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A True Father

shukaku20 May 6th, 2013 1,850 Never
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  1. >A True Father.
  2.  
  3. >Standing at the edge of your second home, you stare into the scattered darkness of the trees.
  4. >The locals fear this place, but to you, it is your lifeblood, your food and your shelter.
  5. >To you, it is survival.
  6. >Living off the land, never taking what couldn't come back, it's a life the ponies don't understand too well.
  7. >It's true, they may grow their own food, and care for the plants like their own, but it doesn't compare.
  8. >Food satchel at your side, you start on your trek back to your house.
  9. >The path is scarcely worn, testament to how rarely you have visitors.
  10. >Not that you are bothered by the fact; quite the contrary actually.
  11. >Solitude has always been something you sought, and here, in this land of colorful, friendly equines, you have found it.
  12. >At several stops along the way, you pause to gather mushrooms nearing the end of their life, and fruit that are freshly fallen.
  13. >Everything feels routine, but today, you will find something that will threaten not only your solitude, but your life as well.
  14. >Taking a moment to leave the path, you seek out a copse of trees that often have bird nests.
  15. >Several of the newer birds chirp angrily at you, while some of the senior ones come down to visit.
  16. >A handful of crumbs from some fresh bread, and they flit around you, singing happily and snacking.
  17. >Digging through the underbrush, you search for any eggs that may have fallen from the nest and survived.
  18. >One of the older birds, a slightly faded yellow one, jumps around on a rather large pile of leaves.
  19. >Brushing aside the leaves, you come across a curious sight.
  20. >An all too large, green egg that is still faintly warm to the touch.
  21. >Gingerly wrapping your fingers around it, you slowly lift it to your ear.
  22. >At first, you hear nothing, but soon a faint pulse reaches your ear.
  23. "Still hanging in there, huh. Good thing you were covered, or you might have frozen."
  24. >None of the birds show any interest in it, though this won't be the first time you've hatched a bird egg.
  25. >Gently wrapping the egg in spare cloth, you put it safely in your bag to keep warm.
  26. >After spreading a few more crumbs for the birds, you head off down the path to home again.
  27. >Leaves crackle underfoot as you approach the tree that you live in, a sure sign of autumn approaching.
  28. >At first, you were appalled by the thought of living in a tree, but after seeing the Library and some persuasion, they managed to convince you to let them make one for you.
  29. >The oak door opens silently under your touch, the last of the warmth in the house escaping past you.
  30. >Taking a deep breath, you inhale the deep, natural aroma of the wood, along with the scents of the few foodstuffs left in your low-tech kitchen.
  31. "I'm home!" you call out to the empty house, not even an echo returning.
  32. >Setting your jacket on a hook by the door, you take your satchel with you to the kitchen, and begin emptying it.
  33. >Some apples from apple vendor in exchange for some exotic fertilizers, a loaf of bread from Sugarcube corner for wild raspberries.
  34. >Everything you could not obtain yourself, you got through trade, despite how often the ponies simply offered to buy them.
  35. >Food in its place, you pull out the last thing in your bag, the egg.
  36. >Carrying it, still wrapped up in the cloth, you sit down on your bed, laying it in your lap.
  37. "Let's see how you are doing, little one."
  38. >With careful motions, you unwrap the egg from its containing fabric.
  39. >Still just as warm, the egg sits in your palm, and you gently run your other hand over it.
  40. >Seemingly reacting to your motion, it gives a faint twitch, growing warmer.
  41. >Re-wrapping the egg, you set it in a small nest of blankets to keep it warm while you find your carrier.
  42. >A simple mechanism that you got as a gift after Fluttershy learned you would raise eggs that survived falls from the nest.
  43. >It's designed to hold the egg close to your chest, but also protect it from breaking, even if you were to fall on it.
  44. >With a few practiced knots, you have the carrier attached and ready for the egg.
  45. >Turning back to the egg, you notice a small change in it.
  46. >It has visibly grown, but not by a lot.
  47. >While before, it fit nicely within your palm, now it sticks over the edges a bit.
  48. >This was the first sign that the egg wasn't quite what it seemed.
  49. >Your second clue came several days later, during a foraging trip.
  50. >While tracking an old stag, one who would likely not survive the winter, you find him in a clearing.
  51. >It seems your precautions weren't enough, and he knew you were following.
  52. >Most of the species here are sapient to some degree, as you have found out, and the deer are no exception.
  53. >This one knew his time was up, but he was also not going to go down without a fight.
  54. >What few creatures you took were ones that would not survive long.
  55. >The seriously injured and the extremely old, but even so, news of your actions made it to Fluttershy.
  56. >Boy was that a stern tongue lashing from such a soft-spoken mare.
  57. >There is a sort of respect, between you and nature, and both sides understand it.
  58. >The stag would not run and let nature sort it out, and you would not disrespect them in taking their life, nor would you waste it.
