• ...
3
 15
 1,139

Chapter 5: Nevermore

Fallout Equestria: Reverence of the End
Chapter 5: Nevermore
"Love is all I need."

A long, long and lonely wasteland. Nightshade, 90-NE and I had been traveling for a day now and we hadn't seen any other ponies, just a few molerats and radigators, but no ponies.

Our surroundings were surprisingly bare, they would have been completely bare if it weren't for the few dead and scattered trees. We had agreed to go and try to find at least a caravan or something before we set up another camp, our first one didn't have a fire and Shade and I had to huddle together for heat.

I spied a swamp I the distance. It was a stretch, but I was aching for a rest and some shelter.

"Let's head for that swamp, maybe we can find some food and firewood for a camp at least,” I said.

Nightshade nodded tiredly, and 90-NE just beeped in agreement as he floated along. We approached the swamp and my Pipbuck started to click as soon as I touched the water, but oddly enough, not when I was on the shore. I took out some Rad-x for Nightshade and I and prepared some Rad-Away for in case our radiation levels got too high.

We went into the swamp slowly, making sure to attempt to avoid deep spots or quicksand. I heard a splash to my left and looked to see ripples in the water.

"Stay close," I told my companions. They did as I asked. Just then, I heard a low growl and saw a radigator jump out of the pool in front of us and open his gaping maw, showcasing his hundreds of sharp teeth. I scrambled to pull out my gun but I dropped it into the swamp water. I didn't even have time to curse as the monster gator started to lunge at me.

I closed my eyes, hoping it wouldn't hurt too much.

Just then, I heard a gunshot and opened my eyes to see the gator lying on its side with a bullet wound in its head.

"Damn! That gator was about to fucking kill you smoothcoats!" I heard a gravelly voice say with a chuckle. I looked over and saw a ghoul pony, maybe male, with leather worn barding and a battle saddle outfitted with a pair of hunting rifles. His face looked about as good as a ghouls face could, rotting and missing a lot of flesh. His smile revealed his unnaturally white teeth. "Done staring, smoothcoat?" he asked with a chuckle as he came over to us.

"Who are yo-" My sentence was cut off as Nightshade ran up and hugged the ghoul.

"Orion!" she squealed with delight as she hugged him.

"Nightshade! It's only been three days since you got out of this swamp and now you're back? Silly filly," he said while rubbing her head. "Who're your friends here, Shady?

"Oh that's Innocent, she's really nice, and she’s taking me to find my friends, the ones I told you about? And that's 90-NE, but I call him Nelly, he's a super awesome cool robot!" She held on to his hoof tightly.

"Nice to meet you. Names Orion, and unless you got a wish for a painful death torn apart by radigators, you really should either get out of the swamp or come with me to Swamproot."

"Swamproot? Is that your town?" I asked.

"Yep,” the rotting pony responded, “we even have some smoothcoats like you there. Don't worry about radiation, for some reason, it only affects you here if you're touching the water." He smiled again. "Come on! We can feed you and give you a place to stay for tonight." he offered happily.

"Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease Innocent! I really like Orion and his friends! They helped me out a bunch to get to Herald and to find you," Nightshade pleaded.

I couldn't resist a filly’s charm. Equally irresistible was the fact that these ponies would really help us by giving us a non-irradiated place to stay for the night.

"I don't know Nightshade, they might not be nice ponies." I winked at Orion, he caught the wink and played along.
"Oh that's understandable, I mean why should you just trust a little fillies word about a stranger?" his voice dripping with that babying tone.

"What?! No! We can trust them Innocent! Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease," she droned on and on. I smirked and caved, with that desperate of a filly who wouldn't?

"Oh okay, I guess for one night." I said.

"Yay!!! Sleepover with Orion!" Nightshade exclaimed. Odd, a filly that killed her own mother can still be so childlike and fun. Is that supposed to be a good sign?

"You don't mind our group staying with you do you?" I asked Orion and with a wave of his hoof he dismissed my worries.
"No problem, Berry and I need some company. She'll be happy to have guests." He smiled with his blindingly white teeth.
90-NE, meanwhile, was just floating along silently. He's a lot like the other spritebots in that manner; he can be extremely quiet, or he can be loud enough to alert everypony within a five mile radius of your location. Thankfully, he was content remaining silent.

