83w, 3dLyra & Bon-Bon
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A Change of Face
The dark shapes of the Everfree Forest seemed to whip past in a blur, her labored breathing coming hot and heavy with every step she took, every crash of her hooves against the dense vegetation to try to put distance between herself and whatever it was that was following her. Moments before, Lyra had been ready to just give up and let the cold darkness take her. But now, as something had closed in, as if hearing her silent, pain-filled wish, she had realized she didn't want to. Didn't want for it to end here. And so, she ran.
The magical glow from her horn did little to make things easier, barely allowing her to duck her head as branches whizzed by, or leap over tangled roots that erupted from the ground in front of her. She dared not look back, afraid of what she might see coming up to claim her as a midnight snack. Her mind's eye had conjured up all manner of foul and frightening beasts that could be bearing down on her at this very moment. Silently she cursed herself for reading those mythology books, they had provided fertile grounds for her imagination to grow horrors untold to plague her right now. Bulette and harpies. Gorgons and bandersnatches. The list of terrible monsters went on and on.
Her curiosity won out over her fear, and she risked a fleeting glance back over her shoulder. She was rewarded with simply the all consuming darkness of the forest, hiding whatever it was that pushed her onwards in this haphazard escape. Her eyes looked forward again, just in time to see a low branch come into view of the magical glow emanating from her horn. Too late to duck, her momentum sent her into it. Thankfully, the branch was small, but it felt like a whip was lashed across her face, leaves and bark biting into her brow. A sharp curse left her lips as she slowed for a moment, the stinging pain in her head giving her pause before fear took over again. She pushed onwards, gritting her teeth to bite back the pain as she felt blood trickle down between her eyes. There would be time to worry about that later. If she had a later, that was.
Her hooves made a hollow thump as they landed on a fallen log, pushing herself over it and thankfully over a small patch of blue flowers, landing in the moss just on the other side. She hoped that that would give her pursuer more trouble than it did her. But still, she couldn't stop. Not if she wanted to escape this dreadful forest. Not if she wanted to see her beloved again.
She wanted nothing more at this moment. Nothing more than to race home, to open that door and find her sweet Bon Bon in the kitchen, a tray of delicious treats held in her mouth. Those soft, soulful blue eyes. The way her mane bounced with joy at seeing the green unicorn. The tender touch of her lips. The blood from her wounded brow soon mixed with the clear tears that escaped the corners of her eyes, longing for what she had lost now more than ever. But first, she had to escape whatever it was that was even now hot on her hooves.
Maybe she could lose it in the tangle of trees. Dash away behind the bushes so whatever it was would lose sight of her and give up its quest for the terrified unicorn. As she raced away, her mind raced with her, trying to come up with some plan that would allow her to escape, to get away even if only long enough for her to rest and ease the burning pain that filled her lungs now.
Whatever plan she would have decided to go with were dashed a few moments later. Her hooves dug furrows into the soft earth as she nearly collided with a thick stand of trees. The trunks grew in a bunch, barely enough space between them to reach a hoof through. It was an impenetrable wall of living wood that stretched before her, the trees growing in a huge cluster so tightly, it was as if some great rope had pulled them all together into a bundle. Gasping for breath and choking back tears, she could do nothing but stare at the impasse with wide, trembling eyes. But worse than what her eyes showed her, is what her ears told her: the sound of something getting closer, pushing its way through branches and leaves. She frantically looked about, for any place to run to. Any place to hide. Nothing.
Swallowing the knot that had formed in her throat, she turned, pressing her back against the trees that doomed her as she awaited the sight of her fate. The sounds grew closer, anything from her frightened imagination could burst from the dark woods at any moment. But one thing chilled her spine more than that. The sound that had just now reached her ears. The frantic buzz of tattered wings.
Her lungs heaved, her limbs burnt, but she wouldn't slow down. She couldn't. In her whole life of lies, Bon Bon knew that this one thing was true. That the pony she loved, that the only thing she loved, was now in danger. The map that Twilight had given her pointed to the dark Everfree Forest, and so that was where she must go. She didn't care if she never made it out again. All that mattered was that a certain minty green unicorn did.
