• Published 31st Jul 2013
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Misunderstandings - The Rogue Wolf



A man finds himself in a colorful world of magic... unable to talk to its residents, thought to be a monster, hunted and desperately seeking a way to return home.

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Rock And a Hard Place

thump thump thump thump thump

I could barely hear my own footsteps over my harsh, quickened breathing. Of course, that much was a blessing in itself; the strange shoes I'd been given didn't make nearly as much noise against the marble floors as the racket being made by my pursuers, and right now any advantage I could maintain was vital.

Of course, that assumed I didn't straight-out collapse from exhaustion before I could get to safety. My lungs burned as though I'd taken a huff of napalm, my legs felt like lead weights, and I was starting to feel a cramp start up somewhere around my lower back that promised to turn the entire area into steel rods of pain. I ignored my body's complaints as best as I could and pushed myself on, knowing that nothing could possibly be as bad as getting caught again.

I'm not going back to that cage, I told myself. I'll take a swan dive off one of these towers before I let that happen. And a quick glance through one of the windows of the interminably long hall I was sprinting through showed me that, yes, that option was in fact available.

It was a last resort, and I still had a few tricks up my sleeve before that. I gave myself just a moment's pause to rest at the next intersection, thankfully empty, and glance back the way I came; I could hear the voices of my one-time jailers now, their words indecipherable to me, but I could tell by the tone that they were most certainly not pleased. Still... with them probably shouting out their intentions for all and sundry to hear, the language barrier was a serious damn problem.

One thing I could bet on, though, was them having the exits guarded. It was a solid enough tactic- fewer eyes watching for me in the halls, but with no way out it was only a matter of time before I was cornered. But I'd read enough stories to know how grand castles like these were constructed; there would be out-of-the-way windows, servants' exits, even storm grates or sewer passages if it came down to it. The only trick was finding one of them and getting out unnoticed.

A thought occured to me as I practically dashed down a winding staircase- where were the servants, staff and the like? I'd seen plenty of them when I was brought in. It was entirely possible that they'd been told to hide to prevent me from harming them or using them as hostages- the first of which I was really loathe to do without cause, but the second wasn't beyond possibility in my desperate situation. Not an optimal line of action, though; a hostage would only slow me down, giving them time to surround me. Staying one step ahead was still my best bet.

I realized with a thrill of hope that I'd made it to the second floor. Escape through a window was now feasible, provided I could find a soft landing place, but I didn't really want to risk that- the first floor was a much better alternative, which meant it would be more heavily guarded, but catching one man in a place as big as this was still a tall order. I gave myself one more moment of rest while hiding in an alcove, listening for sounds of pursuit, and the moment I heard the distinctive clacking of hooves on marble, I moved.

I made my way towards what I thought- or at least hoped- was the rear of the castle. It stood to reason that it would be where the support staff and servants lived, out of sight of the nobility, and would therefore have its own little maze of passages and hallways for the servants to move about, giving me an easy place to vanish from sight within while I looked for the inevitable window or door leading outside.

To say I was disappointed with what I saw would be putting it mildly. These were obviously servants' quarters, sure, but aside from the somewhat more roughly-hewn walls they didn't look much different from the nobles' quarters upstairs- no winding halls or obvious tunnels that I could duck down. I contemplated checking some of the rooms for a way out, but decided against it for fear that I could blunder into some servant who'd raise the alarm, and so kept moving.

Finally, after what seemed far too long, I found a stairwell leading downwards. Storerooms and closets of all sorts greeted me, but with no way of knowing what was where- I couldn't read the signs on the doors, naturally- I decided against committing to a supply raid and continued on. Five minutes of more-or-less randomly wandering around finally brought me to what I'd been searching for- a seemingly-unguarded exit, presumably leading out to the side of the castle, if my sense of direction was still dependable. I took a quick look through the small windows on either side of the doorway, and once I was certain that there was no ambush awaiting me outside, I pushed the doors open and stepped outside.

A warm blast of late-spring air was the only thing to greet me as I left the castle. I could hear the rushing of water in the distance off to my right, a quickly-moving stream of some kind, and I moved towards it, making sure to keep close to the walls- if any of my pursuers were in the sky, they'd spot me easily in the middle of this small courtyard. The consequence of that decision was that it took me a few minutes to get to the source of the water, but soon enough I was standing at a waist-high wooden fence overlooking a broad, shallow pool of water that poured out over a ledge into a river below.

I considered as I looked down. The river was eighty, maybe ninety feet down- hardly world-record heights, but then again, I was certainly no trained high-diver. It seemed fairly deep, with no obvious jutting rocks, and the current looked managable; it would lead me towards what I judged to be the northeast, away from the castle, out into some lightly-forested plains where I could take cover and plan my next move.

