• Published 16th Jun 2020
  • 484 Views, 11 Comments

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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Bonus Chapter 4: To Where and Back Again

Author's Note:

Okay, I know the title of "To Where and Back Again" has already been taken, but I thought I'd use it anyway as a nod to the actual two-part episode in which Chrysalis is dethroned (although clearly not as morbidly as in this story). The epitaph is adapted from that of Thomas Scaife, a locomotive driver on the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway who was killed in a boiler explosion along with his fireman Joseph Rutherford. The accident took place at Bromsgrove, at the bottom of the Lickey Incline, on November 10th, 1840.

Locomotion awoke to find himself standing in the midst of a strange deep blue void. It was as if he was high up in the night sky, so high up that he couldn't see the ground; and yet there seemed to be an invisible surface beneath his hooves, preventing him from falling out of the air. His body was riddled with ugly scars and countless other injuries, his right arm was all crooked, and several patches of fur were missing, yet he felt no pain. All he could feel was fear as he scanned his surroundings, trying to make sense of what had just happened to him.

“What is this place?” he wondered breathlessly. He had no recollection of how he ended up here – the last thing he remembered was being in the throne room of a collapsing changeling hive, struggling to shield himself – and his mortal enemy – against the falling rubble. “Hello?” he called out timidly. “Anyone around?”

“No need to be frightened, young friend. I'm right here.” A gentle, regal voice echoed through the void. As Locomotion gazed nervously into space, he saw a tall black changeling materialise in front of him, smiling softly at him in a way that seemed to soothe him in an instant. At first glance, she looked very similar to Chrysalis; but her turquoise mane was much neater, and her horn significantly shorter and smoother apart from a small barb underneath. Her eyes were softer and less angular, and bore a glint of kindly maternal wisdom and compassion. “The young stallion who helped to liberate my subjects,” she whispered solemnly as she sidled up to him. “It's indeed an honour to meet you, Locomotion – I'm only sorry it had to be under such tragic circumstances.”

Locomotion blinked. “Who are you?”

“I am Nymphia, former Queen of the Changelings. I have observed the bond you share with the one you so affectionately call Hornette, and how you selflessly assisted her in freeing my kingdom from Chrysalis' clutches. In return, I have come to resuscitate you, and return you to the land of the living.”

The red-furred unicorn paused, tentatively examining his disfigured body. “What's the point?” he lamented at last, pessimistically hanging his head and trying to hold back tears. “I've nothing left to live for. I mean, just look at me – all battered and mangled beyond recognition...Hornette would never want to be with an ugly wreck like me! I'll never even be able to drive trains again!”

Nymphia sighed deeply and rested a perforated hoof on his shoulder, trying to look into his eyes. “You would really give up on life? Just like that?”

“What would it matter? I wasn't strong enough to save Chrysalis, so why should I be strong enough to survive my own injuries?” sobbed Locomotion bitterly. “Besides, it's not like anyone would miss me.”

“You're wrong, Locomotion,” said Nymphia gently. “While I must commend you for your bravery – and your forgiveness towards my sister – alas, no amount of mercy would have rehabilitated her. Chrysalis will be missed by no-one; but even as we speak, the friends and family you left behind are fearing for your safety. Come – observe – witness the repercussions of your departure.”

Before Locomotion's eyes, a rectangular black portal opened up in front of them, flickering with white lines like static on a television screen before changing to a clear image of what he could only assume was somewhere in Ponyville. Puzzled, he wandered through the portal to find himself standing outside Sugarcube Corner. Steamer was there, along with Scootaloo, Dinky, Firelli and Surfie – and sure enough, all were in varying states of worry.

“...and you just...let him go?” asked Surfie in dismay.

Steamer shook his head sadly. “Couldn't stop him,” he mourned, his eyes full of tears and his voice heavy with guilt. “I did try to reason with him, but he wouldn't listen – he just chewed me out again over Hornette and stormed out of the room. Even Twilight refused to hear me out.”

