Scary Monsters

by Cackling Moron

Chapter 1: (and Super Creeps)

Eggs was in trouble.

Either side of her stood a pegasus guard, each at least a head taller than her and very grim looking. They marched her along, paused briefly while one opened up a heavy door and then continued onwards, the temperature dropping as they entered the thicker, higher-security portion of the building. The bit with the stone walls.

The jail had two cells, being as how crime was not something that seemed particularly common in Ponyville, or indeed among ponykind in general. One cell seemed to already be occupied, though by what was unclear as a good half of it was in shadow.

The guards shoved the small mare towards the open cell and in through the door, locking it behind her before leaving without a word. Eggs shivered, more through nervousness than anything else. Being arrested was not fun. Being all alone was not fun. Being shoved into a dank cell with only a pile of straw in the corner for comfort was not fun.

Then, something moved in the next cell. Something big. That brought her right back to the moment. Eggs, shivering more violently, turned to look and immediately wished she hadn’t when she saw what had come out of the gloom.

“I stole cider. The proper stuff, too. Two barrels! Would have been more but I only got two arms. And they ain’t getting it back either if you catch my drift, hah! I get why I’m here. I’m just surprised to see a pony here.”

Eggs was frozen to the spot. The thing - whatever it was - was at least two times her size if not more, walked on two legs, had tiny eyes, giant shaggy mane, a great big bushy beard and two weird, spider-like things on the end of two long arms. It was also almost completely naked, modesty protected only by what appeared to be a loincloth tied around its waist.

And it was looking right down at her.

And smiling.

“So why you here?” It asked.

She squeaked, words failing her, and tried to take a step backwards only to get her legs tangled up and stack it. The thing laughed, though not especially loudly or for long.

“That looked painful, you alright there?”

“I’m fine!” Eggs said, scrambling back up again and taking a few steps away, putting some distance between the bars and her. The thing had those long arms through the bars now, and was leaning on them, watching her.

“So why you here?” It repeated.

“D-disturbing the peace,” Eggs said, thinking on her hooves to come up with the best way of summing it up. The thing cocked its head.

“‘Disturbing the peace’? That’s pretty good! I can get behind that. Though you’re kind of muscling in on my bit there, tiny horse. What’s your name?”

“E-Eggs Ben-Benedict,” said Eggs, shakily. The thing’s eyes narrowed, which made them even tinier.

“Eggs Benedict? Really? Seriously?” It asked. Eggs just nodded, her own eyes wide. He chuckled. “That’s the best one I’ve heard so far, damn…”

It looked away and clucked its tongue, shaking its head gently.

Feeling an unusual upswell of bravery due in no-small part to the hefty bars separating them, Eggs cleared her throat and asked:

“And you?”

That caught it off-guard and it turned back to her, one arm pulling back so the strange spider-thing could tap against its chest.

“Me? My name? You want my name?”

Eggs regretted her decision and took another half-step backwards.

“I-if you want…”

“Hah! No, it’s fine really. Most ponies just run away but I guess you don’t really have a choice, do you? I’m Jack!” Said Jack, beaming. Eggs waited for the second part of this but there apparently wasn’t one. At least the name was odd enough to fit whatever this thing was.

He seemed to know where her mind was going.

“You don’t know what I am, do you?”


“That’s fine. Human. I’m not from round here. I’m unique! Though not in a good way, really. Not supposed to be here. Here by accident. Or at least I hope it was an accident…”

Jack looked like he hadn’t even considered the possibility that it wasn’t. For a moment he stared into space, but it passed and - shaking his head - he smiled down at her again.

“And since I was somewhere new I decided to reinvent myself! Decided to be a monster! Only a low-key one though, mind. This place is a little casual to be a real monster, and there are enough of those back home. I guess it’d be closer to say I’m a nuisance. Just cause ruckus, that’s me. It’s great.”

He spoke the way someone who’d been starved for conversation spoke, and Eggs was still too daunted by the size of him and his bizarre appearance to offer much in the way of reply. Not that he seemed to mind, or even to notice.

“Just stomp around, maybe steal some apples or whatever, get chased around by the flying ones and the guards from time to time. Endless fun! And sometimes these wolf-things made of wood come at me and that’s fun too.”

“Timberwolves?” Eggs asked, tentatively. Jack shrugged.

“Sounds about right, given what everything else ends up being called around here.”

“Timberwolves attack you?” She asked in mild but mounting disbelief.

“Only sometimes! I live in the woods so I bump into all sorts. Fought a bear, once. Stole its cave. Mainly it’s the wood-wolfs. It’s fine though. I punch ‘em in the face, they fall to bits, they get back up, I punch ‘em again, they run away. We have an understanding. I think they’ve got the idea by now.”

“You p-punch Timberwolves?”