---

Swamproot was a very nice town, suspended above the swamp by sticks and planks of wood. If you looked closely, you could see that a certain brand if earth pony magic was used. Earth ponies don't have very traditional magic like unicorns, but they have a very unique ability to grow trees and plants at extreme speed and to gargantuan sizes. Such was the case with Swamproot, which was almost made completely of, you guessed it, swamp roots.

As we arrived, we were greeted by two ghouls that seemed to be on guard duty for the day. I never caught their names and they never took our weapons. Because we were with Orion, I hypothesized. Just how much power did this pony have in this town?

When I looked around town, I noticed a lot of smoothcoats, as Orion called them. There seemed to be as many smoothcoats as there were ghouls, and all of them seemed to be with a ghoul partner. There were even a few pegasi! I had found it odd that none of these ponies were ghoul bigots and hated the ghouls, but hey, when ponies are living together in harmony, who are you to stop them?

Orion led us to his home; a tree... a fucking tree... he lived in a tree, in a swamp town full of ghouls. Will the wasteland ever cease to amaze me? He opened to door and announced our arrival.

"Honey, I'm home! I brought some guests for the night!" As if on cue, magenta colored earth pony mare came trotting down the stairs.

"Welcome home, baby," she as she kissed Orion's rotting cheek. I swear he would have been blushing if blood could still flow to there.

"So, guests? Nice to meetcha, I'm Berry Jelly, Orion's wife." She smiled and held out her hoof. I took it in a friendly shake. She was nice and she looked young, just out of her teenage years I would guess, and she was with a ghoul? I guess love really can get past the appearance department. "So then, what y'all here for?"

"Oh, we were traveling and a radigator ambushed us. Your husband came out from nowhere and saved us. He then invited us to stay in Swamproot for the night. Nightshade, that filly over there,” I pointed a hoof, “knows Orion from his assistance he provided her a few days ago."

"Oh really? My Ori did that? I guess I'll have to reward him tonight." She chuckled and winked at Orion. He chuckled and went with her into what I assumed was their kitchen.

---

A feeling of dread, worry, hate, and pain crashed over me. I could feel my temperature dropping, and began to shake. These unexplainable attacks would come and go throughout my youth. The doctors in the Stale claimed it was nothing short of a mental disorder. I curled up into a ball and breathed slowly to try and calm myself down. Nightshade came up to me and poked my side which made me yelp a little.

"What's wrong Innocent?" She asked, her voice full of worry. I didn't want to concern her with my episodes. I had to be strong for her. Why do I get to be special? Who doesn't get depressed in this hell we live in?

"I-I'm fine Shade, just a little shaken from that attack earlier." I smiled wanly at her but it didn't seem to abate her worry. She smiled back. A weak smile, full of worry. 90-NE was floating around and beeping, his default state unless we get into danger.
Wait a second! Why didn't he help us fight the radigator? I decided not to think too hard about it. Now was not the time, and I was in no state to strain my brain.

I decided to get up of my sorry flank and check the house out. There were two floors for living, an upper level and the entry level. There were four stories to this humongous tree. The basement seemed to be used for storage, while the second floor had a bedroom with a small and crude plumbing system. The third and final floor had two bedrooms. I assumed one of those rooms we would be staying in.

I made my way back downstairs and saw Nightshade playing with Berry, engaged in some sort of dance. Berry was showing Nightshade the moves and she was getting the hang of it. Berry would spin in place, and gesture for Nightshade to do the same. Nightshade would spin for few moments, then come crashing to her hooves. I chuckled slightly and made my way into the kitchen where Orion was preparing dinner. He smiled his bright and white smile, it's shininess in stark contrast with his rotting face.

"You like the place? We had to hollow the tree out ourselves." He chuckled. "Even Berry helped, Celestia bless her."

"Oh, so is your house new?" I asked, smiling at him.

"Nope, one of the first in Swamproot, actually," he replied.

"Sooooo...Orion,” I stammered, racking my brain for interesting conversation, “how does Swamproot fair? Do you have any major, Princess-has-to-swoop-in-and-save-the-day problems?" I asked him, hoping we might be able to find some work here while he let us stay with him. Then we could leave Swamproot with ammo, food, and firewood in case we don't have anywhere else to stay.

"Nothing major,” he sighed, “just a fuckload of bugs.” His gaze hardened. “They come out every night and annoy the living shit out of everypony, sometimes they even bite."

Clearly, these bugs were a touchy subject for my zombified host.

"We'd be plum grateful if you took care of them. I don't care if you kill them or make them leave, but please just stop them, it's been 150 years of the same shit every night! Some of us can't take it anymore, it's almost enough to drive a pony feral!”
"I'll take care of it, just give me a name of somepony who can help or point me towards their lair. After dinner I'll go." I told him with a pleasant smile.

