less than out and out racism!” He choked back a small sob, visibly terrified for the young changeling's welfare. “Please help her, Twilight – for me. I'll never forgive myself if anything happens to her.”

Twilight smiled softly. “Alright then, Loco,” she conceded. “If it means so much to you, I'll gladly try and fight your case through; but I can't make any promises.”

Locomotion brightened up at once. “Aw, thanks, Twilight,” he said, jumping up and flinging his arms around her withers in a grateful embrace. “You really are the Princess of Friendship.”

“We'll still need to think of a name for her,” advised Twilight. “There's no point in calling her 'the changeling' or...whatever her ID number was.”

“Oh, grief, yeah,” remarked Locomotion as he released his grip and lowered himself back on all fours. “Yeah, I can see that's gonna be a bit of a problem. Only thing is, what kind of name would suit such a creature?”

“I don't know.” Twilight looked questioningly at the changeling for help; but all the response she got was an unhappy shake of the head. “Any ideas, Zecora?”

“For changelings, no – not as far as I know.”

“Hmm...maybe if we tried naming a few insects?” asked Locomotion thoughtfully. “Might lead to something, you never know.”

“What, like...Bumblebee?”

The red-furred teenager stifled a chuckle. “I don't think so, Twilight. That'd just make her sound clumsy. We want something that makes her sound kind of...I don't know...sweet and innocent, but brave and resilient at the same time.” He fell silent again, trying to think of a few other possibilities, but none of them seemed quite right. 'Wasp' sounded too aggressive; she wasn't the right colour for 'Mantis', which in itself sounded rather masculine; 'Click Beetle' was too clunky; 'Black Widow' made her sound like a serial killer...if only there was something a little more fitting, he thought to himself...

His mind started to wander as he gazed upon the young escapee, checking out her features without even realising what he was doing. She seemed surprisingly attractive for a changeling, much smoother and less angular in body shape, almost like a pony; but with a thin barrel just like Celestia and Luna, and with many of the hallmarks of her own kind. Somehow, he thought, even these added to her charm – that flowing baby-blue mane and tail...that heart-shaped hole in her left hind leg...those gentle, timid green eyes...those cute little fangs that poked out over her lower lip...that smooth, curved-back horn...

All of a sudden, his eyes lit up with inspiration. “I know!” he exclaimed eagerly. “We'll call you Hornette!”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Hornette?”

“Yes – Hornette!” repeated Locomotion. “It's like 'Hornet', but more sort of feminine.”

“Hmm...” Twilight looked thoughtfully at the changeling. “You know, Loco, that might actually work. Reckon so, Zecora?”

The zebra nodded. “A very interesting choice of name – but is it one that our changeling will claim?”

“Well?” asked Locomotion hopefully. “What do you think?”

The changeling smiled approvingly. “Um...yeah, I quite like it,” she decided. “It has a really nice feel......I think it'd suit me.”

“Alright then – Hornette it shall be.” Twilight wrapped the last bandage around the young changeling's head and carefully secured it in place with a safety pin. “There you go, Hornette,” she said softly. “How's that feel?”

“Um...much better than it was earlier,” replied Hornette gratefully. “Thank you, your Highness. I don't know what I did to deserve your kindness, but thank you.”

“You don't need to call me that,” chuckled Twilight. “I may be a princess, but I'd rather be treated as an ordinary pony – no bowing and scraping and such, just plain old Twilight Sparkle. Besides, it's Locomotion here you should be thanking, not me.”

Locomotion blushed modestly. “Aw, heck, Twilight, it was nothing really. I could hardly just stand by and let a helpless creature perish in her hour of need, now could I?”

“I'm glad you didn't,” whispered Hornette. “I'd never have stood a chance against those monsters if it weren't for you.” A small tear welled up in her eye as she smiled warmly upon him. “You saved my life.”

“Forget it,” said Locomotion, returning the smile in kind. “The main thing is you're alive and, uh...on the mend, so to speak.” He gazed out of the window, wondering what time it was. To his dismay, he noticed that the moon and stars had already started to come out. “Hmm...doesn't look like I'm gonna make it back to Ponyville any time soon,” he thought aloud.

“Well, that's okay, Loco,” interjected Twilight. “I can always tell your parents where you are, if you like.”

