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Queen Chrysalis
Questining by TheBenAlpha
Scrutinizing Queen Chrysalis by DrChrisman
Hearts and Hooves Day by Biocrine
Little Queen Chrysalis by Zefir-ka
Ocellus by ZevironMoniroth
Hornette the Changeling by GreatEastern1856
Hunter by IncrediblePanzer
Commission by BuvanyBu
Multiple Cannon Characters
Merry Chryssymas by CyonixCymatro
Commission by JaneleArts
Chrissy's Watching by ProvolonePone
Commission (finished) by BuvanyBu
OC Changelings
Done: SFW ~Deep lagoon~ by daisyminttea
Flechette by Koveliana
Moxithya by Koveliana
Prime Suspect by Phobos-Ilungian
OC's with Cannon Characters
It's not me, who ate your chocolate! by TheBenAlpha
Reward by DipFanken
The Third Wheel by Underpable
To Create Love for One Another by Underpable
Plush and Custom Figure Toys
Handmade Plush Pony Lifesize with Goggles!! by PurpleNebulaStudios
Thorax plush commission by CleverPorcupine
Changeling OC custom plush by CleverPorcupine
Pinkie's Chysalis Doll by rtry
The Power of Two (Epilogue)The rest of the day seemed to pass by by like a dream for the young couple. Following the ceremony, Locomotion's sisters and some of his other friends carried them on their shoulders to Sweet Apple Acres, where Pinkie Pie had organised the long overdue Welcome Party she had sworn to throw for Hornette since they had first met. At Steamer and Fair Isle's request, she had dedicated it to Locomotion as well, and even invited Lavender Rhapsody to sing at the party, with Vinyl, Lyra and Octavia providing the music. Thorax, Twilight, Steamer, Fair Isle and Optic Strand all made speeches, and several other ponies came up to congratulate the two teens and admire Hornette's new Cutie Mark. Among them was the pink alicorn she had seen at the medal award ceremony, who introduced herself as Princess Cadance and thanked the young changeling for her part in ending the stand-off with the erstwhile Badlands. Her husband Shining Armour heartily agreed with her, and little Flurry Heart even asked if Hornette could come and visit the Crystal Empire one day, so that they could get to know one another. Hornette, of course, was only too happy to accept. Locomotion was happy too – happy to have ended a war, happy with Steamer's announcement that Hornette would be living with them as a permanent resident – but most of all, he was happy to see his beloved changeling being embraced as a true Equestrian. Looking down at his medals, he couldn't help thinking back to that fateful night before Chrysalis' death, when he had shared the story of his late great grandfather with Hornette; from his refusal to kill, through his time at that dreadful prison camp, to being awarded a similar accolade to his own. That got him thinking – so perhaps he and Hornette were the centre of attention, but his great grandfather did at least deserve an obituary, however belated. Eventually, as the party was starting to wind down, he went over to speak with Vinyl before stepping up to the microphone with an impromptu speech of his own. “Can I have your attention please, everypony?” he announced tentatively, prompting all eyes to turn in his direction. “First and foremost, I'd like to thank each and every one of you for such a warm welcome home.” There came a warm chorus of appreciative murmurs from Max, Steamer, Fair Isle and Optic Strand, all seated closest to him along with Surfie, Firelli, Mistral and Hornette. “I'd also like to thank Princess Celestia, on behalf of Hornette and myself, for the decorations so graciously bestowed on us, and particularly for blessing Hornette with her very own Cutie Mark. I think I can safely speak for both of us when I...well, I can't even begin to emphasise how honoured we are; nor how touched I am that Hornette is finally being accepted as an equal,” went on Locomotion. “Even before I met her, I must admit, I'd long held onto the hope that there was at least one good changeling out there; but little did I realise that, in truth, there was little malice in them to begin with. I won't even repeat the name of the one savage among that lot,” fighting back a small scowl, “but what I would like to repeat to you all is a tale that Dad told me when I was a colt – the tale of a stallion who, just like Hornette, believed in world peace, was frequently reviled for it, but was ultimately rewarded in the same way as us two.” Steamer and Optic Strand's eyes lit up, and Hornette gazed with quiet anticipation. “I refer, of course, to my great grandfather Staunch Quaker. He too appreciated that one creature alone didn't represent an entire race, no matter how warlike; and although he knew the threat of Adolf Hawker's Griffonia during the Great Griffin War, he remained a conscientious objector throughout, placing morals before nationalism and refusing to take reluctant enemies' lives. The army tried hard to get him in uniform so they could shoot him for cowardice, but in the end, even they were forced to let him go – but not without trying to shame him in the aftermath. I'm sure Princess Celestia remembers what he did with all the white feathers they sent him, making them into a sculpture of her holding the peace sign.” The warm smile of appreciation from Celestia spoke volumes for itself. Clearly, Locomotion deduced, she still felt sorry for all the hardships his great grandfather had had to go through – and all under her own army, no less. “His display of stolid altruism served as an example to the whole family, and particularly to my late aunt Carnation Petal. As a Celestial Faith preacher, one of the greatest lessons she ever taught in life was what Great Granddad always used to tell her – 'live and let live'. It was that very moral, more than anything, that gave us the means to end the stalemate with what is now known as Metamorphia, and found me especially my one true love.” A mischievous smirk crossed Locomotion's face as he added, “Yes, Hornette and I are an item now, and to anyone who has a problem with that, all I have to say to you is – 'You sad hypocrites'!” Most of his audience chuckled heartily, and the few who didn't looked ruefully down at their hooves. “Joking aside,” continued Locomotion earnestly, “I would like us all to pay tribute to the memories of Aunt Carnation Petal, Great Granddad Staunch Quaker and Crown Princess Nymphia of Metamorphia. Long may they be remembered, and long may their legacy continue.” Looking wistfully up at the night sky, he almost thought he could see the faces of Nymphia, his aunt and great grandfather smiling warmly down upon him as if to say, “Well done, Locomotion.” With a shaky smile of his own, he added, “Thank you, Great Granddad...Aunt Carnation Petal...for showing me the way. Thank you so, so much; and to Nymphia...Your Gracious Majesty...would-be Queen of the Changelings...everything's alright now. Pony and changeling are now united as one, and thus we intend to remain forever more.” The stars seemed to twinkle in reply as the crowd murmured their agreement. Optic Strand, Steamer, Fair Isle and Hornette in particular were moved to tears by Locomotion's speech, and even Rainbow Dash struggled to hold back her own. “And now,” concluded Locomotion, levitating the microphone out of its holder, “I have a special request for DJ PON-3...or Vinyl Scratch, whichever you prefer. It's a song that...probably few of you know too well, unless you're familiar with the Marionette Magic TV shows – and one in particular that I really enjoyed watching as a colt.” He nodded to Vinyl, who winked broadly and levitated one of her tone-arms at the ready. “This song I'd like to dedicate to the very changeling who, without even trying, managed to capture my heart and change my life forever. Hornette – I love you.” Barely a few seconds before he had finished, Vinyl started up the turntable and began playing a warm and melodic serenade, almost like a romantic maritime song of old. It was a song that Locomotion's parents, siblings and uncle instantly recognised; and even though Hornette and several others didn't, it still touched their hearts as Locomotion began to sing the lyrics, gazing fondly upon his beloved changeling. Both he and Hornette began to drift towards each other, meeting in each other's arms about halfway through the song and dancing a short, gentle waltz until the song was almost over, at which point they stopped to gaze into each other's eyes while Locomotion recited the last few lyrics. Finally, as the music reached its climax, both pony and changeling leaned into a deep, passionate kiss. The rest of Locomotion's family could only look on, spellbound, at the heart-warming display. Firelli beamed with happiness for her little brother as she gave Mistral an affectionate nuzzle, while Fair Isle discretely wiped her eyes dry for the umpteenth time that evening, and Steamer and Optic Strand exchanged warm, proud glances. Whilst having Locomotion home again was wonderful in its own right, seeing him so happy and in love, especially with a changeling, was more than any of them could ever have dreamed of. It had been a rough journey for them both, an uphill struggle in the face of conflict, racism and a tyrant from whom there seemed no escape – and yet, against all the odds, the young couple had managed to win through and bring their respective nations together. And so far as Princesses Celestia, Luna and Twilight were concerned, that newfound unity between Equestria and Metamorphia was to continue for many centuries to come.