Eggs had the distinct impression he was pulling her leg, but he looked so very sincere it was difficult to tell.

“I don’t make a habit of it! But if I have to, yeah.”

Jack looked down at the spider-things tipping his arms and flexed them. For the first time Eggs noticed the scabs and scars that covered them. Her flank bumped against the wall of the cell.

“Don’t know what it is about this place but I got a real kinda John Carter of Mars thing going on - strong and tough, you know? And only the best is good enough, heh. Magic don’t work right on me, either! It’s pretty sweet. Back home I was just some guy and here I’m some guy too but I’m some guy who’s, like, twice the height of everyone and can flip carts like it’s not even a big deal. Things could be worse.”

“You’re in jail,” Eggs pointed out. Jack scoffed and flapped one of his spider-things at her.

“Yeah, for now. I’m only here because I was tired of sleeping in the forest. Figured a night away wouldn’t do me any harm. And I was drunk when they carried me in here anyway. I’ll be gone before too long, don’t you worry.”

“You’re going to break out?”

“Sure! Or at least try to. How hard can it be?”

Eggs looked at the bars. They looked pretty solid to her.

“Hard?” She ventured.

“For you, maybe, but I’m a monster, remember?”

He winked at her and she had to look away. It was all too much for poor Eggs. Her mind was reeling. Everything had just gone wrong so fast, and it hardly been that great to start with. Now she was here, locked up. Locked up next to some strange monster, too. An especially talkative one at that.

“So when you say ‘disturbing the peace’ what di-”

Jack wasn’t able to finish this, as the door to the cells was unlocked at this point, something that was loud enough to drown him out. His smile widening he moved forward and sat cross-legged at the front of his cell, waiting. Eggs, by contrast, lurked in the corner hoping to look inconspicuous.

The two guards who’d brought Eggs in reappeared, and this time were flanking Twilight, who looked like she was in a bad mood. Having to visit the jail in an official capacity did that to her.

“Hello, Twilight!” Jack said brightly, waving. She glowered at him. The guards - at a word from her - remained back from the cells as she stepped forward, going to Jack first.

“Jack, I’m very disappointed in you,” she said, shaking her head at him.

“Oh please, how is this any worse than anything else I’ve done?”

She glowered harder.

“You could use your powers for good! To help ponies!”

“Powers indeed! I can lift heavy stuff and reach things on the top shelf. That’s not a unique skillset. And besides, Twilight, I am helping people! I’m helping their lives be more interesting. What else would you be doing right now? Look where you get to be! In a jail! Talking to me! Isn’t that exciting?”

“Funnily enough I have other things I could be doing,” she said flatly. She wasn’t kidding, either.

“I don’t think that’s true. But don’t you worry. I’m sure before too long I’ll be open to reform and on my way to being a productive member of society,” he said, nodding solemnly. Then he grinned: “Just not yet.”

Twilight rolled her eyes in despair and clip-clopped away from him, over to Eggs’ cell. Eggs huddled further away from the bars, tail between her legs.

“And you, you’re being sent to Canterlot,” Twilight said, jabbing a hoof.

Eggs had been expecting a few things, none of them good, but she hadn’t been expecting that. Her head snapped up, jaw hanging low in shock, horror and shocked horror.

“What? No! Why?”

“You know why,” Twilight said in possibly the darkest tones Jack had ever heard her use. He glanced at Eggs in wonder but saw nothing that would possibly merit such gravitas. He clapped quietly. Moments like this made it all worth it.

“Amazing…” he breathed, earning himself another fierce glower from Twilight (she reserved all her best glowers for him, he reckoned) before her attention returned to Eggs.

“There’ll be a special coach on the next train and you’ll be on it. As for you,” and she turned back to Jack, hoof jabbing once more. “I’ll figure out something to do with you.”

“I am sure you will,” he said, bowing. Or at least bowing as best he could while still sat down. Mostly just glorified nodding.

Having accomplished whatever it was she’d come to do - what exactly this was was unclear - Twilight left, the guards following in her wake.

The door slammed shut, locks being slid into place with heavy clanks of finality. Or something like that. Certainly, Eggs flinched with each lock that closed. Once they’d finished locking up the whole place seemed far, far too quiet.

Something dripped, for in a dank, stone jail something is always dripping, somewhere.

Jack let out a whistle.

“Canterlot, huh? All the way there? Seems a bit much for disturbing the peace. Guess they take that kind of thing seriously here, huh?”

Eggs was too busy staring at the floor in blank numbness to say anything, something which Jack noticed after a second, and stood, moving to the bars separating the two cells. He tried to reach out and poke her but she was out of range.

“Ah well,” he said, pulling back and straightening up, stretching as best he could and rolling his shoulders. “Love to stay and chat, Eggs, but I’ve got things to do. If I don’t get back to the cave that bear might think he can move back in!”