At the mention of his parents, the red-furred teenager was once again overtaken by dread. Even if Twilight managed to talk Celestia into giving the changeling a proper chance to prove herself, he thought, the rest of his family might not be so willing. “You won't tell them about Hornette, will you?” he asked desperately.

“I'm afraid they're going to have to learn about her sooner or later, Loco, and so is the rest of Ponyville,” replied Twilight gravely. “Either I tell them once I've spoken with Celestia, or you turn up with her tomorrow morning and end up in a row with them because you've defied the law. Which would you prefer?”

Locomotion gritted his teeth. He wasn't sure he wanted anypony else to know about Hornette just yet, but he couldn't argue with the facts presented to him. “Alright then, Twilight – but you might as well let Uncle Steamer in on this too, seeing as I'm living with him now.”

“As you wish. I'll be back as soon as I can, Zecora,” said Twilight as she made her way out of the hut. “Make sure Hornette and Locomotion have everything they need.”

Secretly, Zecora still had her doubts about how Celestia would take this news, but wisely kept them to herself. “Any issues they have, to those I shall attend,” she conceded. “Good luck with persuading Celestia, my friend.”

“Thanks, Zecora – I'll probably need it.”

All was quiet in the now empty streets of Ponyville as Twilight gently touched down in front of the Castle of Friendship. Most of the other residents had already turned in for the night, and apart from a lonely light shining from the odd house, the only visible signs of life were the night guards standing just outside the front entrance. They bowed graciously at Twilight's approach, but in her concern, she paid them little heed. Only when she passed through the door and heard the sound of a certain orange Pegasus calling out her name did she snap out of her reverie.

“Hey there, Twily,” remarked Flash. “You were pretty late getting back. What kept you?”

“Had a bit of an emergency out in the forest,” explained Twilight. “Loco came knocking just after I'd arrived at Zecora's hut for the tea I asked for, and...well, long story short, I need to write to Celestia about something.”

“Eh? What's Celestia got to do with it?” inquired Flash, arching a confused eyebrow as he trotted after her.

Twilight paused momentarily. She knew she had already promised Locomotion that she wouldn't tell anypony else about Hornette without his permission, but if her consort was to understand, then this was probably where she had to start breaking it. “Well, before you jump to any conclusions, Flash, I'd like you to know that I'd already scanned her memory and found no serious malice in that creature whatsoever – just fear and distress plus a hint of...some other emotion I can't quite put my hoof on.”


“And you know from experience that the memory scan spell has never yet failed me, right?” she went on.

“Uh...yeah, so?”

“Now...I know this might sound crazy, seeing as this was my first time using such a spell on a changeling, but you have to believe me when I say she was genuinely scared of us...”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” interrupted Flash, his eyes wide with shock. “You mean to tell me there's...a changeling?! In the Everfree Forest?!”

“Yes, there's a changeling in the Everfree Forest,” stated Twilight calmly, mentally apologising to Locomotion for what she had just revealed. “Look, I know they've been a threat to this nation in the past, and believe me, I've seen first-hoof how manipulative they can be; but this is no Queen Chrysalis we're dealing with here. Hornette doesn't want to start taking advantage of us just for a bit of changeling food – she just wants to find a safe haven, somewhere she can feel safe and wanted and loved without forcing it on other ponies.”

If Flash was confused earlier, he was now utterly flabbergasted. Surely this couldn't be true of a changeling, he thought – no, that creature must be playing with Twilight's head just as their queen had done to her brother all those years ago! And more to the point, why would this one be trying to find safe haven in Equestria? All she was likely to find here was a painfully prolonged end in the Canterlot dungeons. “Well...that's all very well, Twily, but how do you think Princess Celestia might take it?” he blurted out at last.

“That's what I'm hoping to find out,” murmured Twilight, gazing out of a nearby window towards Canterlot and hoping that her former mentor would understand the young changeling's plight and give her a fair trial. “Meet me in my bedroom, Flash. I'll tell you the whole story once I've sent this letter,” and before Flash could answer, she cantered swiftly down the hallway towards her private study.