  59. >Eyeing you as you step into the clearing, the stag lets out a few snorts but makes no move to leave.
  60. >Undoing the straps holding the egg in place, you carefully set it to rest at the bottom of a tree.
  61. >While you don't plan on dying, getting hit in the chest is a very likely outcome.
  62. >And you'd rather not have the death of an innocent that could have been prevented on your hands.
  63. >Rising and facing the buck, you ready the only weapon you even use; your body.
  64. >Unlike guns or knives, it will only fail when you yourself fail.
  65. >It will never jam up at a critical moment, and unlike guns and knives, it makes the kill real.
  66. >When you kill with a gun, it has the tendency to make the kill feel distant, like you aren't involved in it, a knife is little better.
  67. >Killing something with your bare hands makes you feel it happen and makes you know you are erasing a life.
  68. >Now focused on the stag, you start slowly approaching, while starting to circle him.
  69. >This old deer is experienced, he turns only enough to keep you in view, conserving what energy he has, as well as attempting to hide the limp on his back left leg.
  70. >A problem that would have guaranteed his death in the coming winter.
  71. >With all the information you gathered by circling, you steel yourself for the fight.
  72. >Back foot digging in, you prepare to charge, much like the stag, who lowers his still impressive rack.
  73. >All it will take is one mistake, and you will find yourself impaled, but he faces the same problem.
  74. >If you catch him, he will be dead in the next moment, neck snapped painlessly.
  75. >Propelling yourself forward, you run straight at him, and he charges at well.
  76. >Swerving down and to the left, you aim a punch at its injured leg, but it evades, spinning around on its fore hooves.
  77. >Rolling to the side, you avoid his second charge, before setting yourself for his third.
  78. >He may be smarter than the dear you are used to hunting, but he is still an animal, and his movements are predictable.
  79. >A straight forward charge, while at the same time protecting his injured leg.
  80. >This may work on most predators, but few of the ones here are truly intelligent, not like yourself.
  81. >Avoiding his third charge, you manage to catch him in the good back leg with a sweeping kick, making him stumble.
  82. >Getting back to his hooves before you can do anything further, he readies himself, but the damage is already done.
  83. >With both back legs injured, this new charge lacks the speed of the prior ones, and you have no trouble avoiding it and using his momentum to swing onto his back.
  84. "You fought well, may you find peace as your spirit rests."
  85. >In a single fluid motion, you grab hold of his antlers and twist, snapping his neck.
  86. >His body collapses, and you roll to the side to avoid getting pinned.
  87. >Preparing to start moving the body, you hear faint growling and rustling behind you, over where you left the egg.
  88. >A lone timberwolf prowls around the tree, sniffing at the air and pawing around, but for some reason, it can't see the egg in its holder.
  89. >Without hesitation, you abandon your kill, running at the wolf.
  90. >Letting out an intimidating roar, you see the wolf suddenly look up at you, before sprinting away.
  91. >As you reach for the bundle where the egg should be, you see a flicker of green, before what looks like straps changes back to the normal green of the egg.
  92. >Running your fingers over it, you look for any cracks or signs the wolf may have damaged it, but find none.
  93. "You're quite the little egg, aren't you?" you ask it, not expecting any sort of response.
  94. >You find yourself surprised, when the egg gives a small twitch, and grows a quarter inch or so.
  95. >Shaking your head, you set the egg back in place before strapping it on.
  96. >The deer remains where you left it, and you heft it onto your back.
  97. >After thanking the forest for the clean, merciful kill, you start the long process of hauling the body home.
  98. >Every part had its use, and you plan on using them all.
  99. >Meat, quite obviously gets smoked and stored, the skin stretched and tanned for use.
  100. >One antler, you keep intact, a memento of the fight, while the other is carved into assorted small trinkets and tools for trade.
  101. >The intestines and other choice organs are set out for the wolves, the bones as well.
  102. >As you methodically butcher the carcass, your thoughts keep wandering to the egg on your chest.
  103. >How was it able to hide from the highly tuned senses of a timberwolf?
  104. >Why does it keep growing suddenly?
  105. "It looks like an early trip to town is in store."
  106. >The journey proved to be fruitless, as neither Twilight, nor Fluttershy knew anything, though both showed interest in it.
  107. >Fluttershy, as with all eggs you have raised showed concern for its wellbeing, and insisted she perform an examination on it, which showed no irregularities.
  108. >Twilight, on the other hand was far more interested in its abilities, but agreed to delay any testing until it had hatched for safety.
  109. >Few others showed any interest, though the egg was concealed for the most part.
  110. >After a rather surprising incident with Pinkie, involving her wanting to set up a hatching party, you found the egg had grown once again, approaching the size of a large cantaloupe.
  111. >In the days following the visit, the egg has grown rapidly, reaching a final size similar to a football.
  112. >Which brings you to today, with the egg showing its first signs of hatching.
  113. >At first, it was only twitching slightly, which it often did, especially when you set it down, but it rapidly increased, to the point where you were having difficulty holding on.