She paused for only a moment, just long enough to reach back and pull that rolled up map from her mane. She held it out with her mouth, dropping it to check again where that little burnt mark showed where Lyra had been. She looked about, checking her location against the map, to make sure she was going the right way. Everything seemed to match. Across the open field, she could see the lights of Ponyville in the distance. Home to the kind and gentle ponies she had come to accept as friends. Ahead the dark gloom of the forest, a land full of danger and dread, where her beloved waited in peril. Taking a deep breath to fill her aching lungs, she rolled the map up once more and tucked it away before heading right for the treeline. A million horrors danced in her mind. Not of what dangers awaited her, but what had befallen her sweet minty mare inside. Every mental image was more horrific than the last, of Lyra broken, bleeding, torn, they were the worst things her foolish mind could bring up. But right now, they only served to push her onwards, to remind her that there was no time for her to waste.
Into the dark, into the gloom. Another pony, a real pony, would be lost, swallowed without a trace in the blackness. Gone without hope of finding their way through the ink-like murk that enveloped her. But for once, for the first time this day, she was grateful she was nothing but a fake. The green glow of her eyes drew in the darkness, sucked it up from the world around her, and left everything clear before her. Every tree, every branch, every stone she could make out in stark contrast. Her kind, as wretched and foul as she now considered them, were used to the darkness. It was home to them, lurking in dark tunnels, through twisting passage that made up their Hive. But here, she hoped it would help her find the one bright speck in her life that she had foolishly let slip through her grasp.
Onward she plunged, into the dark, and into the danger. Deft steps of her hooves, driven by desperation, carrying her onwards over roots and past branches and rocks. The mossy ground padded her steps as she left the ill-used path, the soft splash of muddy water the only sound she let give tell to her passage as she made haste, trying to keep her heading true towards the spot on the map. The forest was a tangle of branches, like some cruel trap a fiend had designed to ensnare ponies. She could feel them snag and pull at her mane and tail, leaves caught to flutter before being torn free by the wind whipping past her. She didn't even bother to stop to think about them, or the scratches they left behind under her coat. There was a wonderful weight in her chest. That little emerald of love was pulsing, giving her the strength to go on.
She raced onwards, the whole time her mind spinning with questions. What would she do once she got there? What would she say? How would she explain everything to Lyra? In the end she didn't care. Her minty mare could hate her for the rest of her life, and it wouldn't matter. All that mattered was that Lyra was alive to hate her. That she made sure her beloved could make it back to that peaceful life back in Ponyville. Her own feelings, her own desires and pains, they were nothing compared to how much that one unicorn meant to her right now.
Further she went, not even bothering to step quietly anymore. Her heart felt as if it was about to burst as she drew closer and closer to the marked spot on the map. Any pain, any torment, it would be all worth it just to set her eyes upon that tender mare again.
Minutes ticked past. Her hooves carried her further in, but still no trace of her beloved. Slowly, her pace lessened, her heart starting to fill with doubt. Had she ran past and not noticed? Had Lyra gone further into the forest, even knowing the danger? Eventually her hoof beats stopped. Her glowing eyes peered into the darkness around her, searching for any sign, any trace of that lovely teal coat.
Her heart sank. After all this, all the pain and worry. Through all the frantic searching and agony of doubt, she was still alone. Lyra, the one thing that she couldn't live without, the one thing that had given her wretched life meaning, was gone. Her head hung, eyes drifting down to the ground at her hooves, but she didn't bother seeing it. As if her gaze had fallen through the earth, into some black pit that swallowed all before it.
Something. Something wasn't right. That feeling, running up and down her spine. It had been ages since Bon Bon had felt it. A feeling she dearly wished she would never feel ever again. Her eyes went wide as she looked about. This couldn't be, not here, not now. But still, she felt it. And it made the little gem in her heart shiver.
If they were here, if she could feel them. That could mean...
"No...oh please no!"
The false pony wheeled around, that sensation getting stronger as she concentrated. Focused on it. That icy, slippery sensation that was making her fake skin crawl. It filled her with dread, but it was her last hope.
"Oh please! Celestia...Luna...Faust...anypony, please let me make it in time!"
Those eyes. They drained the warmth from Lyra's body as they took her in. They were the first thing she could see of the horrible creature that had been chasing through this dark forest. Right now, that was all it took to freeze the poor unicorn in place. But they would not be so kind as to stay tucked away in the darkness. Soon those eyes were accompanied by a dark shape slipping from the murk on iridescent wings. The changeling drifted on those buzzing wings, floating like a wasp eyeing its latest prey before its hooves made it to the ground. Its fanged maw turned up in a wicked smirk, its sharp teeth gleaming dully in the weak light that still reached into the depths of the forest.
