• Published 1st Jun 2013
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Legend - Radiant Dawn

He was an average man in nearly every sense of the term, but his entire life is flipped upside-down when a push for a paycheck turns into something unexpected...something much more.

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Chapter 10: House of Mirrors

Chapter 10: House of Mirrors

When one hears about something like Stockholm Syndrome, the average person would pass it off as impossible. I mean, empathy and sympathy towards a captor? I never believed it, but while I didn’t really consider Shudder a captor per se, I did blame certain things about my current predicament on her. Namely, the whole, “Help, I’m stuck in a strange sub-dimension with no way out!”

Still, I understood and accepted why it was done, and couldn’t really wholly put the blame on the guard. After all, she had made it quite clear that she was following orders, which meant that Princess Luna had likely been the one to give the orders to Shudder.

However, as the three-month mark passed for Shudder and I, I found an unfortunate thing begin to happen.

It appeared that the magic within me was beginning to have noticeable effects on me again, though not so much physical as behavioral. I became more stressed as time passed, and my personality as a whole became much more aggressive. I knew Shudder’s training didn’t account for this, as while she was forceful and serious when training, I had found her to be very laid back otherwise. I knew that part of my behavioral changes had to be the stress that was brought about from being isolated from my friends for so long, but the rest I couldn’t quite explain. What I found odd was the fact that I was perfectly conscious of these behavior changes, but I couldn’t stop it either. It was almost as though I was playing a videogame as an already-established character: able to make choices, but unable to affect said character’s personality.

It didn’t really bother me all that much, but as time passed, friction began to build between Shudder and myself. We were each other’s only company, and so such friction was only increased by the fact that we were completely alone. There was no one else for either of us to talk to, and so as I began to become more agitated, said behavior also passed to Shudder.

Finally, after a little over three months, the tension came to a head.

It would seem to be a normal training day to the outside observer, but to us it was anything but the norm. My increasingly assertive personality began to grate on Shudder, as I was no longer simply an assertive male to her, I was completely overstepping the bounds of how a male was supposed to behave in Equestria. True that I had found that she wasn’t necessarily old-fashioned in the beliefs of her culture, but even the most relaxed pony had a certain expectation of how a male was supposed to act...an expectation that I was an exception to. This alone caused a fair amount of tension between us, but besides that, I was beginning to take my frustrations about my situation out on her.

Which meant that when she chose to berate me as a male in an attempt to motivate me, I exploded.
As my training had intensified, I had found the strange bands I wore around my wrists, ankles, and waist were not simple pieces of cloth. No...they were magical weights that could be adjusted by a control on the wall. This, however, was not their use for me.

It seemed that the chaos magic that was within me had a very odd side-effect: it lessened physics’ hold on me. This meant that gravity, air resistance, and heat and electric conductivity were reduced on me. This meant that the magic had embedded itself within me the instant I came upon this world, and had actively protected me from the massive planet’s crushing gravity. I was subconsciously thankful to Equis for making my transition as smooth as possible.

The princesses, however, had engineered the magical weights to remove this passive ability of mine.

So, beginning a week after the three-month mark, Shudder had forced me to complete my training regimen under the full effects of the planet’s gravity. Thankfully, my new bone structure and strengthened muscles kept me from being crushed, but the gravity force was equivalent to wearing a two-hundred pound weight vest. This new stress on my body also increased the stress of my mind, which added to my frustration.

As I did a series of lunges (an exercise I had recommended, as ponies didn’t work out the same as humans), Shudder was right beside me, doing her whole “drill-sergeant” thing.

“C’mon, colt! My grandfather could move faster than that!” she bellowed condescendingly. “It’s no wonder your kind is so weak! Move it!”

We had held off on the actual combat training, as it was clear that I had a bit of an aptitude for it, but my physical attributes were lacking. The only problem was, I am a firm believer in the fact that only certain people have the mental and emotional fortitude to be soldiers. As such, while her words might have inspired a normal recruit to work harder, it just pissed me off.

I stopped the exercise and stood up straight, my muscles and joints quivering from my own weight, as well as the physical exhaustion. Still I stood under my own power, and glared at the pony before me. “Alright Shudder, enough of this shit. I’m not one of your cadets or whatever, and I already forgave you for the fucked-up way you brought me here. So enough already. I’m trying to keep in mind the fact that you were ordered to make sure I can defend myself should anything dangerous happen around me, but I’m done being treated like I’m less than you.”