With that he turned and stepped over to the cell door, squatting down to have a look at the lock. This didn’t tell him much. As far as cell doors went it was pretty normal. Bars, hinges and a big lock. He gave the lock a poke. It did not move.

“Well, I think I’ve got the measure of this,” he said to himself, standing up again, bracing and then giving the lock a kick.

There was a deafening clang. The whole cell shook. Dust trickled from the ceiling. It was enough to get Eggs to snap out of it and she looked around in shock, her coat electric with fright.

“What are you doing?!” She squealed. Jack rolled his eyes at her and gave the lock another kick. Already it was starting to get bent out of shape, the door coming loose.

“Breaking out, obviously. Did say I would.”

Another clang, the door barely holding.

“I didn’t know it’d be so loud!”

“It wouldn’t be fun if it wasn’t loud!”

One final kick saw the cell door fly open with a crash, lock completely mangled, frame warped. Jack laughed, spider-things on hips, head thrown back.

“It’s good to be the strongest!”

Eggs was just staring, open-mouthed, as he strode out of the cell.

“That’s just shoddy design, really. I mean look,” he said, waggling it on loose hinges. “They not invent sliding doors here yet? Tsch.”

His eyes then fell onto Eggs, and he gave a salute.

“Well, nice meeting you Eggs but I have to be off now before someone comes to yell at me for breaking their jail. Have fun in Canterlot!”

And off he went, or at least off he tried to go.

“Wait!” Eggs cried, and Jack paused, wheeling in place.


“Can you - could you - could you help me?”

Jack, smiling again - something he seemed to spend most of his time doing, and not in an overly pleasant way - folded his arms across his chest.

“Could I? Probably. Should I? That’s a better question. I am a monster, remember. Helping people isn’t really part of it.”

Eggs wasn’t wholly certain what a ‘people’ was but could see her one good chance at escape shrinking by the moment. Leaping forward and grabbing the bars she looked up at Jack imploringly.

“Please! I - I’ll help you! I’ll, uh, be your sidekick!”

Jack laughed some more. The sound was starting to get to Eggs at this point.

“That’s good! No use to me at all, obviously, but still pretty funny. Sidekick indeed…” He said, laughing again to himself as he turned away. Eggs whimpered.

“Wait! Wait please! If you let me out, uh, if you let me out,” her mind raced, hooves pawing the bars. Then it hit her. “It’ll be a nuisance!”

That got his attention. He turned back, slower this time, eyebrow raised.

“Go on,” he said.

“You’ll be letting out a criminal! And breaking the jail even more, right? That’ll be really annoying for them! They’ll have to fix it and - uh - and that’ll be your fault!”

With one spider-thing Jack pushed back his mane, the other stroking his beard thoughtfully.

“You make a pretty good point,” he said.

“S-so you’ll help me?” Eggs asked, hoping to keep the desperation out of her voice.

For another few agonising moments Jack kept on stroking his beard.

“Sure, why not? Stand back.”

Eggs did as she was told as Jack moved over to the door of her cell. One spider-thing gripped the lock while the other grabbed the bars opposite. Then he wrenched. The strain was obvious on his face but the strain was equally obvious on the lock and bars, which both started buckling. Bringing up a leg he braced against the wall and pulled harder. Eggs watched as the metal bent, buckled and then split, coming away from the door completely.

The door opened.

“Ta-dah,” Jack said flatly, dusting off his spider-things and panting softly. Eggs was a little daunted by the display of strength she’d just witnessed. Earth ponies were one thing, sure, and the world was full of powerful creatures who could probably do better. But it was one thing to know this and quite another to see something rip apart metal feet away from your face. She swallowed.

And then realised that Jack was stood waiting for her, and that she could leave.

She was free!

“T-thanks,” she said, trotting out. Standing next to him he was somehow even bigger and without the bars separating them he was a whole lot scarier, too. She couldn’t look him in the face.

“Um, your hoof is bleeding,” she said, pointing down. Jack looked, blinking in confusion.

“Hoof? Oh, my foot. Yeah, I know. It’s fine. No infections here, apparently. Or maybe that’s just me. Look! Hands too!”

He held up his spider-things - hands? - and Eggs saw that they’d been cut up, too. The sight of blood made her stomach clench and she looked away, hoof to her mouth, coat a little greener than before.

“Ah, you little ponies don’t really do blood n’ guts, do you? Adorable. Well, come on,” he said, standing aside and holding up an arm.

Eggs was set to trot past when there came the sound of the heavy jail door opening, yet again. She immediately scampered back and Jack turned, his smile back in place. A moment or two later the guards were back. They didn’t look happy.

“You guys took your time! Just thought I should say, me and muggins here are leaving. Had a lovely time here but felt I shouldn’t overstay my welcome,” Jack said.