"Really?!” He blinked. “Thank you! I recommend you don't bring others, you'll just get confused," he warned.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I don't know if you know about anything prewar, but after the bombs hit these critters called Changelings went and got mutated. They had been around forever, but the Princess had kept them at bay with her and her niece Cadence's power. Well, now they're back in their absence, and their back with a vengeance. We still call them Changelings nowadays, because honestly they didn't actually mutate that much. They're still their ugly old selves except for one thing: Changelings before the war fed on love and positive emotions, these new buggers seem to feed on negative ones."

Oh great, if I get hit by another wave I'll be a fucking feast for them.

"Also, Changelings can change their form to look like anypony they see. I don't know how, but they always can copy the voice perfectly too. I don't know too much about them before the bombs, besides the famous attack on Canterlot, but I guess that doesn't matter much. Just go alone and without any sort of photo of somepony, as they'll find it and use it to mess with your head. Here's a tip; they can't copy memories, so ask something only they would know."

Orion sighed as he wrapped up his extensive warning. I wish I wrote down notes.

I nodded and smiled. This buck wasn't too bad, and he seemed very protective of his town. I trotted up to Nightshade's and my room and started packing my saddle bags for my latest errand.

---

After dinner Nightshade had gone right to bed, and I couldn't blame her, I was exhausted too, but I couldn't just stop now. I needed to do this tonight, for some reason I just felt like I needed to, or else something bad would happen. I silently picked up my saddle pack and trotted downstairs where I bumped into Berry.

"Hey," she said.

"Hey," I echoed.

"I know you're going to go deal with the Changelings, but I have a favor to ask first."

"What is it?" I asked. She seemed to shy away from me as she started to speak.

"I-I want you to convince them to leave. I abhor violence and if you go in there and shoot them I'm sure you'll be hunted down by other Changelings. I don't want the good ponies of Swamproot to be known as the exterminators of the Changelings. At least hear their side of the story, from what I've seen they only hurt and kill when we hurt or kill them. Coincidence? I think not."

Berry was practically begging me not to harm them. I'll admit it, the way Orion talked about them, it seemed like they would try and kill me on sight, so naturally I had decided to go in guns blazing.

"What if they attack first?" I asked her. Even mentioning of this question seemed to upset Berry even more.

I suppressed a gulp.

---

Swamps. I hate swamps for a multitude of reasons, chiefly because of how sickeningly deadly they can be. Quicksand, radigators, radiation, these things made a swamp a veritable pot of death stew.

I hadn't had many problems with where I was going or what I was doing, oddly enough...in fact it was pretty simple, follow my Pipbuck tracker to the cave and try to find these Changelings, then make peace or war with them, depending on how they reacted to my appearance in their lair. After an hour or so of trotting through the muck and bloatsprite-infested swamp, I reached my destination. My Pipbuck decided to mark it as Chameleon Caverns. I almost burst out laughing at the irony.
But I held it in and turned off my light. Now was the time to be sneaky. I crept cautiously into the cave and tried to think nice and happy thoughts. The cave itself was rather dank and I swear I could see some sort of metal door a ways ahead of me. I trotted up to it and discovered it was indeed a metal door, and a locked one at that. I levitated out a screwdriver and a bobby pin and started to work on it.

Lock-picking was not my forte, but this lock sure seemed easy enough. I almost broke my only pin though trying to open it. Why in the name of Celestia did I only bring one bobby pin? It opened rather loudly and I turned around quickly to see if anything came looking. After the coast looked clear, I went inside of the room.

It seemed I was in some sort of office, and it had a terminal on the desk. I quickly went to it and discovered it too was locked. I scoured my knowledge of pre-war ponies their knack for computer security.

After some mulling, I took a wild guess and punched in 1-2-3-4 for a password.

“[ACCESS GRANTED]” Came my report of success.

I facehoofed at the idiocy and took a look at the functions of the terminal, which only seemed to be some logs.

Entry 1: I don't know why the boss is making up keep journals, it's not like anything happens here. Well anyway we got some new workers today, not ponies, not even zebras or diamond dogs! They're called Changelings, these bug-like ponies...things. They're smart enough to talk and be polite so I guess they might be a little bit more tolerable than diamond dogs. But I don't know why Celestia is giving these things jobs. After their attack on Canterlot, you'd think she wouldn't trust them. A lot of the others here think the same thing, but I say we give them a chance, after all, if the stories are true then all they need is somepony to be kind to them, so I'll try just that.