Yet I hesitated for a moment. Not because of the danger of jumping, but because everything I'd still had when I came here was somewhere in this castle- my clothing, my equipment, even my weapon... though without ammunition, and with no hope of ever finding any, it was only really useful as an exceptionally-unweildy cudgel. But I'd likely have to search the whole place from top to bottom to find it all, and that simply was not an option. My freedom would be all that I could take away from here.

I froze as I heard a shout, behind and above, an all-too-familiar voice. Almost against my own will, I turned to look, and my blood turned to ice as I spotted a form hovering above one of the lower-reaching towers- a form that was winged and sky-blue.

If it had been any of them but her, I would have made a break for the door I'd come through, or the bridge leading over the pool, or maybe one of the nearby windows. But I knew I wouldn't get ten steps in any direction before she was on top of me, and I was in no condition to put up a real fight. My only choices were clear- jump, or be captured... and only one was acceptable.

I heard another shout from her, this one sounding almost pleading, as my feet hit the edge of the pool. I could hear the flapping of her wings as I jumped- and then it was too late for her to stop me. Yet she kept up, diving beside me, the expression on her face seemingly composed of equal measure anger and hurt; she knew she couldn't catch me, couldn't even touch me, or she'd inevitably share my watery fate. And I highly doubted she'd be able to handle that river nearly as well as I could.

Her rose-colored eyes stayed locked onto mine until the very last second, when she pulled away in a rainbow blur, skimming the river's surface. And that was the last I saw before I hit the water.

(-)

fwoomp fwoomp fwoomp

All she could hear at the moment was the flapping of her wings. She was dimly aware of the others behind her, imagined that at this very moment the Captain was shouting orders to the guards, getting the injured tended to and ordering patrols to find the creature.

She wasn't going to wait for them. They'd be thorough, but slow, and the alien was almost ridiculously fast for something with so few legs- fast and maneuverable on the ground, and able to get into places one wouldn't think something so tall could manage. Every second he was free meant the chances of his escaping went up a lot.

Despite her determination, she still felt outright bewildered at what had happened. The alien had been cooperative- hay, almost docile at that point; it'd seemed he'd lost his defensiveness, had finally started accepting them as friends, or at least non-hostile creatures. He'd even smiled a couple of times, and it really was kind of nice when he did... it made him seem a lot less intimidating and a lot more approachable.

And then he'd seen that weird-looking pony with the cutie mark of a ferris wheel, and everything had gone straight to Tartarus. Faster than even she could react, he'd disabled two guards, removed his shackles and bolted, all with a look of pure rage on his strange, flat face. And the ease he'd done it all with suggested that he'd had the act pre-planned... so why do it then? What was it about that one pony that had set this all off?

She wasn't going to figure it out hovering around like a lost foal, so she put extra effort into each flap of her wings, soaring through the halls and chambers of the castle. But the place was so enormous, so winding, that she found herself utterly lost twice in a row and completely empty-hooved the entire time. Impotent anger built up inside her with every empty corridor she flew though, until the most logical thought of all time finally crossed her mind.

What the hay am I doing indoors? He wants to get outside; outside is where I'll eventually find him.

With that, she found a balcony on the third floor and took to the skies, slowly circling the rooftops and towers, her keen eyes on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. It was ten minutes later that the slightest bit of color caught her eye- the weird light-grey clothing the alien was still wearing, peeking out from behind an outcropping he was apparently sneaking under.

She'd have to give him credit- it was sheer chance that she'd spotted him at all. He was obviously being careful to have gotten this far, but now his luck had run out. But yet she hesitated- what was he doing? Where did he think he could go from there? For the love of Celestia, don't tell me he's going for that river....

“Hey!” she shouted. “Stop!”

He froze in place for just a moment, looked over his shoulder at her... then jumped the fence surrounding the pool and made a mad dash for its edge. Despite her earlier anger, she felt fear shoot through her, and she zoomed towards him, desperate to keep him from making that jump. “Don't do it!” she cried out. “You'll kill yourself!”

She knew he couldn't understand her, but as she saw his feet leave the ledge, she wondered if it even made a difference. He'd been set on jumping the moment he saw her, she could tell. Why? she wondered, watching as his bizarre bipedal form twisted in midair, forming a knife shape with forehooves- hands, she reminded herself- pointed towards the water. You'd rather risk death than stay with us? Why?!

She couldn't catch him. She knew that if she so much as touched him, he'd drain her natural flight magic from her, and she'd hit that water like a rock right beside him. Still, she stayed by him, staring into his strange grey eyes, hating him for doing this yet sorry that, for whatever reason had crossed his alien mind, he'd felt the need.

Her honed senses warned her that impact was imminent, and at the last possible second she peeled off, her hooves actually cutting across the surface of the river. She reflexively winced as she heard the deep splash behind her that signalled the creature's impact with the water, and she immediately turned, gaining altitude as quickly as she could, watching the river flow by, and waiting- and praying- to see him break the surface.

(-)

Ah, but I'm kind of getting ahead of myself here, aren't I? You probably want to know how I even ended up in a situation like that.

Here, let me start from the beginning.