The Power of Two (Part 32)Chapter 32: Heroes' Welcome Steamer gazed wistfully out of a nearby window, almost oblivious to the pep talk his superintendent was giving. It had been a long and lonely two and a half months since the incident that had driven him and his nephew apart, and the memory of Locomotion's angry outburst still weighed heavily on his mind, along with the crushing news that he had nearly died alongside Chrysalis. That day, he decided, was by far and away the worst day of his life – losing Carnation Petal to a plane crash had been bad enough, but for Locomotion to suffer a similar would have been the finish of him! Even the weather outside seemed to reflect the depression he was going through at that moment. The bright, warm colours of summer had long given way to the dullness of autumn, the Running of the Leaves had come and gone, and in its wake lay a gaunt, gloomy environment that seemed all too fitting for his state of sorrow... “Don't make it hard on yourself, Steamer.” The sympathetic tone of Max's gravelly voice invaded his thoughts, and only then did he notice the gentle hoof on his shoulder. “You'll get your nephew back soon.” “I know,” sighed Steamer wearily. “I just feel so responsible. Loco had every reason to defend Hornette the way he did – he knew she was innocent, and I just stood by and let that blackguard Electro Diesel string her out to dry!” He looked down at the floor, blinking a few tears away. “It's all my fault, Max. I should've been more understanding about the whole scam.” “We're all to blame for it,” observed Max. “Heck, if Elli hadn't exposed the guy, we might never have learned the truth. But Steamer,” he went on firmly, “you mustn't blame yourself for circumstances beyond your control. That Map specifically called for Loco and Hornette to go out there and put things right with the changelings – like it or not, it was all preordained. Our interference would only have delayed the inevitable...or worse...” “Yeah, but Loco's accident...” “...was nopony's fault but that of the cruel hoof of fate; and even that took pity on him in the end,” interrupted Max calmly. “You should do the same to yourself, Steamer – whether or not Loco lets you off the hook is up to him, but if I know the guy, he'll be feeling just as bad about the whole thing as you are.” Steamer sighed again, his eyes taking on a distant look. “He always was something special,” he murmured solemnly. “Life just wouldn't be the same without him – ever since Carnation Petal died and the wife walked out on me, I...he was all I had to preserve my sanity.” Max smiled reassuringly and patted his shoulder. “You and he always had a great rapport,” he counselled. “I'm sure you'll make it up eventually.” Only then did Steamer manage a small, weak smile. For a fleeting moment, he couldn't care less whether Locomotion forgave him – all that mattered, he told himself, was that his nephew was alive and well and would soon be home. His reverie, however, was short-lived, as the signal bell in the canteen rang once, and then in three rounds of four chimes. Almost at once, Max seemed to take on an air of excitement as he jumped out of his seat. “That's him!” he cried jubilantly. “Places, everypony – he's nearly here!” All the drivers and fireponies sprang into action with a will. They poured out of the canteen and scrambled eagerly into their engine's cabs, the shed forestallion barking out orders as they began shuffling their charges into place... —————————————————————————————————————————— A few miles west, Locomotion and Hornette were snuggled up to each other in the parlour of their private coach, watching lazily as the scenery flashed by. It had been a long journey, but neither changeling nor unicorn would have wanted it any other way; to be on a train all to themselves, cuddling and nuzzling and trading kisses with no-one to disturb them (apart from the guard and attendant, but they could live with that), was everything they needed after a much longer and far more stressful hospital stay. All the same, they were looking forward to getting home. As they passed through a station, a small, nostalgic smile crept onto Locomotion's face. “Ah, Portpaddock,” he sighed. “Boy, does this bring back memories.” “Oh right?” said Hornette, interested. “How come?” “That's where the old Ffilystiniog Railway begins,” explained Locomotion. “It brings slate down here from the mountains, to be taken on by rail or river barge. Uncle Steamer used to take me on that line a lot when I was a foal.” Hornette smiled warmly. “Happy days, eh?” “Yeah – happy days indeed.” A tinge of sadness registered in Locomotion's eyes at that point, and he seemed to take an interest in the carpet. “I just hope I haven't put an end to them for good.” “Still feeling bad about your outburst?” Locomotion shrugged. “Anypony would, after speaking to such a close relative like that.” “I'm sure he understands,” soothed Hornette. “I mean, he did put on a special train for us, after all – and goodness knows how many favours he had to call in for all that.” “Yeah, true,” smiled Locomotion wryly. “I just feel kinda stupid for how I chewed him off back then. It's not like he even knew the guy was faking...” but before he could finish, Hornette cut him off with a gentle peck on the snout. “Hey,” she whispered, “what did I tell you about putting yourself down earlier? And so what if you gave him such a hard time – you were only trying to do what you thought was right – what you knew to be right. You stood up for me, even when all the signs pointed towards me being a traitor. You followed me, even though nopony else would. You tried to protect me despite being outnumbered nineteen to one!” She kissed him again, this time on the lips. “You're anything but stupid, Loco. I'm sure your uncle is still really proud to have a nephew as loyal and righteous as you.” Locomotion's smile changed to a more touched one. “You always seem to know the right things to say to me...honeybee,” he murmured fondly. His lover gave him a perplexed yet slightly amused look. “I thought you said you wanted to call me Hornette,” she remarked with a slight giggle. “I still do,” said Locomotion, mildly embarrassed at his faux-pas. “It's just a...kind of a pet name I'd just thought up – you know, like how Applejack uses the word 'sugarcube', or Rarity calling every other pony 'darling' or whatever...” He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “ don't mind, do you?” “Mind?” chuckled Hornette. “I think that's kinda cute. Just be sure to use my real name every once in a while,” she added cheekily; “I don't want to end up with an identity crisis any time soon...tender-heart.” “I'll bear that in mind,” smirked Locomotion heartily. That nickname Hornette had just coined for him had to be one of the corniest he had ever corny, in fact, that he actually liked it! There was something about it, he felt, that seemed to suit him down to the ground – even the unintentional pun behind the word “tender” seemed more endearing than terrible. Presently, the train rumbled through a tunnel and emerged into a familiar rolling landscape. In the distance, Locomotion could just make out the vast groves of Sweet Apple Acres, now denuded and waiting for winter to pass by; along with the treelike crystalline structure of the Castle of Friendship, standing proud and tall over the many other buildings that surrounded it, even the cloud mansion towards the edge of town. His heart leaped for joy – only a few more minutes... Suddenly, Hornette's ears perked up. “Say,” she wondered out loud, “what's that noise?” Locomotion listened. Far away, but getting closer and closer, he could make out a chorus of toots and shrieks, ranging from deep and booming to shrill and strident. “Whistles!” he exclaimed, and bolted out onto the balcony, almost in excitement. When he reached it, the first thing he noticed was a crowd of onlookers cheering and waving from the lineside, while engines large and small stood outside the sheds, all saluting with their whistles as the train passed them by. “Hornette, you've gotta come see this!” he crowed. Puzzled, Hornette joined him – only to stare in amazement when she saw what was going on outside. To her further astonishment, the cheering and whistling seemed to grow louder as soon as she emerged. “Wha...what is all this?” she asked breathlessly. “It's us, Hornette,” stammered Locomotion, moved to tears by the spectacle. “They're whistling for us. They're welcoming us home.” “Even me?” “Especially you. They must think you a real hero now.” As if to prove his point, the off-white blanket of clouds parted, allowing a shaft of light to beam down onto the young couple. Hornette's heart fluttered as Locomotion leaned in to nuzzle her, tears of her own glistening in her eyes. She had longed to be accepted as an equal, but to be worshipped as a hero was far more than she could ever have dreamed of. Her thoughts drifted to the other members of Locomotion's family, and how they must be yearning for his return – and then, as her gaze also drifted towards the station looming up ahead, she spotted some familiar faces among the waiting crowd. “Loco, look!” she squeaked. “Look who's on the platform!” Locomotion peered around the side of the coach, and sure enough, he saw his whole family waiting expectantly for them – even Steamer and Firelli Brazen were present. Overwhelmed with emotion, he waved ecstatically and called out at the top of his voice; “MUM! DAD! UNCLE STEAMER! I'M HOME!!!” His parents, sisters and uncle all waved back as the train drew alongside the platform, barely slowing to walking pace before Locomotion all but lunged out of the coach and into his parents' arms. Surfie, Steamer and Firelli all enclosed him in a loving group hug as he cried feverishly into his mother's chest, yet still managed to maintain an emotional smile. Hornette followed more slowly, watching on with deep joy until Firelli and Surfie invited her into the embrace. It was Fair Isle who spoke first. “Welcome home, Loco,” she whispered through fond tears as her son pulled back for air. “We're so glad to have you back again,” chimed in Firelli softly. Locomotion beamed warmly and gave her an affectionate nuzzle. “It's great to be back,” he stammered. “All those long weeks stuck in a hospital bed...I've really missed you guys.” “We've missed you too, Loco,” murmured Surfie. “Things just haven't been the same without you around.” “We're only sorry we couldn't come and visit you in El Pinto,” added Optic Strand sympathetically. “Must have been really hard for you.” He directed a gentle smile of appreciation at Hornette; “Good thing you were around to keep him company.” Hornette, deeply touched by Optic Strand's gratitude, could only return the smile in kind as she brushed a small tear away. Only then did Steamer, who up to that point had remained understandably quiet, allow himself to speak up. “Hornette...I'm sorry about my misunderstanding,” he ventured sheepishly. “I had no idea Diesel was a changeling himself – or that he'd brought allies with him...” He paused, looking down at his front hooves