“You know we can’t let you do that, Jack,” said the guard on the left, wings flaring, face set in determination. The other guard silently followed suit, their combined wingspan now blocking the exit completely. Quivering, Eggs huddled in behind Jack’s legs.

“I know you can’t let me, but it’s going to happen anyway,” Jack said, sighing. He then stooped and swept Eggs up under one arm, holding her by the barrel. She yelped and dangled. “And I’m taking this little troublemaker with me, too.”

The guards’ attention flicked to Eggs and for a moment a look of genuine alarm crossed their faces. This Jack failed to notice. He had never been the best at expressions. As far as he was concerned they were alarmed at the jailbreak situation in a roundabout way, and he could hardly blame them.

“Put her down, Jack, you don’t know what you’re doing,” the same guard said.

“I’m leaving is what I’m doing. Watch me go.”

And go he did. He just walked straight forward and then straight through both guards, wading through their outstretched wings without even slowing. Wholly unprepared for this both of them spluttered, jumped and then - as one - leapt on Jack’s legs from behind, clinging on.

This did not slow him down either.

“Boys, please, you’re embarrassing yourselves,” Jack said, striding more-or-less entirely unencumbered towards the door, hoiking Eggs up tighter under his arm. She couldn’t really believe what was happening to her.

“We can’t just let you leave!” Growled the talkative one, straining to hold the human back and failing utterly. The hooves of both guards struggled for purchase on the stone floor but just slid and skidded, scrabbling uselessly. Jack reached the door without incident.

“Kind of looks like it’s happening anyway, doesn’t it? So why don’t you lads just let go and then tell everyone you tried?”

For a moment the guard on the right actually seemed to consider it, looking to the one on the left - the talkative one - with pleading eyes.

“No we’re not doing that!” The left guard snapped, clinging tighter.

“Thanks for opening the door, by the way,” Jack said, pulling the unlocked door open with his free hand and continuing on his way. He even started whistling.

Shaking his legs with each step he further and further loosened the grip the guards had on him until he was right by the door to the jail, whereupon he prised them - exhausted - off of him one after the other and left them in a collapsed heap one top of one another.

“Top effort, boys. I’ll probably see you soon, yeah?”

The guards flopped in a tangle of hooves and wings, weakly reaching for him.

“Wait, no!” They cried, before both somehow managing to fall onto their faces at once. Jack, shaking his head and chortling, stepped outside and shut the door behind him.

“Those lads were dedicated!”

“Why didn’t you just hit them?” Eggs asked, craning her neck to look up at him. She’d stopped trying to wriggle out of his grasp, figuring it was probably just safer to let him carry her and also figuring (correctly) that she hadn’t been going anywhere anyway.

“I don’t want to hurt anyone. Where’s the fun in that?” He asked in return, pouting. Eggs was having trouble getting a read on this creature.

From further on into Ponyville there came a bright, purple flash and a loud yell of incandescent fury.

“Aww crap, Twilight’s coming,” Jack said. “Sounds mad. Probably going to start blasting beams of stuff at me again. That’s no good.”

“I thought you said you were immune to magic?!” Eggs yelped, straining to look behind her, legs kicking uselessly. Jack raised a hand up to shield his eyes and peered around.

“I did not say that! I said magic didn’t work right on me. And it doesn’t, generally, but Twilight’s some weird kind of flying super-duper unicorn princess. She’s a spicy meatball. Makes my life difficult. You’re going to have to hold on.”

Jack shifted Eggs out from under his arm and held her against his chest, both arms now wrapping her in place. She squeaked and wriggled but was held tight.

“What do I hold onto?!”

“Anything but the beard,” he said before taking the first long step. Then another, and then another. The time between each extended, and the time spent in the air grew longer too. Each bounding, loping step carried him further and faster, wind whipping past as the landscape sped by beneath him. He cleared a house. Then, he cleared a street.

He was laughing. Eggs was not. Behind them Twilight was yelling something but it was lost in the roar of passing air and growing fainter by the second.

It was no time at all before Jack had left Ponyville completely, sailing over fields and dodging trees with increasing frequency. He stopped the bounding once the trees had reached a certain level of thickness and then hugged the ground, sticking to jogging, still at a pace that left Eggs clinging to his chest for dear life as he ducked branches and hopped streams and boulders.

Eggs had never spent any particular length of time in the Everfree Forest, and for good reason. Unless you knew what you were doing it was generally held you shouldn’t go in the Everfree Forest. Things lived in there. Dangerous things, oftentimes, and a lot more things beside that could prove dangerous if you weren’t paying attention.

And here she was being carried into it. Deep into it from the feeling of things, by an otherworldly monster that just wouldn’t stop laughing.

Eventually - what felt like a very long time to Eggs - he came to a skidding, gravel-rattling halt, setting the trembling pony on the ground and throwing his arms in the air.