  114. >With no time to contact anyone, you opt to make a makeshift delivery nest out of spare blankets and set water on your wood fire stove to heat.
  115. >The egg shifts somewhat violently in the nest of blankets, but you made sure the edges were high enough to prevent it slipping out.
  116. >Small, hairline cracks start forming all along the top, and you ready a warm, damp cloth to clean off any mess.
  117. >Your suspicions are correct, as the first small hole is formed, a thick, green liquid starts oozing out.
  118. >More cracks and holes slowly form, and the violent shaking calms somewhat as whatever is coming out starts focusing its energies.
  119. >A larger chunk cracks off, and you help by pulling loosened pieces away.
  120. >Through the green goop, you can make out a vague black shape squirming and pushing against the egg.
  121. >There is a sharper crack, and a small black horn pops out of the top for a moment, leaving a perfectly round hole behind.
  122. >This causes you a moments pause, wondering what sort of creature comes from an egg and has a horn or horns.
  123. >More cracks and chips form, and the egg starts crumbling.
  124. >Pulling the pieces apart, you help speed the process, and soon, there is a small rush of goop, and what is left sitting there, is a small, black, pony-looking thing.
  125. >The top of the shell has fallen back down, and rests on its horn, and you carefully lift it up and off.
  126. >As you do, its large eyes open wide, a vivid blue looking up at you.
  127. >Despite its somewhat odd appearance, you can't help but smile at its adorableness.
  128. >Bringing over the warm cloth, you start gently wiping away the thin sheen of goop on it, and it squirms in your grasp.
  129. "Hey now, calm down a bit, I'm just cleaning you off."
  130. >Slowly, you manage to clean the little creature's face, and pick it up.
  131. >Unlike a human child, it seems capable of holding itself, and with its small size, you have no problems holding it.
  132. >Lifting it into better light, you get a small surprise by the small holes in its limbs and ears, as well as when small wings start buzzing on its back, just above where you are holding it.
  133. >Wrapping it, him after a quick check, in a towel, you set him in the middle of the bed while you start cleaning.
  134. >Even though he had just hatched, the little creature seems quite content to lie alone for the time being.
  135. >Thanks to your preparations, it doesn't take much to clean up the area, but some serious work would be needed to get the blankets clean again.
  136. >The moment you step outside to hang the blankets, you are stopped by a small cry.
  137. >Stepping back inside, the little thing goes quiet again, until you try and leave the house again.
  138. >Setting the blanket aside, you walk over and pick up your new bundle, who looks back at you with his bright blue eyes.
  139. "You don't want to be left alone, huh?"
  140. >With him in one arm, you are able to take the dirty blankets outside and hang them up.
  141. >The whole time, he lets out little gurgles of happiness, hardly squirming at all.
  142. >As you walk back inside, he makes the first small cries of hunger and you head straight to the kitchen.
  143. "Now, how am I going to feed you...?"
  144. >You rarely have any milk, so that's out of the question.
  145. >Mushrooms and berries are far too risky, leaving you hardly any options.
  146. >Some bread, an apple and a lot of dried deer.
  147. >To distract him, you carefully stick the tip of your pinkie into his mouth, which he begins happily sucking on.
  148. >While you try and decide what to feed him, he clamps down a bit, tiny, but sharp teeth drawing blood from your finger.
  149. >Wincing in pain, you look down at him, eyes closed in contention.
  150. >After a moment, he lets go, eyes still closed and drifts to sleep.
  151. "You are quite the strange creature, little one," you say, cradling the small black thing in your arms.
  152. >After a few minutes of gentle rocking to make sure he is asleep, you carefully lay him on your bed and cover him with a blanket.
  153. "Another early trip to town is in order, I guess."
  154. >Quickly and quietly moving around the house, you prepare what few things you have ready for trading.
  155. >Not even half the antler carvings are ready, and you have no spare food.
  156. >Sighing as you look at the near empty bag, you set it by the door and turn to the other thing you need to bring to town.
  157. >The egg carrier is too small to hold him, and carrying him isn't an option.
  158. >The Everfree is far too dangerous for that; your hands need to be free at all time.
  159. >With the extra blankets dirty, your options keep getting smaller and smaller.
  160. >Pulling open the doors to your closet, you dig through the few possessions you have.
  161. >A few pieces of winter clothing, a suit, an old magazine from before you arrived here.
  162. >Nothing that really screams baby carrier.
  163. >Wracking your brain for something to use, you wander the house.
  164. >The deer hide isn't ready and besides, the ponies don't much like leather and hide because of its origins.
  165. "Even though you are asleep, you're still causing me troubles," you say, sitting on a chair next to the bed.
  166. >The little black creature lets out a small yawn, before shifting in his sleep.
  167. "Guess I'll have to risk it then..."
  168. >Pulling on your jacket, you put on your satchel as well, before getting ready to pick up the creature.
