Fiery waves – the ups and downs of Summer Pride
Chapter 9: Exile – part 2
Ha ha ha ha! 你 should see the look on your face right now, ha ha ha! No, no, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to... wait until 你 hear this 下一个 part, ha ha ha ha! Kkhhm.... oh, it was a long time since I smiled. I just thought... 你 seem like a well read pony, my friend... and now 你 look utterly surprised... All right, hang in there, I will explain a few things I reckon 你 did not know about changelings. So there I was with these four strange, unfamiliar creatures in the middle of the desert.
“The Changelings?” I asked back, after the stallion told me how they call themselves.
“Yes. My name is Ricochet and these are my friends.” he replied, pointing at the others around the campfire.
I blinked in confusion, unable to react, while my savior continued.
“The one to the left is Raid, 下一个 to him it's Cavern and the fella with the gruesome face is Sudden Strike.”
My head was heavy and the windmills of my mind were spinning very slowly, it took me a few 分钟 to absorb all this information and adjust to the situation I found myself in. The other changelings stared me down, but it seemed they have 迷失 interest and resumed their chat on that odd language.
“I don't know what it's like where 你 came from, but among changelings, it counts as ill breeding not to introduce yourself...” Ricochet remarked. “What's your name, sugar?”
Wait, what? I realized, he just called me “sugar”... Major disrespect!
"Where I come from, it is highly inappropriate to disrespect royalty!"
I did not want to reveal my true identity, but it slipped out of my mouth. Old habits die hard. Then I remembered... I wasn't royalty anymore... I was stripped of my title. To them, I was just a simple unicorn, nothing more. And I have to admit, this feeling was quite unsettling and... reassuring at the same time. No matter how proud I was to my pure bloodline, it shackled me all my life. I always had to live up to high expectations to serve my kingdom well and I did the best I could. My duties left so little time for my own self and until now, this way of life was natural to me. I had to rethink everything, the way I perceive the world and my place in it.
"What you're like a Princess 或者 something?" the changeling questioned.
I glanced at Ricochet, who was patiently waiting for my answer. The obvious way he looked at me... I know it sounds silly, but it made me blush, like a little filly. This was the first time somepony was seeing the mare in me, not the Princess... it was really quite flattering, even if he was a different race.
“I'm Summer Pride.” I 说 softly. "And I was a Princess... once.
“Well, it's a pleasure to meet you.” Ricochet replied and kissed my hoof, like a true gentlecolt.
He helped me get back on my hooves again and motioned me to 加入 him and his 老友记 由 the fire.
“So what were 你 doing out so far in the desert?” he asked.
“It's a long story... and I really do not wish to talk about it.” I stated, shutting my eyes.
“Yes, we all did things we regret...”
“I don't regret it, I just... never mind. The only thing matters is that I have nowhere to go now.”
“Oh, you're an outcast, huh? No problem, so are we... well... sorta...”
One of the changelings must have 说 something funny, because the others started laughing. Later, I learned only Ricochet was speaking archa-unicorn, his 老友记 only understood their mother tongue. I furrowed a brow, because I had no idea what they were talking about and it frustrated me. Ricochet must have seen my expression, and he quickly intervened.
“Raid wants to know what's with that flaming 心 on your flank? Is that some kind of ritual symbol? He thinks you're a cult member 或者 some sort.”
“What?” I recoiled, glancing at my flank. “No, of course not! This is my cutie mark!”
“What's that now?” Ricochet asked with curiosity in his voice.
“My cutie mark. It represents my special talent. All ponies have one.” I explained, trying to sound as calm as possible.
That's when I realized, the changelings had no cutie marks. It made me wonder what their special talent were. Yes, yes 你 know what changelings can do, but at that time I didn't. Then the memory flashed inside my brain. Before he banished me, Landslide mentioned some rumors about a new race of equines... I connected the dots and came to the conclusion that these vague gossips were true. There was a new species after all. Ricochet turned to his 老友记 and 说 something on that weird language and the others burst out in laughter once more. My blood started boiling, I've had 更多 than enough humiliation lately.
“Sudden Strike asks, if your special talent is love? Is that what the 心 stands for?” Ricochet translated.
I sighed with resignation, for I knew I'll have to explain the entire concept of the cutie marks to them and I really wasn't in the mood; 你 can imagine! I could have just left of course, it would have been easier, but I was still weak and had no supplies whatsoever. I needed them, but I did not wish to be the object of their jokes...
This stallion, Ricochet had an incredible insight when it came to emotions. His skills exceeded mine 由 a long shot. Oh, I learned a lot from him during my exile. But at that time, the only thing I wanted was solitude.
“Listen...” Ricochet approached me. “If 你 want to be alone, that's fine... but this is a tough land. One has to be very careful. All sorts of criminals are wandering through this desert.”