with shame. “No, Uncle Steamer,” interjected Locomotion with a deep, rueful sigh. “I'm the one who should be apologising for how I treated you after that. You were the one who made me who I am today, and I just chewed your head right off and gave you the cold shoulder.” “And you were right to do so.” Steamer, mildly taken aback by Locomotion's response, gently placed his front hooves on his nephew's withers and gazed into his eyes. “I never meant to hurt either of you the way I did,” he confessed sadly. “If I'd only known it was a hoax, I'd have stood up for Hornette in a heartbeat, just like you did. But no – I let that scoundrel pull the wool over my eyes, and it nearly cost me a new friend and a faithful nephew in one go.” He let loose a soft sigh of his own, wiping away a tear before adding, “We all owe you two a great debt of gratitude – and especially you, Hornette. I never should have questioned my trust in you.” “And I shouldn't have left you alone at your most vulnerable,” put in Firelli gravely. “If there's any way we can make up for it...?” But Hornette only smiled again and shook her head. “You don't need to, Elli. Twilight told me and Loco how you figured out the truth and cleared my name,” she observed, “and I can't thank you enough for it. Things might've been a great deal worse if you hadn't.” “I'll say,” murmured Locomotion under his breath. “Does that mean you forgive us?” asked Steamer tentatively. The young changeling nodded. “I had no more idea Diesel and that unicorn were changelings than you did, Mr Steamer. Either way, and I can't believe I'm saying this...that whole ruse and your misunderstanding was a blessing in disguise,” she observed. “If those changelings hadn't tricked you into running me out of town, we would never have learned the truth about Chrysalis – or that magic I used to break her spell.” She wrapped an arm around Steamer's withers, taking him by surprise as she hugged him affectionately. “Of course I can forgive you.” “So do I, Uncle Steamer,” added Locomotion softly. “After all you've done for me...I'd be really ungrateful to hold a grudge over that whole fiasco.” That did it for Steamer. He couldn't remember the last time he had been so emotional, but to hear those words from his favourite nephew, and after he had almost ruined their friendship for good, touched him so deeply that he could hardly contain himself. With a barely audible sob of joy, he flung his arms around Locomotion and hugged him like he never wanted to let him go, tears pouring from his eyes as he felt the red-furred stallion return the embrace. “Finally made up, I see?” Max walked up to them, smiling warmly. With a mild twinge of reluctance, Steamer and Locomotion pulled away from each other and turned to face their superintendent. “So it would appear – and am I ever glad we have,” said Steamer wryly. Max chuckled heartily. “Never doubted it for one moment,” he mused, and turned to Locomotion. “I don't think your uncle and I could ever be prouder of you than we are right now, Loco. Sanding up to that phoney queen Chrysalis, setting a whole kingdom free from her clutches...that has to be the bravest and most daring thing you've ever done. As for you, Hornette,” he added kindly, “I dunno if I can speak for all the rest of my staff, but I for one feel you've more than earned our respect.” The two teenagers blushed with pride. “Aw, was nothing really,” stammered Locomotion. “I couldn't exactly leave Hornette to the a manner of speaking.” “Nor could I let Chrysalis enslave my old comrades,” put in Hornette modestly. “And a good thing you didn't, otherwise...well, heck, I'd hate to think what the consequences might've been,” remarked Max. “Anyway,” he went on, swiftly and unexpectedly changing the subject, “I believe we're all wanted at the Town Hall.” Locomotion arched an eyebrow. “Eh? What for?” But Max only tapped the side of his nose and said, “All in good time, kiddo,” before leading the way out of the station. “Come on, Loco,” said Optic Strand. “They're waiting for you.” “They?” Locomotion gazed dubiously at his father. “ you know something I don't?” “Yes, and we're not telling you yet. It's a surprise.” Hornette frowned anxiously. “Nothing nasty, I hope,” she murmured. “I've had enough unpleasant surprises to last me a lifetime.” “Believe you me, Hornette,” soothed Steamer, winking discretely at his older brother as they crossed the station forecourt, “this'll be the surprise of your life – and for all the right reasons, I can assure you.” Seeing the questioning look on Locomotion's face, Surfie seized a chance to distract his attention; “Speaking of surprises, Loco,” she spoke up, “did Elli tell you her good news?” “Eh? No,” replied Locomotion, perplexed, “I've only just got back.” “Not even in her letters?” Locomotion paused. “Um...not that I know of. Just the usual 'get well soon' and such.” “Ah, well,” said Surfie with a broad smile, “she's got herself a boyfriend now. His name's Mistral; he's studying at CADE for an Atmospheric Chemistry degree,” and she cocked her head towards Firelli. Only now did Hornette and Locomotion see the young golden hippogriff walking next to her, his aqua blue eyes glistening with unmistakeable affection. The feathering around his black claws and hooves were of a silvery grey, along with his beak and wing-tips; he wore an obsidian arrowhead pendant on a simple black necklace, and his messy two-tone brown mane and tail displayed a definite energetic streak. “When Elli heard you were coming home, she invited him over to meet the rest of the family.” “Wow,” remarked Locomotion under his breath. “Me with a changeling, Elli with a hippogriff...quite the coincidence, eh?” “He sure seems a nice guy,” mused Hornette. “I'm rather looking forward to meeting him.” Surfie smiled in agreement. “He was a bit taken aback when we told him about you, Hornette, but I'm sure he'll be pleased to meet you too,” she observed. They continued to gossip all the way to the Town Hall, with Steamer, Firelli, Surfie, Fair Isle and Optic Strand filling in the young couple on what had been going on in their absence. Locomotion was relieved to learn that, as punishment for how they had treated Hornette, Crafty Crate and some of his cronies had been put on community service for the next few months; but his mood was dampened slightly by the news that Derpy had had to postpone her wedding, in part due to their friendship mission and his subsequent hospitalisation. But his disappointment was soon brought to a sudden halt as they arrived at the Town Hall and found a huge crowd awaiting them. All six Bearers of Harmony were present, and so, to Locomotion and Hornette's amazement, were Thorax and Pharynx. They all stood on either side of a wooden dais that had been set up in front of the building – and there, standing right between them, was none other than... “Princess Celestia?!” gasped Locomotion, stunned. Hornette, on the other hoof, didn't say anything. She just gazed in awe, feeling a mixture of fear, honour, intrigue and unworthiness all at the same time. So that's the ruler of Equestria...the one who gave me my parole...oh dear, she thought anxiously, I hope I've not done anything wrong. But she barely had any time to dwell on it before the crowd parted and Celestia beckoned them forward. Both changeling and unicorn hesitated for a moment, wondering what the alabaster alicorn had in store for them. “Go on, you two,” coaxed Max at last. “You've earned it.” Earned what? Locomotion still didn't understand what Max was talking about, but thought better of objecting. Instead, he and Hornette advanced tentatively down the aisle that had been cleared for them and climbed up onto the dais, stopping just short of Celestia and bowing respectfully. Celestia greeted them with a warm smile, and addressed the crowd; “My little ponies,” she began, “when Luna and I first ascended the Equestrian throne several thousand years ago, we made it our prime objective to unite a divided world; to spread our message of friendship and harmony throughout our nation and amongst our neighbours. While some of them accepted without question, others were more hostile, and one civilisation in particular remained virtually undiscovered until around fifteen years ago...” A hint of regret crept into her expression. “...largely, and rather ironically, as a result of our own fear and ignorance.” Locomotion frowned gravely, thinking back to Thorax's grim story. “These creatures had frequently and very wrongfully been demonised as monsters of myth and legend, long before my time and Luna's,” continued Celestia. “Even our own kind feared them, and the many invasions attempted over the past fifteen years only served to reinforce their stereotype – and yet, behind the cloak of vice and aggression lay a race of timid, peace-loving beings. The only true menace among their number, as it turned out, was the one who wrested the crown from her older sister, magically indoctrinated her subjects, and went on to terrorise the world beyond – in one instance nearly conquering Equestria on my niece's wedding day.” That was when Locomotion and Hornette notice a further four ponies standing just behind her. Three were alicorns, of whom they both immediately recognised the dark blue one as Princess Luna; but it took a while for Hornette to realise who the pink one was with the white unicorn stallion by her side. When at last she did, she initially felt a deep sense of shame; but the two ponies simply smiled kindly and gave her a friendly wink, while a smaller alicorn filly sitting on the stallion's back waved a genial greeting of her own. “But whilst Chrysalis was able to control the minds of her minions, she was ultimately unable to control their morals. Two of her subjects in particular held dear to those morals, and proved to the world that not all of their kind were as malevolent as their self-proclaimed ruler; but it was only through the intervention of one Locomotion, and the events that followed, that we finally learned the truth about the changeling race. By showing mercy upon a previously unnamed changeling, who shall be known now and forever as Hornette, he provided Equestria with an invaluable ally in the struggle against Chrysalis and her regime. Together, and against all the odds, they, along with Thorax and the Elements of Harmony, freed an entire race from the clutches of their potentate, and put an end to the threat of attack that loomed over our nation for a full sixteen years.” Celestia nodded to Flash Sentry, who stepped forth bearing a cushion with four medals. Locomotion goggled at them in awe, barely able to believe what he was seeing – so that was what Max was referring to! His eyes almost watered as he turned his attention back to the alabaster mare, who smiled appreciatively as she levitated the medals over to him and Hornette. “Therefore,” she announced, “it is with deep gratitude and greatest pleasure that I award you the Celestial Peace Medal and the Star of Rockhoof for your gallantry.” Overwhelmed with pride, Locomotion and Hornette bowed again as the ribbons were lowered around their