  169. >While it is still wrapped in the towel, you take and wrap a sheet around it as well for warmth.
  170. >Cradled in one arm, it shows no signs of waking, even as you step outside and close the door behind you.
  171. >The journey to town passes without incident, due in part to the fact many would-be aggressors avoid your scent.
  172. >Nearing town, he starts to stir, and you decide to head to Fluttershy's first, as she may be able to help with whatever needs he may have.
  173. >From where you exit the forest, it is a brief and quiet walk to Fluttershy's house.
  174. >Everything looks as it usually does, a veritable pandemonium of animals, and in their midst, a yellow pegasus.
  175. >With the little one awake, you call out to Fluttershy to alert her to your presence.
  176. "Hello Fluttershy, how are you doing today?"
  177. >Looking up from her work, she spots you and the bundle in your arms, and with an uncharacteristically loud squeak, she runs over.
  178. >"Did the egg hatch? What is it? Are they alright?"
  179. "Yes it did hatch," you start, kneeling down, "I'm not sure what it is and I was hoping you or Twilight could help. So far as I can tell, he is alright, but I was hoping you could help with that as well."
  180. >The moment Fluttershy sees it, she lets out another squeak, but this one was distinctly different.
  181. >"You... you need to get rid of that, Anonymous! It's a changeling and they are mean, nasty guys."
  182. "What are you talking about Fluttershy, He's harmless."
  183. >Vigorously shaking her head, she backs away, "They're really dangerous. They eat your love and make you do bad things. Please, just get rid of it."
  184. >Before you can respond, she runs inside, many of her animals running off as well.
  185. "That wasn't very helpful, or polite for that matter," you muse, looking down at the half-awake changeling in your arms.
  186. >He looks back up at you with his big blue eyes before letting out a small gurgling sound.
  187. "There's no point in staying here, I guess. Let's go into town and see what more I can learn."
  188. >Walking towards town, you think on what Fluttershy said, about him eating love.
  189. >It explains why the egg kept crowing whenever you showed concern or affection for it, and it also helped explain why it only sucked on your finger when it was hungry.
  190. >So lost in your thoughts, you don't see the trio of fillies approach until they are almost on top of you.
  191. >"Hey there Anonymous, watcha got there?" Applebloom asks with her typical southern drawl.
  192. "Hmm? Ah, Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, how are you all doing?"
  193. >"We're all awesome, but what about you? We heard you were hatching a strange egg."
  194. "I was, yes, but it hatched. Would you like to meet him?"
  195. >"Would we ever!"
  196. >The three girls huddle around as you sit down and hold out the changeling.
  197. >Almost immediately, they let off a chorus of "Dawwwww!"
  198. >"He's so cute, just like a newborn foal," Sweetie says.
  199. >"Are ya sure he came from an egg? He looks just lahk a pony."
  200. "Yep, he came from a bright green one. Next time I come to town, how about I bring some of the shell to show you?"
  201. >"Would you?" Scootaloo asks, "That would be really cool. Maybe you could let us bring it in for a show and tell once?"
  202. >Your little changeling seems to love the attention, as he makes many happy gurgles and smiles for the three of them.
  203. "I don't see why not, just as long as you are careful with it. Twilight wanted to take a look at it, and not a lot of big pieces came off when he hatched."
  204. >"We promise we'll be extra careful with it," Sweetie says, and all three of them raise a hoof to their heart, before Applebloom scuffs a hoof on the ground nervously.
  205. >"Do ya... do ya think we could hold 'im?" she asks, looking up at you with big eyes.
  206. >With a smile, you hold him out, and Applebloom sits down and holds him in her hooves.
  207. >"Awww, you're so lucky Applebloom, I wanna hold him," Scootaloo says, crowding in on her friend.
  208. "You can all have a turn, just be gentle. Remember, he is just a baby."
  209. >They nod enthusiastically and cluster around him, all five of you smiling.
  210. >Soon enough, you have to leave and you bid farewell to the energetic trio, your changeling once again in your arms.
  211. >Taking to the road again, you wave to ponys as you pass through the market on your way to Sugarcube Corner.
  212. >With Fluttershy not being any help, the only current parents in town are the Cakes, and they are the logical next stop.
  213. >Stopping at the door, you have a moment's pause, wondering how Pinkie may react if she found out.
  214. >So far, he has shown a love of attention, but a party may be too much right away.
  215. >Cautiously approaching the building, you see Mrs. Cake behind the counter, and glimpses of yellow in the kitchen.
  216. >Moderately sure Pinkie isn't there; you pick up the pace and step inside, the bell above the door announcing your arrival.
  217. >"Anonymous, I'm surprised to see you here so... Oh my, is that?"
  218. "Yes. Imagine my surprise when out of the egg popped this little guy. Anyways, I came because you and your husband would be the best source of advice."
  219. >Of course! come this way, we can discuss things," she says, motioning you to the stairs.