Entry 2: It's been a few weeks since the Changelings started to work here and I can't say it hasn't been without its problems. Some of the idiots down in mining thought it would be fun to gang up and kick some poor Changeling's ass. I visited the kid in medical. He seemed really nice. A shy guy. I say he, but it's been explained to me since that Changelings could be either gender due to their body changing ability. This kid, Aracnae, was really nice, he said as soon as he could he would get back to work and avoid those ponies. I offered the kid a desk job with me, which would give better pay and less chance of a beat down. He said he'd think about it, and thanked me for the offer. He refused to say who beat him up though so I couldn't punish them, I don't blame the kid, he would become a target if I punished them.

Entry 3: It's been a few days since Archie (that's Aracnae's new nickname) started working in the offices with me. He's really good with managing stock. It used to take me a few hours to do that entire math with the crystals, and how many we mined that day and blah blah blah. But Archie said he used to be some sort of teacher back in the Changeling homeland. I asked him if he would ever like to go back, but he just shook his head no. He said that he had no family, no lover, not even a friend to go back to there. I swear he blushed and then mumbled something about how much he liked being here with me! I dropped the topic and went back to my worker reports. Seems the Changeling assaults went down after Archie moved up.

Entry 4: Man, it's already been a month since Archie started to work in the office and so many ponies love the kid! He's nice to everypony, and he's a great worker! He got a raise last week for pointing out an error in the mining reports that would have cost the company millions! I like working with the kid, he always looks up to me, I guess it's because I was his first friend here in Equestria. Not much else to report, just that the Changelings have become increasingly xenophobic, and some are even excluding Archie from dinners and such.

Entry 5: Dear sweet Celestia! Just a few minutes ago, Archie did something I never would have expected! He asked me out on a date! I was shocked when he did, I mean I don't think I'm that good looking of a mare, but...I said I'd give him a shot. I mean, he's pretty cute for a Changeling, and he's so nice! I'll see how it goes and maybe if it works out, I'll ask him out next time. Changeling aggression has increased, which is entirely justifiable. Nopony-err-Changeling should have to put up with the amount of shit they've been put through here.

Entry 6: My date with Archie went just perfect! He was the perfect gentlecolt, and I rewarded him with a kiss at the end of the night. When he came into work today he blushed and started to look away from me when he said hi. He's just too innocent! I have to deal with some incidents today though, it seems that some of the workers got into a scuffle on last night’s shift. It seems one of the ponies got drunk and started to harass a Changeling worker. After the first worker came up and started the conflict, the Changeling worker attacked back. Unfortunately for the first worker, the changeling changed his hoof into a griffin-like talon. He mauled the first worker, and now he's in medical. The first worker was going to sue, but he had no real grounds, he attacked first, the changeling was simply defending himself.

Entry 7: ...I sure wis....ji%$^&#...

[ERROR PLEASE CHECK FILESYSTEM INTEGRITY AND SEE YOUR SYSTEM ADMINISTRATOR]

I finished reading, apparently the computer had been damaged and the rest of the entries were unreadable. Shame, I had been pretty into that pony's love life.

---

I left the room and carefully looked around to see if anypony was there and it seemed like there wasn't.

Then it happened. Another wave of depression. My insides felt suddenly heavy, like they were made of lead. There was also a burning pain, centering around my stomach. I fell to the ground and grimaced terribly, during these times I try not to move. Moving made it hurt worse.

I heard hoofsteps coming my way and looked up. I was greeted with a terrifying sight, a dark pony, with bat-like ears and insect eyes. The fangs didn't make it seem any more friendly then the rest of it. It had a sharp jagged horn, and insectoid wings. There were holes in its hooves.

It spotted me and approached my prone figure on the ground. It seemed to bask in my depression.

"So delicious" it exclaimed as it licked its lips.

"Changelings, I presume?" I asked sadly as I slowly got up. They opened their eyes and nodded at me. "Good, I need to talk to the one in charge, I have something to bring to their attention." They looked disappointed that their meal had just got up and demanded to talk to their leader, but they started to lead me down the cave tunnels into a dimly lit cavern. There were these sort of hive structures around that looked like houses. We walked into the largest structure, which I assumed to be their leaders abode.