“Well...it wasn't Twilight's choice, Uncle Steamer.” Despite her best attempts to stay calm and rational, even Firelli was starting to show signs of distress. “It was the Map that called him out there...to that desert wilderness...” She paused, discretely wiping away a tear of her own. “...I just hope he'll be alright.”

Locomotion, feeling a pang of despair, tried to call out to them, “Elli? I'm right here. Can you hear me?”

But none of the five ponies reacted. They just carried on talking as if he wasn't there.

“What, out in the middle of the Badlands? Don't count on it,” frowned Scootaloo doubtfully. “Loco's great when working with steam engines, but in hostile country...I don't fancy his chances.”

Surfie grimaced with dread. “Neither do I.”

Dinky, on the other hoof, remained silent. Though she looked like a small part of her was distracted by problems of her own, she was clearly just as anxious about Locomotion as the others.

Locomotion gazed back to Nymphia, who had just followed him through the portal. “What gives?” he wanted to know. “Why won't they speak to me?”

“Alas, these are merely the shadows of your friends and family,” replied Nymphia gravely. “They can neither see nor hear you – but what they say and do is for real. All these ponies, and many more besides, have been praying for your safe return since you left, even your uncle.”

“And if I don't come back?”

Nymphia didn't answer, but instead beckoned for him to follow her as she wandered down the street, which melted away to become a huge pile of black rocks in the middle of a desert. Locomotion blinked in disbelief, stepping forward almost on automatic – this had to be the remains of the changeling hive where he, Thorax, Hornette and the Bearers of Harmony had faced off against Chrysalis. Sure enough, the six mares were gathered around something in the heart of the ruins, along with Thorax and a small swarm of changelings. Hornette was there too, hovering over the lifeless body of a red-furred unicorn – one that he knew all too well...

“Cripes,” he gasped. “That...that's me!” He looked back to see an ashen Thorax shaking his head with a hopeless frown.

“He can't have survived. Even that scorpion couldn't have stood a chance.”

That was when Hornette turned to stare in horror at him and Twilight, tears streaming down her cheeks. “We can't just give up on him! He's got to survive! He's just got to! Please save him, Twilight!”

If Locomotion had been shocked by Firelli's minor breakdown, he was truly heartbroken from seeing his changeling so torn apart. He wanted to run forward and grab Hornette in a big bear hug, to soothe all her fears away and reassure her that he was alright...to tell her how much he loved her, and would never wish to leave her; but he knew that such an attempt would be futile in his ethereal state. All he could do was watch helplessly as she knelt down next to his body. “It's alright, Loco. You're gonna be okay – honest you will. We'll get Twilight to revive you, and then we'll take you home so you can get better. You'll soon be back to driving trains...back with your family and friends...”

Locomotion shed a small tear. “But...what if I can't?” he whispered to himself. “What if I don't survive my injuries?”

“Then you stand not only to lose your life, but to leave a hole in Hornette's heart which no other creature can fill,” answered Nymphia as she sidled up to him. “You're the only one she has ever truly loved. Were you to leave her, she would only deteriorate with the passing of time.”

The scene changed once again, this time to the middle of a graveyard outside Ponyville. The sky was dark and looked ready to pour down with rain, and the only living beings to be seen were none other than Surfie, Firelli and Hornette, all sitting mournfully in front of the same tombstone. The two sisters had their arms around Hornette, who was hanging her head with grief as she wept for the deceased pony. Her eyes were tired and swollen, her limbs were as frail and lanky as if she hadn't eaten anything for days, and her baby blue mane and tail had faded to a dull teal. All in all, she looked very messy and unhealthy.

“Why did he have to leave me?” she sobbed. “Just when we were so close, too.”

Firelli nuzzled her sympathetically. “He loved you just as you loved him,” she faltered. “If he had any way to stay...he would have fought to do so.”

“We all miss him, Hornette,” added Surfie tearfully. “We can only imagine how you must feel.”