necks to much applause from the watching crowd. In the background, Fair Isle was so choked up with joy that she could hardly hold back tears, and Optic Strand had to pass her a handkerchief so that she could wipe them away. “In honour of the occasion,” Celestia went on, raising a hoof for silence, “and as a further token of our appreciation, the Bearers of Harmony, Princess Luna and I have another, more unique decoration we would like to bestow upon our newest citizen.” “Oh, my,” stammered Hornette, blushing self-consciously. “Y-you needn't do that, Your Excellency...I's not like I...” Celestia chuckled lightly, cutting her off. “You've no need to be quite so formal with me, Hornette. And as I understand it from Princess Twilight Sparkle, it was a lifelong dream of yours, was it not, to live as a true equal among other races; therefore, after all you've done for us, it would be most imprudent for us not to grant your wish...with a very special gift.” With that, she and Luna set their horns aglow, while Twilight, Rarity, Fluttershy, Applejack, Rainbow Dash and Rarity summoned the Elements of Harmony from their tree. Hornette watched on, transfixed, wondering what sort of gift they had in mind. As she did so, the Bearers of Harmony beamed their powers in her direction, along with the two Royal Sisters' magic, lifting her into the air and surrounding her with a glow so bright that Locomotion had to shield his eyes. The rest of his family, however, saw what was happening to the young changeling, and could only gape in delight at an even brighter flash radiating from her flanks... Eventually, the glow died down, and a dazed Hornette was gently lowered back to her hooves. At first, she could only stare questioningly at Twilight, wondering what they had just done to her; but the only response she got was a look of intrigue, as if she had only just realised something. “Well, I'll be...!” Locomotion's delighted voice promptly snapped her back to reality. “Hornette, take a look at that!!” “At what?” The young insectoid looked herself all over, and was beside herself with amazement at what she saw. Superficially, she was still the same Desert Scarab Changeling as before; but standing proud on each flank was an image of a red heart with a blue peace sign in the middle. “Oh that what I think it is?” she gasped. At last, Twilight found her voice. “I knew it! That mystery Cutie Mark on the Map was Hornette's all along!” “You mean...” “Yes, Loco. We'd planned to give her a Cutie Mark as a reward, but it seems the Elements of Harmony already had this one earmarked for her the whole time.” “ very own Cutie Mark...” Hornette looked back to Celestia, her eyes growing misty with awe. It was almost too good to be true. Celestia nodded, beaming from ear to ear with a maternal warmth. “Welcome to Equestria, Hornette,” she whispered kindly. Those words, coming from the most regal pony in all Equestria, touched Hornette's heart so deeply that she could no longer hold herself back. Overcome with emotion, she flung her arms around Celestia and hugged her tightly as tears of happiness spilled out of her eyes. Celestia, briefly taken aback, gently wrapped an arm around the changeling's barrel, while Locomotion choked back a small sob of his own. Hornette really had come a long way, he thought – from a timid and elusive nopony who didn't even have a name, this once wilted flower had blossomed to become a Heroine of the Realm, a peacemaker between two nations, and the very first changeling ever to gain a Cutie Mark. To the young stallion, it felt like a fairytale ending come true; and especially so for Hornette, who could only think of one thing as she basked in Celestia's embrace; At last, I've found the Promised Land.
The Power of Two (Part 31)Chapter 31: Return to the Promised Land A faint, rhythmic beeping sound invaded Locomotion's ears, gently stirring him from the dark, gloomy realms of a dreamless sleep. This one, however, felt like it had been dragging on for years on end; his head was aching dully, his right arm felt numb and heavy, and the rest of him felt as if he had just pulled every single muscle in his body. Slowly, groggily, he ever so slightly parted his eyelids, trying to remember what had hit him. The last thing he remembered before passing out was being laid out on a gurney and carted away, while a frantic female voice cried out his name and pleaded to go in with him...but where? “Welcome back to the land of the living,” said a gentle voice next to him. Locomotion blinked drowsily as a pink mare in a nurse's uniform came into his peripheral vision. “Where am I?” he tried to ask; but all he could manage was a squeaky wheezing sound. “It's alright, Locomotion,” soothed the nurse. “You're in the intensive care unit at El Pinto Hospital.” Gingerly, Locomotion scanned his surroundings. Now, as his blurred vision began to clear, he could see the bed on which he was lying, the white walls of the small room he was in, the turquoise blue curtains that matched the gown he was currently wearing, the cast around his right arm, the cannulas in his wonder he felt so battered! If this was what being hit by a steam engine was like, he thought wryly, then thank goodness he was so fastidious about track safety. If only his throat wasn't so dry... Luckily for him, the nurse already seemed to know what he was thinking. “Do you want something to drink?” she asked kindly. Locomotion nodded and rubbed his sore throat with his left hoof. At least that arm was still functioning, he told himself thankfully. “Okay, dear, I'll go get you something.” The nurse trotted over to a nearby sink, and filled a small paper cup with water from the tap. That done, she eased Locomotion's broken arm into the sling draped over his shoulders, and helped him to sit upright so he could take his drink without choking. “Here you go,” she spoke, holding the cup to his lips. Locomotion smiled weakly and began feverishly gulping down its contents, moaning with relief as the water soothed his throat. As awkward as it felt being fed like a toddler (and in his teens, no less!), he was feeling far too dopey to care; although at least his headache, and the emptiness in his stomach he hadn't noticed up till now, were beginning to subside. Only when the cup itself was empty did he allow himself to sit back and relax. “Thanks,” he murmured in a weary, scratchy tone. “That's alright, dear,” the nurse smiled back as she returned the cup to the sink. “Your changeling friend should be out of the bathroom any minute. I'm sure you'll be glad to see her again.” “Eh?” Locomotion blinked as the sound of a toilet flushing registered in his ears, his gaze drifting to one of two doors on the far side of the room. He hadn't even realised he was in a private suite, let alone one with a bathroom; but what really threw him for a loop was what the nurse had just said about a “changeling friend” – and without the faintest hint of disdain! Could it be... “Hornette?” Sure enough, before he could even begin to wonder, the door opened to reveal none other than the love of his life herself. The look of anxiety on her face gave way to euphoric relief as she cantered over and wrapped her arms around his withers, taking care not to aggravate his injuries. “Oh, Loco,” she faltered, “I'm so glad you're awake.” A small tear trickled down Locomotion's cheek as he hugged her back with his good arm. “You and me both, Hornette,” he whispered fondly. “How long have I been out?” “Twenty-nine of the longest and most stressful days I've ever been through,” replied Hornette, brushing her own tears away as she pulled back to gaze into his eyes. “Cripes, that long?” remarked Locomotion, stunned. Hornette nodded. “You were in a terrible state, Loco. I was afraid you wouldn't make it,” she continued sombrely. “I even heard you went into...carry...cardio...what did you call it again?” “Cardiac arrest,” explained the nurse helpfully. “It's when a patient's heart stops beating, and needs CPR or a defibrillator to get it going again. That's exactly what happened to you, Locomotion, about an hour into the operation.” Locomotion frowned ruefully, raising his left hoof to his chest as if he expected to feel a gaping hole. “No-one told me until after your operation was finished,” went on Hornette, “but they did have to put you to sleep just so your body could heal. That's how fragile you were.” She paused, choking back fresh tears. “You wouldn't believe how painful it was, just sitting here...waiting for you to wake up...” “Wait – you mean...” Locomotion blinked in astonishment. “'ve been with me the whole time?” Hornette nodded again. “I couldn't possibly leave you be, not while you were all frail and broken. Rainbow Dash even threatened to take the hospital to court if they didn't let me stay here.” The bewilderment in Locomotion's expression was so tangible you could almost mould it like clay. “So...she does care about you after all,” he whispered. “ it would seem,” replied Hornette with a shaky smile. “She actually apologised to me while we were in the waiting room – and gave me a shoulder to cry on as well.” She looked away, seemingly taking an interest in the floor. “But Loco...why didn't you save yourself? What were you trying to achieve, right in the middle of a collapsing throne room?” she ventured softly, a look of hurt in her eyes. “How did you know I...” Locomotion broke off as yet another realisation struck him. “...did Twilight scan my memory while I was out?” “More than that – she scanned your whole brain,” said Hornette matter-of-factly. “Mainly to check for any permanent brain damage...but also to find out what happened.” “And?” “No head injuries to speak of, other than those...contusion thingies – but we learned you'd nearly thrown your life away just to shield Chrysalis when the roof came down.” Hornette's eyes were full of dismay as she spoke. “I just have to understand – why? Why did you do it?” If Locomotion seemed ashamed earlier, he now looked absolutely crestfallen. He gazed sadly down at his front hooves, tears welling up in his eyes once more. “I'm sorry, Hornette,” he stammered. “I did try.” “Try what?” “I know Chrysalis was your worst enemy, but...I dunno...when I saw her pinned under that rock, I...I just flashed back to when we first met. It reminded me of how hurt and vulnerable you were...I couldn't just abandon her like that – not when she was in such grave peril,” sobbed Locomotion, his voice leaden with anguish and regret. “But I couldn't save her either...all because I was so feeble...and path...pathetic...” He buried his face in his left hoof, unable to say anything else as he began to cry feverishly. It was enough to break Hornette's heart. Her darling Locomotion, only just woken up from a month-long coma, and the first thing he could think of was how useless he was at saving his mortal enemy and hers – and in a situation beyond his control too! Part of her wanted to go into an outburst about how wrong he was; but the rest of her knew that such a harsh approach would only damage his self-esteem still further. Instead, she did the only thing she could