---

The leader's house on the inside appeared just as grotesque as the outside. The leader himself was a larger Changeling, but he was more pony-like than the others, his eyes weren't as insect like, and his features just seemed smoother.
"Welcome Feasted One,” he boomed, “I am Zorild, leader of this small clan of Changelings. I have been told you have requested to speak with me?

"Feasted One?" I asked before getting to my point.

"Yes, you positively ooze of negative emotions, and we Changelings thrive on your pain. Thus, you are a feast.” I pushed back my comments and decided to get this over with.

"Well, yes I wanted to speak to you. I come in the employ of the people of Swamproot. They wish of you to leave the area or to stop attacking their town."

"Ah you work for the rotting ones and the traitors," he said, voice dripping with disdain. His comments aroused my interest. "We are truly sorry for attacking their town, but understand that if we do not, they do not experience any negative feelings. We would starve. We have tried feeding off each other's negative emotions, but to no noticeable success.”

"Wait, who are the traitors?" I asked.

"The Changelings within the town. They betrayed us a long time ago, before we started feeding on negative emotions. They still feed on positive emotion, so naturally our food chains get tied up. One starves while the other flourishes." Zorild explained.

"So then, could I perhaps convince you to leave to another area?" I asked, voice full of empty hope.

"My clan would not survive the journey," he said as his head drooped.

My smile faded.

"But there is another way we might be able to survive," he added. My hope jumped right back up. "We could travel only if we had some ponies with high amounts of negative emotions, to feed off of and survive the trip to another town or safe haven."
I mulled over this for a few moments until realization struck me.

"So,” I asked, “you need a few miserable ponies to travel with you, who most likely would be taken against their will. You need slaves for you to move around. Do you realize how morally fucked up this is?!"

The Changelings around me jumped up and readied into battle positions. Zorild waved his hoof and they calmed down. He nodded his head at my question and fit of rage.

"Yes, but we would need them to survive and as such, the settlement would not have us as a problem anymore. They would only need to give up three miserable individuals to feed us for the way. We do not need food, and we have a surplus of food and water. They would be well supplied for the trip and by the end they can go to the nearest settlement to live normally."
Now, I'm not a slaver, nor do I ever intend on becoming one. The complexity of my predicament compounded. Do I do as they ask and make three ponies lives even worse? Or do I do what the village wants and kill these Changelings? Although I doubt without a few more ponies, the second option seemed more possible. These Changelings seem nice, just misunderstood and hungry. I turned away from Zorild.

"I'll think about it. When I make my decision, you'll know."

I traveled through the caves and back to Swamproot.

---

"They want what?!"

I had returned to Orion with the news. He did not take it well.

"There is absolutely no way we are giving those...those bugs our ponies!"

Orion yelled at me as if I had been the one to make this deal. I wiped my face of any spittle the ghoul pony had sent my way.
"Calm down, I don't necessarily want to do this but if we do, it solves your problem without violence." My ire toward the rotting zombie-like stallion grew. He backed away slowly, sensing my anger growing.

"Y-yeah...I guess you're right with that, but still I don't like the idea of enslaving my ponies just to feed some monsters while they go to terrorize some other village! But from what you say, they have a huge village inside that cave, so even with our numbers we wouldn't be able to defeat them, should it come to fighting." He sighed. "Are you sure there wasn't any sort of radiation in the cave?"

I shook my head no.

"From what I think, those Changelings absorbed too much radiation and mutated, to be able to survive off negative emotion like that. Now then," I looked at Berry.

The mare was in the room with us while Nightshade was supposed to be sleeping, although I swear I could see a dark shadow in the staircase.

"Where are the other Changelings?" I asked her.

She jolted and her eyes widened in surprise. "W-why would you think I would know?" she blurted.

"I forgot mention that Zorild, the leader of the Changelings, told me about there being Changelings in this very village. Judging by your dodgy nature at my question, I can see that you must know something about there being Changelings in Swamproot.” It was a stretch, but it worked. Berry sighed and frowned.

"Yes, there are Changelings in Swamproot, but we aren't like those savages in the cave! We still feed off of positive emotion!
"Who is we?" I asked quickly. She sighed again and facehoofed at her on stupidity.

"Yes we. I am a changeling," she said. I expected her to change into one of the insects I saw at the cave but all she did was look down in shame.

"Why won't you change back?" I asked, confused.

