• 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 4: First Day in Ponyville

The morning sun hovered gently above the horizon as the nation of Equestria awoke to a brand new day, blissfully unaware of the interloper from the Badlands. Over in Zecora's hut, Hornette, her wounds healed and most of the dressing removed, was tucking into a bowl of stag beetles with a side of fresh grass, while Zecora was making some toast for herself and Locomotion. She had slept surprisingly well given the previous day's escapade, and though she was still nervous about meeting the other local residents, the young changeling was glad to at least have the red-furred unicorn by her side.

Locomotion took a cheerful bite out of his breakfast. “Nothing like a good slice of toasted corn bread and some marmalade to start my day – except for a nice fry-up, of course,” he mused. “You enjoying yours, Hornette?”

“I sure am,” replied Hornette, pausing for a few seconds to toss one of the insects into her mouth. “I never knew these beetles tasted so good steamed.”

“I must confess, neither did I, but I was still sure you'd be willing to try,” intoned Zecora kindly as she turned over the slice of bread she was currently toasting.

“Well, I'm glad I did get to try them. They're delicious.”

“Don't let Fluttershy hear you say that,” quipped Locomotion cheekily.

Hornette cocked her head. “Who's Fluttershy?”

“Oh, that's the name of our local animal caretaker,” explained Locomotion. “She's pretty......well, shy; but can be really, really friendly once you get to know her. Matter of fact, she's on the Friendship Council too, so if you were hoping to meet her, you're more than in luck.”

“You...have ponies who take care of animals?” Hornette was surprised.

“Oh, yeah,” affirmed Locomotion. “You may not believe this, but even nature requires us ponies to keep it going around here, whether it's tending to the animals, sowing seeds or moving clouds or whatever. It's not the case in some of the more treacherous places like here in the Everfree Forest, but other than that...well, you get the idea. But yeah, she's had a natural talent for looking after and interacting with various creatures since foalhood,” he went on, taking another bite of his toast. “First time here on the ground, she was so good with the local animals that she gained her Cutie Mark after just...five minutes or something in their company.”

“Gosh, that's amazing,” remarked Hornette; but her awe quickly turned back to puzzlement. “Um...forgive my ignorance, Loco, but...what's a Cutie Mark?”

Locomotion chuckled heartily. Clearly, Hornette had a lot to learn about ponies. “It's a...sort of an emblem that each of us have on our flanks which denotes our individual personalities, mostly to do with special talents and such. Take mine, for example,” he elaborated, proudly pointing to the golden spoked wheel and black locomotive chimney spouting smoke and steam on his flank. “That's the emblem of Equestrian National Railways, and indicates towards a career, talent and general interest in trains.”

“Oh, I see...I think,” said Hornette. “So is it just ponies who get them, or do other creatures have Cutie Marks as well?”

“Um...not a lot, as far as I know,” admitted Locomotion. “I mean, as you can see, Zecora has one herself, and apparently so do the rest of her species; but other than that, I'm not sure.”

“Oh, okay. By the way, what are trains?”

“They're...how shall I put it...they're like a pony and cart, except that they're mechanised and run on special paths made of metal rails bolted to wooden sleepers, which we ponies call railways. I've been a great fan of them since I was just a yearling, and my uncle Steamer and I actually work for them on a daily basis.” Being such a huge railway enthusiast, he would have wanted to go a lot further, but he tactfully decided against it for fear of overloading her. In any case, he realised as Twilight knocked on the door and entered the hut, it was almost time for them to go. “Hullo again, Twilight.”

“Good morning, Loco. You and Hornette sleep well last night?”

“Pretty much, considering.”

“How about you, Hornette? Feeling better?” asked Twilight.

Hornette smiled faintly. “I think so, Twilight – just a little...nervous.”

“About coming to live in Ponyville?”

“Well...yes.”

Locomotion gave the young changeling a small, supportive smile of his own. “Yeah, I know how you feel. So would I be if I were stuck out somewhere I'm not familiar with. Never mind,” he soothed. “I'll be right behind you all the way.”

“You and me both,” put in Twilight. “If anypony has a problem with there being a changeling in Ponyville, they'll have me to answer to. Anyway, Hornette,” she added, “will you be able to walk from here to Steamer's house, or do you need somepony to carry you?”

