"I'm telling you, Spike, it was coming from in here, I'm sure of it," said a recognizably feminine voice as it echoed through the cavernous chamber. "You don't just forget a scream like that."
I pressed my back to the table, sinking low into the shadow it cast and hoping beyond all hope that I was too small and dark coated for anything to see me. The lack of reverberating in that girl's voice suggested that she was at least a little different to whatever I was.
That or she's learned to speak differently, maybe an accent? Whatever the case, my ears still perked as I heard the sound of what I could only guess were hooves on smooth crystal.
Hooves? So she's equine then, kinda like me? I surmised, yet the sound of a far more rapid set of steps running up behind the former threw in doubts. That sounded more like claws tapping?
"Are you sure, Twilight? Just because, you know, anytime something weird and not friendship related happens in here, it's never good," sounded a second voice, this one distinctively male, yet seemingly younger.
"Don't worry about that, Spike. Besides, I doubt it would be anypony trying to scare us, so they could be hurt," retorted the first voice before she called out. "Hello, is anypony in here?"
'Anypony?' My muzzle wrinkled as I looked at a knobbly foreleg. A pony, like a small horse? Grr, why can't I remember where that's from? One thing was for sure, if what I recalled of ponies was true, then that was definitely not whatever I was.
"Hello, if you're there, I heard you scream. Please, if you're in trouble we can help." For a brief moment, I actually considered showing myself.
Then what she'd been calling hit me. She was calling for a pony, not a monster. Furthermore, if what the second voice accompanying her had suggested was right, then surely I could only be the kind of 'trouble' to which he was referring. I swallowed, muzzle clenched as the sound of hooves and claws began to come around the table. I looked at my own hooves and prayed that I could do something other than fall on my face when walking.
Scooting around the edge of the table was not too hard a task as the voices trotted around to the far side. Eventually, I found myself staring at the exit, golden trimmed door hanging slightly ajar as my huntress gave a groan.
"Looks like it's nothing, Twi. I can't see anything," suggested the male voice as the female sighed.
"No, I was sure I... what's this?" The feminine voice paused as if something caught her eye and there was a shimmering sound.
"Looks like a rock, Twilight. Oh, if this turns out to be gems can I have them?" asked the male voice.
"What, no! They could be important, see this rock has markings on it!" exclaimed the female.
"Erm, those just look like purple scribbles, Twilight." The two of them seemingly distracted, I fixed my eyes on my escape, then looked at each of my hooves.
Okay legs, don't fail me now. My mental orders issued with some semblance of hope they'd be heeded, I tentatively placed one quivering hoof forward and took a step. Just think, I fall, I get swatted, simple as that... So just don't fall. I assured myself, very carefully placing another hoof down.
The slow motion at least had the added bonus of muffling my steps as the clopping of my pursuer's hooves were far more audible as she seemingly started pacing up and down at the far side of the room.
"This is the third time in the last year! I could have sworn I heard something, Spike. Tell me I'm not going crazy," declared the female equine, swiftly receiving an unsure response from her companion.
"Erm, you're not crazy, Twilight," he offered, and my ears perked, my quivering steps paused as I dared glance back.
The most I could make out was what appeared to be a dark purple hair over the far edge of the table. What I could only guess was a lavender colored and far straighter version of my own horn stuck out from it.
So she’s not like me at all? I noted, taking another careful step.
My rear hoof tapped against my front, and my teeth clenched, eyes closed as I did my best to not stagger and fall.
All the more reason to get out of here now! I snapped, unable to forgo feeling like I was some sort of utterly useless infant.
I pushed myself, one hoof down, then another, then a back hoof, then the other. The motion was as religious as the countdown that had been in my head and the rhythmic beeping that had preceded it. Until finally, the grand voyage across the room came to a conclusion, and I wobbled as I tried not to collide face first with the door.
My hoof shot out to catch me before I fell, and before I knew it, I hit the floor as the door swung outwards with a loud creak. I winced, fangs flashing as I bit my bottom lip and my ears folded reflexively. I tilted back onto my rump, and it felt odd to have a tail curl around my butt to press close to my hooves. Having wings that pressed flat against my back just added to the strange sensation. It felt even more terrifying to catch another glimpse of my hideous face in the reflective floor as my head sank. And to make all of my matters just a little bit worse, a voice called out in alarm.
"What was that?" My head shot up, ears suddenly erect.
Like I'd been caught in a sudden bright light, my whole body went rigid. All save for my wings, which seemed content to twitch and buzz sporadically as if to fly off without me. Finally, I dared look over my shoulder. In that briefest of glimpses, I saw no sign of the pony I'd seen across the table, but I could still hear the clop of hooves against crystal. I felt like a rabbit in a fox's den, the unknown comparison sudden, and yet all too familiar to me. Not to let my brain get too far ahead, however, I swiftly followed up the resolution with exactly the right reaction.
I half shoved, half head-butted the door open again, sure that there was no hope of hiding my presence now as I bolted. I got about a meter before tumbling to the side and slamming into a crystal wall with a yelp. Safe to say, at that point, I knew how it felt to bend a wing as the diaphanous extension of my new body buckled, wedged between my side and the wall. I grimaced, face contorting as I bit back the curses that came surging to mind at the sudden flare of pain.