The moment she entered, the lavender-coated alicorn hastily levitated a quill and a fresh sheet of parchment over to her desk and began writing with an anxious flourish. There was a time when she could safely depend on her dragon assistant Spike to write, proofread and dispatch her letters, but since he had moved in with Rarity, the lavender-coated alicorn had had to shoulder that responsibility all by herself. After a few minutes and around twenty discarded sheets, Twilight scanned through the latest draft of her letter for anything that might need rewording. Normally she was rather confident in her choice of phrasing when it came to writing letters, but tonight was different – one wrong word, and it would be off to the dungeons with Hornette.

Dear Princess Celestia,

My apologies for keeping you up so late, but there is an urgent matter that I need to negotiate ASAP. Earlier today, one of my subjects discovered a badly injured changeling in the Everfree Forest who says she is on the run from the Badlands in search of a new homeland. She has only ever been referred to by an ID number while under Queen Chrysalis, so we have opted to name her Hornette. She further claims, and I quote, that she “never wanted to live up to the reputation of the rest of [her] kind”, but instead wishes to be “welcomed with open arms” and “loved naturally instead of by force”. I have already scanned her memory and determined that she is telling the truth, so I am writing to ask that you make an exception to the Anti-Changeling Protection Act and grant her a probation. Hoping you will understand.

Your Most Faithful Former Student
Princess Twilight Sparkle

“Hmm...good enough, I guess,” the lavender-coated alicorn decided at last, rolling up the parchment and tying a length of ribbon around it with the Friendship Rainbow Kingdom seal. “Well...here goes nothing.”

She closed her eyes and focussed her thoughts on her former mentor, and with a burst of light from her horn, the letter disintegrated into a small purple cloud of magic. The cloud swept away through the fireplace and up the chimney on the far side of the room, from whence it would be carried away on the wind towards Canterlot Castle. Not long now before Hornette's fate was decided, Twilight thought to herself as she retired to her bed chamber.

Flash was still waiting anxiously on the divan as the lavender-coated princess entered. Twilight settled down next to her consort and told him all about Hornette, how Locomotion had rescued her from the timberwolves and taken her to Zecora's hut for medical attention and recovery, and all the hardships she had been through before sneaking out of the Badlands in search of her “Promised Land”.

The orange-coated Pegasus guardspony could only stare in disbelief. “A changeling...wanting to treat us ponies like...equals? Gee whiz, what are the chances of that?!” he remarked.

“Well...it's possible,” observed Twilight. “Thorax wasn't so bad once you got to know him, and he's a changeling.” A deep sigh escaped her lips as she recalled her and Spike's encounter with the guilt-ridden changeling. Up to that point, the mere mention of such creatures had been more than enough to strike fear, anger and hatred into her; but after seeing how tame and friendly Thorax was, she now felt ashamed of herself for holding it against his and Hornette's kind for so long. If only she knew what had become of him in the seven years since she had first seen him.

“I still don't understand, though,” went on Flash. “Why would this one be trying to find a Promised Land in Equestria of all places? The law says that no changeling should ever be allowed to run free here.”

“I'm aware of that, Flash, and that's precisely why I'm writing to Princess Celestia,” explained Twilight gravely. “Hornette may be a changeling, but she's nothing like the ones that attempted to invade Canterlot all those years ago – and in any case, I did promise Loco that I'd try to grant her immunity from the Anti-Changeling Act.”

“Yeah, I can kind of see where you're coming from with this one,” agreed Flash thoughtfully. “She hardly sounds like the stereotypical changeling. Still, I wouldn't mind meeting her face to face, just so I know what we're dealing with.”

“Well, I did plan on heading back to Zecora's hut to deliver Celestia's verdict anyway, so you can come as my bodyguard if you want,” suggested Twilight helpfully.

“Yeah, I think I'd feel safer if I did,” admitted Flash. “At least that way I could be sure that this Hornette girl is as innocent as you make her out to be.”

Twilight smiled wryly; but before she could reply, a swirl of off-white magic drifted out of the fireplace and materialised itself into a scroll just in front of her. “Gosh, that was quick,” she thought out loud, noting that it was sealed with the Royal Canterlot emblem. Promptly, she opened up the scroll and began to read its contents.

“Celestia's reply?” asked Flash inquisitively.

“Yeah, it's from Celestia alright,” affirmed Twilight. Her eyebrows straightened as she rolled up the letter again and tucked it under her mane. “Seems you'll be getting your chance sooner than we thought...”

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