“That never gets old, never! Oh man. Not as good as flying but still, eh? You alright there, Eggs?”

Shaking, Eggs stared at nothing, mane frazzled. Jack shrugged.

“She’ll get over it.”

He then crouched into his cave.

Eggs did get over it, little by little. At first she noticed that she wasn’t moving anymore. Then, that she’d been put back down on the ground - though realising this did very nearly make her fall flat on her face. After that she saw that was in what looked like a clearing by the mouth of a cave, and by the mouth of the cave was an awful lot of junk.

Empty, broken cider barrels. Empty, broken crates. Bits of wood strung up from branch to branch. Discarded bedsheets. A couple of mostly-broken chairs. A table. Several logs pulled up around a firepit. It did look very much like the den or lair of some sort of brutish creature. Appropriate, all things considered.

While she was still taking all of this in Jack reemerged.

“Don’t really have any food for ponies, I’m afraid. Or any food at all, actually. Going to have to fix that soon,” he said, flopping onto a log.

“I’m not hungry,” Eggs said, looking around nervously at the surrounding forest. It looked thick and dark and dangerous, and was getting darker by the moment as the sun started creeping its way towards the horizon.

“You seem unsettled,” Jack said.

“We’re in the Everfree Forest!”

“Well, yeah, but it’s fine. It’s not as bad as they make it out to be. And besides, you’re here with one of the things you wouldn’t want to run into, eh? Sit down, I’ll get a fire going.”

She did, though reluctantly and as far away as she could, on the very edge of a log. Jack shook his head at her but didn’t press the issue, instead leaning forward towards the ashes and dumping a bunch of dry wood and wispy, sun-baked moss onto it.

“Everything here is soft and easy, it’s bliss. The water is always drinkable, the nights are mild, the wildlife can understand what I say to it - more or less - and the locals are all brightly coloured and adorable. And fire! Fire is easy to make!”

He held up two jagged stones and then struck them against one another. A spark leapt out and almost at once the pile of kindling and wood lit up.

“See that? Easy. Back home I’d be long dead by now but here I get to be a big hairy king of the wilderness.”

Eggs was torn between her reluctance on being too close to Jack and the creeping cold of the approaching night. The chill which - somehow - a mostly-naked Jack seemed pretty much oblivious to, though he did still hold his hands out to the fire.

The chill won out for Eggs and she scooched in closer, though not too close, holding out her hooves much like Jack was doing with his hands.

“You keep saying ‘home’, where is home?” She asked, tentatively. Jack shrugged, not looking at her.

“Another world, another time. Who knows? Somewhere that isn’t here. I wouldn’t worry about it, if I were you. I don’t.”

He said this, but he obviously didn’t mean it. His reluctance to talk further came off him in waves, so much so that Eggs could almost taste it. This only made her more curious. She couldn’t help herself.

“You don’t miss it?”

Jack frowned, the flames throwing his face into stark, shadowy relief and he flicked his head to her. Eggs flinched, but other than his head Jack didn’t move.

“No,” he said, obviously lying. So obviously, in fact, that he knew he couldn’t in good conscience be so blatant. He sighed. “Well, yes. But not much.”

Another lie, Eggs could tell, but one that Jack could apparently live with.

Swallowing, she shifted herself a bit closer towards him.

“What do you miss about it?” She asked.

Jack’s attention had returned to the fire by this point, and he did not look at her or give any particular sign he’d noticed her moving in. His hands were also in his lap, and not held up.

“Why do you care?”

Jack wasn’t smiling now, and as much as Egg hadn’t liked it at the time, not seeing it was making her feel much worse. She shrank back, tapping her hooves together and looking at the ground.

“Sorry. Don’t worry about it. Forget I asked,” she said.

“Bit late for that! Lord, only known you, tiny horse, for like forty-five minutes and already you’re probing my life story!” He said, trying (and mostly succeeding) in bringing back some of his former pep. Then he paused, head cocked.

“Wow, it really hasn’t been very long, has it? Things move quick here! Wild…”

He went quiet some more after that, and Eggs could tell he was dwelling on things he really rather wouldn’t. The deep things. The kind of things that made misery bubble up from places he’d hoped had been stopped up. She could feel it.

“Been at least two hours…” She mumbled, rubbing the back of her head with a hoof.

“Oh, well! When you put it like that! No. No I won’t tell you. And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t ask me. Anything else? Sure, go nuts. That? No.”

Further awkward silence, barring the crackle of the fire and the wind-rustle of the trees. The latter sound made Eggs flinch every time it happened and the flinching tugged her closer by inches towards Jack. Not that either of them really noticed.

“So,” she said eventually, just to break the silence. “How’s being a monster?”

