A sudden, sharp pain ripped me from unconsciousness. I let out a yelp as I scrambled to get up, holding the top of my throbbing head. The sound of a cawing crow burst through the air, and I opened my eyes to look for the bird.
The noisy creature happened to be standing directly in front of me, looking at me with a cocked head. I hissed in both pain and anger, which scared the bird into flying off, leaving me alone.
I stumbled, whatever balance I had now gone, and fell to the ground. I let out another hiss and looked around me, the trees and bushes of a forest filling my view. As the throbbing of my head faded, I used my now-free limbs to push myself off the forest floor, shaking my head quickly as I observed my front legs.
They were filled with holes and gaps, some looking like I had a chunk taken out of my leg, but a few went straight through, making it look as if I had cheese or sponges for legs. The bottoms of my legs were completely flat as well, pressed fully against the ground.
What the heck is going on?
I shifted into a sitting position, trying to get a look at my back legs, which turned out to be just as hole-ridden as my front ones. I unsteadily stood up on all fours and looked around myself once more, trying to find something I could look at myself in. For some reason, my appearance was bugging me…
I turned around a found a small, crystal clear pond directly behind me. I leaned over the edge, careful not to lose my balance again. What I saw looking back at me almost immediately caused me to do so.
Two red, pupil-less eyes, white fangs, wisp-like ears, a curved horn were all placed on a matte black head with a short snout. Also, I could faintly make out some kind of short, grey mane sticking out from the back of my head. I let out an involuntary gasp, the reflection the pond copying my motions perfectly.
I slowly stepped away from the pond, my thoughts in a whirl. I turned my head as far as I could to look at myself.
Almost my entire body was covered in a carapace as black as my head, the exception being a slightly shiny section on my back that faded from black to blue near my flanks. On top of that section rested two nearly transparent, light blue wings, which fluttered at a thought. A twitch brought into sight a short, grey tail, the same color as my mane.
What am I?
I turned my attention from my body to the forest around me. Trees stretched upwards and blotted out the sky, only a few rays of sunlight making it through to the ground. Despite that, the bushes and foliage on the ground seemed to be alive and healthy. Looking down, the ground was blackened and sooty, except for a small, me-shaped spot…
A whispery, female voice rang through my head, startling me. I crouched low to the ground, growling as a green light shone from above me and I became aware of a strange feeling in my horn. I scanned the area in front of me, searching for the source of the voice.
“Who’s there!?” I shouted, looking behind me. “Come out!”
I stood for a moment, only letting my guard down after I was sure that there was nothing that could have said whatever it was that I heard. I looked up to see what it was that was making the green glow, but the light always stayed just above my vision. I shook my head, thinking the glow was something that had stuck to me, but it didn’t go away.
Frustrated, I looked back to the pond and jumped slightly when I saw that my horn was surrounded by a green aura. I shook my head again, but the aura stayed wrapped around my horn. I then tried sticking my head in the water, but that didn’t work either.
Great… now how do I get rid of this green stuff and stop looking like a light…thingy… I winced and rubbed my head as a sharp but brief stab of pain accompanied the end of my thought.
I sat down and frowned, trying to remember what that strange voice had said. The voice seemed oddly familiar, but for the moment I ignored that.
‘Changeling’ was what I thought it said. I closed my eyes. ‘Changeling’… the definition was on the tip of my tongue. A dull throbbing started in my head, but I ignored it.
Suddenly, a feeling of light-headedness came over me, and I fell over. Images flashed through my mind. I saw creatures that looked almost exactly like me, but grayer and with blue eyes. Images of the ‘changelings’ doing all sorts of things, from flying to fighting. Then, as quickly as they came, the images faded away.
Changelings are insect-like creatures capable of flight and magic. They can change their form to mimic almost anything and feed off of the love and positive emotions of ponies.
The thoughts fly through my head before I know I’m thinking them. I blink in surprise. Where did all of that come from? And more importantly, what was the deal with magic and poni-
Another stab of pain erupts in my head, followed quickly by another bout of light-headedness. More images of colorful changel-no, they’re not changelings… they ponies.
Earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns.
I sit up and rub my head with a… hoof?
Hoof… that’s it. Changelings have hooves, and so do ponies.
I slowly stand up, thoughts of the three kinds of ponies still lingering in my head. I shook my head to clear them away before noticing the green glow that was still at the top of my vision.