Hornette felt much more at ease knowing that both Locomotion and Twilight would be looking out for her, but she was a little reluctant to accept too much help from either of them. “Oh...I don't want to be a burden on you ponies,” she stuttered.

“You're not,” objected Locomotion kindly. “If you need help, you need help – there's no two ways about it. But yeah, can you stand up?”

“Um...I'll try.” Gingerly, Hornette shifted herself to the edge of the bed and rolled herself over so that she was on all fours. Her legs wobbled a little as she tried to maintain her balance, her face contorting with discomfort as she felt a stabbing pain in her right hind cannon, and Locomotion was forced to stand immediately next to her for support.

“You alright?” he asked anxiously.

“Ouch...sort of,” groaned Hornette. “Just a little sore where that timberwolf bit me.”

“Hmm...yeah, that was a close run thing,” remarked Locomotion quietly, gazing at the bandages around her leg. Too much further up and that timberwolf could have killed her. “Okay, you just take it easy and try not to put too much weight on it. I'll support your bad side.”

“Okay,” murmured Hornette, leaning cautiously against the red-furred young stallion. She felt a little awkward being in such close contact with him, and silently wished that her leg hadn't taken so long to heal; but for some strange reason, she also felt a faint flutter in her heart as his soft fur brushed against her carapace.

“Right, well, we'd best be on our way,” declared Twilight. “Steamer's probably worrying himself sick about you, Loco.” She turned her attention to the zebra apothecary as she, Locomotion and Hornette made for the door; “Thanks for putting them up at such short notice, Zecora. I'll see you in a week, if not sooner.”

“Always glad to help in a bad situation,” smiled Zecora. “Farewell, young Hornette, and good luck with your probation.”

“Goodbye, Miss Zecora,” replied Hornette gratefully. “Thank you for helping me.”

Zecora responded with a polite nod and closed the door behind them. Hornette, meanwhile, continued to steal glance after glance upon the hut until it was out of sight. She didn't know if she would ever get the chance to visit that place ever again (indeed, after what had nearly happened to her with the timberwolves, it was touch and go whether she could even muster up the courage!), but after all that the kindly zebra had done for her, both were almost certain to remain with her for the rest of her life.

But what of Ponyville, she wondered as they neared the edge of the forest? What were the chances of fitting in with its other residents just as she had done with Locomotion, Zecora, Twilight and Flash? This was Equestria, after all – she didn't know how long it had been since the last attempt at an invasion by her kind, but these ponies weren't all that likely to have forgotten, particularly in the light of the siege on...what was their capital city called...Canterlot, that was it. And this Steamer pony they kept mentioning – how would he react to finding a changeling at his front door? Somehow, she didn't think he would be anywhere near as willing to accept her as Locomotion had been, even if the two were related.

“Um...Loco,” she piped up shyly, “what's your uncle like?”

“Oh...pretty sociable sort, kinda laid back half the time, but really dedicated to his role as a locomotive driver,” answered Locomotion. “He's like a second father to me – taught me a great deal about trains and railways when I was a kid, and often let me ride in the cab with him on the express runs. He even put in a good word for me with the Motive Power Superintendent at the local engine sheds, and after that, I was allowed to work for them as a part-time cleaner. I've been working my way through the ranks ever since.”

“Do you...think he'll like me?”

Locomotion frowned and averted his gaze. “I...don't really know,” he confessed, looking up to Twilight for reassurance.

“Well...let's just say he'll need time to get used to you,” decided Twilight, anxious not to go into any detail lest she make Hornette feel insecure; but her skirting round the issue didn't exactly put Locomotion at ease. He didn't have the heart to tell either of them, but somehow, deep down, he had a hunch that his uncle wouldn't take very kindly to the young changeling – not at first, anyway.

Soon – too soon for Locomotion and Hornette's liking – the three of them had left the open countryside behind and were making their way through the streets of Ponyville, where the sight of a changeling in the midst of this provincial town was causing quite a stir. Several townsponies were staring in shock, fear, disgust and confusion, while others took one look at Hornette before bolting to the nearest alleyway, peering cautiously out of their hiding places as she passed them by. Locomotion found this most frustrating!

