• Published 6th May 2019
  • 3,072 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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A Light in the Dark

I was lying near the edge of the crevice, shivering violently in the struggle to rein in my tortured mind that threatened to break under the pressure of my unimaginable hunger, when I heard a faint noise coming from a tunnel I’d discovered way back when I’d resorted to seeking refuge in the deeper chamber of my cave. It sloped upward, approaching the surface, but ultimately was a dead end, or so I’d thought at the time. Was I starting to hallucinate?

Not a moment later, the same noise sounded again, followed by a barely noticeable stream of light coming in, and a distinct startled scream, getting louder and closer.

A pony had fallen in!

I jumped on my hooves in apprehension. Was I about to be discovered after all? What should I do? Could I convince the pony that I meant no harm? Or would I make things even worse - for either or both of us?

Snowballs and chunks of rock came sliding in before I could do anything, even run for cover. Instinctively, I turned into a stalagmite right where I stood. Even if I could think of a different disguise that would be credible in this environment, there would be no time to adjust it. I was going to have to make do with the current one and hope my failing self-control wouldn’t give me away!

The terrified pony finally tumbled in, hidden momentarily by the mist of snow, still screaming as he went, and as luck would have it, I stood right in the way, too close to expect the pony to come to a halt before hitting me, even if it weren’t for the slippery ice. He would inevitably collide with me! I braced myself.

The impact stopped the pony, but it also threw me sideways, and, in my weakened state, knocked my disguise clean out of me in the process. The pony and I both needed a moment to compose ourselves, and we got up at about the same moment.

I realized then that my unexpected visitor was not a pony, but a little dragon - a purple one with a row of green spines along his head and back, and apparently wingless.

Unfortunately, he too recognized me immediately for what I was.

“Changeling!” he gasped, taking a step back… a step too near the crevice.

“Look out!” I tried to warn him, but a moment too late. He’d already stepped into nothing and was lost to my sight, once again screaming!

I threw myself head-first into the crevice right after him. Whether I’d acted willingly or instinctively, I didn’t know, but it didn’t matter: if I’d occupied any other spot in the cave, the dragon wouldn’t have collided with me, and though he would have tumbled a little further into the cave before coming to a halt, he might not have fallen into the crevice! It was my fault he’d fallen in! I had to save him - I’d never forgive myself if I failed!

Thankfully, I managed to reach the dragon before he hit the bottom. I grabbed his tail with my mouth, careful to avoid sinking my venomous fangs into him, and buzzed my wings to slow down his fall until we were hovering steadily in place.

“Wha… what the-” was all he managed to utter upon realizing he was no longer falling, casting me a puzzled glance.

I carried him out of the crevice, back onto solid ground of the cavern he’d tumbled into, landing between him and the crevice in case he decided to run again.

“That was unexpected,” he said to himself as I put him down.

“Are you alright?” I could finally ask.

“You… saved me?” He was incredulous.

“It’s okay. I know you don’t want to be friends,” I said dejectedly, turning to go away so I wouldn’t frighten him anymore.

“Wait… I don’t understand! Aren’t changelings evil?” he persisted.

I turned back. Was he actually… willing to give me a chance? Was this the moment I’d been waiting for all along? Did I dare to hope something might come out of this? I would try, of course! I would do my best to make friends with this dragon! It may still not be enough, but this was probably the best chance I would get to fulfill my dream, if not the last one I would live to see; I wasn’t going to waste it!

“Well… I guess you could say that most changelings are, but I’ve always been different. All I’ve ever wanted is a friend, ever since I can remember! But like you said, changelings are evil and violent, and none of them ever cared about sharing a friendship! And I tried - believe me, I tried my best to get them to realize that friendship might be a good thing! You can probably guess how it went. It wasn’t until the invasion of Canterlot that I-”

“You were there?!” the dragon recoiled.

