• Published 6th May 2019
  • 3,077 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?

  • ...

On the Wrong Hoof

I had barely walked a dozen steps when I heard a cheerful conversation approaching. I darted up the nearest tree to avoid getting noticed, and not a moment too soon! A mare and stallion, both carrying saddlebags filled to the brim with apples, were strolling leisurely under my branch, discussing their plans for tomorrow.

Ponies. I must be in Equestria!

Realizing my hasty ascent had disturbed the tree enough for a few leaves to fall off, I quickly disguised myself as an earth pony, thinking it would be least suspicious.

A leaf fell onto the stallion’s face, and he recoiled and looked up.

“Who are you? What are you doing in my tree?” he asked, startled.

“Um… I can explain…” I wasn’t so sure; no credible excuse came to mind.

Are you stealing my apples?!

“No - no I’m not! I’m just… um… well…”

“Get down here, thief!”

The stallion dropped the saddlebag off his back and bucked the tree I was on. A number of apples fell off.

I lost my balance and started to fall, but managed to grab the branch with my forelegs and remained dangling. I silently cursed my unfortunate choice of disguise; wings would have been very useful now!

After a few more failed attempts to buck me down and a bigger pile of apples on the ground, the stallion decided it was time to try a different approach, and went at my tail, which was unfortunately long enough for him to reach easily. I made a mental note to give myself a shorter tail next time, assuming there was a next time.

He was strong and pulled me off the branch quite easily, and I landed with a painful thud.

“Get the sheriff!” he yelled at his companion, who wasted no time in galloping away.

Before I could react, the stallion threw himself at me and started hitting me with the same vigour as any group of changelings that had ever beat me up before - only this time, Pharynx wasn’t around to stop him. I made a pathetic attempt of defending myself, but in the end all I managed to do was curl myself in a ball and wait until he had enough.

He did in what seemed like forever, and while hurting all over, I was relieved that he hadn’t knocked me out. It was impossible for an unconscious changeling to maintain a disguise, and if that had happened, my already bad situation would have become about a million times worse!

I was just pulling myself together when the mare arrived with a stern-looking stallion in tow. The sheriff, I presumed.

“Now what do we have here, Braeburn?” he asked the stallion, glancing at me inquiringly.

“I caught this crook stealing my apples!” Braeburn explained.

“Is that so?” the sheriff then turned his full attention to me, raising an eyebrow.

“I wasn’t stealing anything, Sir! I just happened to be here!” I tried to explain.

“What business did you have climbing branches, then, if you were ‘just passing through?’” Braeburn wasn’t having it. “Where did you come from, anyway? And how did you even climb that tree?”

I said nothing; I hadn’t had a chance to think of an explanation in all the ruckus.

“Well, the situation seems clear,” the sheriff agreed. “I’m going to have to lock you up. What’s your name?”

Not knowing what to tell him, I remained silent again.

“Not very talkative all of a sudden, are we? Maybe a night in the jail cell will loosen your tongue,” the sheriff frowned, reaching for something on his belt. “Forehooves!” he commanded.

I had no choice but to comply.

The sheriff cuffed me and turned back to Braeburn.

“You should come with us to the station. I’ll need a written statement before I can give this guy over to the court.”

“Sure, sheriff! Whatever needs to be done,” Braeburn agreed and took his saddlebag.

“I’ll stay here and collect these apples,” said the mare. “Unless you need a statement from me too, sheriff?”

“It's fine, ma’am,” he answered. “I will need that statement, but it’s not urgent, and anyway it’s getting late. I can find you tomorrow.”

So we went.

The sheriff’s station turned out to be on the other end of the village, and though it was getting dark, a lot of ponies, maybe even the entire village, were still out in the street. They got quite a show of me being taken to jail, or at least that was how it felt from my perspective. Disguised or not, it saddened me to think I wouldn’t be making any friends here - not in the foreseeable future, anyway.

The station was rather small, but probably an appropriate size for a village. Its jail consisted of only one cell, and it was empty and didn’t seem to be reinforced with any spells. That was the first bit of good news I’d gotten in this place: it should be easy to get out unless I picked a wrong moment! The sheriff locked me up and assigned a lone guard to keep an eye on me, then left with Braeburn, presumably to get that statement.

I sat on the cold floor in silence, pretending to regret what I’d allegedly done and consider my options, while actually biding my time until an opportunity for an escape presented itself. It took about an hour or two; the guard took his job seriously at first, but eventually got bored of staring at me and gradually dozed off. Believing he was guarding an earth pony, he probably didn’t see how I might manage to slip past him, and in case of an actual earth pony, he would have been right. This time, however, he was going to get in trouble. I didn’t like doing it to him, but I wasn’t about to risk being sent to prison - my true face was bound to be discovered there if not sooner, and then I’d be in real trouble, both from ponies and from Chrysalis if she found out I was there, which she undoubtedly would!

Turning into a mouse made it easy for me to slip through the bars and a crack in the main door, and then out into the street. A few ponies were still around, so either my preferred method of leaving would have to wait, or I’d have to move away to where they couldn’t see me. With no way to be sure how long I’d be stuck waiting, and not wanting to risk the guard waking up while I was still here even if I was disguised, only one option remained. At least it was dark enough for a mouse to run around unnoticed!

I only got a little bit away from the station when light and music drew my attention to one of the cottages. The door was wide open, and through it, I could easily see a number of ponies sitting inside and chatting cheerfully over some drinks. I was about to move on when I noticed two buffalo sitting at a table with three ponies, enjoying a conversation. The buffalo weren’t any of the ones that had led me here, but still it was an important discovery: they were friends with ponies, and it may have been safe to assume the ponies shared ownership of that orchard with the buffalo! Had the buffalo deliberately led me there hoping I’d get captured by the ponies? Had their politeness been just a bluff to lower my guard and get me to trust them long enough to be lured into a trap? Had they used this strategy before to capture other changelings? I couldn’t return to live here if I failed to find a friend in the rest of Equestria after all!

I hurried to the last cottage in town and hid behind it. After taking a good look around me to make sure no one would see what was about to happen, I transformed into a pegasus and flew away.