This question seemed to jerk Jack out of whatever dark hole of introspection he’d been going as he snapped up and even smiled again, plainly delighted to be moving onto lighter, more pleasant topics of conversation. He was a man who wanted - needed - a good chat. There were just some areas he’d rather were avoided.

“It’s pretty great, like I say. I get to stomp around, break things. There’s those buddies of Twilight who come and hassle me sometimes if I cause too much of a rumpus, that’s always fun. The guard, they hassle me too but they’re pretty rubbish, in the main. Kind of wonder why they’re there at all.”

“Heh, yeah,” Eggs said, nodding lightly.

“All in good fun though, all in good fun. I don’t want to make anyone miserable, you know? Just spice up their life a little. If they have a quiet day I think they start to go a little stir-crazy, myself. And wouldn’t the real monstrosity being letting that happen? Letting them have a dull day? Eh? Think about it,” he said, tapping his head. Then he frowned at her.

“What?” She asked.

“I’m talking at you like you’re not a pony, when you clearly are. You’re exactly who I’m talking about, that Ponyville lot. Kind of weird you didn’t recognise me then, actually. Most of them do.”

“I was just passing through,” Eggs said, hurriedly. Jack accepted this out of hand.

“Ah, right. Off to another of your horse-pun named places from some other horse-pun named place, no doubt.”

“Horse-pun?” Eggs mouthed to herself. Jack was weird, this she knew, but he seemed to just remind her of this with every other thing he said. The fire then snapped especially loudly and she jumped, bumping up against the side of Jack and only then noticing just how close she’d somehow got. This she fixed quickly, shuffling away at speed, much to his amusement.

“You seem on-edge,” he said.

“The forest is scary!” She protested.

“Ah posh. I thought that the first few nights, then I twigged that I’m one of the scarier things in it! Wasn’t so bad after that. So don’t you worry, young Eggs. You’re quite safe as long as I’m here.”

Surprisingly, Eggs didn’t actually doubt this. Given the amount of noise Jack made if anything had wanted to attack them it would have done already, which did rather suggest that the other inhabitants of the forest knew well enough to give him a wide berth. She was glad of this, although she could also understand why.

“Not that you have to stay here, obviously. You’re not my prisoner! You can go anytime you like. You can go now, if you want!”

“It’s the middle of the night in the Everfree Forest, Jack,” Eggs pointed out. He blinked, looked around, then looked down at Eggs, who continued to be tiny compared to him.

“Ah. Oh yes. My bad,” he said.

Eggs would have said something but instead, out of nowhere, she yawned. This was fairly adorable, but Jack had long-since got used to being around such sweetness. He only enjoyed it a little.

“Tired?” He asked. Eggs nodded.

“You can take the cave tonight, Eggs,” Jack said, standing and stretching, waving off Eggs’ protests before they even began while he was yawning.

“No no, won’t hear of it any other way. You’re only a little pony and the nights here get, well, they’re pretty alright for me but I’d imagine they’re a touch brisk for you. Go on inside, wrap up. There’s blankets aplenty. I should know - I stole them! Hah! It’s fine, really. And come morning I can help you off, well, wherever you feel like going. Doubt you’d want to hang around with me more than you have to, eh?”

There wasn’t a polite response to this, or at least not one Eggs could think of in time. Instead, she smiled shyly and just said:

“Thanks, Jack.”

He waved that aside, too.

“Think nothing of it. I’ve already broken you out of jail and now I’m putting you up for the night. I’m basically just great. Go on now, off you trot. Heh, trot.”

Trot she did, passing around behind Jack and into the cave. It got dim quick and also cosy, and by the light of the fire she was able to find the curled, comfy nest of blankets and cushions he’d cobbled together for a bed. It smelled overwhelmingly of strange, alien creature but it was better than sleeping on the floor.

Once she’d curled up, she had to admit it actually wasn’t that bad. Certainly comfortable.

So comfortable that by the time she’d admitted this to herself the weight of the day caught up with her and she was out like a light.

The daylight filling the cave was what woke her. For a split-second she was utterly confused about where she was and then it all came back. While her present situation was hardly what she would have considered ideal, it could also have been a whole lot worse.

Certainly, she was pretty damn comfortable. Smiling to herself she snuggled under the blankets, content to enjoy a peaceful few more minutes until Jack shoved his head in and said something stupid or something else terrible happened.

Turned out, she didn’t have to wait that long.

Barely thirty seconds later a sound made her ears prick up. Birds fleeing. Not a good sign.

The trees shook. Further out at first, then closer, and closer still. Something was approaching. Eggs huddled back into the cave as far as he could go, pulling blankets over herself, trembling and curling up as small as she could go. The trees stopped shaking. Eggs didn’t move a muscle.

She could hear breathing. Heavy breathing. She held her own breath, fearing it’d give her away. Things went quiet.

