• Published 16th Jun 2020
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The Power of Two - Locomotion

A young changeling runs away from home, only to be attacked by timberwolves in the Everfree Forest. Fortunately, Locomotion is on hoof to save her - but little do they know that she has a spy on her tail...

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Sand...rocks...mountains......if one were to travel south to lands beyond Equestria, lands to which few ponies, griffins or even dragons would dare venture, that was all they would see for miles around. Apart from the odd cactus and small insect, it would seem almost impossible for anything could flourish out in this barren wilderness, far away from the nearest source of water, and with such intense heat streaming down from the sun during the daytime. Perhaps it was little wonder, then, that most creatures, should they ever refer to this place by name, would have described it simply as “the Badlands”.

But the harsh, lonely and potentially deadly environment was far from the sole reason behind such a name, for behind their borders, the Badlands concealed what had to be the most feared race in the known world. These intimidating creatures, referred to throughout the world as changelings, were notorious for feeding on the love of their unsuspecting victims, and for their ability to change their forms, enabling them to pose as any other living being they chose. They were much bigger than the insects alongside which they lived, and although they too consisted of chitinous exoskeletons and wasp-like wings, they differed considerably in being built very much like ponies. Each was armed with a single magically empowered horn on its forehead, just like a unicorn; but their ears were more tubular in shape, their legs were perforated in several places, and most of them featured little more than vacant, sinister blue orbs for eyes. Their most vicious features were the jagged fangs poking out of their mouths, which gave them more in common with carnivores.

In the midst of a huge palace-like structure, located deep in the heart of the Badlands, one such creature was standing guard over one of the many hallways. Darkness had fallen long ago, and he, just like his fellow officers, was under orders to keep a sharp lookout for any foreign creature that dared to intrude, or for any other changeling foolish enough to be up and about so late without royal consent. Everything around him seemed quiet and still as he scanned the hallway with those haunting blue eyes of his – not even a locust or a scorpion to be seen, and not so much as a rustle to be heard. It was almost as if he could fall asleep on the job and nothing would happen all night...



The changeling looked left and right, startled. He could have sworn that something – or someone – had raced past him just now; but to his confusion, he found no-one else in the hallway other than himself. The only “creatures” in sight were the stone statues on either side. With a light grunt, he shrugged and resumed his vigil.

But what he couldn't realise was that he wasn't alone in that hallway. Under the cover of a cloaking spell, another changeling peered nervously out from behind one of the statues, hardly daring to breathe. She was much younger than the guard at around sixteen years of age; her fangs were smaller and more blunt, and her eyes, more reptilian in appearance than those of the rest of her kind, bore an expression of deep trepidation as she scanned the passage for any guards that might have heard her hoofsteps. Having ascertained that no-one had seen or heard her, she broke out from her hiding place and scurried down the corridor as quickly and as quietly as she could.

Further and further she went, stopping to hide at brief intervals in case she alerted the guards' attention, until at last she was nearly at the end of the corridor – but just when she had gone a hundred yards or so from the last statue, her ears picked up a rhythmic, rumbling sound of clomping hooves, almost like a march. Cautiously, she slackened her pace and looked ahead; and sure enough, she could see a small platoon of guards making their way down the hallway.

Thinking quickly, the changeling flung herself flat against the wall and held her breath, watching fearfully as the guards closed in on her and hoping to goodness that her cloaking spell would be effective enough. The fourteen changeling stallions marched slowly past, looking left and right for any signs of trouble as they went; but predictably, none of them seemed to notice anything amiss with their surroundings, let alone the young fugitive trying to sneak out without being noticed. As they receded further and further down the corridor, the young changeling lowered herself back on all fours with a deep sigh of relief – what a close call that was, she thought as she resumed her escape plan.

Ahead of her, on one side of the next corridor, she finally found what she was looking for – a large, open window overlooking one of the mountain ranges that surrounded the Badlands. Beyond these mountains lay the promises of a new life in a new home, of a place where she could live in peace and harmony with creatures other than her own kind, where she could be embraced as an equal rather than judged for being a changeling. Beyond these mountains lay what she believed to be the Promised Land. All she had to do now was to cross those mountains, and she would no longer have to put up with her old way of life.

Thus, after one final check left and right, the young changeling steeled herself for the long road ahead as she leaped out through the window and slowly drifted down towards the desert below. Once her hooves came into contact with the dry, crumbly ground, she took a deep breath and broke out into a hard gallop across the vast wilderness – now or never, she thought as she made her gallant dash for freedom.

The trek across the sandy, gravelly desert seemed to go on for eternity, but the changeling bravely carried on, never stopping once even to check if she was being followed. How far she had run, and how long it had been since she had left the hive, she didn't know; but of what relevance was that to her? By now, all she needed to know was that she had almost reached the border – once she had crossed it, she would have no further need to worry...or so she hoped, at least.

But that was when she remembered – there was bound to be a small scattering of guards spread out along each and every frontier, and in several places, huge wire fences had been erected to prevent their own kind from fleeing the land and others from invading. She slowed her pace to a trot and looked around. Just as she feared, there was a small blockhouse nearby, and a changeling stallion clad in armour was standing in the sentry box immediately outside. Behind them was one of the many fences surrounding what she used to call her homeland, like a net waiting to wrap itself around an unsuspecting fish.