"I don't want to lose this form. I can partially change but not all the way. You see, to explain this I need to explain what happened to us Changelings after the bombs dropped. We all were affected by radiation, some only in a minor way, and some in a much more severe way, such as those beasts out in the wastes. A lucky few fell in-between these two extremes, like the ones in the cave. As to not cause confusion, I would prefer being called a companion-ling, a companion changeling. Travelers have come to Swamproot before with other companion-lings in their group. We feed off their positive emotion like true Changelings, and stay with a loved one. We do not steal their love or deteriorate it, we simply take the place of a loved one and try our best to be like them. Companion-lings are different from pre-war Changelings or those ones in the cave. We can copy the appearance of a dead pony, but only if we have seen them in our life."

I raised my hoof in question.

"So you replaced Berry Jelly. Was this pre-war? Or when the bombs dropped? Not to forget, what is your life expectancy exactly?" Honestly, I was very intrigued to hear her response. But, she caught a breath as Orion trotted slowly into the room.
"You took Berry's place...why?" he asked solemnly. His face seemed drained of any color. Odd, I didn't think Ghouls could actually get any paler.

"As stated in the old ways of the Changelings, the first rule is," she straightened herself and put her hoof over her heart, "we as the changeling species vow to only take the place of a pony for no more than a month. The requirements for a suitable substitute candidate were rather complex. The pony must have died recently, and the trauma of their death would have to lead to immense harm for the giver of their love." She fell to the floor and scrambled to Orion's hooves. "B-but! I did it because I knew you before the bombs, before the war! When I was still just a plain old Changeling! Orion, I love you!"

"Who are you?" He asked coldly..

"Ber-"

Orion smacked her across the muzzle.

"DON'T YOU FUCKING EVEN DARE USE HER NAME AS YOURS!" He screamed at her and she crawled to the corner of the room. "What. Is your name," he growled.

"L-Lonesome Soul.” Orion stopped.

"The bookstore mare?" He asked. Berry (or was it Lonesome?) began even harder and crawled to him.

"Yes! Yes! I admired you from afar and my heart fluttered whenever you even looked at me! I-I was Lonesome for seven years since the owner's daughter died from a kidnapping gone wrong."

"Then what is your birth-name?" Orion asked calmly.

"M-my name is Mimic, in Equestrian that is. My changeling name is Maomina." Mimic (finally a real name!) said sadly.
Orion walked to the door. "I'm going out," he said as he exited, leaving Mimic and I alone. A dark streak slammed into the sobbing mass of pony that was Mimic and there were multiple bouts of sobbing.

"T-that was so sad!!! Why can't he understand that you love him! He's been with you for more than two hundred years! That was all you, not some Berry Jelly mare!" Nightshade was crying horribly loud. "How did he even think you survived this long looking normal!?" She had been eavesdropping the whole time.

"H-he thought I had become a ghoul on the inside, but not the outside. He thought only my internal organs were ravaged by radiation. I can't change any parts within me, s-so when we were together he took his own theory at face value and accepted it." She sobbed into Nightshade's shoulder.

"So let me get this straight, you did mutate, not so much though that you can imitate dead ponies. But you can't change your reproductive organs and this fact made Orion think you were a ghoul on the inside. I'm holding back my need to find that fucker and beat him down for insulting a mare’s marehood." I gritted my teeth.

Mimic seemed to smile, but shook her head. "I-I don't want you to do that. I don't think he can ever look at me the same way again." She wiped some tears. "I think you should help those Changelings. We companion-lings here don't like them any more than the ghouls, but as a similar sub-species I won't let them be meaninglessly killed like a common pest! I-if you lead them away, I can help you into changeling hives and small recluses within towns. W-we are a good people, we will be kind if you treat us kindly and would have us." Mimic smiled. "Also, 200 years in the wasteland have made me a very handy mare." She hiccuped and smiled again.

I smiled back. "I don't want a killing spree. But I don't like the idea of enslaving anypony either." I sighed. "I need to talk with Orion. Nightshade, you stay here with Mim-"

"Please! I don't like that name." Mimic blurted.

"Get used to it. I will use the name your parents gave you, and in my language, that is Mimic. Stop hiding yourself. Changelings I know aren't supposed to be themselves, they live as somepony else. But you know what? From the little bit of history I read, a Changeling can be an individual, you can be Maomina. You have been Mimic all this time, but you put on a costume to fool others, and to fool yourself into believing that there was no Maomina, no Mimic, but instead Lonesome Star, a poor filly lost to a murdering pony Or Berry Jelly, a mare whom Mimic was jealous of. You took her chance as the bombs dropping. You found Berry, dying from radiation and injury, and you told her, 'I am you now.' Did I get that right?" I stopped my rant to look at Mimic. She was in tears again, but shaking her head yes. "Good. You are Maomina; Mimic, not Berry Jelly, not Lonesome Star. If you really hate your changeling form, then make a pony form for yourself," I suggested.