  220. >As you walk up, she explains to her husband what is going on before quickly following after you.
  221. >"We can talk in the twins room, they should be waking soon."
  222. >Stepping aside, you let her lead and she quietly enter the room, you shortly after.
  223. >As she predicted, the twins were just stirring, and with practiced precision, she gets them both out and onto her back.
  224. >"So, what all do you want to know?"
  225. "It might seem kind of demanding, but as much as you are willing to share."
  226. >"It's no trouble at all. In fact, I'm glad to see a new parent looking for information."
  227. >After setting the two down on the ground, she heads to a shelf and pulls of a few books.
  228. >"These books were helpful to us, since it was our first time as well."
  229. >The changeling lets out a small cry and starts shifting in his blanket, and you notice the foals attention turn to you.
  230. "Are you hungry?" you ask, holding your finger near his mouth, but he keeps squirming.
  231. >"Try letting him down, he might want to move," Mrs. Cake suggests.
  232. >Kneeling, you start unwrapping the blanket and towel, before setting him down on the ground.
  233. >Almost immediately, he starts trying to push himself up, but with little success.
  234. "Hard to believe he just hatched today."
  235. >"Not really; I may not know how human foals grow, but for ponys, this is about normal at this stage."
  236. "Wow, normally it takes a month or two to reach this stage for a human baby."
  237. >"Interesting; how long before they start crawling or walking?"
  238. "It can vary a lot, but crawling starts at earliest about four or five months, and walking a few months after that."
  239. >"Foals typically can crawl within a week or two. Walking takes a little longer."
  240. >As you watch, you see Pound and Pumpkin approach before sitting in front of him.
  241. >Pound slides a ball towards him, and he stops and looks at it.
  242. "Go ahead, roll it back."
  243. >You're not sure if he understood you, but he reaches one hole filled hoof out to the ball, and when he touches it, both Pound and Pumpkin smile.
  244. >He mirrors their expression before poking the ball harder, making it roll a little.
  245. >The two foals giggle, and nudge the ball back towards the changeling.
  246. >"Looks like they are getting along quite well."
  247. "Yeah. Looks like I may have to stop by town more often; to let them have playdates."
  248. >"I'm sure the twins would love that, and having others to help foalsit every once in a while would be wonderful."
  249. >"Cup, darling, I need a helping hoof down here, could you spare a moment?"
  250. "Go ahead, I can watch them for a while."
  251. >Nodding, she heads downstairs, leaving you, the twins and your changeling alone.
  252. >While the three infants play happily with the ball, you pick up one of the books Mrs. Cake is lending you, and open it to the first chapter.
  253. >You manage to get most of the first chapter read before you hear Mrs. Cake returning, and you close and set it, along with the others in your satchel.
  254. >"I hope the twins weren't any trouble."
  255. "None at all; the three of them seem to get along really well."
  256. >Stepping over, Cup Cake picks up Pound and Pumpkin, and you pick up your changeling and the wraps.
  257. "Thank you for the information, I will be sure to come and visit often, especially if I need some help."
  258. >"Of course. Take care, both of you."
  259. >Walking out of the shop, the bell above the door rings again, and you step out into the sunlight.
  260. >For the first time, your changeling looks uncomfortable, and he squirms to try and hide in your arms.
  261. >Wrapping him back up, including a corner to act as a hood, you see a rather large lack of ponys in the streets.
  262. >Those few who were there give you and your bundle uncomfortable looks.
  263. >Giving him a finger to suck on, you continue on your way, heading to Twilight's place.
  264. >Feeding him seems to calm him down at least, but you can tell he isn't feeling good.
  265. >It's a short walk from Sugarcube Corner to the Library, at least for you, and when you enter, you are surprised that there is no one in the main room.
  266. "Twilight, are you here?" you call out, looking around for any sign of the purple mare.
  267. >"Just a moment," is your reply from upstairs and you take a seat on one of the many chairs around the room.
  268. >Turning him so you can look at his face, the first thing he does is smile, and you smile back.
  269. "There’s no way you're bad, you're just too cute."
  270. >He gurgles his happiness, and there is a gasp from the staircase behind you.
  271. >"Anonymous! Get away from that!" Twilight yells out, and before you can do anything, a shockwave of magic rips the changeling from your hand and sends it across the floor.
  272. >Twilight rushes to your side, and the moment she does, you pivot and bring your hand across her face it a loud slap.
  273. "What the fuck is wrong with you?!" you yell angrily, moving over to pick up your crying changeling, "He's what hatched from the egg, and your treating him like this?!"
  274. >His crying lessens only slightly as you pick him up, but apparently Twilight doesn't agree with this.
  275. >Her magic wraps around him, trying to pull him from your grip, but you cut her off by kicking a chair at her head.
  276. >"Anonymous! Will you let got of that THING, and listen to me? It's dangerous, and it's probably already manipulating you."
