• Published 6th May 2019
  • 3,216 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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It took me the rest of the day and all night to fly to a city; this time I didn’t want to waste time on sleeping or elaborate planning and preparations. The city was a large one, sitting on the coast of an ocean I assumed was the one that no changeling had ever been able to cross. The center of the city was full of large buildings, similar to the ones I’d seen in Manehattan and its neighbors, albeit not quite as tall; still, the sight was suggestive of an abundance of ponies I could try to befriend... and plenty of ponies to turn on me if I ended up doing something wrong. I’d have to be careful! Not that I hadn’t been making an effort all along, but so far it had always gone south, and at least some of these outcomes may have been different if I’d planned my strategies a little better! My last encounter with ponies had been the worst and the most discouraging of all, even if it hadn’t ended in mass panic and a city-wide chase! All the others could have been attributed to lousy planning or bad luck, but this last one had been an outright violation of every value I’d vowed to honor, an unforgivable transgression! Whether or not I got caught in the act, I couldn’t let it happen again!

The peripheral parts of the city consisted of smaller buildings and houses interspersed with vegetation: parks, gardens, playgrounds, even an orchard or two near the edges of the city, where it met with the surrounding fields and forests. This would be a good place to land and disguise myself! I would pretend to be a pony traveller; I believed it would be a good excuse to approach random ponies and start a conversation. Such a strategy may have worked in Canterlot if I hadn’t freaked out and become so eager to get out of there, or in Manehattan if I hadn’t been seen in my own form first, or in that village if I hadn’t opted out of visiting after having seen the changeling hunters in a nearby cave.

Or in that last city, if I hadn’t given in to my urges. Thinking about it gave me more flashbacks and a disgusting feeling in my throat.

I forced myself to put that dreadful incident out of my mind. If I wanted to succeed this time, I shouldn’t allow myself to get overwhelmed by remorse again; it would only distract me from the task I’d given myself!

The forest was devoid of ponies who might have witnessed my landing and immediate transformation into a nondescript pegasus. Despite not looking for trouble, I wanted to retain as much maneuverability and as many escape options as possible in case trouble did arise, even if it wouldn’t be related to me and discovery or suspicion of my true nature, hence the wings. I also didn’t want to stand out in a crowd for much the same reason; I'd had quite enough complications recently! A traveller might be expected to carry luggage, but I was reluctant to create a mock-saddlebag as part of my disguise, lest I blow my own cover if I had to take it off in front of ponies at any point. Better to claim I’d left my bags somewhere!

The path from the forest to the city led me next to a pear orchard. With no ponies on the road to meet and talk to, I had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. I found the sight of trees quite soothing for my worried soul. Maybe they would ease my inner turmoil and help me reach a friendly and untroubled state of mind by the time I ran into ponies!

I was about halfway to the city when I noticed a lone figure sitting beneath one of the pear trees. He was an elderly earth pony, holding a small yellow flower in his hooves, looking at it dejectedly. Deep sorrow reflected in the tears that filled his eyes.

Treading gingerly, I approached the orchard’s fence. I didn’t want to startle the stallion, but he was so impossibly sad; I couldn’t just leave him there without at least trying to cheer him up!

“What’s wrong?” I asked softly, unsure if he’d even noticed my presence.

“Just thinking about my daughter,” he said and turned to me slowly. “Twenty-five years ago today, I disowned her because she married somepony I didn’t approve of, somepony whose family I was on bad terms with. I even left town and moved here just because I couldn’t stand them! I broke all contact with her... I was so angry… now I just wonder if I could have acted differently,” he trailed off with a sigh.

“She doesn’t forgive you?”

“It’s not that… I think she wanted to reconcile - she’d sent so many letters, but I never read any of them, I just shoved every one of them into a drawer - but the letters stopped coming years ago, and soon after that, I heard a rumor from my old town that she’d died… if it’s true, then it’s too late to ask her forgiveness.”

I flew over the fence and sat next to him.

“Maybe it was just a rumor or a misunderstanding… maybe she isn’t dead after all. You can try writing to your old town or going back for her,” I suggested.

“I don’t think it’s that easy.” He shook his head. “Our two families were in a long-lasting feud; I most likely wouldn’t be welcome there.”

