• Published 6th May 2019
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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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Repercussions

The defeat had taken quite a toll on us. It took days - weeks even - for everyling to get their bearings and return to the hive, most of us injured; some hadn’t returned at all. Their bodies had been found by others returning to the hive and destroyed on the spot to keep ponies from finding them and using them to learn more about us. A few were still missing; presumably their bodies were found by ponies anyway, or maybe by wild animals. No use bringing the dead home; changelings didn’t practice funeral rituals.

But the dead were forgotten, and the injured healed over time, even when starved like we’d always been. The anger and shame over our failure was a different story. It took quite a while to dull down, but even now its bitter taste was lingering, crushing our confidence and fueling the hatred.

Something good did come out of it, if only in my eyes alone: it sparked a new hope for a better life in me, one where my lifelong dream could finally be fulfilled, and a new determination to see it through. Upon returning to the hive - delayed by a couple of weeks, first by having been knocked unconscious for several days, and then a few more days of going the wrong way before my sense of direction reasserted itself - I wasted no time in trying to find a changeling who would be willing to give a chance to my offer of friendship. I put all my spirit into it, far more than ever while I’d been younger before the drills and combat training had numbed my mind, but needless to say, my efforts got me nowhere but the bottom of the hierarchy.

I had known from the start that achieving my goal wasn’t going to be easy, but over time it had started to seem downright impossible, and while I still wasn’t ready to give up hope, my disappointment and frustration grew with every passing day, up to the point where I would occasionally get an impulse to just give it up and leave and try my luck somewhere else. But changelings weren’t exactly well liked anywhere, and anyway, Chrysalis’ soldiers would in all likelihood track me down and drag me back to the hive to get punished before I even got to the nearest village! So, having no idea where I might go and not wanting to deceive my potential new friends about what I was by disguising myself as one of their kind, I reluctantly stayed.

One fateful day I was sweeping the hive hallways as had been my duty for a while, when suddenly a heap of cold water landed on my head, followed by the bucket that must have contained it. Startled and shivering, I looked around me, only to find two changelings glaring at me with mischievous grins.

“What was that for?” I exclaimed.

“See, told you he wouldn’t even hiss,” one told the other.

“I wonder what else he doesn’t hiss to,” smirked the other in reply.

“Let’s find out!” agreed the first one.

“But what have I ever done to you? Please leave me alone!”

I started to back away.

“Don’t you two have readiness drills to work on?” spoke a familiar voice behind them.

“We’re already done, Sir,” the changelings snapped to attention.

“Then do them again,” my brother shot back.

The pair hesitated a moment too long.

In a flash of green magic, First Commander Pharynx transformed into a ferocious spider-like beast ten times our size, lunging at his two subordinates before they had a chance to realize what was happening, and launching them both across the hallway into a wall with a single strike of a tentacle.

Are you deaf?” the spider roared.

The plumes of dust left in their wake and the echo of galloping hooves suggested otherwise.

With the troublemakers gone, Pharynx restored his form and turned to me.

“A word with you,” he gestured me to follow.

I set my broom aside and trotted along as Pharynx led the way through one passage after another until we arrived to our sleeping burrow. He motioned me to enter, then joined me after making sure we hadn’t been followed.

“What is wrong with you?” he started.

“What do you mean?” I was pretty sure I knew where this was going.

“You know all too well what I mean! You don’t even try to defend yourself from bullies any more, and how long did it take me to get you to even stop apologizing to them? Who in their right mind tries to be polite to someone who attacked them? It took me forever to get you to realize that looking for friends was a futile pursuit for a changeling and turn you into a marginally passable fighter, and just when I finally began to think we’re making enough progress to give you a worthy assignment so you can start being useful to the hive, you throw it all away again! Do you have any idea how much persuading it took to convince Chrysalis to let me include you in the Canterlot invasion force? I was hoping the problem was that all the training drills were too hypothetical to you and that real action is what you needed to awaken your bloodthirst and get you on the right path, but no! My sweet little brother had to goof around and get distracted by a friendly encounter between some pathetic ponies and relapse into stupidity!”

“Pharynx, I told you-”

“I know what you told me! Look, I get it that your first encounter with a different nation can leave you confused, but the invasion happened well over a year ago! Get a hold of yourself, Thorax! You’ve had plenty of time already to snap out of it and resume combat training, yet you keep refusing to act like a changeling and insisting on this fool’s errand! You’ll never get out of janitor duty like this, let alone gain respect and stop being picked on! Why do you think Chrysalis is so eager to punish you for every smallest mistake that she might ignore if it were any other changeling? In fact, the only reason she’s even letting you live after all you’ve done is because you’re my brother!”

“Pharynx-”

“Don’t interrupt me! I know what you’ll say, that I don’t have to do this, but I can’t stand idly by while my brother disgraces both of us by rejecting everything that changelings have ever been! Do you think anyone in the hive will ever trust you again if you keep goofing around like this much longer? And while you’ve sunk so low that you don’t feel like there’s anything left to lose, do you really expect Chrysalis to keep trusting me much longer after I’ve failed to snap you out of it by now? Who do you think will protect you if I lose my rank?”

“I’m sorry,” was all I could think to say.

“Well prove it then, and do it quick, because I’m running out of ideas how to keep convincing Chrysalis to give you one more chance,” Pharynx replied. “I’m not one to give up easily, but you’re really starting to seem like a lost cause.”

With that, he marched out and left me to my own thoughts.