The blankets whipped away and a fiercely strong grip clasped her hindleg. Squealing, blinded by the rush of light, she was dragged out of the cave, hooves trying to find purchase and failing.

“Holy crap, Eggs, I wake you up or something?” Jack asked.

Eggs stopped squealing and opened one eye. It was Jack, who lifted her up and juggled her about in his hands until he was holding her up around the barrel. He was looking at her with concern.

“You alright?” He asked. She continued staring. He squinted then shrugged. This he did a lot.

“You really got nestled up in there, Eggs! Good work,” he said, plopping her dazedly onto a log and stepping back, spreading his arms to indicate a pile of food haphazardly dumped next to the quietly smoking ashes of last night’s fire.

“Breakfast!” He declared happily. “Some of it stolen, some of it taken out of bins. The things you ponies throw away! It’s shocking. You can probably find something in there. Sorry it’s not the best, you know, but I do what I can.”

She continued to gawp at him. As her brain fully, properly registered that it was just Jack and not a monster - well, not any of the proper monsters, at least - she also registered that Jack was looking a little bit the worse for wear.

A lot bit, actually.

“What happened to you?” She asked. He looked down at himself and the fresh bitemarks and the blood.

“Oh that. Hydra. Did you know there were hydras here? I didn’t.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Fighting fit. You should see the other guy! I threw him in a tree.”

Eggs was going to press this issue - some of those bitemarks did not look fine - when a flicker of movement above the treeline caught her eye and she looked up. Her eyes got very big all of a sudden, and she went stammeringly silent.

“Eggs? You alright there?” Jack asked, but she did not reply. Seeing her continue to gawp up Jack looked back to see what it was that had caught her attention. He saw it at once.

A distant, rainbow-coloured trail, working closer.

“Bollocks, that’s the fast one. She’ll have spotted the smoke from the fire, too - be acting lookout for the rest. They’re probably all coming, ugh. They must really be mad at me!”

“We have to get out of here!” Eggs said, voice cracking, leaping up and clinging onto Jack. He looked down at her, bewildered for a moment.

“Not a great plan. If they’re willing to come all the way out here they’re going to be willing to follow us, and the rainbow one is faster than me. Better plan: hide in the cave like you did before. I’ll stick out here. When they show up to give me a telling off I can tell them I let you go somewhere. Dropped you in a river. You know, monster stuff? Alright, go, go.”

He shooed her into the cave, and given his strength there wasn’t a whole lot Eggs could do about it. Not that she had any other plan anyway. Running needed him to be with her, and he wasn’t wrong about the rainbow one either. So she hide again, huddling under as many blankets as possible and squeezing her eyes shut.

It did not take long for Twilight and her buddies to arrive. They didn’t look happy.

“Morning ladies! Is this about the breakfasts? I’d have paid for them but, you know, I didn’t want to? And I have no money. So there’s that.”

“Where’s the Changeling?” Twilight said, wasting no time at all.

Jack struggled to come up with something pithy to say. He came up empty.


“The pony you broke out of the jail! Where is she?”

“You didn’t say pony before, you said something else, what was that?”

“Changeling, Jack!”

“...babies swapped out by fairies?”

It was Twilight’s turn to look completely lost.

“What?” She said.

“What?” Jack said.

By now, the rainbow one had managed to sneak in around behind Jack and sniff around, following her nose all the way to the cave and sniffing there, too. Jack heard this and whirled about.

“Hey, don’t sniff that, that’s private-” he said, starting for her, but too late.

“She’s in here!” The rainbow one said, pointing.

Jack made to scoop her up but the cowboy one came in low and took his legs out from under him, bowling him over with her momentum. Tumbling he could do little but watch as purple magic pulled a struggling and desperately fearful looking Eggs out from the back of his cave.

“Hey you leave her alone! She didn’t do anything - well, she did, but it hardly warrants this!” Jack snapped, scrambling to his feet.

“It’s not what you think, Jack.”

“So people keep implying! Why is that?”

“Because she’s a Changeling!”

“Stop saying that like it means something to me! I’m not from round here in case you hadn’t noticed!”

“It means she’s not a pony she’s just pretending to be one! Look,” Twilight said.

There was another magical surge, briefly blinding, and Eggs spasmed. Jack again tried to move but stopped himself this time and instead just stood and stared.

Eggs, or at least the pony part of her, melted away, and sloughed off, fading to nothingness and twisting off on the wind. Underneath was something shiny, black, pony-like in a vague sense and also unsettlingly insectile.

Jack looked at it, mouth open.

“Well, I must admit I didn’t see that coming,” he said. “Mostly because I have no idea what a Changeling was but hell, what’s that? So, uh, Eggs. You alright?”

The weird little bug beast - Eggs, apparently - hung her head, twisting slowly in midair.