Hornette nodded weakly. “He meant everything in the world to me...and he just...died. If only I could've saved him...if only I tried to...to......” But before she could finish, her strength finally gave out, and she collapsed onto the damp grass, trembling like a leaf. Firelli and Surfie gasped in shock as thunder rolled in the sky, and began shaking the young changeling vigorously in a desperate attempt to bring her round, even as rain came pouring down on them. It was then that Locomotion saw what was inscribed on the stone;

IN LOVING MEMORY OF LOCOMOTION, C.P.M.
THE BELOVED SON OF
OPTIC STRAND AND FAIR ISLE
AND THE YOUNGEST ENGINE DRIVER
TO SERVE WITH
EQUESTRIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
WHO MET HIS UNTIMELY DEMISE ON
SEPTEMBER 8TH, 2016
AGED 16

MY ENGINE NOW IS COLD AND STILL
NO WATER DOES MY BOILER FILL
MY COAL AFFORDS ITS FLAME NO MORE
MY DAYS OF USEFULNESS ARE O'ER
MY WHEELS DENY THEIR NOTED SPEED
NO MORE MY GUIDING HOOF THEY NEED
MY WHISTLE TOO HAS LOST ITS TONE
ITS SHRILL AND THRILLING SOUND IS GONE
MY VALVES ARE NOW THROWN OPEN WIDE
MY FLANGES ALL REFUSE TO GUIDE
MY CLACKS, AS WELL, THOUGH ONCE SO STRONG
REFUSE TO AID THE BUSY THRONG
NO MORE I FEEL EACH URGING BREATH
MY STEAM IS NOW CONDENSED IN DEATH
LIFE'S RAILWAY ENDED, EACH STATION PASSED
AT DEATH, I'M STOPPED AND REST AT LAST
FAREWELL, LOVED ONES, BUT DO NOT WEEP
IN FAUST, I'M SAFE; IN HEAVEN, I SLEEP

There were no words to describe the torrent of emotions now flowing through Locomotion's mind – not just from reading his own epitaph, but from seeing Hornette so broken, malnourished and inconsolable. His whole frame began to stiffen as he turned his attention back to her apparition, and finally locked up when he saw the glossy, half-dead look in her eyes. Part of him had been hoping that this was just speculation – nothing but a wild guess at what might be, but probably wouldn't happen – but now, seeing how little life Hornette had left in her, he was in too much of a state of grief to care.

“Do you still think she wouldn't want to be with you, should you survive?”

Locomotion felt tears flooding his eyes again. “No more,” he sobbed, barely able to speak. “Show me no more. Take me back...please...help me...don't let this happen to her...”

Nymphia smiled softly and began rubbing his back, soothing away the pain in his soul. “It never will...as long as you stay strong,” she consoled him. “I shall return you now to your body, and lessen the effect of your injuries – but after that, only you can decide your fate. If you wish to preserve your loved one, you must fight the call of death with every last smidgeon of your willpower.” Her horn glowed softly. “I have every bit of faith in you to survive, Locomotion. Stay strong.”

“I...I will,” replied Locomotion bravely. “But will I ever see you again?”

“Only when you are finally called,” said Nymphia solemnly. “Until then, I bid you farewell – and pray that you and Hornette lead a long and happy life together.” The intensity of her magic slowly increased as she spoke, and Locomotion began to feel drowsy. At the same time, his injuries began to flare up again – but not as badly as when he had sustained them. If anything, it felt more like the dull throb of bruised muscles, with here and there the mild sting of grazes; yet the wounds themselves still remained as they were. Drowsiness turned to dizziness, and dizziness turned to the strange, drunken feeling he associated with unconsciousness, until finally his world went blank again. Nymphia's voice echoed again and again in his mind, “Stay strong, Locomotion...stay strong...stay strong...” until at last another voice invaded his thoughts. It was a tearful, high-pitched voice, ever so slightly nasal in a way that made it sound gentle and delicate...one that Locomotion recognised all too well. As he regained what little he could of his senses, the voice whispered something he had been yearning to hear for a long time...

“I love you.”

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