“Yes, but it wasn’t by choice! I was deployed there, and had to follow orders! I never attacked a single pony throughout the battle! I just hovered around, avoiding all contact! I know you’ll blame me for not stopping the other changelings, and I understand completely! I blame myself for not having done that, but at the time I didn’t know I had that choice… well, maybe I did, but I’d have gotten punished for making it, so…”

“Okay, that makes sense, but what does the invasion have to do with anything?”

“The invasion was when I first got a glimpse of a society other than the one I’d grown up in, and the first time I got to witness friendship! It was so wonderful, way better than anything I could have ever dreamed of! I couldn’t just steal it and feed on its love like the rest of the invading changelings did! I wanted to share it!”

“I’m guessing you didn’t get the chance.”

“You’re guessing right. But later, back in the hive, I tried. I did my best, tried harder than ever before, but the other drones were as obstinate as ever, if not more, and I was getting in trouble all the time! Eventually I realized that it was pointless and that I couldn’t live with them anymore. I escaped the hive and set out looking for friendship, but wherever I went, I got chased away. It’s happening here too - I don’t think they’ve stopped looking for me yet.”

“Why don’t you go somewhere else, then?”

“There’s so much love in the Crystal Empire right now - that’s what drew me here - and part of me is still hoping to get permission to share some of that love. I’m not sure I have any reason to hold on to that hope, but by now I’m starving and too weak to make the journey out, even if I could get past the guards and any security measures and traps they must have set up for me, and being so close and yet so far from all this love is driving me crazy!”

“If there’s that much love here like you say, couldn’t you just feed on it without draining a pony?”

A mention of that possibility triggered a hiss that startled the dragon, so much that he might have fallen into the crevice again if I wasn’t standing in the way.

“Sorry - sorry! I’m just so hungry I can hardly control myself!” I apologized. “To answer your question, yes, I could, but I’d sworn to myself I wouldn’t take any love at all unless it was shared with me freely. Taking the excess love from the whole city wouldn’t be any better than stealing it directly from ponies! If I had a friend, maybe the love we shared could sustain me, but I refuse to take unshared love even if it would save my life, and from what I’ve seen so far, the crystal ponies don’t want to be friends with me!”

The dragon pondered this for a moment.

“What if I told you there was someone they respect and admire so much, he could convince them to give it a try?” he finally suggested.

“If only that were true,” I sighed.

“It is - I mean, I am! I’m Spike the Brave and Glorious!”

The name meant nothing to me, and I tilted my head in confusion.

“Come on, I’m sure you’ve heard of me! I saved the Crystal Empire twice!”

“No, I’m sorry. I didn’t even know Crystal Empire existed until I got here,” I explained. “Anyway, I’m Thorax. I can’t believe you want to help me!” I meant it.

“What’s so hard to believe? Hasn’t anypony ever been nice to you?”

Another hiss came. Spike recoiled at it again, but at least it didn’t look like he was about to flee anymore.

“Sorry! No, everypony who ever saw my real face either ran away in terror or tried to capture or kill me. By now I’ve given up hope of ever finding a friend!”

“Well, you have one now, and I’m pretty sure I can get the whole Crystal Empire to be your friend in no time!”

I lost control momentarily and hissed again; Spike barely winced this time.

“But… maybe I should talk to them before bringing you along, okay?”

I nodded half eagerly, half cautiously.

“Well then… hold tight, I’ll be right back!”, he waved to me as he turned back to the tunnel he’d fallen through and began climbing.

“Bye”, I waved back.

I stood there frozen in place long after Spike had left. The encounter with the dragon seemed too good to be true! He seemed honest about his intentions, but did he really have that much power and influence? Could he really sway the crystal ponies in my favor? Even if he couldn’t, it warmed my heart immensely to know I may have finally found the friend I’d been looking for all along! I just wished it hadn’t had to happen at the risk of his life!

A while later, I realized the cave was unusually silent. Soon I figured out why: my stomach had stopped growling!