"H-how?" she asked through her tears.

"You've turned into so many mares and stallions I'd bet you've picked out a few favorites. Why not take features from them and make your own?" I smiled. Mimic's eyes brightened. She shrugged Nightshade off herself and closed her eyes.

With a burning green fire, Berry Jelly was no more, and never would she be any more than a memory. A new pony appeared in front of us, a taller skinny mare. She had a brilliant white coat, with a long red mane that went to her chest. Her wings were the same color as her coat but with a small black steak across the edge of her feathers that split in two as she opened them. Her tail was the same as her mane, the length similar as well, long and flowing. Her eyes opened as I made a quick diagnosis: heterochromia, two different colored eyes, one green as a forest, and the other red as flames. She smiled at us.
"I feel like this is a unique enough form...wouldn't you say?" Mimic grinned. She winked and her wings burned with green flame again and were replaced by dragon-like wings. Again they caught fire and returned to their normal (? Is that word still applicable when talking about Mimic?) form.

"I can change my form at will for combat, and for comfort. I hope that you will do the right thing Innocent with the other Changelings" Mimic trotted before going upstairs.

---

I found Orion looking over some sort of pit filled with howling ghouls. He must have heard me approach. Without turning, he spoke.

"Ferals. What all ghouls eventually turn into. Brain deterioration catches up to us, you know. We, the people of Swamproot, can't stand to kill the ponies we loved and knew, so we keep them. We try to help them. We call it the Tartarus Pit. They always look up at the cloud cover and as soon as they see the faint lighting of the moon, they howl. We call it their gospel." He sighed. "They sing to the moon, for Luna to take their bodies along with their minds. Their prayers are never answered, not until we kill them." I heard him sob but I saw no tears. "I-I was an astronomer before the war, the reason I went to the bookstore so much was to get star charts and maps. Lonesome was always a nice filly, a bit too young for me, but nice nonetheless. Berry was a geologist. Our friends had this joke that she always had her head in the clouds to see me staring at the stars. We never married. We had dated maybe six months before the bombs dropped, and she died. I remember it now, clearly. She was dying slowly from poisoning, and I thought I was too. It was excruciating, and Berry didn't make it. I had held her dead body in my hooves until another Berry came up to me. I was stunned. She told me it'd be alright and I don't remember anything afterwards. I had been with that pest all my life. I hate it." He spat and I charged up to him.

"Don't you fucking say that! Mimic loves you! She always has! Berry is dead. Accept it and move on. Mimic became Berry for you! Because she loved you! She knew you might not make it past ghoulification if you found out your marefriend died. She saved you, and this is how you repay her?!" I screamed. Orion chuckled.

"The fury of the stars is in your heart," he said cryptically. "Mimic was Berry for me, and now that she's not, I can't love her. I loved Berry, she was the only one I had ever loved and ever will. Mimic can try now, but it will not work."

I punched him right across the cheek with my hoof. I pulled away from his body lying on the ground.

"I'm not done," he said and he got up. "We still need to get rid of the bugs.”

"Don't call them that, call them what they are. Changelings." I replied angrily. He chuckled again.

"Fine. We still need to get rid of them, and as I said, we aren't strong enough to attack them. And honestly, I believe that giving ponies away as slaves is just as impossible as an attack. I suppose if we had to choose at the last minute, I would go with slavery, we'll lose fewer ponies that way." He sighed.

"At least you have a nonviolent solution," I said with a shrug. Orion looked up with fiery rage in his eyes.

"Hell no! I would rather fucking kill all those Changelings! But I'm not an idiot, I know we would lose many, should we fight."
He scowled. I sighed and started to trot away.

“Innocent," he said. I looked back. "What I said about the fury of the stars, it was a warning. If things ever get so terribly bad for you, do not ask the stars for power or strength. You would be a perfect warrior for them."

"Who?" I asked, sick of this ghoul and his pissy, cryptic ways.

"The stars," he said simply before waving me off. "Go, don't you have something to do?"

I grunted in annoyance and trotted away.

---

Mimic and Nightshade were happily cleaning up the house, I could tell that Mimic was not only getting used to her new form. She was recovering from the fight. Her coat around her eyes was still wet with tears and her eyes themselves were red and swollen, but she looked far more than twenty percent better.

