• Published 6th May 2019
  • 3,088 Views, 268 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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I found myself standing in a puddle of green goo, surrounded by fragments of the translucent-green shell that had contained it. I didn’t remember my cocoon bursting open and dropping me on the ground, but that was what must have happened. I had no memory of getting on my hooves, either, nor an idea of how long I’d been standing there.

Maybe I was just too groggy from the long sleep.

I looked around. The cave was much as I’d left it - as far as I could tell, because I hadn’t bothered to remember every nook and bump - except for the greenish glow emanating from the liquid at my hooves. This was hardly unexpected; changeling slime would display this effect upon contact with a living being trapped inside a cocoon. The glow used to fascinate me when I was a nymph. Pharynx had killed that fascination by informing me that the glow was powered by the love and life force of the creature inside the cocoon, and that the slime acted as a conduit for the love we fed on - useful for draining the residual love from the unconscious victims inside. It even worked with small animals such as rats and snakes; though not enough to feed on, their love would suffice for lighting up the dark corridors of the hive.

My stomach would turn every time I’d see one of those gruesome lanterns. Even trying to free the creatures inside wouldn’t help, and I’d tried; but every time, I’d find the poor animal was too far gone to make use of its regained freedom, and I would get punished soon after. The guards hadn’t even had to investigate the so-called vandalism after the first couple of times; they’d learned quickly that only one changeling would think of doing that! It had only ever been a matter of finding me and forcing me to catch another animal to replace the lantern. It hadn’t taken them long to realize this had hurt more than any beating they could have administered, not that they’d ever neglected to follow up with the beating in the end anyway!

Eventually I’d stopped bothering. What was the point if only more animals would suffer as the result?

I shook myself out of my reverie. The pain and sorrow for the poor creatures was just as strong now as it had been then, but there was nothing I could do. No point in lingering on memories.

I approached the pile of rocks blocking the entrance to the cave. It had taken me hours to build that barrier, but now it was practically falling apart on its own wherever I touched it. I had been injured pretty bad then, but I really thought I’d built it a little sturdier!

It only took moments to get through and out of the cave. I expected to see the forest, and there were some trees… but the area they were growing in couldn’t possibly be what it was!

I closed my eyes shut and opened them again after a moment. The sight hadn’t gone away: I was back in the hive, in one of the larger caverns apparently, and the trees were growing inside it! Some of them even had cocoons hanging from the branches!

The sight was so surreal I couldn’t think. Had the hunters found my cocoon and taken me to the hive while I was still inside it? But where in the hive? No trees were growing anywhere in it! Except there were trees here! How was this possible? It almost felt like I was at two places at once! But how?

A sudden realization of a presence interrupted my puzzlement. I turned, only to find myself facing a group of changeling soldiers surrounding me. When had they arrived? I hadn’t heard the sounds of their hooves or wings! How had I known they were here in the first place before having seen them? Not that I expected an explanation, but seriously, they were that good at sneaking up on others? All of them?

They attacked before I could even attempt to retreat or open my mouth to say something. I’d never been much of a fighter, but I doubted that even with Pharynx’s skill I could stand against them! It took them only a second to knock me down, but they didn’t stop there; they kept punching and kicking me even after my injuries were worse than those caused by my fall from Mount Canterlot!

There was little doubt remaining: they were there to kill me, and were going to enjoy every moment of it!

The fast-approaching steps of something large enough to shake the ground hardly even made them slow down and glance away.

Then, suddenly, the beating stopped as a magnificent beast headbutted them away as it galloped in.

Still dazed from the beating, I blinked a few times with my one not-yet-fully-swollen eye while I tried to make sense of what was in front of me. The creature was almost a bear, but not quite: it was probably twice as large as the timberwolves I’d dealt with in the Everfree Forest, and entirely translucent, with glowing spots on its coat, and when it turned its head, I caught a glimpse of a large star on its forehead. It approached the pile of my attackers and stomped the one that was still moving. Then, after a few moments of waiting as if to make sure none of them would suddenly spring to life, it turned to me.

Okay, now I was going to die.

But instead of repeating the process on me, the sort-of-bear let out a frustrated sigh… and burst into a green flame.

The face that the flame had retreated into was the last thing I’d expected.

“Seriously? I still have to keep saving you?” Pharynx exclaimed.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, barely able to lift my head to face him.

“What does it look like?” he snapped back. “Now shut up or we’ll both be in trouble!”

Before I could ask what he meant, he stooped down and sank his fangs in me.

A wave of prickling heat washed over me as his venom spread through my body. Soon enough I was getting increasingly dizzy. I’d thought I’d known dizziness from all the beatings and magic-blasting I’d experienced in my lifetime, but none of that came even close to what I was feeling now! I wasn’t even sure where my parts were anymore, or which parts I had in the first place!