“Sorry, Jack,” she said. Her voice was more-or-less the same, but now had a strange, buzzing edge to it that had not been present before.

“Sorry for what?”

“For lying to you.”

“Bah! It wasn’t really lying it was just, uh, deception? You know what, nevermind. It’s fine. No harm done. But, uh, why is this a big deal?”

“If you want to come into town sometime and sit down and be normal then I can explain it to you but right now we’re against the clock. We just need to take her with us.”

“Whoa now, hey,” Jack said, striding forward and plucking Eggs out of Twilight’s magic. THe moment he made contact with it the spell faltered and sputtered and Eggs once more ended up dangling underneath his arm.

“Jack, the train is going to leave!” Twilight growled, her buddies encircling him. Jack looked singularly unintimidated by this, and kept his eyes on Twilight.

“I’m not sure I’m comfortable with you throwing my tiny buddy here on a train!” He said.

“We don’t mean her any harm!” Twilight shot back.

“You did put her in a jail cell, that hardly seems friendly!”

“That was to stop her in case she was going to run away!”

“That’s not friendly! Keeping people from escaping is not friendly!”

“For her own good, Jack! If she ran away we wouldn’t be able to help her. That’s what we want to do!”

This was slightly new to him, and Jack was caught off-guard.


“There’s a Changeling support service being setup in Canterlot. There’s actually others, but that’s the closest to here. There’s more than Eggs out there, a lot more. They’re lost and confused out on their own, liable to come to harm because of a misunderstanding. Celestia’s working on a fix for that,” Twilight said.

Jack considered this, then narrowed his eyes, ever-so-slightly.

“...oh. That sounds kind of creepy, actually. But it’s legit?” He asked, waggling an eyebrow. Twilight sighed. Talking with Jack, in her experience, was incredibly tiring.

“Yes it’s legit, Jack. Why would it be creepy?”

“I dunno. Former enemy, wanting them all in one place...makes my skin twitch let me tell you. Makes me think you’d want to, well, I don’t know. Do something bad. It’s what we’d do back home.”

He glanced down at Eggs, tucked under his armpit. He felt an unexpected and bizzare surge of protectiveness towards her. Weird little bug beast she may be, but she was his weird little bug beast! He’d found her!

“We don’t do that here, Jack,” Twilight said, her voice softening considerably.

That brought Jack back to the moment, and also seemed to put an enormous and sudden weight onto his shoulders. He deflated, staggering back and slumping onto one of the logs by the fire.

“No,” he said, setting Eggs on his lap. “No I guess you don’t.”

Her eyes were weird. Shiny. Blank.

“You have weird eyes, Eggs,” he said. She looked down.

“What do you want to do?” He asked.

“I don’t know. I’m scared,” she said quietly, her lightly buzzing voice tiny.

“If Twilight says it’s legit it probably is. I may be a monster but she’s pretty on the level about these sorts of things. But I don’t know either, Eggs. It’s up to you. You can’t exactly stay here with me, can you?”

For a moment - an instant - it looked like she considered it as a possibility. But only for an instant before the sheer, crushing impossibility (and nightmarish quality) of it shattered the thought to dust. No, that wasn’t happening. She would probably lose her mind.

“...I’ll go,” she said, head hanging, plainly not thrilled.

He gave her a pat on the head.

“Alright, if you’re sure. It’ll be fine.”

His smile was more reassuring this time, and Eggs smiled to. Her smile, like her eyes, looked weird. She then hopped off his lap and walked back over to the waiting ponies.

“Hey Twilight,” Jack said, catching everyone’s attention. “If this does turn out to be hella sketchy then I’ll - then I’m going to - uh -”

Jack suddenly felt very on the spot with so many big eyes on him.

“Well I’ll figure something out, so watch it.”

Twilight gave him a sympathetic look, like you would to any other confused idiot.

“She’ll be fine, Jack. You have my word.”

And with a flash and a crack Eggs and Twilight and all the buddies vanished. Jack goggled.

“Shit, Twilight can teleport that many all at once? Why didn’t she just do that in the first place? Shit me, she’s kind of scary.”

And then everything was quiet, and Jack was very alone. He picked something up from the breakfast pile and went to bite into it but stopped at the last second, tossing it back. He wasn’t that hungry.

“Weird times,” he said.

Off in the distance something with a great many throats roared in fury and then there was a crash. Jack, gleeful beyond words at having a distaction, grinned and leapt to his feet.

“Ah, round two, eh? Alright fucker, let’s see if I can tie you in knots.”

Author's Notes:

A very dumb idea, hammered out in a day before I could have second thoughts. No, I don't really get Changelings. No, I don't really get anything. I was trying for foreshadowing - I hear it's a thing!

Also, Jack looks basically like Spider Jerusalem back when he had hair, only without the tattoos.

And now, to bed!

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