"Good news," I said to them and they turned to me. "Well, kind of. Orion says it would be smarter to use the slave tactic so he says we should do that. But I'm afraid if he gets the chance he'd go and wipe them out." I hung my head. Mimic trotted over and wrapped a wing around me.

"It's fine, Innocent, he's always wanted to get rid of them...us. I'm just afraid this reveal has made him all the more gung-ho about it." She smiled a melancholy smile. "But he's not dumb, unless he goes to another town to get reinforcements, he won't be making a move anytime soon.”

I smiled and yawned. "Well, I've had a rough night, I think it's about time for some sleep."

I trotted up stairs and oddly enough, Mimic followed me. While she followed, I noticed she had no cutie mark. I stopped.
"Two things; why are you coming with me to bed? And two, why don't you have a cutie mark?" She meekly smiled and blushed.

"I-I always sleep with somepony close. It makes me feel safe and content. As for the cutie mark, I don't believe I deserve one yet. I made this form with a special bit of my magic, it'll appear when I discover my special talent. It's like you said, I am Maomina, Mimic. Not some other pony, I need to earn my cutie mark, just like any other pony."

We made our way up to the bedroom and I shrugged and laid down in the bed. Mimic followed after and wrapped her wing around me and I slowly drifted off to sleep.

---

I see a dark figure in the surroundings of darkness. It shouldn't stand out, it should just blend into the background but it doesn't.

It gazes at me and takes shape. The stable dweller. The one I killed.

His scraggly yellow mane fell just above his eyes, his yellowed crazed eyes. He wore his stable barding, ripped and torn from running around the wasteland. On his left wrist is his Pipbuck, the same one I wear now. He smiles at me.

"Hello Fury."

"My name is Innocent, not Fury," I say simply. My annoyance mounted. Can't a girl just get some sleep?

"No, it is Innocent now. But in your heart lies Fury, hot and burning, waiting for the stars to release her.”

"What? That's just stupid, I know who I am. I am Innocent."

His finite tone unsettled me. He spoke of things like they were guaranteed to happen. It's just a matter of time. "Who are these stars anyways?” I ask.

"The stars are gods, beings from beyond the hell of a world you now live in. They have touched others, and they will surely touch more. They make ponies stronger, so that they may survive the wasteland and one day save it. Fury, you are meant to do great things, but only after the stars find and save you."

He spoke like he was reading a book and suddenly skipped to the next chapter.

"I don't need saving!" I screamed at him. "I know how to save myself! I can survive by myself, I don't need anypony else’s help!"

"Really? Then how come you gather these ponies, and you take things you think will help you? You're not even going in the right direction to find Gizmo. Nightshade will be so disappointed when she finds out that she may never be able to see her best friends from her only safe place, the Stable. The one place she was had ever been truly happy, the one place she was forced out of due to a terrible crime she committed. She only wants one thing, to feel happy again. The only way she thinks she can be happy again is by seeing those two ponies that treated her nicely, and you're denying her that joy. In fact, the only reason you met Nightshade was because of your selfish jealousy to that barmare. You stayed behind when you could have just told her to leave. You were jealous and didn't want anyone to see, so you stayed behind." His words dripped with malice.

"Shut up! It wasn't like that! I'm not like that! We went into here to find a shortcut! Then we got caught up in all this shit! I know its put us behind, but we can change it, we will find Pyre and Gizmo."

I sneered at the Stable dweller. He smiled and nodded, then started trotting away.

"Say hello to Magus when you see her, Fury."

---

I heard a commotion going on outside. I frowned as I see some familiar steel-armored ponies in town.

Looks like Orion's found some reinforcement.

Bastard.

---

Notes: Level up!

Perks:

Historical Accuracy: Your reading of the past has helped you under stand a bit more about your surroundings! You are more likely to find pre-war items in mint condition!

The Beast Inside: You have something terrifying lurking inside of you, waiting to come out. When using unarmed or claw like weapons you gain an extra 20% damage.

((Authors note: This. Chapter. Was. Hell. It took me two weeks to write it because I had lost interest like three times and needed to find the right inspiration! Gah!! Well, it's done now. I wouldn't mind if you all left more comments on characters and my writing ability. Also, I'm still looking for that second editor, it would help me out alot. Thanks to everypony who I've thanked before! I'm sorry I can't give individual thanks but I'm exhausted. Bye!))Parker

[mylittlenerdy.tumblr.com]))

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!