Maintaining her invisibility cloak, the young changeling made her way towards the fence in search of a way round. She certainly couldn't fly over it, for each and every border was also protected by a highly energised forcefield hanging mere hooves above the lowest material object. Any creature that came into contact with that forcefield would be flung back for several miles, and then if the guards didn't catch her first, her injuries might easily finish her off. If only she could find some way of tunnelling under the wire...

But after only a few seconds of searching, she noticed that part of the fence had been bent upwards from below, leaving a gap just big enough for her to squeeze through. It seemed that some other living being must have tried to infiltrate the Badlands from the direction of the Promised Land. If that was the case, the changeling thought to herself, she owed a great debt to whatever creature it was that had provided her with a way out. Quietly, slowly, cautiously, she trotted towards the gap and gingerly wriggled under the fence until at last she had made it onto the other side. As she got to her hooves, she looked over her shoulder towards the blockhouse, and was relieved to find that the sentry hadn't moved from his box. He didn't even seem to have noticed the gap in the fence.

The young changeling, however, was taking no chances. With only the mountains now keeping her from reaching safe haven, she began to trot away from the fence, rapidly quickening her pace to a frantic gallop and setting her wings into motion until, after only a few seconds, her hooves parted company with the ground altogether and she slowly but surely began to gain altitude. Looking back one more time, she gazed upon her former homeland as it receded further and further into the distance, along with the remainder of her species.

In that very instant, all her fears were swept away by a deep sense of euphoria, prompting her to perform a couple of joyous barrel rolls in her delight. No longer did she have to live such a cruel and harsh life under an iron-hoofed ruler – after sixteen long and difficult years, she was free. All that remained now was to try and find the Promised Land she had always dreamed about; and judging by the fields of green on the other side of the mountains, it couldn't be too far away now...

But as the young escapee ventured further and further into the unknown, intent on finding a new home and a new life, dark forces were already starting to conspire against her. Several miles away, in the very hive that used to serve as her home, the night guards were slowly coming off duty as the remainder of their species awoke to the start of a new day. Right in the midst of the hive, in a large, spacious chambe, sat a much larger changeling with a gnarled horn, a long blue mane and tail, and a small black crown resting atop her head. This was Queen Chrysalis, the tyrannical ruler of the Badlands, and the most loathed of all changelings. For many years now, this cunning, cold-hearted creature had had her sights set on invading that well-known land of harmony, love and ponies, a land that would provide her and her subjects with an eternal source of nourishment and enable her to achieve her foalhood ambition of world domination; but any and all of her attempts to capture Equestria thus far had only resulted in defeat at the eleventh hour, thanks in no small part to those accursed ponies who called themselves “the Elements of Harmony”.

The Elements of Harmony...the mere mention of such a title was enough to strike a sense of fury and spite into the iron-hoofed monarch. Had it not been for those meddling mares, she would have captured Equestria years ago, and even that pathetic pair of weakling alicorns known as Princess Celestia and Princess Luna would have had no choice but to step down in her favour. And that third alicorn – that Princess Cadance who had foiled her very first attempt...

Her thoughts were interrupted as the doors slowly swung open, and one of the guards entered the room with a grim look on his face. He bowed down low before the royal changeling before speaking up; “Your Majesty, I bring you news of a disturbing nature,” he said in a low, slithery voice. “It would appear that one of our own has defected from our hive and is headed for the land of the ponies.”

Chrysalis' eyes narrowed. “Which one?”

“We have checked through all the chambers, and all occupants are present except for CH001FD14726198305,” replied the guard. “The last we saw of her, she was entering her chamber for the night; and when we checked this morning, she was gone. We have no idea how or when she escaped – all we know is that it took place late last night.”

For a brief moment, Chrysalis could only stare at the guard with agitated disbelief. “You fool! Here I am, trying to ensure the abundance of my subjects, and you have to turn your back long enough to let one of them escape?!” she bellowed.

The guard took on an apologetic expression, but didn't even flinch. “I never did let my guard down, Your Majesty,” he stated. “She must have used some sort of invisibility spell to avoid being detected.”

“Oh, did she?” snarled Chrysalis. “Well, I'll give her something to avoid soon enough! Send for CH001MD38964587233 and his platoon at once – if that foolish filly thinks she can outrun the great Queen Chrysalis, then I should like to see her prove it!”

“As you wish, Your Majesty.” The guard bowed down low again and made his way out of the throne room. As he passed through the doors, Chrysalis' horn glowed a menacing green colour as she generated a magical image of the changeling in question, almost like a faded old colour film from times past. The image showed the young rogue galloping through vast grassland, cautiously trying to avoid being seen by any other creature, and her face bore an expression of anxiety, hope and determination mingled into one.

The sly, conniving queen leered evilly at the foolish young fugitive. “Run all you like, you little traitor,” she murmured, “but you'll never escape me...”

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