By some instinct that wasn’t there before, I willed the magic I had reflexively gathered out of my horn and back into my body, the strange feeling fading with it. I smiled. Now, for whatever reason, I could control my magic.
I became abruptly aware that I had no idea where I was. Unlike before, there was no random set of images and thoughts, which confused me, but I decided to think about that later. I looked around once more, spying a faintly visible trail leading away from the clearing I was in.
I took a few tentative steps towards the trail, but I quickly settled into a somewhat fast walk once I found that it came easier than controlling magic had. I looked back at the blackened clearing for a brief moment before turning my attention to the forest in front of me.
It was actually very quiet and peaceful, only a few birds flitting from tree to tree. Unlike the clearing, the path I was on was littered with leaves and twigs, which crunched and snapped softly under my hooves. For some reason, it struck me as odd that I could hardly feel them, but that was likely due to my carapace.
Glancing off to my side, I saw an orange fox running through the forest, chasing after a small grey spot that I couldn’t quite make out. It was obviously in pursuit of some prey… like I would have to be, before too long. I knew I was a changeling, and changelings fed off positive emotions, but I didn’t know how long I had before I needed to do so.
First things first though… get out of this forest.
The next thing I knew, I as being hoisted up into the air upside-down. The world spun for a moment before I looked at my back leg and realized I had stepped into a classic rope trap. I frowned and sighed. I had no idea how to get out of…
Wait… I have magic! I can just blast my way out of this!
I willed a good amount of magic into my horn, instincts allowing me to and telling me how much was enough, just as they had allowed me to dissipate it before. With a mental push, the green aura around my horn formed into a bolt that flew directly into the rope, snapping it instantly. I grinned briefly before I realized I had nothing holding me up anymore.
I groaned as I slowly sat up, rubbing the back of my head, which was the first part of me to impact the ground. After the headache faded slightly, I stood up and looked at my back, buzzing my wings a bit to make sure they were fine.
I let out a huge groan and facehoofed. Forgetting I had wings was an idiotic move. I made a mental note to not forget again.
I started walking once more, this time paying closer attention to the ground in front of me so I didn’t step in any more traps. I didn’t go much farther until the ‘path’ I had been on vanished entirely, just short of another, much larger and obviously well-traveled path.
Unsure of which way to go, I stood still for a short while before deciding that standing around wasn’t getting anything done. I picked left and started walking once more.
Left had apparently been the right choice, as there was another clearing not too far away. Intrested to find out if there was anything there, however unlikely, I switched to a trot and quickly reached the edge of the clearing.
It was rather large compared to the one I had woken up in, large enough so that there was a good-sized hole in the tree cover that allowed light to shine down on a cluster of rocks in the center of the clearing. There were actually a lot of large rocks scattered around, a few looked like they had been carved at one point, but most were little more than heaps.
There was a sudden rustling noise behind me, followed by a low buzzing. I ducked just as an amber bolt of magic sailed over my head and impacted on one of the large rocks, blasting a small chunk away. I jumped back to my hooves and whirled around, prepping my own magic and growling as a unicorn walked out from a bush.
Her coat was a light tan, her mane and tail were black with a golden streak running through them. Her blue eyes narrowed as she looked at me, charging another bolt of magic.
I crouched in preparation for her attack. “You shouldn’t have done that,” I hissed. The mare frowned scornfully.
“I only regret missing,” she responded, before lowering her head and firing at me again. I leapt out the way and shot my own bolt at her, but she managed to jump over it. It served as a distraction, though, and I used the time to take off, running around a few boulders and heading back into the forest, the unicorn in hot pursuit.
I leapt over a bush, taking off through the many trees. I spared a glance behind me to see the bush explode in an amber flash, the unicorn having simply blasted it out of her way. A veritable barrage of magical blasts were sent after me even as she chased me herself.
I began zigzagging in between the trees, the bolts either hitting them or missing everything and sailing past me with a pretty large margin. Despite the zigzagging slowing me down, the occasional looking backwards let me know I was actually losing the mare. She was simply charging towards me in the straightest possible line, but it didn’t matter. Despite their cheese-like appearance, the holes in the legs of a changeling acted like springs, which gave me way more leg power than a unicorn or pegasus, maybe even an earth pony.
I blinked. I didn’t know I knew that.