think of, and began stroking his dishevelled mane in an attempt to comfort him. “Loco,” she whispered in the softest and most disarming tone she could manage, “I don't want you to put yourself down like this. You're a great many things – brave, thoughtful, caring, understanding – but you're not feeble or pathetic. You actually did really well to protect yourself and Chrysalis...” “...and yet somehow I let her get crushed to death!” wept Locomotion bitterly. “I should've tried harder...put more magic into my forcefield!” “Would it have made any difference?” Hornette gently lifted his head so that she could look into his eyes again. “Chrysalis was beyond hope – even if you did manage to save her, she'd have either gone straight to jail or just gone on terrorising...well, both our species. And from what the nurse told me, you didn't have much more to give anyway,” she continued, visibly pained. “The amount of magic you were using on that spell...and all that loose practically killed you! I still don't know what brought you back to life, but...” She paused, trying in vain to wipe away a fresh build-up of tears. “...oh, it was so heart-wrenching, finding you all mauled and lifeless. I really thought I'd lost you for good.” Locomotion's fervent sobbing abated into tiny sniffles. He still felt a little angry with himself, but was deeply touched to know Hornette didn't think less of him for his failure. “I don't know what I'd do without you, Loco. You're far more than just a potential source of nourishment...not that I'd use you as such unless you were okay with it.” Hornette smiled wryly in spite of herself. “I'm loathed to say this, but...maybe Chrysalis was better off dead after all,” she finished. “I don't even care that you couldn't save her – I'm just happy to see you alive.” Only then did the faintest hint of a smile return to Locomotion's face. Hornette was right, he told himself thoughtfully – he may have lost Chrysalis (and who in their right mind, in retrospect, would bother trying to save a malevolent, murdering maniac like her anyway?!), but the important thing was that he had...more or less survived. And looking into his lover's eyes, he couldn't be any happier for it... “Oh...sorry, am I interrupting something?” The nurse turned towards the doorway into the main ward area. “Not at all, Your Majesty. Do come in, by all means,” she replied, curtsying politely. Your Majesty...? Locomotion blinked in surprise as a familiar face politely entered the room. “Thorax? What are you doing here?” “Just thought I'd drop by and see how you and Hornette were doing,” smiled Thorax warmly. “Good to see you're awake, by the way.” Locomotion shrugged and gave him a wry smile. “Meh...I've felt better,” he mused. “Although...what was with all the bowing and scraping just now?” Thorax chuckled. “Well, there's been a lot going on since you were hospitalised. Our nation's in an absolute shambles at the moment; not a single census in the last sixteen years, several changelings either unnamed or unaccounted real government structure whatsoever. Turns out most of the old councillors and advisers were either fired or executed and their positions abolished,” he explained gravely. “I've managed to reinstate some of them, but it's been a real struggle so far.” “So...does that mean you've had your title reinstated too?” asked Hornette. “Not quite,” replied Thorax knowingly, “but I did get an even higher position than that.” Locomotion gaped in shock and awe. “ mean...” “Yes, Loco – this changeling count's son is now King Thorax of Metamorphia.” The big green changeling chuckled again, this time a little more humbly. “We decided a new name was in order for our kingdom – as accurate as it may have been in times gone by, we felt 'the Badlands' would be an inappropriate title going forward.” “Yeah, but...why you? I mean, with all due respect, surely the eldest...” Locomotion suddenly broke off, the memory of their raid flashing through his mind. “...wait – is Pharynx dead?” he exclaimed. “Heavens, no!” laughed Thorax reassuringly. “He was pretty badly injured, but he's fighting fit now. We did offer him the crown, but he declined – said he felt too unworthy after all the wrongs he'd wrought on Chrysalis' behalf.” Hornette hummed thoughtfully. “Yeah...I know the feeling,” she sympathised. “I should think we all do by now.” “ pretty much got the crown by default?” “Well...more on the condition that Pharynx became my new Commander-in-Chief of the Army. It took a lot of persuasion,” admitted Thorax, “but I managed to talk him into it in the end.” Locomotion smiled. “I reckon that's the least he deserves, after all he's done to help us,” he observed. “Remind me to thank him next time I see him.” “Ah, no need,” promised Thorax. “I'll be sure to thank him on your behalf. Besides, it's you and Hornette we should be thanking,” he added meaningfully. “Not only did you topple that monster of a monarch of ours, a way, you've kinda helped us to begin realising Nymphia's ambitions. That's part of the reason why I'm here.” “How come?” ventured Hornette, her eyes widening with hope and interest. Thorax beamed broadly. “Princess Celestia has finally opened peace talks with our nation,” he said. “Turns out the news of Chrysalis' dethroning and the truth about what she's been doing to us has been spreading like wildfire, and attitudes to us changelings are starting to improve as a result. Not only has Equestria agreed to a foreign aid plan to help us back to our hooves, but other countries are starting to pitch in as well. And even better news for you particularly, Hornette,” he added, his eyes lighting up as if he had an exciting surprise in store, “you won't have to worry about your parole any longer.” “I...I've passed?” “Nope – way better than that...” Hornette and Locomotion waited with bated breath. “ the wake of our heroics and all the political and social reforms back home, Celestia has ruled that the Anti-Changeling Protection Act is to be scrapped, and new laws are being written to allow us to live among you ponies as equals.” Locomotion's heart skipped a beat in delight. If he hadn't been so sore and tired, he would have gladly leaped out of bed and hugged Thorax he was so full of emotion right now. “So...Hornette...” “ now a naturalised Equestrian subject – if she still wants to be, of course,” affirmed Thorax. “If not, I'd be more than happy to have you on my council – maybe as my heir to the throne, if you so choose,” he offered cordially. Hornette smiled, visibly touched. “That...that's really generous of you, Thorax,” she stammered. “I'm honoured – really I am...” The look of dismay on Locomotion's face spoke volumes for itself. “...but if it's all the same to you...I'd much rather stay here with Loco,” finished Hornette earnestly. Thorax smiled back and nodded understandingly. “And you have my full blessings, Hornette.” He turned his attention back to Locomotion, who was now paralysed with awe and affection; “Do take care of her, though, Loco,” he added softly. “She's the closest I've ever got to having a sister.” “Uh...” Locomotion hastily snapped out of his trance. “...sorry, Thorax, I must have zoned out for a moment. But yes,” he replied resolutely, “I'll be sure to make her safe and happy...just like I've always striven to do,” and to show how much he meant it, he gazed lovingly back into Hornette's eyes, his left hoof combing gently through that soft, silky mane of hers. The young changeling smiled warmly in return, slowly and unconsciously moving her face closer to his. All too soon, a tactful cough from the nurse broke the spell. “Um...pardon me, Your Majesty,” she said to Thorax, “but with all due respect, I believe Locomotion and Hornette could do with some time alone.” “That's alright, nurse,” conceded Thorax. “I still have much to do – much to put right.” As he turned to leave, he gave Hornette a friendly pat on the shoulder. “Take it easy, you two. I'll try to pay you another visit whenever I get the chance,” and with that, he and the nurse took their leave. A momentary silence fell over the two young lovers as they became lost in each other's eyes yet again. Eventually, Locomotion asked, “Do you really mean it, Hornette? About staying here in Equestria?” “Yes, Loco. I meant every word of it – and that goes for what I said when I thought you'd died,” murmured Hornette emphatically. “I don't know how you did it, Loco, but you've captured my heart in ways that no changeling can ever match. All I need to know is...” She leaned in closer, placing her left hoof on his right shoulder. “ you really feel the same about me?” Even before he had begun to answer, the warm smile and the twinkle in Locomotion's eyes told her all she needed to know. “Yes – with all my heart,” he whispered, closing the gap between them. In that very instant, a huge wave of giddiness swept over him like a powerful typhoon, and the beeping of the heart monitor increased as his heart seemed to explode out of his chest. All those times he had wondered what his first kiss would be like, and now, finally, it was actually happening! And with the very changeling he had rescued, befriended, looked after, and ultimately fallen in love with! He didn't even care how his friends would react to him and Hornette becoming an item – all he cared about right now was savouring the mutual moment of bliss between himself and his new fillyfriend. Tears of joy spilt out of Hornette's clenched eyes as she kissed him back with deep passion, gulping down his love in huge mouthfuls and allowing her tongue to dance merrily with his. It was a moment of pure, unbridled happiness like nothing she had ever dreamed of – not only did she have a place to call home, as well as a loyal circle of friends, but she actually had a very special somepony to call her own...somepony to love and care hold onto for as long as she lived, and beyond. For the first time in her life, she felt complete; and all thanks to that warm-hearted, red-furred, ever-loving young stallion named Locomotion... —————————————————————————————————————————— How unpredictable life could be sometimes. No matter where you looked, nor how hard you tried, fate never seemed to make up its mind as to whether it wanted you to be happy or miserable, weak or powerful, useless or helpful, popular or obscure. It could give you everything you ever wanted, and then just when you started to enjoy your quality of life, it could take it all away and leave you in ruins. Even when you made friends, Lady Luck never seemed to care how close you were or how much you had in common – if she decided to end that friendship, no matter how brutally, there was no way anything could dissuade her. And yet, somehow, it seemed there were times when she did care, times when she would pull out all stops to ensure that certain friendships would never be broken...and even help them blossom into something more... Those were the thoughts that flowed through the mind of a red-furred unicorn teenager as one of the doctors examined him carefully. After waking up from his coma, Locomotion had spent another long and tedious month in