“But you said that was a long time ago! How do you know they’re still mad at you?”

“Because I know them. They can be as stubborn as mules!”

“But you haven’t seen them in twenty-five years! That’s a long time to hold a grudge, and a long enough time for a lot to happen. Maybe they are willing to reconcile by now!”

“Then why didn’t they write or come looking for me?”

“Maybe they thought you weren’t interested!”

“Or maybe my daughter isn’t dead like the rumors say... maybe she simply gave up!”

“But it’s plain as day that you miss her immensely! Why don’t you at least try despite the bad reaction you may or may not get?”

The stallion didn’t answer for a while, and I was starting to think he wouldn’t. When he finally did, a long sigh revealed decades of regret and what-ifs and self-doubt.

“Because, despite my anger, I guess I never stopped fearing the rumors might be correct.”

I nodded, understanding.

We sat in silence for a while.

“Have you ever lost somepony?” It was his turn to ask me something.

“Two sisters and a brother,” I admitted after a pause.

“Sweet Celestia… I’m so sorry!”

“It’s alright. It was a long time ago… I’ve learned to live with it.”

“Were you close?”

“Not especially, but it still hurt to lose them. I have one more brother, though... too bad we don’t really see eye to eye either.”

“I know that feeling. How do you cope?”

“Actually, I left home because I couldn’t take it anymore.”

“Sounds like you have some reconciling to do yourself.”

If only you knew, I thought.

“Maybe I will one day, but not yet. I guess I’m letting him cool down after our last dispute,” I tried modifying the truth into what I hoped would be a believable situation in the context of a pony. I didn’t really think I’d ever see Pharynx again… assuming I could avoid getting captured by any remaining hunters and dragged back to the hive.

The stallion nodded. Another period of silence came.

“Do you really think they’d forgive me?” he asked eventually.

“Yes,” I reassured him. “I think they would.”

“And what if they don’t?”

“Then at least you’ll know. You’ll finally find out about your daughter.”

“Even if I find out that she’s dead? How would that make things easier?”

“It will hurt, but I’m pretty sure the uncertainty is hurting you more. Knowing will at least give you some closure… a chance to finally grieve.”

He just stared at his flower again, saying nothing.

“Who knows?” I continued. “Maybe you’ll find a bit of good news in all of it. Maybe you’ll find out that you have grandchildren who want to meet you. Wouldn’t it be worth it to get to know them?”

“I suppose so,” he agreed.

“Then what are you waiting for?”

“I’m still not sure what to expect. How do I just drop in after all this time and expect everything to go smoothly?”

“You said you never read your daughter’s letters,” I said after a moment. “Do you still have them?”

“I think so.”

“Then start by reading them! Take your time and read them all, no matter how long it takes, no matter how hard and painful it might be! Your daughter would have probably told you everything in them. They’ll prepare you if anything will!”

“Thanks. I think I’ll do that.”

He smiled.

“These were her favorite,” he offered me the flower in his hooves. “I won’t hold you up any longer, but I want you to know how much your reassurance means to me!”

“Oh, I can’t possibly take it - you should keep it!” I didn’t want to part him with his flower.

“Don’t worry! I have plenty of them growing around!” He winked, pointing to the clusters of the same flower scattered about the orchard.

“Thank you,” I said, accepting the flower. “I hope you’ll find what you’re looking for!”

“Thanks to you, I’m starting to believe I might,” he nodded and left, presumably to look for the letters.

I watched him go. He was such a nice pony, and so relatable; I was pretty sure we might have become friends over time! I wanted to tag along and get to know him better, but by doing so, I’d be intruding on a very personal moment. Instead, I decided to let him go look for his daughter or whatever legacy she might have left behind. I hoped for a happy ending for him and all the others involved in his story!

I looked at the flower now in my hooves. Whether or not the elderly stallion realized it, he’d given me some love along with that flower. I sipped a little bit that had come with his gratitude; it should be enough to ease my hunger for the day. The rest, the immense love for his daughter poured into this one flower, would remain untouched. It wasn’t mine to take, and I was going to leave it untouched no matter what!

Putting the flower in my mane, I spread my wings and flew over the fence again, returning to the road to the city.