The sounds of hooves and claws on the other side of the door elevating in pace spurred my panicked brain right back into action, however. Using the wall as a support, I fumbled my way along with the grace of a crippled seal. My eyes darted around, spying a long corridor with several others branching off in all directions. There were towering windows above, what I could only assume was still sunlight streaming in to cast radiant pillars onto the maroon carpet and hanging wall tapestries.
I came to a stop only when the corridor reached an intersection. One hall across from me led down a regal looking set of stairs to a larger chamber below, while two others led off left and right. Part of me desired nothing but to dive across the open space to the stairs, hopefully there I'd at least find a way out of this crystalline death trap. If there was sunshine, then there must be something outside.
Seriously such a big deal about a simple walk? A voice in my head moaned as if I should somehow know exactly how to trot around on all fours when I was pretty sure I used to walk on just two legs. It's a lot harder than it looks.
I glanced left and right, yet before I could make any move an odd purple glow shimmered into existence behind me and I looked back to see the door to the room I'd left enveloped in a glistening, lavender colored aura. As if blown by a heavy gale, they were thrust open and in their wake trotted what I could only assume was a pony.
Memories of small equine creatures flashed through my mind, and she looked about as alike in nature to them as I did to her. Still far taller than me, her coat was lavender, similar to the aura that had opened the doors. Her mane and tail, as I'd seen before, were a darker shade of purple with lavender highlights, just like her coat. Her eyes too were the same shade, and far larger than they had any right to be in proportion to her head. She almost looked like some fluffy, grape flavored marshmallow.
Like me, she had both wings and a horn that glowed in tangent with that hue around the doors. Only she had feathers, not some hideous insectoid set of limbs protruding from her back. Her horn was definitely straighter than mine too, almost like an ice-cream cone, reversed and glued to her head. The last distinct feature was what appeared to be a purple starburst tattoo on her flank, exactly like the one on one of the thrones when I'd awakened.
The pony, mare I guess... Or was she a pegasus, unicorn? She looked at me and I looked at her, eyes meeting for a fleeting moment.
Her purple spheres went even wider, comparable to dinner plates. I only looked from her to the many of the many doors flanking each side of the corridor. One has to lead away, I had to escape!
"Hey, Twilight, wait up... I..." Next to the mare appeared what I could best describe as a purple scaled lizard.
Smaller then the winged pony, he was still a little larger than me. Only, he walked on two legs, and had a long row of green spines along his back and head. Urg, I never thought I could envy someone being bipedal!
He stopped, hunched over as he took several exasperated breaths. One glance up at her, and he followed her gaze right to me, at which point he appeared as stunned as his equine companion.
"Is that... Is that what I think it is?" he stammered, pointing a claw right at me.
"It... It can't be," the mare added in equally clear disbelief.
I took their stunned expressions as a clear sign that this was my time to leave and before either of them could recover I hobbled around the left corner and out of sight. I did not belong here, and now that felt more clear than ever.
"Hey, wait!" called the mare, but I was already battling too hard not to fall head over hooves as the sound of her running after me met my ears.
It's over, I'm finished. Dumped in some strange joke of a world to be swatted or eaten by crazy purple ponies! My mind raced, and for once I really wished it was not the only thing to be going so fast as my useless hooves dragged along the floor.
Once again, however, the universe seemed determined to make my inability to walk the least of my issues. From nowhere a mass of purple and gold appeared in my face and I slammed right into it. Like some stealthy assassin that had been awaiting her time to strike, another mare trotted out from the door that had assaulted me. In the blurred haze that was my vision, I could just about make out a light lilac coat and purple mane.
"Twilight, what's all the shouting about I..." A pair of cyan eyes fixed on me as the image of her came into focus.
Forehoof pressed to my pained muzzle, I took little note of the green ooze seeping from my bloody nostrils as I scurried back against the wall. My back hit cold crystal and my wings buzzed.
Could I fly out of here, was there any hope of that? I wondered as the lilac mare looked at me with an utterly baffled expression. Don't count on it, I'm pretty sure I've at least walked before, but I know I've never flown.
"Y–you... You're a..." the mare stammered, pointing a forehoof at me like she'd seen a ghost.
"Starlight, look out there's-!" The voice of my previous pursuer caught up seconds before she appeared beside the mare that had subdued me with the door. "A..." Her voice trailed off as she looked at me, along with her exhausted reptilian companion.
Out of options, my mind felt like it had completely regressed to that of a terrified child as I curled into a ball, ears flat, tail curled and wings folded. The looming pair looked at each other, then at me.
Finally, against all odds, one last sensation came to me and in a moment of pure terror, I found my voice. "P–please... Please don't squash me."
I felt like such an idiot, so out of place. Like a fly begging for its life while already stupid enough to wander into the spider's web. It was a complete shock then when both mares looked horrified by the prospect, recoiling at the idea with a gasp.
"I... Why would you ever think..." the first mare, Twilight as I was swiftly starting to recognize as my thoughts slowed and I accepted the inevitable, asked meekly.
"He... He's a changeling... A foal... Twilight, that's..." the second mare, Starlight as Twilight had identified, stated.
A foal, what? So they were not just giants? But how was I a foal? Was that even the right thing to call a bug a... Changeling? Despite all that had been coming back to me in the past few minutes, my brain offered nothing on that subject.
Finally, Twilight seemed to collect herself enough to answer, glancing at Starlight before looking at me like I was really not something she should be able to look at.
"Starlight, you know that's impossible," she began, words seeming to catch in her throat again before she finally announced. "Changelings have been extinct for years."