intensive care, most of it on bed rest. He was glad of it at first; but with so little to do, he soon became dreadfully gloomy and homesick, and even cried a number of times. He missed being with his family and friends, and wanted nothing more than to be back home in Ponyville; but the doctors insisted that the severity of his injuries was too much to transfer him there. Within a week, his mood had declined so heavily that Hornette opted to secure some counselling for him. Locomotion readily consented to it, but on the condition that she received the same treatment herself – after all, he reasoned gravely, she had been through a lot worse than he had, and for far longer. He almost regretted it on their first session, for although Hornette had agreed to give it a try, she quickly found herself regressing into the teary, timid young changeling she used to be before meeting him. Fortunately, the therapist was very patient and understanding. Instead of asking questions and trying to get the timid insectoid to open up, she simply sat and waited until Hornette felt brave enough to speak freely. When at last she did, she was so emotional that Locomotion found himself hugging her instinctively as she vented about her troubled past. Not that he had it much easier himself, of course; for if the love of his life learning about his aunt's death was like opening up an old wound, sharing all his worst memories with a complete stranger felt like having his heart ripped out of his chest and stomped to pulp before his very eyes. He spoke about it with bitter anguish and tearful guilt, even to the point of becoming abrasive; but the therapist remained calm and philosophical throughout, and reassured him that it was natural to be angry and upset about his losses. Eventually, Locomotion became too exhausted to continue, and the therapist left him and Hornette in peace. The counselling sessions continued for an hour a day; but although the young couple gradually began to feel better in themselves, it didn't make Locomotion's stay much easier. He could hardly eat anything at first without feeling sick, so it took him a while before he could take solid foods again; and because he had been confined to bed for so long, he needed physical therapy in order to regain strength in his legs. Mercifully, by the second weekend in November, almost all his wounds had healed over, and he was able to walk freely for the first time in weeks. Not long now before he was discharged, he thought hopefully. At last, the doctor set down his stethoscope and wrote something down on his clipboard. Hornette stood to one side, looking on with anticipation. “Well?” asked Locomotion patiently. “No complications to speak of,” replied the doctor. “No internal bleeding, no infections...brain's healed over nicely...your arm's still a little fragile, so you'll have to keep it in a brace for at least a fortnight. Other than that, I'd say you're in pretty good health.” “Aw, good. Does this mean I'm free to go?” The doctor smiled. “I don't see why not. We'll be arranging further counselling as soon as you return, and you'll need to stay off work until your arm's fully healed; but as long as you take it easy for the rest of the month, you should be fine.” Hornette felt her heart somersault joyously inside her chest. “Oh, that's wonderful news,” she sighed with relief. “Gosh, will it be good to get back to Ponyville.” “Too true, Hornette – too true,” murmured Locomotion. Deep down, he was absolutely jumping for joy – he hadn't had a single visit from friends or family since regaining consciousness, and was looking forward to seeing them again. Thank goodness they at least had the heart to send him cards and presents in the interim. “Only one problem left, I guess...” “What's that?” ventured Hornette, her brow furrowing. Locomotion shrugged. “ I'm gonna pay for our return journey,” he said simply. “No need,” interjected the doctor. “We phoned the train station earlier today, and they've already made the arrangements. All you need to do is give your names as soon as you arrive, and all will be in order.” “Ah, well that's something,” mused Locomotion thankfully. “Well, Hornette, I suppose we'd better go pack our bags. Sooner we check outta here, the better.” But just as he was standing up to leave, an appreciative smile crossed his face, and he turned humbly back to the doctor. “By the way, doc,” he added, “I'd just like to thank you and all the staff here for all you've done for me over the past two months.” “Don't mention it,” chuckled the doctor. “It's what we're here for.” “Yeah, well...thanks anyway. I really do appreciate it.” “I should think we all do,” put in Hornette with warm sincerity. “Life just wouldn't be the same without good old Locomotion; and I can't thank you enough for saving him.” The doctor chuckled again at the grateful gleam in her eyes. “You're most welcome,” he murmured, visibly flattered. “Just remember not to put too much weight on that arm, Locomotion.” “I'll do my best,” said Locomotion; and with that, he and Hornette took their leave. —————————————————————————————————————————— That afternoon, having checked out at the reception desk, Hornette and Locomotion began their long journey back to Ponyville. It was only a ten-minute walk from the hospital to the station, but Locomotion's fragile right arm made it hard for him to walk without limping, so they had to go there by ambulance instead. When they arrived, they headed straight for the ticket office, trying to ignore the tens of thousands of eyes they could feel gazing at them – but discomfort soon turned to amazement when they heard what some of the onlookers had to say. Far from being spooked or disgusted by the sight of a changeling, their subdued murmurs were largely of praise and admiration. “Wow,” remarked Locomotion, visibly awestruck. “That sure wasn't the reaction I was expecting.” “Me neither,” Hornette mused. “It's like they're...pleased to see us.” Locomotion nodded, feeling a heart-warming sense of fulfilment and exoneration as he looked towards a nearby newspaper stand. One front page article in particular bore the headline “THORAX THAWS RELATIONS; PEACE TREATY BETWEEN EQUESTRIA AND METAMORPHIA RATIFIED LAST TUESDAY”, and included a whole paragraph about how he and Hornette had restored free will to her fellow changelings. “And no wonder,” he said. “Thorax was right – we really have turned their opinions around. Almost makes it worth being disfigured in that accident.” Hornette smiled and nuzzled him affectionately, giving off that soft purr that Locomotion had grown so fond of. “No, Loco,” she reassured him. “You're still just as handsome as before – even with that cute scar on your forehead. It just...adds to your appearance somehow.” “You really think so?” ventured Locomotion, self-consciously raising a hoof to the mark in question. When the nurses had removed the bandages from his head, he had been disheartened to find a permanent cloud-shaped scar where he had scraped his forehead against the rubble. He was very sensitive about it at first, but as nopony had a bad thing to say about it, least of all Hornette, he soon grew to like it. “Even if it didn't, you'd still be the same stallion I fell in love with.” Locomotion blushed; but quickly came to his senses as he realised that they were now at the front of the queue. He trotted briskly over to the ticket window, with Hornette close behind. “Good afternoon,” he said to the booking clerk. “Two singles to Ponyville, please – names of Locomotion and Hornette.” For a moment, the clerk seemed a little surprised. He quickly checked his reservation book before turning to speak to another pony behind him, while the two teenagers exchanged puzzled glances. “Names of Locomotion and...Hornette, you say?” he asked, returning his attention to the young couple. “Uh...yeah?” affirmed Locomotion, perplexed. “Right, then if you'd care to follow our stationmaster, he'd be glad to show you to your train.” If Locomotion was puzzled a moment ago, he was now absolutely baffled. “Eh?! But...we haven't got our tickets yet!” “That's alright,” chuckled the clerk reassuringly, “you won't be needing them. You're the only passengers on this train!” “Whatever does he mean?” wondered Hornette. Locomotion didn't reply – he just hoped they weren't being set up. It came as an even greater surprise, then, when the stationmaster led them to a train consisting of just one solitary coach, and a very lavishly equipped one at that! Its interior resembled something out of a stately home, with two sleeping compartments, a kitchen and dining room at one end, and an opulent parlour that led to an observation balcony at the back of the vehicle; while upfront, a big, pristine express engine stood simmering patiently and waiting for the off. “But...I...this is a private coach!” spluttered Locomotion, astounded. “I thought we'd be taking the Celestial Flyer!” “Evidently not,” replied the stationmaster. “A relative of yours rang us up a few weeks ago, saying his nephew was in hospital, and asking us to reserve a special train for him and his, uh...'companion'...once he'd been discharged. His boss sent this coach down to us, and it's been waiting here ever since, ready to take you home at a moment's notice.” Locomotion's eyes glossed over at this father of all revelations. He almost began to worry he would burst into tears he was so touched. “U...Uncle Steamer?” he stammered. “That's what he said his name was, yes.” “He...put this on for me and Hornette? And after all I said to him?” The red-furred stallion raised a hoof to his chest as tears finally began to leak out. “He...he really does care,” he whispered emotionally as Hornette wrapped a perforated arm around his shoulders, only just managing to maintain her own composure. She was relieved for her part not to have driven a permanent wedge between Locomotion and his uncle, and equally touched that the older stallion still saw some good in her. “Yes, well...better get aboard,” said the stationmaster after a while. “Your path should be clear any minute now.” “Oh...sure,” answered Locomotion, discretely pulling himself together. “Thanks a lot, sir – much appreciated.” He gave a soft smile to his beloved changeling as the stationmaster turned and walked away. “Hornette...” “Yes, Loco?” Locomotion leaned in closer and kissed Hornette on the bridge of her snout. “Let's go home,” he said fondly. Home...just hearing that one word was enough to bring a small, joyful tear to Hornette's eye. All that time she had been striving for a Promised Land, and now, she was beginning to realise, it had been right under her nose the whole time – in that quaint but endearing Equestrian town called Ponyville, a place that she had come to love almost as much as the stallion who had brought her there. She had missed it oh so badly ever since being driven out more than two months ago, and to be going back there as a permanent be with Locomotion for as long as time itself would allow her...she just couldn't put it into words. With a warm smile of her own, she nuzzled him passionately as they boarded their train.