"Well, well...dinner is served..." The thing spoke, its voice a high pitched rasp, sounding as if there were two or three ponies all speaking at once, their different voices melting together into a grating sound. Lyra trembled under its cold, featureless gaze. It was only the one changeling; she could have a chance if she fought back, tried to fight it off and escape. But she couldn't move. Her mind flooded with memories of that room, that cocoon. Hearing the sounds of rough wings brushing against each other as a seemingly endless number of changelings had passed by. Her heart refused to beat, frozen in place by the icy chill of fear that now gripped it so tightly.
This was it! This was how it all ended for the poor, heartbroken unicorn. To once again be sucked dry. To have all the love, the warmth, the happiness drained from her, her life ebbing away soon after. Was this the same creature she had found in her bedroom? Had it followed her all this way? Each breath she took was ragged, having to force them through sobs and gasps as she tried to curl herself into as small of a ball as she could, as if she could just vanish from sight. The image of the approaching changeling became blurry, swimming about as her eyes filled with fresh tears.
She could picture her life flashing before her eyes, telling her that this was the end. But oddly, it wasn't her full life. Every thing that came to mind, every image and scene that had passed before her, they were all of one pony. The one reason she knew happiness and love. With the end stepping closer and closer, Lyra's last thoughts, last words, were of the one thing she longed for the most.
"DON'T YOU TOUCH HER!"
That voice. Lyra felt as if her heart had exploded in her chest. The force of the sensation nearly lifted her off the ground. Her eyes wide in shock, she looked about, blinking back tears. There, just at the edge of the clearing. No other sight, not the majesty of Canterlot, nor the mysterious beauty of the moon, could ever compare to what she saw. That creamy coat and tousled mane, even frazzled and full of leaves as it was now, those tender blue eyes that now trembled with rage, Bon Bon was the most radiant thing the tired unicorn had ever seen.
The changeling was just as surprised, seeing another pony practically offering herself up to be made into a meal. The minty unicorn left but not yet forgotten, it turned its attention to the cream earth pony, a grin spreading over its muzzle, uncovering those sharp, dangerous teeth.
"What's this? Another pony eager to become dessert?" It sneered, but it's delight started to waver after a moment, one brow rising as it regarded Bon Bon with its cold, blue eyes. "No, not a pony at all, are you?"
Lyra's heart has swelled so full when she had seen her beloved mare appear, as if summoned by her distress. But now, it felt as if it was quickly plummeting to her stomach, cold and heavy. She watched as a flash of green power enveloped her beloved, ripping away that wonderful, beautiful pony, and leaving behind yet another, horrific changeling.
"Well, well. I must say I don't really mind sharing, but don't forget that I caught her first." The first changeling chortled, a smirk curling its lips as it regarded this new one. Bon Bon, or rather the changeling that had been Bon Bon, took one step forward. The rage had not left her eyes, their smooth, solid blue only seeming to intensify the feeling. Her teeth ground against each other as she locked her gaze upon that arrogant changeling. She hated them now. Hated what she had once been, and what she could never seem to escape.
"I won’t let you hurt her!" Nothing could have shocked the changeling or Lyra as much as that. The voice was clearly Bon Bon's, but it wasn't alone. Like the other changeling's, it was as if many others had blended with it, every one of them seething with rage and hate as she launched herself forward, forelimbs outstretched. The changeling had little time to react, barely able to buzz its wings before the other was upon it. They tumbled, turning end over end in the dirt as wings buzzed and teeth gnashed. Lyra watched, quickly losing track of which one was which as they rolled about in a frenzy. She could hear the one that had been Bon Bon speaking, crying out, yelling in rage, but she could not tell which one it was.
One changeling had managed to pin the other for a moment, trying to thrust that sharp, curved horn at the other's face. The other had managed to bring its hoof up just in time to turn the thrust, but was rewarded by sharp fangs sinking into the flesh of its foreleg. They rolled again, changing position as the rabidly biting changeling was now on the bottom, the other bringing its other hoof up to stomp violently upon its chest.
Lyra's mind whirled about in a storm of confusion and doubt. She watched the two creatures battle each other, locked in a swirling melee as they rolled and struggled. Soon the small clearing proved too small to contain them, and the pair had tumbled off into the bushes, lost from sight, though the sounds of their struggle continued to ring in the unicorn's ears. Still, she could hear the sounds of Bon Bon's voice calling out, and it did nothing but confuse her more.