“I can protect myself.” I declared coldly. Perhaps a little too coldly.
“Very well.” the changeling replied and turned around.
“Wait!” I exclaimed. “I've been through a lot lately and the ordeals made my tone sharp and harsh. I'm grateful for what you've done for me.”
Ricochet nodded and went back to his friends. I stood there like a pupil in elementary school, who didn't study for the upcoming test. I felt stupid... and I had to acknowledge, the changelings aroused my curiosity. Since I had no idea what to do with myself 或者 where I'll be going, I've decided to put my pride away for a little and learn 更多 about these creatures. So I joined this very unlikely company on their journey.
Ricochet told me they were explorers, looking for a new place to live. Their underground kingdom ran out of resources and could not sustain their race any longer. That is why the changelings remained hidden and isolated from the outside world. They were living underground. According to their chronicles, there was some kind of cataclysm during the reign of 皇后乐队 Karma, the sixth unicorn queen. We also knew about this, but the nature of the disaster remained a mystery, since all the 图书 were destroyed 由 the catastrophe.
“That's when the unicorn race divided into two.” Ricochet explained. “Some of us found shelter beneath the surface..."
“So, it's a parallel evolution process!” I called out in excitement. “You've been living down there ever since!”
“Exactly.” the changeling nodded. “We have found magical crystals that provided us light and warmth... we created an entire underground ecosystem. But as 你 can see, the crystals had other side effects... we were born in the darkness... we were molded 由 it... that magic changed our race from generation to generation, until we evolved to a form 你 see now.”
I admitted in awe that this was a fascinating discovery. These creatures were basically unicorns, who were altered through countless centuries 由 the radiation of the crystals. Despite Ricochet was pretty open and honest about their history, I still refused to tell them mine. I didn't want to risk the friendship that I was forging with the changeling stallion. I thought if he'd know who I am... 或者 what I am, he'd be terrified of me, even though he looked like somepony who doesn't scare off too easily. Ricochet accepted my decision and never forced me to talk about this delicate matter. But as we spent 更多 and 更多 time together, roaming through the wasteland I saw the desire grew in his eyes. I would have left the changelings a long time ago, if it wasn't for him. His 老友记 weren't as considerate, nor as well mannered as him. They never really accepted me and I wouldn't have 给 a flying feather about it, but their constant mocking was starting to get on my nerves.
I knew what I could do if I set the monster of my rage free and that would have ended our relationship for sure. Although Ricochet was kind enough not to translate the rude jokes of his friends, I was 阅读 from the signs of their gestures and body language. And let me tell you, I wasn't satisfied of what I saw. Despise, ignorance and mediocrity... I often wondered how he could end up in a company like this, but I never asked.
I controlled myself for the sake of our friendship and stayed vigilant. I paid attention to every word in the long conversations they had each night 由 the campfire. I associated the words with their mannerisms. The language was difficult, but as I mentioned before, I was a quick learner. Sure, I could have asked Ricochet for help. Yes, I could have and there would have been no challenge. I needed an obstacle to overcome to regain some of my 迷失 dignity. And I had to do it on my own.
It has been a 月 since I've been living with the changelings and my enthusiasm started to weaken. So far I had no luck in understanding their language. I was sunken in my thoughts, gazing into the flames, as I did most nights. Then I suddenly raised my head, because I've heard something familiar. As always, Raid, Cavern and Sudden Strike were joking, but there was one word that stood out from the flowing mass of jabbering. I clearly understood the word “unicorn”. Just to make it clear, how hard it was, I'll write “unicorn” on archa-changeling in the sand here... See? “Egyszarvú”... That was my first victory. It was a small one, but was enough to reassure me of my goal. Two weeks later, I revealed my secret.
We were camping in a canyon far away on the East. I was very tired, for we've been traveling all 日 and the only thing I wanted was to get some rest. I lay down beside the 火, 消防 and stared at the flames as usual. I was en-wrapped 由 the cozy warmness and almost fell asleep when...
“... must have been a filthy slut, just like her mother!” Sudden Strike exclaimed loudly and the others laughed.
Not Ricochet of course. I didn't know why he endured such a rude company all the time. And I didn't hear the first part of the joke, but that was the last drop. I slowly sat up and pierced my eyes into the changeling's. He stopped laughing and glared back at me.
“My mother...” I panted out on his language. “...was a pure mare... from a great... noble family. And at least... I know who gave birth to me, you... slimy piece of garbage!”
“What the hay?!” Strike jumped up rapidly. “How did 你 learn our language?!"
“I was paying attention!” I hissed and our horns clashed.