The Power of Two (Part 30)Chapter 30: Locomotion's Lazarus “How I've hear that...” Hornette's feverish sobbing began to abate as she lifted her head, completely taken aback by the weak, breathy whisper. In her distress, she had completely failed to notice Locomotion's chest beginning to move again...only very slightly, but he was definitely breathing. Her surprise turned to the faintest glimmer of hope as she looked towards his face – and sure enough, the red-furred unicorn's eyes had flickered open and were fondly gazing back at her, while a weak but warm smile adorned his lips. “Loco!” cried Hornette in joyous relief, embracing him once again. “You're alive!” Thorax's eyes widened in astonishment. “'s this even possible?!” he exclaimed, staring at Twilight. “All his vital signs had stopped...hadn't they?” “Lazarus syndrome.” All eyes turned towards Fluttershy, herself in awe at what had just happened. “I read about it in a medical textbook once. It's what happens when a creature...'dies', but then comes back to life a while later for no apparent reason.” “Well, it ain't important right now how he came back ta life,” Applejack interjected gravely. “If he dies a second time, it'll be permanent. We gotta get 'im to a hospital.” Hornette gazed up at the orange farm pony, her grip around Locomotion's barrel slackening as joy quickly turned back to fear. “Yeah,” began Thorax grimly, “if only our infirmary was still intact...” “Even that wouldn't be good enough, Thorax,” said Twilight tersely. “Our only chance is to get him to a trauma centre with complete modern equipment – and that means flying him all the way back to El Pinto.” She paused, looking up at the sky. “How long will it take to deactivate the forcefield?” “We shouldn't need to worry about that – the casters will have dropped the shield as soon as we broke the Brainwashing spell,” answered Thorax. “If so, we should have a clear run all the way to Equestria...but if not...” “We'll have to risk it,” decided Twilight. “See to it, Rainbow Dash – and take Hornette with you.” Rainbow Dash shot her an incredulous double-take. “Hornette?! But the law...” “No time for that,” insisted Twilight firmly. “I don't know what it was that brought Loco back to life, but I can't ignore the possibility of it being to do with Hornette. Just try to explain to the hospital staff as best as you can – I'll catch you up a little later.” After a brief hesitation, Rainbow Dash nodded her consent. “Alright, Hornette, climb on and hold tight – I'm gonna really go for it!” she cautioned as she scooped up Locomotion into her arms, bridal style. “Okay,” stammered Hornette nervously as she settled down on Rainbow Dash's back, wrapping her arms firmly around her barrel. “You won't drop him...will you?” “Not on your life, Hornette. Hang on!” and before Hornette could say “Sonic Rainboom”, the cyan mare shot off into the air like a bullet from a rifle. They rocketed across the arid wasteland, the air whipping through their manes and Hornette clinging on for dear life as they bore down on the fence that marked the northern border. Fearing a possible recoil, the young changeling shut her eyes and braced herself for the end – but it never came. As Thorax had predicted, the forcefield no longer impeded their progress, and they soared over the mountains without mishap. Daring to open her eyes again, Hornette gazed anxiously over Rainbow Dash's shoulder, at Locomotion's delirious form. His own eyes were glazed over, his breathing shaky and erratic; and every now and then, his front hooves would twitch as if trying to fend off his impeding death. “Hornette...” he wheezed breathlessly, “ me...I...I'm scared...” Gingerly, so as not to get tangled in Rainbow Dash's wings, Hornette reached over and ran a hoof through his mane. “Hold on, Loco,” she pleaded softly. “Just a little longer.” But Locomotion barely seemed to hear her, and continued to mumble feverishly, “...don't...don't let me go...I need you...can'” “You're gonna make it, Loco,” counselled Hornette. “Just stay with it...please...” —————————————————————————————————————————— Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the distant glow of lights up ahead heralded their final approach to El Pinto. “We're almost there!” called Rainbow Dash through the rushing of the wind. “Hurry, Rainbow!” wailed Hornette desperately. “I don't know how much longer he'll last!” “Got it!” Rainbow Dash dived swiftly towards the city centre, keeping her eyes peeled for any signs of the local hospital. At last, after only a few seconds, she found it – a white, circular sign bearing the red cross and four pink hearts of the Equestrian Health Service. Carefully reorienting herself in mid-air, she swooped towards the reception doors and knocked them open with an almighty kick, landing on her hind hooves and yelling out at the top of her voice: “EMERGENCY!!! LOCO NEEDS HELP!!” The receptionist took one look at Locomotion, and immediately turned to the microphone on her desk. “Emergency at front desk! Prepare the ER, stat!” She turned back to Rainbow Dash, who was gently setting Locomotion down on a nearby bench; “What happened to this guy?” Rainbow Dash opened her mouth to explain, but Hornette hastily beat her to it. “He was caught in a collapsing building – almost got crushed to death!” she said frantically. “Please save him!” “And what's a changeling doing here in Equestria?” demanded the receptionist, staring coldly at the young insectoid. “I don't mean any harm!” bleated Hornette. “I just wanted to find a new home outside of the Badlands!” “That's as maybe, but our law says that the only 'new home' for your kind is in prison,” stated the receptionist warily. “I'm calling the police...” Locomotion groaned weakly in protest as the grey Earth mare reached for the telephone – only to flinch slightly as Rainbow Dash slammed her hoof down over the receiver. “You're not calling anyone of the sort, sister!” she retorted sharply. “Hornette has as much right to be here as us ponies!” “Look, ma'am, the Anti-Changeling Protection Act...” “Damn the Anti-Changeling Protection Act! Do you even know who I am?!” “A Wonderbolt?” asked the receptionist in deadpan, trying to maintain a professional stance. Privately, she was struggling to understand why a fellow pony would stand up for a changeling, even if she did turn out to be a Wonderbolt. Of course, that was just a lucky guess, so she was even more taken aback when Rainbow Dash confirmed it. “More than just a Wonderbolt – I am Wing Commander Rainbow Dash, third-in-command of the team behind Wing Commander Soarin Starr and Captain Spitfire; and I also represent Princess Twilight Sparkle and the Ponyville Council of Friendship. In that capacity, I can personally confirm that, by Royal Command, Hornette is exempt from the Anti-Changeling Act,” stated Rainbow Dash sternly. “You call in the cavalry against her, and I'll personally see that you – and this whole hospital – are done for contempt of court! What do you say to that?” The receptionist frowned inwardly. That Princess Celestia herself should grant legal citizenship to a changeling was too crazy to believe, even at Twilight Sparkle's insistence – for all she knew, the mare who called herself Rainbow Dash could well be a changeling herself! But then again, Rainbow Dash did represent the Element of maybe...just maybe...she could be right about Hornette or whatever her name was. Either way, she didn't wish to risk incriminating the hospital and losing her job, so she tentatively answered, “All right – what do you want me to do?” Thought you'd see it my way... “I wanna speak to your manager about letting her stay here,” said Rainbow Dash plainly. “As soon as Loco comes out of the ER, she's to stay by his side until he's back on his hooves.” “I'm afraid we can't allow it without parental or guardian consent, ma'am. It violates our policy.” “Look, Loco can't survive, let alone cope, if he doesn't have someone familiar with him at all times, and Hornette's practically family to him anyway! Now what would you rather do – break a few rules, or lose a patient?!” At last, the receptionist relented, and turned back to her microphone; “Could the duty manager report to the main reception desk, please? Duty manager to main reception?” —————————————————————————————————————————— Every minute felt like an age as Hornette sat and waited for news. She had tried to accompany Locomotion into the emergency room, but the hospital porters wouldn't let her, and Rainbow Dash and two nurses had to hold her back as they rushed him out of the reception lobby. Matters weren't helped when the manager arrived and immediately objected to having a changeling in the building; Rainbow Dash tried to be diplomatic with him, but the manager was so belligerent about the whole affair that their discussion soon descended into a heated argument. It wasn't until Twilight arrived and explained everything that he grudgingly agreed to let the young changeling stay. That was over seven hours ago, and Hornette still hadn't heard back from the hospital staff. With no way of knowing what was going on with Locomotion, all she could do was sit and brood, occasionally getting up to pace anxiously around the waiting room. She had never felt so helpless in all her life – all she wanted was to be back in the warmth of Locomotion's tell him just how much she loved him and stay with him for as long as time itself would let see him alive and smiling that warm, fond smile of his......and yet, no matter how hard she tried to reassure herself, she couldn't ignore the possibility that she might never see him alive again. Even her escape from home couldn't compare to the crippling stress she was enduring right now. “How are you holding up?” asked Rainbow Dash from behind her Daring Do novel, breaking Hornette's train of thought. Hornette gave a trepid sigh and closed her eyes, trying in vain to hold back tears. “Badly,” she faltered. Rainbow Dash frowned. She too had been doing everything she could think of to pass the time, mostly reading and snoozing; but no matter what she did, she couldn't ignore the tiredness and distress in Hornette's expression. It was as if the poor changeling hadn't slept in over a week. “Hey, take it easy,” she said in an unusually gentle tone. “Loco's gonna be okay, and so are...” “How do you know he's gonna be okay?!” burst out Hornette hysterically. “You're not the one treating him – you don't know what's going on any more than I