Must have been the same deal as that headache from earlier…
I was so caught up in my thoughts, I was only shocked back to reality when I suddenly couldn’t feel the ground underneath my hooves anymore. I looked down to see I had run straight over a rather large cliff.
“Crap,” I muttered, as I then started falling, gravity coming to the same realization I had.
It was actually a good ways down, so I was falling for a couple of seconds before I remembered I had wings. They promptly buzzed to life, and I laughed.
“Screw gravity, I have wings!” I cackled, flying above the cliff I had fallen off of and waiting for the unicorn that had been chasing me.
The mare burst out of the forest and ground to a halt well before she went over the cliff. She looked this way and that, magic prepped and ready to blast any changeling she could find. The buzzing of my wings must have caught her ear, as she stiffened right before looking up at me. I couldn’t resist blowing an enormous raspberry at her, laughing as she reddened indignantly.
I darted to the right as she shot a bolt of magic at me, smiling smugly as she fumed. “Come down here!” she shouted. I shook my head and stuck out my tongue. She ground her teeth together and stomped on the ground. “When I get my hooves on you!”
I chuckled and flew down towards her, buzzing over another bolt of magic before getting close enough to flick her horn, disrupting the aura that surrounded it and making the unicorn yelp and fall to the ground, trying to cover her horn with her hooves.
I laughed and drifted around her in circles, poking at her and enjoying how she rolled around on the ground to avoid.
Then out of nowhere, one of her hooves came away from her and punched me straight in the snout.
I let out a half-yell, half-yelp, clutching my face and cursing. Then an amber flash filled my vision as I felt the wind driven out of me. My wings froze in place and I fell to the ground, growling lowly.
I took a deep breath and rolled off the side I had landed on, jumping back to my hooves as an amber bolt struck the ground where I had just been.
I looked at the unicorn, now seriously angered. I willed a large of magic into my horn, feeling slightly drained but determined to, at the very least, knock this unicorn out for a good while. She apparently had the same idea, as her horn lit up brighter than it had been before, a double aura of amber surrounding her horn.
We locked eyes, and fired.
Instead of bolts like before, we both let off beams of magic. Hers was a column of amber flame, and mine was a blast of green lightning. The torrents of magic collided between us, raging against each other in an attempt to blow their targets away. I began feeling more and more drained as the contest went on.
I felt a slight numbness creeping into my body, likely a sign that I was running out of energy to spare. I couldn’t keep up the blast for much longer.
I need to end this, and fast…
Suddenly, an image of a changeling popped into my head. I smiled, now knowing what to do.
I crouched as low as I could while keeping my attack focused on the unicorn. Cutting the attack off, I leapt into the air, using my wings to carry me higher and higher until the mare looked like a tiny filly. Her blast passed underneath me, clearing a new path into the forest as it blew away the trunks of a number of trees and annihilated bushes.
Once I had climbed high enough into the air, I didn’t even pause to catch my breath before I turned back around and dove straight towards the mare. I let off a spark of magic, and the air around me caught fire, turning me into a living projectile.
I could see the unicorn strangely clearly through the flames. She looked like she was catching her breath, too tired to get out of the way. She looked up at me and started scrambling to get away, but I easily angled myself towards her. I closed my eyes as I neared the ground, expecting some pain on impact.
The unicorn’s yell pierced the air as I hit the ground, causing a small explosion that threw her away. I didn’t feel any pain, and I realized that I was standing in a small crater, a small throb in my head the only symptom from crashing into the ground.
I jumped out of the crater and walked over to the unicorn, who appeared to be unconscious. I leaned over her, grinning. “Told you you shouldn’t have done that.” I whispered. Then a hoof connected with my snout.
“Would you stop punching me!” I yelled, holding the end of my snout as the mare struggled to her hooves. I exhaled sharply, making sure I was okay before turning back to the unicorn.
She had managed to stand back up, but immediately fell the moment she tried to take a step. By this point, I was sick and tired of her. I lunged at her, knocking her onto her back and hissed in her face, fangs borne.
“Wait!” she yelled, loud enough to make me wince and stop hissing. I glared at her, watching as she shook in fear.
“I-if you d-don’t kill m-m-me,” she stuttered, “ Y-you’re a changeling, r-right? You u-use love as f-food?”
“Not all the time,” I growled, half-serious. “Like now, if you don’t get on my good side.”
