• Published 6th May 2019
  • 3,211 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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Everypony’s reaction was much the same as the last time I’d been here: a collective worried gasp, followed by surrounding Flurry Heart’s basket to protect her; only this time, the guards formed a cordon in front of the throne, with the royalty behind their backs, and Spike and me at the sharp end of their spears. Just one word from their commander, and they would come crashing down on us! We wouldn’t stand a chance against them, and it would all be over before it began!

In addition, Princess Twilight erected a shield around the group at the throne.

I wanted to run; I wanted to fly far away from here, as far as my hooves and wings could take me, and find a dark hole in the ground to bury myself in and never come back! But Spike stood his ground, facing bravely the impending battle we had no real chance of winning… so I forced myself to do the same. He was doing this for me, and I wasn’t going to abandon him now!

“Spike, what are you doing? Get away from that thing!” Shining Armor stepped through the hole in Twilight’s shield she’d created for him, broke through the cordon of guards and tried to grab Spike to carry him to the other side of the room, where he’d be protected by the cordon and Twilight’s magic, currently only in the form of the shield, but possibly with additional spells any of them might cast as soon as everypony and dragon got safely away from me.

“No! He’s not a thing!” Spike pushed Shining Armor away and came closer to me. “His name is Thorax, and he’s my friend!”

The ponies gasped again; the guards tensed their muscles in preparation to strike, and Shining Armor’s scowl intensified. He wasn’t going to let it go so easily!

“You can’t seriously think this… this monster can be friendly?!” he demanded.

“I don’t think he is! I know he is! He saved my life twice today! And he never did anything to harm any of you!”

“Look, I don’t know what he’s been telling you, but it’s all a bunch of lies! He’s been planning this all along - getting you to trust him so you’d present him as his friend and give him a chance to attack when we least expect it!”

“And do what, exactly?”

“Feed on our love, of course! That’s all they ever do! We can’t let him harm Flurry Heart!”

“Cadance,” Spike now turned to the Princess. “You have the ability to sense love around you, right?”

“Yes,” she replied hesitantly. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“How much love is there in the Crystal Empire now?”

“About the same as ever since Flurry Heart was born. Why?”

“And that would be… a little, a lot, somewhere in between?”

“A lot. I haven’t sensed so much love anywhere in Equestria for as long as I can remember! But I told you that already when you arrived today! What’s your point?”

“My point is that Thorax was starving when I found him.”

“If he told you that-” Shining Armor interjected.

“He didn’t tell me... well, not before I’d figured it out on my own, anyway. I could hear his stomach growling as we talked, and a few times he even hissed in preparation to feed, but stopped himself every time! Only then he admitted his hunger!”

“Well of course he was hungry if he couldn’t get to anypony!” The Prince wasn’t convinced.

“He didn’t have to get to anypony! Like Cadance said, there’s so much love around here, plenty enough for him to sate himself many times over without having to drain ponies directly! Changelings can do that; he said so himself! And yet, in all that overflowing feast, I found him dying of starvation! How do you explain that?”

Nopony offered an answer. They just stood there, staring at the ground, then at Spike, then at each other, then at the ground again. Starlight leaned in to Twilight and whispered something to her. After a moment’s pause, Twilight whispered something back.

“Because he didn’t want to steal that love!” Spike finally stated. “He could have easily remained hidden and lived off the overflow of love from the city and you’d never know it! But he refused to take any love that wasn’t offered to him freely because his conscience wouldn’t let him! He knew and felt in his heart it was wrong, and he actively and continuously restrained his urge to feed, even when it would have saved his life! Does that sound like an evil, monstrous thing to do?”

“But you saw him hiss at Flurry Heart-” Shining Armor was persistent.

“That was a reflex!” I joined in; it was about time I started explaining myself. “I was still hungry but keeping my instincts reined in until then, but when I came close to her… there was so much love around her, I got overwhelmed and lost control over myself! But I never took any of her love, I swear!”

“Likely story!” Shining Armor got in my face.

“Have you ever seen a changeling drain love from a pony?” Spike asked him.

Shining turned to him, puzzlement written all over his face.

I have, back in Canterlot,” Cadance answered instead. “You were under Chrysalis’ spell and unaware of everything going on around you, dear, but I stood close enough to the window to see what was going on outside. Some of the changelings were feeding on the ponies in the streets.” She shuddered at the memory.

“Did you see Thorax do anything like that here, earlier today?” Spike encouraged her to continue.

“Well, he did hiss a lot… but I didn’t see the tendrils of love energy drained from Flurry, no,” she admitted, averting her eyes.

“Did you, Twilight? Starlight?”

They shook their heads.

“Did anypony else, guards included?”

No reply from anypony; just lowered gazes of a guard or two.

“If your intentions really are as good as you claim, then why didn’t you reveal yourself to us immediately when you first came here?” Shining Armor broke the silence. “Why go through all this trouble of hiding and pretending?”

“I was afraid,” I admitted. “Afraid I’d get thrown in prison, or tortured or killed just for being a changeling… afraid of Chrysalis finding out where I was and having me dragged back to the hive to get punished… afraid of throwing away every possible chance to make friends with anyone… All I ever wanted was to have a friend, but that was never going to happen in the hive! That’s why I escaped from there and risked everything!”

“So why not just give him a chance?” Spike added. “We’ve forgiven Luna when she strayed into darkness; we’ve accepted Discord as a friend even though he’d done nothing to deserve it; we’ve even embraced Starlight as Twilight’s student despite her messing with the timeline to avenge herself by keeping Twilight from ever meeting her friends in the past and creating a number of horrible alternate futures in the process! And Thorax hasn’t even done anything wrong; on the contrary, he’s trying to prove himself worthy of friendship! If we could look past the sins of others we call our friends today, why is it so hard to do the same for a changeling?”

“If that’s the case, why didn’t you say so when he allegedly lost control over himself and dropped his disguise?” Shining asked him. “If I remember correctly, you said you didn’t know why this changeling would be any different from all the others!”

“I chickened out,” he sighed. “Everypony here calls me brave and glorious, and that’s such a flattering title… but seeing you all so riled up against Thorax, I got scared I might lose that admiration and have you turn on me if I continued to claim something no pony wanted to believe! I realized my mistake immediately, but by then it was too late; Thorax had already fled and you all got down to chasing him, and I would have tried to explain it then but nopony was paying any attention to me anymore! So when I couldn’t get you to listen, I went looking for Thorax to at least apologize. It wasn’t easy for him, naturally, but he did, and I realized if he could give me another chance after what I’d done, you all should give him a chance as well... and I’m going to see that you do, no matter what it takes to convince you! That admiration and the ‘brave and glorious’ title I mentioned earlier? I don’t deserve it anymore; I forfeited it the second I betrayed my friend here!”