do! All we know is that he could be dying in there!” She buried her face in her hooves, trembling with despair as her mental dam gave way again. “Why won't they let me in?” she wept quietly. “What are they doing to him?” “Look,” murmured Rainbow Dash gravely, setting her book down on her lap, “I know this is hard for you, Hornette, but those surgeons have a really tough job. They can't afford any kind of distraction, no matter how slight – even the teeniest slip-up could damage Loco for good...maybe even kill him...” She regretted those words the moment she uttered them; for Hornette seemed to curl up in discomfort. With an apologetic smile, the cyan mare placed a reassuring hoof over hers and added, “Hey, it's alright. They know what they're doing – they won't let him die.” Her expression turned solemn. “You really do love him, don't you?” “I do,” sobbed Hornette. “He's been so good to me...ever since he saved me from the timberwolves. I don't even care about finding the Promised Land anymore...” Her voice cracked as she struggled to finish her sentence, “...I just want Loco back...” Sensing her heartache, Rainbow Dash swallowed her pride and drew the distraught insectoid into a gentle, meaningful hug, letting her cry into her chest fur. She could never have imagined that she, a Bearer of Harmony and a wing commander in the Wonderbolts, could feel any kind of sympathy for a changeling of all creatures. In her mind, they had been nothing but cruel, heartless monsters, as savage and dangerous as their deceased queen – but now, seeing Hornette so inconsolable, she felt angry and ashamed with herself for thinking that way...for letting Chrysalis' savagery blind her to the fraught, injured soul and the warm-hearted nature of the one changeling who had managed to escape her regime. “Hornette...I'm sorry I treated you so badly,” she whispered sombrely. “Loco was right about you all along – you never were a monster, and we all owe it to you for helping us take out the real one.” Hornette's sobbing abated slightly. “ really think so?” “I know so,” replied Rainbow Dash, gingerly rubbing her back. “No savage alive would've had the guts...or even the stand up to that overgrown scorpion the way you did. You were awesome, Hornette.” With a light sniffle, Hornette glumly turned her attention back to the doors through which Locomotion had been carted. “I just...don't understand,” she murmured. “He was running for his life...just like the rest of us...and we found him where the throne room used to be.” She paused for a moment, trying in vain to stem the flow of her tears. “But why? What was he even doing in there?” Rainbow Dash sighed heavily. “There's only one pony who can answer that one – and that's assuming they can save him.” Blinking back a small tear of her own, she gave Hornette a gentle squeeze as the young changeling buried her face in her chest once again. “Let it all out, Hornette. I'm here for you. It's alright.” Barely a few seconds later, the door opened to reveal a light brown unicorn mare with a silvery mane. She was holding a clipboard in her magic, and her golden eyes bore the sympathetic glint of a pony who had borne witness to some tragic losses in her time. “Commander Rainbow Dash?” “Yeah, that's me.” “I'm Dr Cavell, one of the trauma surgeons here,” said the mare in a soft tone. “It's about the casualty you brought here a few hours ago – Locomotion, I believe you said his name was?” Hornette looked up at her anxiously. “Is he gonna be okay?” she whispered, almost dreading the answer. Dr Cavell responded with a small smile. “He's currently resting in the intensive care unit,” she replied. “We've had to sedate him so as to let him recover properly, so he'll be in a coma for...I'd say a month at least. To be honest, it's a miracle he's alive at all.” “How bad was he?” ventured Rainbow Dash. “We found a number of bone fractures and other internal injuries, including cerebral contusions both front and rear,” explained Dr Cavell. “He'd lost a gallon or so of blood before he got here, so we had to transfuse him even as we were operating; and during the X-ray scan, we discovered signs of acute magical exhaustion.” Rainbow Dash shuddered in discomfort. “Sheesh, no wonder! With all that rubble raining down on're right, Doc, he really is lucky.” “But...he will recover...won't he?” stammered Hornette. “Well...I can't make any guarantees yet,” answered Dr Cavell, “but as long as he stays on bed rest for the next two or three months, yes – I should think he'll be alright.” Physically and mentally exhausted from her ordeal, Hornette slumped back in her seat and breathed a deep sigh of relief, her eyes moistening with tears for the umpteenth time that night. All that time she had been bracing herself for what could have been the biggest bombshell in all her life, and now it felt as if the weight of the whole world had been lifted from her shoulders. Only now did she realise just how much it had taken out of her, and how much sleep she had lost to boot. “Hornette?” Rainbow Dash gazed into her eyes with mild concern. “Are you okay?” “I...I'm fine,” mumbled Hornette, wearily rubbing her eyes. “Just a little tired.” Rainbow Dash smiled sympathetically in reply. She didn't wish to say it in public, but if it had been Soarin or Scootaloo in intensive care...she would have felt the same way. Blinking herself awake, Hornette looked up at Dr Cavell with a weak smile of her own; “Thank you,” she whispered with tearful gratitude. “I don't know what I would've done if he hadn't...” She broke off momentarily, trying to force the morbid thoughts out of her head. “...just...thank you.” Dr Cavell smiled kindly. “That's quite alright, darling,” she replied. “All part of the service.” “Can I......can I see him?” “Of course you can,” and Dr Cavell led Hornette and Rainbow Dash down the corridor to the intensive care ward. They found Locomotion in a private suite just outside the main ward area. His head, horn, chest and hind legs were wrapped in gauze and his right arm suspended above him in a plaster cast; while his left arm, miraculously undamaged, was festooned with cannulas. Numerous bags of medicine, blood plasma and nutritional solutions hung from a drip stand next to his bed. He had a mask strapped over his muzzle, with a long tube connecting him to a mechanical ventilator, and his chest was wired up to a heart monitor on his bedside table, which beeped softly in a slow, soothing rhythm. A small tear trickled out of Hornette's eye as she gazed upon her stallion. Distressing though it may have been to see him so broken and fragile, she could see from the slow pulse on the monitor just how right Dr Cavell was – despite everything, Locomotion was still alive and his injuries steadily healing. She glanced tentatively at the brown unicorn; “May I?” she asked. “By all means,” conceded Dr Cavell kindly. “Just try not to disturb him or the equipment.” “Go right ahead, Hornette,” agreed Rainbow Dash. “Your lover needs you as much as you need him.” With little more than a faint nod, Hornette stepped quietly into the room, placing her hooves as lightly as she could to avoid waking him up. Not that she could wake him up, she thought gravely; for even as she pulled up a chair and sat down next to him, Locomotion remained silent and inert. Glancing hesitantly at Dr Cavell one last time, she gingerly began stroking his left hoof. “I know you probably can't hear me, Loco,” she whispered fondly, “but I'm still going to say it – I don't think I could ever be more grateful to you than I am now. You and Thorax...and the Elements of Harmony...even Pharynx, bless his soul...but especially you. It's all over now – all our kind are free, and Chrysalis can't terrorise us anymore.” She blinked away a few tears before continuing. “You really came through for me, Loco, and I'm truly sorry I ever doubted you. I could never have cancelled out that Brainwashing magic without your love – I may have been the one casting the spell...but you empowered my magic still further. I'm never gonna leave you again – when you wake up...I promise I'll be here for you.” From the other side of the doorway, Rainbow Dash and Dr Cavell looked on with soft smiles, profoundly moved by the warmth and affection in Hornette's tone, especially when she began to sing a soft, wistful serenade to her beau. In that very instant, all memories of the ongoing stand-off between ponies and changelings seemed to fade away, until all that remained was an image of love and harmony across the divide, as touching and beautifully heartfelt as the young Romeo and Juliet who had made it happen.
Goodbye... by mr100dragon100
Pride Bugs by theOwtcast
The pet of deception by 4as
Canterlot Wedding Alternate by mr100dragon100
King Sombra by Bungee13
Chrysalis by LunaTisty
Cutest Queen by LaszlVFX
Cute-Buggirl by LaszlVFX
ANIMATION - Break Up And Fall Apart by Shikogo
Humanized, Anthro Cannon Characters
SFW - Evening in the hut by Phobos-Ilungian
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Constable Odo by StarryOak
Future Thorax by Duckyworth

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Celestia VS Chrysalis 2 by GeminiGirl83

First Ever MLP FIM : Changelings Group

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Koncova Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2020
How do I join?
TheMightySephiroth Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2020   General Artist
MY-LITTLE-P0NY Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2019



01-05 :points: llama + favs


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DrAdalwinMuller Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Danke schön (thank you very much) for zeir invite
styroponyworks Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Why thank you!
NavelColt Featured By Owner Edited May 11, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Just so you know the Thorax folder can't be submitted to like all the others. I'd check the permissions. :)
ALuckyToaster Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Do you think you'll make a new folder for Thorax?
(1 Reply)
Serrano-Draws Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
styroponyworks Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hey!! Thanks fer requesting my piece!!
MyLittlePrimo Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Got a folder for changelings disguised as ponies of their own pattern?
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