  277. "No, you listen to me. He hatched today, he's barely six hours old and you're telling me he is dangerous? He's a baby, for fucks sake, get a hold of yourself."
  278. >The reaction you get back is far from what you expected.
  279. >Twilight sits down, a look of sadness on her face.
  280. >"I knew this would happen, letting you live in the Everfree, alone. I just wish it wasn't me who had to do this."
  281. "What are you talking about?"
  282. >"In case something took over you, we prepared a spell designed specifically to stop you..."
  283. >Magic starts to charge, and you take a step back, towards the door.
  284. >"ANONYMOUS!" She calls out, tears in her eyes, "If you're still in there and can hear me, just try and stay still, I'll save you!"
  285. "I can hear you just fine, Twilight. There's nothing wrong with me, it's all of you."
  286. >Changeling crying in your arms, you dash for the door, Twilight getting up and starting after you.
  287. >Outside, you make a break for the alleyways, but you are blocked off by several ponys.
  288. >The Library door opens, and you turn and sprint down the street.
  289. >"Anonymous, please, stop so I can save you."
  290. >Street after street, you run, but all the roads leading towards the edge of town are blocked off by ponies and wagons.
  291. >Ahead, the exit closest to the Everfree is blocked, and by Lyra, no less.
  292. >One of the few ponies you would call a friend here stands in your way, a mixture of sadness and anger on her face.
  293. >"Anonymous... How... how can you be letting yourself get controlled by that 'THING'?"
  294. "Not you too, Minty..."
  295. >Letting your head drop, you take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
  296. "I'm sorry..."
  297. >Head down and arms wrapped tightly around your changeling, you rush the line of ponies and carts.
  298. >Some dive aside, while others stay and get knocked down as you plow through.
  299. >Lyra stayed and took your charge head on, despite being hardly a third of your size and mass.
  300. >Like the others, she is tackled aside, and after shoving past the flimsy carts, you pause a moment to look back, tears leaking down your face.
  301. "I'm sorry..."
  302. >Slightly blurred, you see Lyra rolling to her feet and the purple form of Twilight come around the corner.
  303. >With a heavy heart, you turn back to the woods and start running.
  304. "First Fluttershy, now Twilight and even Lyra..."
  305. >Looking down at your bundle, you see he's calmed down but is in no way as happy as he was earlier.
  306. >Feeling safe with the distance you have made, you slow to a stop, sitting against a tree.
  307. "Why is all this happening? I don't care what you are and neither should they; you're just a baby."
  308. >He lets out a small grumble of discontent, after which you rub his head gently.
  309. >This seems to cheer him up, and the smile he has sported almost the whole time since he was hatched comes back.
  310. >With him cradled close to your chest, you set back along the trail to home, a tumult of emotions running through you.
  311. >Catching some of the last rays of sunlight, your massive oak tree home looms in the distance, stress slowly seeping from you.
  312. >Inside, you hang up your coat and satchel, before preparing a cradle made of four chairs and some rope, along with all your extra clothes for padding.
  313. >It may not be the most attractive thing, but for your purposes, it will do.
  314. >Letting out small cries the moment you set him down, he quickly calms when he sees you climb into bed barely five feet away.
  315. "Goodnight little one, I'll try and figure out what's going on in the morning."
  316. >He doesn’t immediately go to sleep, but it isn't long before you can see his tiny chest rise and fall with slow, steady breaths.
  317. >Not long after, you join him in Luna's realm of dreams.
  318. >The night passes, and you only have to wake once to feed him, after which he promptly drifts off again.
  319. >Warm sunlight slowly fills the room as you wake in the morning, and before its beams can reach him, you pick up your changeling.
  320. >Setting him down on the counter, you start preparing breakfast, a deer patty on toast.
  321. >Your knife cuts out two slices of bread, and you throw them onto the a pan, before starting to heat the stovetop.
  322. >Rummaging through your coolerbox, you pull out a small cut of deer, and set this in the pan beside the toast.
  323. >The toast crisps up quickly, and you pull it off before the deer even starts sizzling.
  324. >Soon, the sound of sputtering fat and grease fills the small home, and you wander around with him in your arms.
  325. >Running through all of yesterday's happenings, you sigh and hold him close.
  326. "I don't get it... Fluttershy was rude and fearful, but then Applebloom, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle were all kind and excited."
  327. "The Cakes were helpful and supportive, but then Twilight..."
  328. >Remembering what Twilight did and tried to do, you shudder.
  329. "But what she said, and Lyra too; they were convinced you are controlling me, but you're just a baby."
  330. >Holding him up, he smiles and flaps his little wings, the buzzing sound they make mixing with the sounds of the meat cooking.
  331. >'Flying' with him over to the stove, you lay him on the counter before pulling the pan off and sliding the meat onto your plate.
  332. "Breakfast time," you say, picking up your plate and the changeling and carrying both to the table.
  333. >With one hand, you hold him in your lap, a finger in his mouth so he can eat, and with your other, you hold your food.