“There’s a t-town near here,” she said, starting to regain some of her composure. “It's called Ponyville. I can take you to it. It’s got more love than anyplace else, I swear.”
Well this is great…
On one hoof, I could let her go and, provided she was telling the truth, get as many free meals as I wanted. On the other, she could be setting me up for a trap… a well thought-out one, I had to admit.
A feeling of drowsiness passed over me, now that all the action had wound down. It effectively crushed any argument I had, but I wasn’t going to be tricked.
“What’s your life worth to you, little pony?” I hissed, glaring at the unicorn who was beginning to lose her composure once more. Her mouth began to move after a few seconds, but I cut her off before she could even start. “Is it worth taking the risk of lying to a changeling?”
“I swear to Celestia, I’m not lying.” She said, miraculously without stuttering. I narrowed my eyes and searched for any trace of deceit, but she kept looking me straight in the eye. With a small snarl I got off of her, allowing her to stand.
Immediately I noticed that she was holding her left foreleg close to her body. I ignored it, figuring she deserved some discomfort for attacking me.
Eye for an eye, I suppose…
“Come on, let’s go to Ponyville,” I said, turning to head back into the forest. I had taken only a few steps before I heard a yelp of pain coming from the unicorn. I turned around to see she had fallen to the ground, from what I assumed was a failed attempt to walk with three legs. I rolled my eyes.
She tried to stand up, but immediately fell back down. She gave it another go, and succeeded in standing up, but fell as soon as she tried walking again, letting out another yelp as her injured leg hit the ground once more. I let out an irritated sigh and walked over to her, realizing we were getting nowhere.
“Okay, this is getting old,” I said irritatedly. “Just use some fancy healing spell and be done with it.”
The unicorn glared at me. “I don’t know any. I’ve never need to.” She struggled once more to her hooves. “And besides, that little duel drained me so much I’d be surprised if I could lift the spellbook I’d need to learn one.” She tried walking once more, actually managing to stumble forward a step. I rolled my eyes and suppressed a small giggle, instead standing next to her and wrapping her right foreleg around my shoulder.
“Thank you…” she said softly, obviously surprised. I rolled my eyes again.
“It was painfully clear you weren’t going anywhere unless I helped you. And since you’re the only one who knows the way to this ‘Ponyville’, I didn’t have much choice.” The unicorn huffed and looked off to the side, muttering something to herself.
We slowly but surely worked out a makeshift walk for her, and we began the trek through the woods to this ‘Ponyville’. I let the mare do most of the pathfinding, which left me free to observe the forest once more. However, it got old rather quickly.
Bored, I decided to, at the very least, get my companion’s name.
“So… what’s your name?” I asked, eyes still looking at the forest.
There was a brief silence before she answered. “Pyrite… Pyrite Dreams.”
“And what were you doing way out here?”
Another pause. “I’m an archaeologist. I was looking for remains of an ancient cult that used to run in this forest.”
“Huh,” I replied, not really caring.
“What were YOU doing out here?”
Now it was my turn to stay silent for a moment before giving a half-shrug, trying to express the motion without Pyrite’s leg coming off my shoulder. “I woke up.”
“Oh, well… what’s your name?”
The question stopped me dead in my tracks, and Pyrite with me. She waved a hoof in front of my face, but I ignored it, her question repeating in my head. What was my name?
He who comes back...
The whispery, female voice from before went through my head once more, but this time it was just that: a voice. No images or knowledge came with it, just its words. ‘He who comes back’… that was something along the lines of a ghost… was that my name? ‘Ghost’? Maybe… ‘Specter’? Or ‘Phantom’?
Do what must be done…
The voice had me utterly confused. ‘Do what must be done’? It didn’t make much sense by itself unless combined with the other phrase…
‘He who comes back, do what must be done’. That sounded like a command, but something told me it wasn’t. It was more like a phrase, a definition…
I smiled. It was a definition, one that I knew.
“My name, little pony…”
“… is Revenant.”
Hey everyling, what's up? Hope you've all enjoyed 'Revenant' so far, especially since I just went through and revised the crap out of this chapter. I plan to do the same for the others as well, so if you notice inconsistencies, it's because I haven't fixed them yet.
For those of you revisiting and re-reading, I did state in Chapter 5 that I didn't want any AN's, but since I broke the rule, I may as well go all out. Think of these as my way of reaching out to my readers.
With that, I'll take my leave. Hope everyling enjoyed this.