She returned my glare with her own, responding with, “I told you from the beginning that you had to prove yourself worthy of my respect. So, to put it simply, if you want me to stop, you have to make me.”

In the recesses of my mind, I had expected this. Shudder had worked hard to get where she was, being as small as she was for a pony, and so would only respect someone that was as strong or stronger than her.

Unfortunately for her, I had paid close attention to her as we sparred those few times.

I grit my teeth and pulled the four bands off of my ankles and wrists before unclasping the belt, dropping all five pieces to the ground and kicking them away. As soon as the bands left my body, I felt the gravity’s effects on me lessen, and I felt the result of my exercises as well. True that I was a little sore from jogging for a few miles, but I could feel the extra strength in my limbs as well. I didn’t wear the “weights” all the time, but I never really took the time to notice the differences either, as I was usually too tired by the end of the training day to care much.

“Are you going to stand there all day or are you going to fight? C’mon, we don’t have forever, and I’d like to get in some more training after I beat you.” Shudder commented smugly.

I turned my gaze to the pony and stood my ground, having learned that rushing in to deliver the first blow would be a mistake. She would be expecting it, and I would end up losing the match.

So, as I waited, she waited as well. Our eyes were locked, and an arc of tense energy seemed to connect us as we stared each other down.

Suddenly, without warning, she attacked.

Her wings thrust her forward at a frightening speed, but unlike the first time we actually fought, I was ready for it this time. I dropped to the ground as she sailed over me, then quickly rolled to my stomach and pushed myself up again. However, before I could stand, I felt her land on my back and grab my right arm and pull it behind me, attempting to force me into submission. Before she could grab my other arm though, I rolled, causing her to fly away in order to keep from being smashed into the ground.

I stood quicker this time, and cast my eyes around to locate my opponent. I heard the beating of her wings as she flew overhead, and immediately turned my eyes above to see her diving at me.

Again I rolled to the side to avoid her attack, and allowed her speed to carry her away so that I could stand and prepare for her next attack. Compared to the past few sparring sessions I’d done with her, I noticed I was doing quite a bit better already, but realized pretty quickly that I would have to go on the offensive at some point if I wanted to win. I knew that no matter how much I had trained, I was never going to be as strong or have as much stamina as a pony. So instead, I had to use to my advantage the attributes I had that a pony did not, namely my reach, my agility, my sharper sight, and more flexible body.

I kept a cool head, recognizing the fact that attacking or defending in anger was only going to make me sloppy. I kept dodging Shudder’s passes, waiting for an opportunity to exploit her weaknesses. I knew it would take time and I would need to act quickly when the opportunity presented itself, as she was one of the higher-ranked personal guards of Princess Luna, and thus was a cut above the rest. If and when she slipped up, it wouldn’t be for long, and I knew that if I missed my chance, this match would be hers. It was no contest between us in terms of physical endurance: I would tire before she did.

I continued my routine of dodging her charges, waiting for her to switch up her plan into something I could use, but she just recovered too quickly and could fly. That was her greatest advantage, and she was using it to keep me from counterattacking while she recovered by staying high in the air.


I continued to observe her form each time she charged me. Just before I would be forced to dodge out of the way, Shudder would tilt her wings to lean back and prepare to hit me with all four hooves. Needless to say that if she connected, that would be the end of the bout for me. Not only that, but she kept her body poised in such a way that I couldn’t grab any extremities as leverage, nor would I be able to recover fast enough from a roll to counterattack. Those were things she would be expecting, so she was ready for them. She knew how I fought from our few sparring sessions, and she knew I knew that one good hit would be all it would take to knock me down.

So what if I did something she didn’t expect?

Again she bore down on me, and I was forced to roll again as she passed.

She let out a loud breathy laugh as she passed and shouted, “We both know that I can keep this up a lot longer than you can!”

I watched Shudder turn in the air as she prepared to make another charge, so I set my stance as I normally did. However, as she approached, I didn’t dodge this time.

Shudder’s eyes widened at the last second, realizing too late what I was doing.

