• 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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Time Out

Just barely containing the intense wave of panic that threatened to collapse my disguise and expose me to the whole city, I fled back to the relative safety of the surrounding hills, hoping against hope that I might somehow figure out a way to deal with this unforeseen complication. I didn’t think there was a way through it, not one that would spare me from one terrible fate or another, anyway. Ponies were known to us as very protective of their offspring, and if I made a wrong move, I wouldn’t be the first changeling to have such a mistake become their last one. My own sister Costa could attest to that!

Still, I would at least try to make the best of my situation; I’d come too far to just give up, and this was the last place I could think of to try to make friends in! There may be some other part of Equestria I hadn’t been to, but how long would it take me to get there, and how could I be sure I’d find what I needed there if I’d failed so far? Could I even get out of the frozen wasteland with such treacherous weather waiting for me? It seemed unlikely! I’d just barely survived going through it once, and that was while I still had some leftovers of the elderly pony’s love! The journey here and the storm had exhausted even that! I was once again desperately hungry; but this time, I was determined to be a better changeling and resist the overwhelming urge to take any of the love that permeated the whole area, even if it was so plentiful that nopony would know the difference! I would stick to my earlier decision: unless somepony offered me some of that love freely, I wasn’t going to touch it. Failing to uphold that vow once had been more than enough!

Safely away from the city, I finally sat down on the ground to catch my breath. My mind was still a raging chaos, but things were finally falling into place. I understood now how this city had been able to produce such a massive aura of love! If this was the realm of the Princess of Love, then it made perfect sense her subjects would have more love in them than average ponies! All of the alicorn princesses were well loved and respected, which would be even more obvious here, among such love-filled ponies! Also, ponies in general cared a great deal about foals; from what I’d been taught in the hive and later witnessed during my time in Equestria, it was extremely hard to find one who didn’t love them. Add to the fact that this was a royal foal living in a place with disproportionately ample capacity for love, one could not expect the forming of anything else than such a glorious, beaming love-filled oasis!

I still didn’t quite understand how the heart-shaped crystal at the base of the castle fit into all of this. The most obvious explanation I could think of was that the crystal was a tool intended to announce the birth of a future leader and establish a celebratory environment - and the visual cues were certainly suggestive of such a purpose - but even if that was part of it, I couldn’t help but feel like there had to be more to it than that! The crystal seemed like an artifact of great power; I found it unlikely it would be used in mundane tasks such as royal announcements, even if the announcement was the birth of a royal baby!

But all this could wait for another time. I had to make a more important decision: to leave or to stay?

On the face of it, leaving was the sensible option. The Princess had been an admirable opponent for the changelings that had invaded Canterlot, and she only had herself and her stallion to defend at the time. Now, with a foal in the picture, she would stop at nothing to protect it! Under no circumstances would she allow even one changeling to exist anywhere close to the city! If she were to find out about me… I didn’t dare to imagine how it might end!

But where would I go? I’d already exhausted most, if not all, options in Equestria! I’d remained undetected in a few cities, but not everywhere, and by now, news of a changeling sighting in any of these places would have spread to the surrounding cities and villages. They would all likely be on heightened alert for intruders, so I wouldn’t be as safe there as I’d been the first time! Even if I were familiar with every possible changeling-detection technique and spell that undoubtedly existed, would I be able to consistently avoid them? And for how long?

Besides, would I even get anywhere? I’d barely reached this city already, and now I was exhausted and weakened by the storm that I’d had to fight! If the weather cooperated, I might reach a pony settlement in the warmer area, but what then? I’d be so utterly exhausted by then that my only hope of survival would be to assault and violate another pony, and that was absolutely out of question! If I got into another storm, however, I didn’t think I’d make it out. Taking the train didn’t seem like a very attractive option, either, considering how the last such experience had gone.

With a heavy heart, I came to realize I only had one option: unless something changed significantly to ensure my safe departure, I was staying here, whether I liked it or not. How much the decision to stay was influenced by the proximity of a limitless source of love and a hope to, maybe, one day be granted permission to share some of that love, I didn’t know, but now that the decision was made, for some odd reason, it felt like the right one, despite all the difficulties I was bound to face.

I got up and started walking. Now that I was staying here, I would need some kind of shelter. Bad weather may return, or it may not; if it did, I wasn’t going to sit it out in the open! But more importantly, I needed a place to hide from the ponies: a place where I could be myself without fear, where I could plan my approach undisturbed, a place I could retreat to if trouble arose. A home of sorts, no matter how gloomy!

I found such a place after several days of meticulously searching the outskirts of the city: an underground cave a few minutes of flying away from where the grass-covered meadow gave way to snow. It was unexpectedly warm inside despite the icy interior; not that I complained! Many crystals similar to some of the ones used as building blocks and decorations for the ponies’ homes glowed magically, their soft light reflecting off the icy surfaces and creating an unique, dreamlike ambient. Also, it wasn’t too close to the city, so I expected to have plenty of peace from uninvited guests; but not too far away either, so I’d always be able to visit. There were a number of spacious caverns, too, so I expected to discover plenty of hiding places within them in case somepony were to drop by.

So that was that: I’d reached my destination, and now I’d have to make the best of it! I still wasn’t quite sure how to proceed in regard to befriending ponies, especially with the alicorn princess and her foal to consider and evade, but I’d have all the time in the world to think of something!

Well, at least as much time as my near-depleted love reserves could spare me.

One thing did bring a smile on my face amidst all the worries, though: I could visit my flower on the hill and watch it grow and flourish.