But when at last they reached Steamer's house, his annoyance with the townsponies was quickly swept aside as his fears came back with a vengeance. He raised a hoof to knock at the door, but such was his anxiety that it seemed to seize up completely.

“Go on, Loco,” encouraged Twilight.

Locomotion slowly lowered his hoof to the doorstep. “I can't,” he muttered pathetically. “Steamer's gonna have a fit when he sees Hornette!”

Twilight shook her head in dismay. The red-furred railway enthusiast was clearly having a harder time trying to steel himself for the inevitable than he made out. “You can't put it off forever, Loco,” she coaxed gently. “The longer you leave it, the harder he'll take the whole thing, and then he probably won't trust her at all,” and before Locomotion could reply, she leaned over him and knocked three times.

Every second felt like an hour as the three of them waited for Steamer to answer the door. Locomotion stared down at his front hooves, biting his lip anxiously while Hornette looked nervously left and right, presumably for somewhere to hide. “Um...maybe he's not home?” she stammered, trying to sound helpful.

“I'd give it another minute or so...” began Twilight; but the door swung open before she could finish.

Locomotion gulped and drew himself upright. Now, he thought, he was really going to face the music. “Uh...morning, Uncle Steamer,” he spoke up, trying to sound casual. “Sorry I didn't make it back when I said I would, but...you know...”

“That's alright, Loco – at least you're back safe and sound.” Steamer was trying his best to look and sound nonchalant, but his nephew could sense a hint of reproof in his voice. “Now then, what's this I hear about you rescuing a changeling in the Everfree Forest?”

“It's true,” admitted Locomotion meekly. “Now look, I know what you're thinking,” he added hastily before Steamer could reprimand him, “but please hear me out – Hornette doesn't want to be like all the other changelings. She doesn't want to force other creatures to love her, and neither does she want to be a part of any changeling war against Equestria; she just wants to find somewhere she can be genuinely loved and cared for. And another thing, I didn't even know she was a changeling in the first place – I just heard a scream from nearby and assumed that another pony or some such creature was being attacked by those timberwolves.”

“I...see.” Steamer's eyebrows straightened. “Well, I probably don't need to tell you how disappointed I am, Loco,” he said in a quiet yet chastising tone. “I'd have thought you'd know better than to defy the law like this.”

“Uncle, I had to!” protested Locomotion. “I couldn't just leave her there, not in her condition – heck, she could have bled to death if she didn't die of shock first! And yes, you heard me right just then – that changeling was terrified of me when she first saw me, and I'm just a pony!” His voice began to break as he ranted on, and he found it increasingly difficult to hold back tears. “She could have done something really horrible to me the moment she came round, but she didn't because she thought I was gonna hurt her! She was pleading for mercy! She actually wanted me to leave her alone even though I was her last hope! Heck, I'm surprised I managed to calm her down, even!” and he choked back a sob, unable to carry on.

Steamer sighed heavily. “Alright, where is she?” he asked, softening his demeanour slightly.

Locomotion indicated towards his left side, trying to pull himself together; but he was startled to find that Hornette had completely vanished. “Hornette?” he called anxiously. “Hornette, where are you?”

“I'll handle this, Loco.” Twilight sent out a wave of magic, and in an instant, the young changeling reappeared immediately next to Locomotion. Her face was ashen with fear as she gazed upon Steamer, who eyed her suspiciously.

“So you're Hornette, huh?”

“Um...y...yes, sir,” faltered Hornette in a timid, squeaky, jittery tone.

“Hmm...well, I like to think I'm a stallion of my word,” stated Steamer bluntly, “so if Twilight says you're to stay here, then who am I to argue? But if you dare to hurt my nephew, there'll be consequences.”

Hornette didn't reply. She just backed away and hid herself behind Locomotion, who rolled his eyes and directed a disapproving glance of his own towards his uncle.

“Now, Steamer,” concluded Twilight, “I'll be visiting here at 7pm each day to renew the suppression spell I cast on her, and I want to hear that you're treating Hornette well. If Locomotion tells me otherwise, I'll be having stern words with you.”

“As you wish,” muttered Steamer reluctantly. He watched as Twilight took off for the castle, and retired to the living room with a weary expression on his face. “You feel free to settle her in, Loco – as far as I'm concerned, she's your responsibility.”