I sprinted at her, and she flapped hard in an attempt to pull up, but it was too late for her to gain much more than a foot. I hurled myself at her with arms outstretched, and caught her around the neck. As I caught hold of her, I used my momentum to swing around onto her back. My larger frame caused my thighs to settle around her wings, preventing them from moving and causing us to quickly lose the ten feet of air that we had. I felt my balance thrown off as she extended her left wing, throwing us into a spin in an attempt to make sure I took the impact, but I blocked her other wing with my leg, keeping her from stabilizing her position and causing us to complete an entire spin...which ended up with her on the bottom.

We hit the ground with a thud, a rush of breath leaving Shudder’s lungs as she hit, and me struggling to keep my advantage by staying on her back. Without thinking, I laid back and brought my legs to wrap around her throat. As I began to tighten my leg muscles to keep myself anchored, I grabbed her wingbases in my hands and put pressure on the sensitive nerves there, digging fingertips into the groove that held the arteries that fed her wings.

Rainbow Dash had told me just how painful getting an injury to the wings could be, as well as how generally sensitive pegasus wings were. She had told me that with a gentle enough touch, it was a huge turn-on for them to be played with. However, direct pressure to the nerve centers along the bases or a broken bone there could cripple a pegasus, or even result in death from a bleed-out.

This all was proven by the fact that Shudder screamed in agony. Never had I thought I would hear such a vulnerable sound coming from her, but my attack on her nerves sent her into a world of pain. She couldn’t do much more than writhe beneath me for a few moments before she stopped moving altogether. The lack of sound worried me, so I released the wingbones and sat up with concern. No movement came from Shudder save for a few panting breaths, and I knew this was surely no ploy to get me to let my guard down. I stood up and looked down at the prone pony, and saw that her eyes were closed in a pained grimace with tear-trails on her cheeks.

Shudder was unconscious.

“Fuck…” I muttered to myself.

Perspective Shift ‒ Third Person

Hours later found Jamie standing watch over the pony in the bed.

He didn’t like the situation at all. True that he had wanted to best her ‒ to show Shudder that he wasn’t meant to be pushed around forever ‒ but he hadn’t wanted it to be like this. He could only imagine how much pain she’d had to be in to pass out from the painful sensations alone, and his imagination began to paint him to be a jerk. What worried him more was the fact that he had never known someone to be unconscious for so long before, barring an actual coma.

But there was nothing he could do but wait, so wait he did.

Finally, after what felt like multiple eternities, Shudder began to stir. A few hoof-twitches came first, followed by a groan and a fluttering of her eyes.

She blinked her eyes blearily and scanned the room before settling her gaze on the human beside her. “Wh-what happened? Where am I?”

“You passed out.” Jamie answered quietly, taking care to mask the concern within him. “I cleaned you up and brought you to rest until you woke.”

“You...beat me?” Shudder croaked in utter disbelief.

Jamie nodded gently as he opened one of his hands and held it out. “Do I need to remind you of what happened?”

A painful twinge in her wings made up Shudder’s mind for her, and she shook her head vigorously. “N-no, I believe you.” She then sighed and laid her head back onto the pillow. “It’s just that I honestly didn’t think you’d progress this quickly.” She then arched her back, which resulted in a few pops of her spine, then pushed herself to a sitting position. “Well, I guess it’s time to go then.”

Jamie raised his eyebrow in surprise. “Go? Go where?”

Shudder snickered softly. “Back, of course. Back to Equestria, and back to your friends.”

Jamie thought for a moment before stating, “I’m pretty sure three years haven’t passed yet.”

She shook her head as she stood up, shaking out the lingering aches and soreness that remained. “You’re right, it hasn’t.” She then turned and focused her gaze on him with a smile. “Everything that has been done and told to you has been so for a reason. I hurried you in here after waking to disorient you, and then I told you we’d be in here for three years to put pressure on you. I beat you, humiliated you, and berated you to put further stress on you. I was hoping you’d break before long, but it seems the princess was right about you.”

“Right about what?” Jamie asked with growing confusion.

Shudder sighed and offered him an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry for all I put you through, Jamie. Truly I am. My job as Princess Luna’s second-in-command is to be sure that things flow smoothly for her. In your case, that means I had to know how you would react to a variety of situations, and how you would cope with stress and hopelessness.” She chuckled and shook her head. “Princess Luna told me from the beginning that no matter what I did, I wouldn’t be able to break you. I didn’t believe her, but she told me that there are things about you that ponies could aspire to. Where a pony might have been beaten, you adapted. Where a pony might have broken, you molded. I challenged you to things you shouldn’t have been able to do, and you still pushed yourself harder and further than any pony could have on the same scale.” Again she looked at Jamie with a wide grin. “No matter what, you did not give up.”