We were eying each other evilly for some length then Sudden Strike abruptly burst out of laughter. I raised a brow in surprise, for this wasn't the reaction I was expecting. Yes, the changelings are quite unpredictable 由 their nature.
“Ha, ha ha ha!” he bumped me in the shoulder. “Can 你 believe this gal?! She learned our language!"
"Yeah, that's pretty impressive!" Raid added.
"You know what? I think we were wrong about you!” "Strike acknowledged with a wide grin.
My jaw dropped in shock; this unpredictable act of friendliness really took me 由 surprise. From then on, I had no further problems with the changelings. Once I was accepted, they opened the gates of a whole new world to me. I seized the opportunity and took every knowledge they had to offer. Insecta martial arts from Sudden Strike, the cunning techniques of infiltration from Cavern, effective tactics from Raid and most importantly, the ultimate changeling spell from Ricochet. As far as I know, I'm still the only unicorn who was able to learn the difficult and complex spell of shape shifting.
I even learned why Ricochet was enduring those guys. They have been life-long 老友记 and he owed his life to Sudden Strike. When he was a young colt, he wandered off in the endless cave system and eventually got attacked 由 a Chimera Abyssal... a vicious underground predator. Strike, Cavern and Raid saved him from the beast... I've encountered one once... feral, bloodthirsty monster and it is very hard to defeat. That's where Strike got that scar on the right side of his chest, when the Chimera bit him. This act ensured their friendship for the future.
Yes, except for Ricochet, the changelings were crude, but their hearts were in the right place. Hah, I even got to like their basic humor as time progressed, especially since they stopped making fun of me. I don't say we were best friends, but formed some kind of bond over the months. Yet, this wasn't enough for Ricochet; he craved 更多 than just my friendship.
I've been living with the Equus Insecta for almost a 年 and I absorbed the wisdom and skill of this race. One night, the others were out on a supply run, I was alone with Ricochet in our camp. We were lying near the 火, 消防 and I sensed his vision on me.
“Can I ask 你 something?” he whispered.
I nodded my head, but already knew the question.
“When we found 你 that 日 in the desert... what were 你 running from?”
“My past I guess...” I sighed.
He remained silent, but I knew I have to give something in return for the knowledge he gave me. So I opened up and told him everything I've told 你 now. He listened carefully, clinging on my every word. How could I deny him the truth? Even though I knew it'll probably be the end of our friendship. I've been speaking for hours and he hasn't interrupted me once.
“Now 你 know why I'm here...I was banished from my 首页 and I can never go back!” I finished and lowered my head in sorrow.
“Hmm... It seems to me that letting your brother go after what he's done was pretty brave.” Ricochet 说 after a while. “You've done what 你 thought was right, no matter what others might do to you.”
“You... don't hate me?”
“Of course not! How could I hate such a beautiful pony?” he asked and moved closer.
I didn't know what to say; my breathing accelerated as he was running his hoof down my cheek very gently. He moved even closer; his muzzle was only a few inches from mine. That sky blue membrane slid back, revealing his iris. I've never seen such, beautiful royal blue eyes as his. He showed his most vulnerable spot to me, because the membrane was there to protect the changeling's eyes from dust, sunlight and water. Their tough skin resisted these elements, but their eyes didn't. I've spotted the spark of desire flash in them, but I moved away, breaking the passionate moment.
“What are 你 doing?! We can't do this! We come from different worlds... I... how would this work? Look at us!” I cried, shutting my eyes, turning away from him. “Just look at us...”
“I see a mare and a stallion.” Ricochet replied sensitively.
“No. I can't... I'm sorry...” I refused and trotted into the darkness to clear my head.
He came after me, but I was faster and ignored his calls. He eventually gave up and returned to the camp. I needed to be alone to organize my whirling thoughts and put my stirred emotions back in order. I couldn't believe I was only a 秒 away from actually 接吻 him. Not because he was a changeling... when 你 live as long as I, 你 look passed such differences... With my current state of mind, I would have 给 in to the urge, but I was very confused back then. That was the first time I experienced what 爱情 could mean and I didn't know what to do with this knowledge. Yes, I have lived for 更多 than 80 years without a stallion, but I perceived time differently. I still do. Time is not so important when 你 have the Inner Spark... I'll explain later. On that night, I haven't yet discovered the true power of my Element. I haven't really paid attention to myself, 或者 how I looked like, I just lived. Only later I understood why I was granted such a long life...
Perhaps things would have played out differently, if I allowed him to 移动 closer, to the most inner depths of my heart. I knew Ricochet had a thing for me, since the first time he laid eyes on me. I've always found that flattering, but never did respond to his advances until that night. And as fate's cruel joke, I've 迷失 everything once again. My hesitation cost Ricochet and his 老友记 their lives, simply because I wasn't there to protect them.