• Published 6th May 2019
  • 2,291 Views, 250 Comments

Walk Where There Is No Path - theOwtcast



When everything you’ve ever known goes against everything you believe in, can leaving help you live with yourself?

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Deja Vu

Fighting the urge to start hyperventilating in panic in front of a crowd, I turned around, pretending to marvel at the architecture, while actually looking anxiously for a place - any kind of place - where I could hide, assess the risks, plan my next move, possibly adapt my disguise if I reached the conclusion the current one was too risky… or better yet, invent a way to turn back time and prevent myself from ever boarding that train!

Or should I simply fly out of the city while I have the chance? I approached the ledge and looked around for a while. Every now and then I would see a pegasus flying about, but none of them were straying too far from the city. Was there a legal limit of how far one was allowed to fly away? There hadn’t seemed to be the first time I’d been here, but then again, the ponies had been too busy running and hiding from us to test their luck by trying to outfly us out of the city. Maybe the invasion had resulted in new security measures, such as flying restrictions? I didn't want to find out the hard way!

Preferring to err on the side of caution, I returned to my previous idea of thinking things through in a safe place. Momentarily I was out of luck: no such places were anywhere in sight. I decided the next best thing would be to continue walking, and sooner or later I was bound to find what I was looking for.

I must have traversed half the city, and still failed to find a good hiding place. There always seemed to be somepony around, mostly on ground level, but on the few occasions I did find an empty back-alley, I’d notice a pegasus or two flying above the area. Even if they were going too fast to notice much of what might be happening in a random alley beneath them, I didn’t dare to risk it. I was just going to have to invent a strategy while walking around, or even outright improvise on the move! It wasn’t nearly my favorite approach, but for infiltrators, that was often the only thing they could do, and somehow, it seemed to work most of the time. I’d never been an infiltrator so I couldn’t rely on experience, and I’d only ever received the most basic training in infiltration, so that wasn’t very likely to help, either; but every infiltrator had to begin somewhere, and if they could manage, maybe I could too! Either way, there didn’t seem to be much choice. If I made it through, next time I’d know better than to board a train unless I knew exactly where it was going and what I could expect when I got there!

Thinking about trains, I started to wonder if I could board another one to get out of here. There was no sure way of knowing the strategy I’d used before would work again, but maybe I could at least figure out which train was going where and base my planning on that. I was pretty sure I’d seen a list titled ‘Departures’ and another titled ‘Arrivals’ before I’d left the station. The names of cities may not mean too much, but if I could find a map… At the very least, I knew of one place which to avoid.

I made it to the station without problems and found the schedule of departures. While I studied it - or better said, pretended to study it, because nothing seemed familiar - a unicorn carrying a foal in a saddlebag approached to take a look at the schedule too. I moved over to the side to give her some space, but, due to feeling uncomfortable standing that close to an unfamiliar pony, I did so clumsily, and a feather of my disguised wing tickled the foal’s nose.

The foal sneezed, unleashing a burst of magic at me in the process. Its mother noticed this and turned to me, starting to apologize with a smile on behalf of her foal, but by then the foal’s magic had done something I’d have never expected from it, evoking a dreadful memory of a similar situation from less than a day ago.

How many more things in the pony world was I going to find that were magicked against me?

The mare’s jaw dropped upon seeing my face.

If anypony had still been unaware of what had happened, her deafening scream now alerted them of the changeling standing exposed before their very eyes.

For a moment, time seemed to stop.

Then, as the revelation began to sink in, all Tartarus broke loose.

More ponies started screaming and running away, some of them colliding into others, and a few even straight across the train tracks, right in front of the incoming train. Thank goodness it was able to come to a halt before anypony got hurt! I would have never forgiven myself otherwise, even if it wouldn’t have been my fault!

My relief was short-lived due to Royal Guards storming onto the platform, seemingly unsure at first about what had caused the sudden mass panic, but it took only a second until one of them had me in his sight.

Run!

Get him!” commanded the guard.

Galloping like the wind, I tried to lose them in the streets, changing directions at every corner, taking to the air whenever I thought it would give me an advantage. A battle horn sounded in the distance, undoubtedly alerting the city of the changeling threat! More and more guards were joining in the pursuit by the minute! I couldn’t be sure, but for the briefest of moments, I may have even seen Princess Celestia among the city’s defense forces!

There was barely any time for shapeshifting in order to confuse them; not that there was a point, considering how insanely outnumbered I was, guards coming at me from every possible direction! There was no time to feel fear - there were that many of them to dodge!

If anyone were to ask me later how I’d managed to dodge capture and get out of the city’s limits with so many guards on my tail, I wouldn’t know what to tell them, but somehow or other, I had. I noticed a bridge over a cliff and flew under it, working on pure instinct by now. There, momentarily out of sight, I transformed into a rock in a last-ditch effort to shake them off.

The pegasi were there first, only seconds after my transformation spell was completed, but not soon enough to see what had become of me after getting under the bridge. They only knew I couldn’t have gone anywhere from that point unseen. If I were on the opposite end of the city, I might have had the advantage of hiding in the mountainside river I remembered was there from my previous visit, but there was no river on this side! Guarding the area was going to be an easy task for them!

I should have turned into a mouse and dug a hole in the ground to hide in, maybe even a tunnel to a safer area! Well, too late for that now.

The first of the unicorn guards reached the bridge a minute later. Even if they hadn’t seen where I’d gone to, the pegasi swarming the bridge would have been enough of a hint. Some of them got under the bridge, blasting their magic at the rocks and plants, having realized by now I must have disguised myself.

The foal’s magic had been unpleasant at best. The guards’ magic was downright painful, but this time I was ready. My disguise held. Or maybe it was a different kind of spell altogether? It was hard to tell with so little experience with pony magic!

Having gotten no reaction from any of the rocks and brambles, more unicorns joined in basting their magic. With two guards going at me, it took all my willpower and self-control to keep myself from dropping the disguise and screaming for mercy.

I had been just barely able to resist the magic of two guards at once, but when the third joined in, I had no strength left to fight them any more.

Hurting and dizzy, I dropped my disguise.

Around me I saw an army of ponies spinning wildly, and then everything turning almost upside-down and the mountain whizzed past at an unbelievable speed, together with the majestic city built on its slope.

I allowed darkness to overtake me.