• Published 6th May 2019
  • 3,070 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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Uneasy Night

The night was warm and tranquil, hardly even a breeze in the air. The stars twinkled like jewels, and the full moon shone brightly on the land below me. No living thing disturbed the calming silence, not even the soft rustle of my diguised wings. Were I not so burdened by the recent events, I would have enjoyed this moment.

Flying alone over the sleeping scenery, I couldn’t help but reflect on today’s experiences. In just one day there had been good times and bad times, hopes and worries, chances and troubles. At a first glance there was not much to be satisfied with, but I felt like something useful may have come out of it after all.

I hadn’t made a friend, but I had come in contact with non-changelings, and although the encounters ultimately hadn’t gone the way I would have wanted, I took great comfort in the realization that ponies and buffalo were much more civilized than changelings, even when dealing with intruders, and even if they may jump to conclusions. Actually, were they jumping to conclusions at all? Or had I simply failed to state my intentions clearly enough? I didn’t think so, but with so little experience with them, I didn’t want to entirely rule out that possibility.

The one thing that raised my hopes of finding a friend more than anything so far was my encounter with Little Strongheart. Even if the reputation of my kind had been unknown to her, she should have been frightened by my sharp fangs and disgusted by the holes in my legs, but she hadn’t been! She’d seemed to genuinely care about my well-being when she should have backed away! Even when her father had told her about the sins of my kind, she hadn’t seemed to believe I was personally capable of committing such atrocities! If only I’d had a chance to talk to her later! Maybe - hopefully - I would find someone like her again!

As for Braeburn and his friend, I could understand why they’d thought I was a thief. I didn’t blame him for what he’d done to me; the punches had almost stopped hurting by now. I didn’t blame the sheriff, either; he’d just been doing his job. It was my fault, really. I should have chosen a different disguise, or thought of a credible explanation of my actions sooner, or just plain found a different hiding spot from the start!

I made a decision: if I ever got accepted into pony society, I would find Braeburn and the sheriff and apologize to them for causing that mess. If they still wanted to send me to prison after hearing me out, I wouldn’t resist.

The buffalo were another matter. They’d made it clear enough from the start that they didn’t like changelings; that much I had no big problem accepting. What I might have a problem with was that I couldn’t be sure exactly how honest they’d really been. Leaving me in the middle of the orchard had seemed odd from the start, and I wished I’d asked for an explanation right away! Now I could only guess whether they’d been simply getting rid of me in the easiest way possible or delivering me to the ponies in the hope someone else would exact punishment on me, maybe a kind of punishment they had no guts to resort to themselves. Or had the group that had accompanied me out of their territory decided on a whim where to take me? They hadn’t said a word to each other throughout the trip! Had they communicated their intentions some other way? Had one of them, the oldest or the highest-ranking among them perhaps, chosen a destination or direction randomly and the others had simply followed? Or was the orchard their default location for disposing of unwanted visitors? It was possible, considering their leader hadn’t specified a location where they were to take me; he wouldn’t have had to if that was the case! And what about the buffalo I’d spied in the pony village after escaping from jail? What had their business been? They may have come there simply to enjoy themselves and chat with friends, unaware that a changeling had visited their village, but even such a normally benign scenario could have an outcome undesirable for me: the buffalo would sooner or later mention the changeling visitor to their pony friends, and the ponies would then go on high alert and possibly spread the word to other cities and villages, which would make my quest considerably harder and more dangerous! Whether or not they came to suspect that the runaway apple thief had been in any way related to the changeling from the buffalo village wouldn’t really matter anymore; the alleged apple theft would be an insignificant matter compared to charges of invading an enemy territory or whatever else the ponies might come up with! Even if I would get forgiven for, well, simply existing in Equestria - which was extremely unlikely - I feared such grave charges would prevent me from ever earning enough trust from ponies to succeed in befriending them!

I forced a halt on that train of thought before my paranoia could invent any even more frightening scenarios. For all I knew, the orchard may have simply been the closest location outside of their territory! If that was the case, it would have been logical to take me there if they were trying to get me away as quickly as possible, with or without ulterior motives. Either way, I wouldn’t consider returning to live near them if I failed to find friends elsewhere; without knowing for sure whether or not I could trust them, I didn't want to take any further risks.

By the time I finally managed to get the buffalo out of my head and calm myself a little, I was flying over another village in the wasteland. Should I try looking for friends here, or should I move on?

I descended to take a closer look at the village. It wasn’t too different from the previous one, where I’d gotten arrested. It was roughly the same size, with about the same number of houses, built in a similar style as the ones in the other village. If I hadn’t known better, I might have thought I was still in the same village! There was even an orchard near one end of it, too, only this one grew cherries.

Pondering the matter for a while, I decided to move on. The images of my experiences in Braeburn’s village were still too fresh, and considering my current state of mind, I didn’t want to risk those images surfacing in front of ponies in the form of suspicious behavior. I could put on a different disguise, sure, and no one would know that I was the pony who’d escaped from the neighboring village’s jail tonight; but if the two villages were keeping in touch about these matters, finding out about a fugitive from there and seeing an unfamiliar face here the very next day might raise some questions, for example whether I might be a friend or an accomplice of that fugitive, and I’d be in trouble again. Better not risk it!

I left the village without even landing in a street, and proceeded in roughly the same direction I’d been flying in before having noticed the village. Eventually I became aware of a change in scenery below me. Rocks and dust were replaced by grass and trees, and the dryness of the air gave way to the scent of flowers. This was the type of Equestrian scenery I was familiar with: the same kind as that of the fields and mountains surrounding Canterlot. Before the invasion, we’d been instructed to conceal ourselves there by pretending to be rabbits and squirrels and songbirds while waiting for the signal to proceed with the mission. I decided to assume the same kind of wildlife would be found here; this would solve my problem of picking a suitable disguise to blend in with the surroundings.

I didn’t see any towns or villages in the immediate area, so the disguise wouldn’t be necessary right away, and I dropped my current one. Besides, I was getting tired. I decided to take a break and continue tomorrow.

I landed in a copse a little away from a road. According to what I’d been told about ponies, they didn’t have a habit of sleeping in the open like this, therefore I should be safe enough from unwanted attention here. I found a bush large enough to accomodate me, crawled under it, curled up and fell asleep.