An indeterminate amount of time later, ground seemed to open under me and I realized I was falling. I tried to will my wings to move and keep me afloat, but they wouldn’t listen. My whole body refused to cooperate whenever I tried to move something or turn around! I could only see the darkness around me and hear the heavy silence.

Eventually I fell into a seemingly endless pool of changeling slime. It wasn’t sudden like splashing into a lake - more like walking into a cloud of mist. And just as gradually, the darkness cleared slightly, just enough to reveal dozens - hundreds even - of small animals suspended in the slime much like I was: rats, frogs, spiders, parasprites, small birds, a few baby bunnies and jackalopes, maybe even a cockatrice or two.

I winced at the sight of my surroundings. Had all those creatures fallen into a trap? Were they being collected to produce lanterns from? But I’d never heard of lanterns being mass-produced like that! Who could produce this much slime anyway?

Were we being turned into one colossal lamp?

Just as that thought had entered my mind, I noticed a cloaked figure approach almost directly in front of me.

Maybe this blob of slime wasn’t that big after all?

The figure came closer still. By the time it stopped moving, I could just barely make out a face striped black and white under the hood, and hear a faint hum of a tune it was singing.

I recognized it immediately.

The zebra reached under her cloak and produced a familiar jar. Then, as she poured out its contents on her hoof, her eyes lit up with a green glow. She blew into the stuff in her hoof and let out a maniacal laugh I’d known only from someone else.

The slime around me dissipated as the zebra’s powder made contact with it. Some of the powder reached me, too, and brought the same tingling sensation that another of her concoctions had produced in me eons ago.

I should have known the temptation to use her potions in newfound ways to expose the enemy would be too great to resist despite her promise to keep our encounter a secret! She must have found a way to convert the ointment to a form that would be easier to use on suspicious characters than having to trick them into applying it onto themselves in order to reveal their true nature!

The slime cleared completely within seconds, but everything else remained as it was; even the creatures were still frozen in mid-air as if nothing had happened.

The zebra removed her cloak and tossed it aside, where it disappeared. As she did so, I realized I was looking at the face of none other than my Queen.

She wasn’t disguised, nor had I seen her transform; yet she was there, revealed in all her imposing ruthlessness, a menacing glint still in her eyes, her lips curled in a smirk of anticipation of sweet revenge for my betrayal.

Around me, the animals were one by one turning into changelings - just like that, no transformation flashes involved. They snapped out of their suspended state and surrounded me.

When they were all there, a blob of slime appeared out of nowhere and fixed me to the unseen ground beneath my hooves.

Chrysalis spoke out, but her words didn’t reach me. I could hear the sound of her severe voice with ease, but the meaning escaped me. She may as well have spoken in a foreign language! And yet, I didn’t need to hear the particulars of her speech; I knew all too well what she was saying.

The day of my final punishment had arrived.

Out of nowhere, Chrysalis produced a mighty sword. Its sharp blade reflected the growing bloodlust in her eyes as she delivered the final words of her speech.

I wanted to speak up, but words failed me. And what was I going to say to her, anyway? Her mind was already made up! It had been made up from the moment she’d learned about my betrayal, and nothing in the world would sway that conviction and make her reconsider my fate!

I looked around hopelessly. The changelings surrounding me had changed in the meantime, once again in that mysterious way without out usual transformation magic. They were no longer ordinary drones; each and every one of them had taken the likeness of our eternal Queen.

In a flash, I realized they were not a multitude of drones looking like Chrysalis; they all were Chrysalis, each and every one of them.

I knew then I could have never hoped to escape her. No matter where I’d gone or what I’d tried, she was always going to reach me!

The first Chrysalis raised the sword held in her magic. The others stepped aside to let her come closer to me. Then, after a good long vengeful look at me, she drove the sword in my chest.

I let out a gasp and collapsed to the ground. The other Chrysalises seemed to feast their pleasure at the sight of my dying moments. The first one pulled the blade out of me and let me bleed for a while.

I closed my eyes. It was over.

Except it wasn’t; another stab made me open my eyes again in surprise. Over me, hooves on the sword’s handle, pressing the blade deeper into my flesh, stood Pharynx.

I snapped my eyes open, gasping for breath.

Around me was a blob of slime again, this one contained in the irregular walls of a cocoon I was suspended in upside-down. It was hard to tell what lay beyond, but I thought I could just barely make out the walls of a cave. I tried to move, but only ended up colliding with the cocoon walls. They felt real to the touch.

They felt real to the touch!

I hadn’t been captured and executed! It had all been a dream!

If I were outside, nothing would have kept me from hopping and prancing excitedly right now! Chrysalis hadn’t killed me after all! I still had the chance to continue my journey!

Deciding to let go the echoes of the past that had been tormenting me for the moment, I closed my eyes again to allow my healing cocoon to complete its purpose before I moved on. I didn’t know what awaited me, except that it likely wouldn’t be any easier than what I’d been through so far; but that was all in the future. I could always start fearing and worrying again if I had to!

But for now, I would allow myself to rest peacefully.