“Wouldn't have it any other way,” retorted Locomotion under his breath as he led Hornette into the house.

Hornette found Steamer's house rather different to the tribal style of Zecora's hut. The living room was large and airy, with a wide-screen television, an ornamental fireplace made out of a type of rock that Locomotion called slate, and a comfortable-looking sofa that he explained could also be converted into a double bed if need be. There were also several framed pictures hanging from the walls, many of famous locomotives from all around the world – indeed, there were plenty more out in the hallway, the kitchen and the dining room.

The upstairs floor, meanwhile, consisted of a bathroom, a study and three bedrooms, of which Locomotion owned one and Steamer the other. The third one turned out to be little more than a guest room, that much was apparent from the lack of appealing décor other than a blue fitted carpet; whereas, at the opposite end of the spectrum, Locomotion's room was alive with colour and even had its own television set and desktop computer. All told, Hornette rather liked her new home – it was a huge change from what she was used to, but the smaller space of this typical Equestrian house felt far cosier and more inviting than the massive hive in which she had previously lived. It just felt so...homely.

“You ponies sure know how to build your homes,” she sighed contentedly as she and Locomotion hung out in his room.

Locomotion chuckled. “Yeah, well...we do our best,” he answered modestly.

“No, really,” insisted Hornette, “where I'm from, you don't get others of my kind owning a separate house at all. The most we ever get is a chamber in each hive, and we even have to share a single dining space.”

After what she had said about no “inferior” changelings being given names, this hardly came as a surprise to Locomotion; but it still didn't stop him from scowling bitterly. This was no kingdom Hornette was talking about, he thought angrily – this was a dictatorship! No ruler in the world, no matter how powerful or revered, should ever treat their subjects this way. “Good thing you never get Princess Celestia being so ruthless,” he muttered feelingly. “Faust bless democracy.”

“Who...what?”

“Queen Faust,” explained Locomotion, calming himself down a little. “That's the name of the great Goddess of Equestria, the mother of Celestia and Luna. And a democracy is when you have a ruler who actually listens to the peoples of his or her nation and does what they want of him or her.”

Hornette looked stunned. “You mean...your Princess Celestia actually puts her subjects first?”

“Yeah,” affirmed Locomotion matter-of-factly. “If she didn't, we'd probably still be living in the dark ages just like we did before the founding of Equestria,” making a mental note to explain it in greater detail at some point in the near future, “and you'd probably be in a dungeon by now.”

“But...I thought that a ruler always had the final word,” exclaimed Hornette, taken aback.

Locomotion laughed in an almost derisive tone. “That's not necessarily true, Hornette,” he clarified. “We lesser subjects have our own wills and imaginations just like any other living creature, and if a ruler doesn't respect that, they don't deserve to be in charge. Take the griffins, for example; after King Guto died and their sacred Idol of Boreas went missing, his subjects were so devastated that no-one offered themselves as heir to the throne, and he didn't even have a son or daughter to succeed him. Instead, their country fell into a state of anarchy, and the former capital city of Griffonstone all but lost its significance.

“Over the years, some other griffins tried to form a new government, but it wasn't until 1933 that a particularly bitter and power-hungry griffin named Adolf Hawker assumed control. He had taken a real dislike to ponies in his youth, and consistently blamed Equestria for all the hardships Griffonia had been facing. But worse than that,” he went on darkly, “he was so determined to make Griffonia the greatest nation on the planet that he began invading other countries.”

“Just like the rest of my kind are trying to do now?” asked Hornette breathlessly.

“Exactly! In the end, Celestia was forced to declare war on him against her better judgement, and from 1939 to '45, we found ourselves fighting endlessly against Griffonia until at last, with the help of the Prench, the Arabians, the reindeer and the zebras, we managed to defeat Hawker's regime once and for all.” Locomotion sighed unhappily and closed his eyes. “We managed to help Griffonia back onto its feet and reform its government afterwards, but the Great Griffin War, as we call it, has gone down as the deadliest conflict in history – over 60 million dead worldwide, most of them civilians. All I can say is, thank the lucky stars I wasn't around then.”