  334. >Eating breakfast like this, for some reason it feels right.
  335. >He lets out happy gurgles in agreement of your unspoken statement.
  336. >From outside there is a whooshing sound, one you have come to know as your mailbox.
  337. >Living this far from town, it is dangerous for the mail to be delivered by normal means, so Twilight set you up with a box linked to town by a teleportation spell.
  338. >A few seconds later, there is a ping as the flag shoots upright.
  339. >Shoving the last of the toast into your mouth, you pull open your front door and look at the box.
  340. >After yesterday, you are inclined to be cautious, and you step beside it.
  341. >Perhaps sensing your nervousness, the changeling quiets, and you reach out and lower the door.
  342. >There is no blast of magic, nor are there any signs of a trap.
  343. >Looking inside, there is just a letter.
  344. >A letter bearing the seal of the sun.
  345. "This can't be good."
  346. >Back inside and seated, you carefully break the wax seal and open the letter.
  347. >*To my faithful subject, Anonymous.
  348. >It has come to my attention that you found and hatched a changeling egg.
  349. >While many details still remain unknown, I wish to meet you, on your own terms so that I may learn these details.
  350. >Depending on what you say, I may be forced to take action, but in the end, what you do will determine the outcome of this.
  351. >Sincerely, Princess Celestia.*
  352. >Folding and laying the note on the table, you flop down on your bed, the changeling bouncing on your chest.
  353. >He wiggles his hooves and flaps his wings as he bounces, enjoying the sensation.
  354. "We have to go, don't we?" you ask, looking into his vibrant blue eyes.
  355. >As expected, you don't get a response, so you wrap your arms around him, squeezing him lightly.
  356. >In your affectionate embrace, he squirms and wiggles and smiles.
  357. "There's no point in putting this off, or it will just make it worse."
  358. >When you sit up, the changeling tumbles backwards, landing on his back in your lap.
  359. >Scooping him up, you head to your work table you keep tools, materials and writing supplies.
  360. >On a piece of paper, you write out your reply.
  361. >*To Princess Celestia.
  362. >I am glad to meet with you and it's always an honor to do so.
  363. >To make this simpler and faster, I propose we meet at the edge of the woods within one hour.
  364. >If at all possible, I would like to resolve this without conflict.
  365. >I patiently await your reply.
  366. >Sincerely, Anonymous.*
  367. >After folding and sealing it, you take it and your changeling outside, setting the former in the mailbox.
  368. >With the latter, you shift your grip so he can look around.
  369. >Reds and oranges, yellows and greens, everywhere you both look, leaves are drifting down slowly.
  370. >A leaf falls nearby, and he reaches out to it, making sounds in its direction.
  371. >Kneeling, you pick up a leaf and hold it in front of him, and he grabs it with both hooves.
  372. >It crackles and crumples in his grip, and his smile grows, warming your heart.
  373. >A thought strikes you, and you set him on the ground in a small pile of leaves.
  374. >Every motion he makes causes leaves to crackle, making him look for the source.
  375. >This in turn causes other leaves to crackle, and he keeps squirming and looking around as the sounds keep coming.
  376. >Closing the mailbox causes another whooshing sound as the letter is transported to Ponyville.
  377. >Moments later, one final whoosh sounds, and from the mailbox, you take a letter.
  378. >*To my faithful subject, Anonymous.
  379. >Thank you for being so swift in not only your reply, but in your desire to comply.
  380. >I will be waiting at the designated spot, and I eagerly await your arrival.
  381. >Do be careful on your way though, I know all too well the hazards of the Everfree, and even you are not immune to all.
  382. >Sincerely, Princess Celestia.*
  383. >Stuffing the letter into a pocket, you look down at your changeling, who has managed to roll onto his back.
  384. >As you lean down to pick him up, he reaches up to you, waving his small fore hooves.
  385. >Taking hold around his waist, you lift him up and hold him close to your chest.
  386. >Only stepping inside for a moment, you take your jacket and pull it on.
  387. >With him facing outward, you do up the jacket so he is carefully cradled in it and against you.
  388. >A light breeze dances through the trees, small leaves carried along in its wake.
  389. >No birds sing, no creatures speak, and only the gentle sound of the breeze and leaves crunching underfoot punctuate the silence of the walk.
  390. >Countless times, you have walked this path, and yet none of them have ever left you with such apprehension.
  391. >Few things scare you; fear being a double edged sword for the survivalist.
  392. >On one hand, it keeps you on your toes, but if you cannot control it, it will cause your downfall.
  393. >Even though you see Celestia as a friend, fear keeps rising, knowing full well what she can do if she so desires.
  394. >The journey takes only a half hour, but it seems to drag on forever, like a man on death row.
  395. "Hell, judging by what Twilight was doing, I may just be..."
  396. >The forest edge nears and the air stands still, the breeze that blew just moments ago quelled by the atmosphere.