Jamie finally returned the smile with one of his own as he answered, “What can I say? I’m a stubborn jackass.”

Shudder tilted her head slightly as she replied, “Maybe that term should be changed in your case, because a stubborn jackass would be stubborn just because it could. Not you though. You weren’t just stubborn and refused to give up, you got better as time passed.” She then extended her hoof and touched Jamie on the forearm. “You see, I didn’t really expect to turn you into a fighting machine in here. That would be impossible, as that takes a lifetime to do. Instead, I wanted to find something within you that you could use to your advantage in every situation.”

The human raised his eyebrow as he eyed the pegasus. “And?”

She smiled again. “You’re resourceful, and you don’t stop just because something doesn’t work. Instead, if one angle of attack doesn’t work, you search for another. If you see something as possible, you don’t stop until you’ve accomplished it. You learn quickly, and you’re very perceptive when you want to be.”

“What about in the beginning? Remember that?” Jamie questioned with confusion. “You dislocated my arm and I just walked off.”

Shudder nodded. “You’re right, you did. But would you have been able to do much?” Jamie shook his head, causing her to smile. “Exactly. Where a normal pony would call that ‘throwing in the towel early’, I call it wasting no effort. You knew you couldn’t beat me then, and so chose to wait until you could. Consciously I don’t think that’s what you were thinking when you did it, but that was exactly what happened. Today when I asked you to make me be silent, you jumped into a bout with me without hesitation. You had learned about your opponent, and had strengthened your own body and skills as well.”

Again Jamie pondered her words. He realized that in many ways, she was right, but also believed she saw much more than what was actually there.

Still confused, but not wishing to argue the points, Jamie shrugged. “I guess. So what now?”

Shudder hopped off of her bed and used a hoof to expertly flip her helmet onto her head as she set about putting her armor back on. “Now, we leave. It’s been a few hours back home since we’ve been gone, and I’m sure everypony is wondering where you are.” For a few moments, there was silence, which caused Shudder to turn her head toward the human behind her. “Well, are you okay with that?”

“You…” he began, trying to find the words he wished to say, “you played me the whole time.”

Shudder nodded as she strapped her chestplate in place. “Yes, yes I did. That was the idea, of course. I created a reality for you that you believed, and because of that stress, you reacted in many ways just like I had hoped you would. I had to know how far I could push you before you broke, but you never broke. Not once...not completely, anyway.” After adjusting her weighted horseshoes, she strode over to Jamie and placed her hoof on his knee. “For what it’s worth, you surprised me in so many ways, and Princess Luna will be pleased with you. I do hope you forgive her, as she did it for your own good.”

Jamie snorted as the entirety of the situation became clear to him. “I’m not the kind of person to hold a grudge, and I understand why the two of you did what you did, but I’m still pissed. Not so much at you as the princess. She fucking manipulated me and played with me like a toy.”

Shudder shook her head with a concerned frown. “Jamie, please don’t think of it that way. I promise, she was not toying with you. She had to know everything about you to properly provide for and protect you, as well as allow you to protect yourself. Nothing like this is going to happen again, I promise. Instead, look at it this way: she cares for you Jamie. Truthfully, they both do...quite a bit more than I expected. However, for your safety and to properly understand the dangers posed to you in an everyday environment in Equestria, they had to risk your ire. Your safety is more important to them than you can imagine.”

The human followed the guard as she approached the glyph on the floor where they had originally entered the chamber. “Why me? I’m just some guy.”

“Some guy who helped Princess Twilight Sparkle. Some guy who the Elements of Harmony speak about quite a bit.” Shudder replied with a smile. “Some guy who both princesses find a kindred spirit in ‒ someone who can understand their plight better than any of us can.” She then shook her head as she pressed the minor glyphs on the ground in a special combination, causing the circle to begin to glow and hum with power. “I don’t know why it is, but both princesses have told me that there’s something important you’re meant to do. Equis herself chose you, and one day, I hope I’ll be able to see why.”

Before Jamie could respond to that, they both were caught up in the column of power as it transported them back home.