Hornette raised a hoof to her heart. “Oh, Loco...that sounds awful.”

Locomotion smiled ruefully. “It's the way of the world, unfortunately. Sometimes we make peace with other nations; other times, we find ourselves at war with them. Still, all species have a good streak in them somewhere,” he added. “Who knows? Maybe someday, the rest of yours may yet see the light and make peace with us ponies.”

“I certainly hope we will,” agreed Hornette longingly.


If Steamer had been hoping not to have anything to do with Hornette, he soon found that it wasn't to be the case. He still wasn't comfortable with the idea of sharing his house with a changeling, and intended to stay out of her way as much as possible; but to his dismay, when they sat down to lunch, Locomotion strongly insisted that she be allowed to eat with them rather than alone in the guest room. It wouldn't do to make her feel excluded, he argued, and Twilight wouldn't be too pleased either.

The buff-coated stallion nibbled unhappily at his piece of the cherry pie he had baked for dessert, not even daring to look at Hornette. The young changeling, on the other hoof, was enjoying her own helping so much that she barely noticed.

“Mm...this is so sweet,” she remarked. There was still a little bit of pie in her mouth, but only a small enough amount that she could shift it to one side and speak clearly. “I never knew your foods could get any better than insects.”

“Well...I wouldn't know,” chuckled Locomotion, who was just helping himself to a couple of cupcakes, “but I'm glad you're enjoying it.”

Steamer looked a little disturbed. “Who in the world would want to make a meal out of insects?!” he exclaimed, wrinkling his snout.

“Maybe not you, Uncle Steamer,” Locomotion pointed out, “but there are plenty of other creatures whose dietary habits are worlds apart from ours – griffins, bears, chimeras, hydras, dragons...”

“Yes, yes, I know,” interrupted Steamer, flustered. “You don't have to remind me.”

Locomotion smirked with satisfaction and turned back to Hornette; “On a serious note, though, you'll be hard-pressed to find enough insects of any variety for a decent meal,” he advised. “And Uncle Steamer does have a point – your appetite for such creatures might take the rest of Equestria some getting used to, so you might want to be a bit discreet with that one.”

“Why insects anyway?” wondered Steamer. “I thought...”

“...that all changelings fed on love and nothing else?” Locomotion stifled a chortle. “Well, good guess, but according to Hornette, they don't really need love to survive. They can live off any food they...” He broke off as an ominous groan caught his attention. Looking over his shoulder, he noticed that Hornette's cheerful expression had turned sickly, and she was clutching her stomach with discomfort. “What's wrong, Hornette?” he asked.

“Ooh...I don't feel so good,” Hornette croaked. No sooner had she said that than her body convulsed, and she quickly flung both front hooves over her mouth.

Locomotion's eyes widened in alarm. “Quick! Upstairs!” he commanded urgently, grabbing the young changeling by the arm and practically dragging her out of the room. Steamer looked even more confused for a moment – but all soon became clear as he heard the sounds of retching and sloshing from above.

Panting and shuddering with exhaustion, Hornette slumped against the toilet bowl, her stomach still aching dully and her face a pale shade of charcoal. Having flushed away the unpleasant evidence of what had just happened, Locomotion sat down next to her and gingerly ran a hoof down her back. “Are you okay?” he asked softly.

“Mm-hmm – sort of,” murmured Hornette wearily, trying not to speak too much in case she should throw up again.

Locomotion hung his head with regret. “Sorry, Hornette,” he apologised unhappily. “I guess giving you hayburgers and cherry pie for lunch wasn't such a good idea after all.”

“Please don't blame yourself,” pleaded Hornette. “I didn't know it was going to make me sick either. I would have given you plenty of warning if I did.” She closed her eyes with shame; “I'm just sorry I spoiled your meal.”

“No, it's alright,” soothed Locomotion. “You're just not used to the sort of food we ponies take for granted. Tell you what,” he suggested, “how about we start off with simple foods and work our way up gradually?”

With a shaky smile, Hornette nodded her agreement. “That'd be much easier.”

Locomotion smiled back as he helped the young changeling back onto her hooves; but on the other side of the door, Steamer groaned and clapped a hoof to his face. Clearly, this was going to be a lot harder than he had bargained for...

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