  397. >Standing just beyond the forest edge, you see Celestia in all her regal glory.
  398. >Beyond her, what looks like the entire town, as well as a full contingent of royal guards.
  399. >Eyes closed; you take one slow deep breath, and step out into the open.
  400. >"Anonymous, it is good to see you again," Celestia says, giving you a warm smile.
  401. "And you as well, though I wish it were under more normal circumstances."
  402. >"They don't need to be strange, but come, sit and let's chat."
  403. >Taking a seat on the grass next to her, you look over, into her deep, violet eyes.
  404. >"I take it 'he' is the one I have heard about?" she asks, he gaze focusing on the changeling, who's head is sticking out of the top of your jacket.
  405. "Yes, he is."
  406. >"I'm sure by now, you know what he is, though you may not know everything you need to know."
  407. >When you nod, she continues, "What you may not know is that not too long ago, their kind attacked Canterlot and endangered the life of Princess Cadance."
  408. "Isn't that information irrelevant to him? He was hatched by me and he will be raised by me, not them."
  409. >"That is true, at least, the first part for now."
  410. >"Now, I must inform you that the punishment for harboring a changeling under ones own free will is banishment to the badlands."
  411. >"Will you submit yourself to testing for Changeling influence?"
  412. "I will, but there is no need," you say, starting to undo your jacket, "I am in complete control of myself, no matter what anyone may have said."
  413. >Setting your changeling down in your jacket, you see several guards make a move towards it, but Celestia motions them away.
  414. >"Prepare yourself, this is not very pleasant."
  415. >A thin horizontal line of magic spreads from her horn, and starting from your feet, it works its way up.
  416. >Everywhere it touches feels like a thousand angry red ants were biting you at the same time, but you couldn't move a muscle to stop them.
  417. >Passing up and over your face, you feel the constraints of the spell fade, and you shake yourself out.
  418. >Looking at Celestia, you see nothing but sadness in her eyes.
  419. >"Anonymous, Why?"
  420. "Because I am his father, or at least, the closest thing he will ever get to a father."
  421. >"I see. It looks like I have no choice."
  422. >Magic accumulates around Celestia's horn, and you kneel and pick up your changeling.
  423. >Oblivious to everything around him but you, he gives you another big smile and for the first time, a giggle.
  424. >Smiling back, you bring him up to your face and rub your nose against his, and he lets out another giggle.
  425. >In the distance, you hear Lyra call out, "Anonymous! Don't! Just let him go and you can come back!"
  426. >"Don't waste your life like this, Anonymous!" Twilight yells as well.
  427. >Looking at Celestia, you nod, and her horn flashes white.
  428. >Blinded by the light, you feel thick smoke enter your nose and mouth, making you cough.
  429. >Your changeling starts coughing as well, and you pull out the neck of your shirt and slide him inside where the air is clearer.
  430. >All your senses are shut out by this smoke, smell, sight, taste, touch and hearing.
  431. >As suddenly as it had formed, the smoke clears, blown by a powerful wind.
  432. >Eyes and lungs burning from their contact with the smoke, you gasp and wheeze, trying to clear your system.
  433. >As the smoke leaves your mouth and throat, dryness takes its place.
  434. >With eyes still closed and in pain, you straighten up, and the lack if weight on your chest makes your heart jump.
  435. >Fighting through the pain, you force your eyes open.
  436. >Everything beyond a few feet is hazy, and anything beyond ten is indistinguishable, but the short distance is all you need.
  437. >Standing in the same relative place is Celestia, and held in her magic, your changeling; your son.
  438. >Before you make a move, her magic holds him out to you, and you take him back.
  439. >"I can see why you like him, he's quite the cutie."
  440. "Uh.. Thanks...?"
  441. >"Which is why I want you to raise him well; as a fully fledged citizen of Equestria."
  442. >Numbed by the shock of her statement, you almost lose your grip on him, but the moment he starts slipping, you catch yourself.
  443. "I... Thank you, but why?"
  444. >Pulling out a series of papers, she conjures up a table and writing tools.
  445. >"There are several reasons, but primarily because you have shown many signs of a true parent."
  446. >"You were willing to endanger yourself to save him in town; you stood against me, even in the face of a likely death."
  447. >"Against all the prejudice and distrust of your friends, your heart never wavered."
  448. >"Any pony here would be proud to call you their father, myself included, and for this, I think you have earned the right to the benefit of a doubt."
  449. >Her smile is warm and true, and just like your changeling's ones, you find yourself smiling back.
  450. >She guides you through the papers, showing you where to sign, and what to fill, before coming to the last page, A birth certificate."
  451. >"...and this is the final one. All you need is your name here, and his here, and he will be a true Equestrian."
  452. >"He does have a name, does he not?"
  453. "No, I guess I never got around to it."
  454. >"Well, I'm sure he will love whatever you choose."
  455. >Looking down at him, before staring up at the sky, you let out a faint hum.
  456. "I think I'll name him..."
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