One of those things had wanted to consume her, to drain her of everything that was good. The other, unless Lyra had gone insane from pain and grief, was trying to save her. The one that, not moments before, had arrived wearing the face of her beloved. She knew she should take this chance to escape, to put as much distance between herself and the battling changelings as she could. But something stopped her, kept her rooted in that clearing as the battle raged on just out of sight. That changeling was trying to save her!
How could that be true? Changelings fed on ponies, fed on love and tenderness! They don't try to save ponies, especially ponies they had tried to fool. Lyra stared at the ground, her entire world turning on its end as these thoughts and a thousand others marched an endless canter around her mind. Her body trembled with the weight of it all. If that one changeling had shown up looking like Bon Bon, then it must have been the one she had seen in her bedroom. But if it was here, then where was the real Bon Bon? The one that loved her, the one that cared so deeply for her. The one that would do anyth-
That thought locked in her mind. All this time. Every word that had been said. Every moment that had been shared. It couldn't be true, could it? Had it really been? Could it ever have been? Her eyes slowly rose to look where the two changelings had disappeared into the brush. That cold feeling had returned, but not from fear or sorrow. It was a the cold of feeling the world for the first time. As if a sheet had been draped over her for so long, telling her everything was warm and soft, but now that it was pulled away, she knew the air was cold and sharp, but also real and true.
She watched, hearing the struggle go on, hearing it slowly, gradually lessen. The frantic panting and gasping getting less and less intense. The sounds of something being broken, being torn. Soon all that was left was a ragged, pained gasping. Those bushes moved, slowly starting to part aside. Lyra's heart froze up, waiting to see just who or what had survived. First a horn, and then two tired, pained blue eyes. The changeling slowly stumbled back into the clearing, looking as if it could collapse at any moment. Across its hooves, horn, and chin, thick green blood was splattered, and it bled from a dozen or more small cuts and scrapes.
Lyra's eyes trembled at the sight. She slowly tried to scoot herself back, too tired and emotionally drained to run. Was she next? Was this the same one that had wanted to drain her dry?
"S-stay back..." The unicorn could only manage a weak whisper as her eyes couldn't look away from the sight. The changeling gasped, looking up at her, its eyes shook, and in a moment, it disappeared in a green flash, replaced by an equally shocked and tired earth pony. Bon Bon was still splattered with the other changeling's blood, and her own, still green, was still slowly dripping from her wounds.
"L-Lyra! It's me, please..." she started, taking a step towards her beloved. For a moment, Lyra wanted nothing more but to leap into an embrace with that sweet, wonderful mare. But she was weighed down still, a small stone of doubt keeping her rooted in place. She could see tears starting to well up in Bon Bon's eyes, the earth pony's gaze falling to the ground. A moment later so did she, lowering herself down to lay in the mossy dirt. Finally Lyra managed to close her eyes, the world too confusing and painful to watch anymore.
"Blue eyes, so tender and sweet,
Soft eyes, why do they weep?"
The musical sound brought Lyra's eyes open again. Bon Bon was still laying in the dirt, watching as she slowly moved a hoof around in a circle in front of her. It was her sweet voice that had sung those words. The first words from a song the unicorn had written just for her. A song she had written more than a year ago.
Everything came crashing down on Lyra. All the pain, the hate, the worry. Her heart surged while her mind reeled. With a gasp and a thrust of her back legs, she had the sweet candy mare wrapped in her forelegs. Tears flowed from her eyes, soaking into the tangled mane she pressed her cheek against.
"Oh, B-Bon Bon! I...I'm so sorry..."
The false pony couldn't keep from offering up her own tears as her limbs wrapped themselves around her tender unicorn. She ached all over, bled from dozens of wounds, but it was all lost in the wonderful, sublime feeling of that minty coat pressed against her once again.
"N-no...Lyra...it was all my fault. I...I should have told you...told you the truth before this happened..."
They both sobbed together, the pain they had both felt flowing from them like water past a burst dam. At that moment, nothing could have felt better. They had both been pushed to the ends of their ropes, had ugly truths and horrible lies weighing on them. But now, in that dark forest, on that muddy, mossy ground, they could both feel it. Deep inside, they could both feel them, those tiny little stones. That little emerald and that tiny onyx. They were both shining like brilliant suns...