---Chapter 3 // Into The Night---
The ponies walked along in silence for a while, but after a while, the green stallion spoke out.
"Oops, I completely forgot to introduce myself! My name is Gaul'thera, and I live here in the forest."
Rarity looked slightly offended, "Manners are important for everypony. There is no reason to wait to introduce yourself."
Gaul'thera seemed to be amused by Rarity's comment.
"I guess my manners are a little rusty." he said with a laugh, 'You're the first guests I've had in eight years."
Pinkie Pie was incredulous.
“A whole eight years with no PARTIES?!”
Gaul’thera shook his head.
“I’ve never been very social, but I do enjoy a good book.”
Twilight looked away wordlessly.
The group soon approached a large wooden structure with a metal tube on the roof.
"This is the observatory, which is my home. I built it myself." Gaul'thera said, climbing a towering, rickety-looking wooden staircase.
Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy simply flew to the top of the stairs, but the rest of the ponies were reluctant to climb up.
Applejack took a tentative step forward, and when the stairs held up, she climbed the rest of the way, followed by Twilight, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity.
Once inside, Gaul’thera went to the kitchen, and began to boil a pot of water. He then opened up one of the nearby cupboards and withdrew four jars of dried herbs and a gnarled brown root. After slicing up the root, he then added the root and half of each jar of herbs to the pot of water. The mixture smelled sickly sweet, with kind of an earthy scent, like rotten wood.
A short while later, Gaul’thera brought the entire pot over to the table the rest of the ponies were sitting at.
Rarity’s eyes bulged at the size of the pot.
“Do you really expect her to drink all that?”
Gaul’thera shook his head.
“This is not for drinking. Here, lean closer, look into the pot.”
Twilight peered inside. She saw a very clear reflection of herself. In fact, the only difference between the reflection and the real Twilight was the reflection was normally colored, while the physical Twilight was so pale she was nearly white. The reflection seemed to get larger the more Twilight stared, until it filled the entire pot.
“Now look into the reflection’s eyes.”
Twilight concentrated hard, and then gazed deep into the eyes of the reflection. Suddenly, the world began to shift. Everything turned a greyish-brown in color. The air was thick and congealed, like mud. Twilight felt like she was underwater, and instinctively held her breath.
Gaul’thera’s voice echoed, yet seemed distant.
“Relax. Take a deep breath. Nice and easy.”
Twilight was hesitant, but knew that Gaul’thera was the only one with any knowledge about Palefade whatsoever, so she took a large gulp, and trusted.
Twilight woke up back next to the pot. All the other ponies were staring wide-eyed at Twilight.
Spike took a look at Twilight and gasped in excitement,
‘You’re colorful again!”
Twilight looked up at Gaul’thera quizzically.
“How did that even work? And what was in the pot?”
“A bit of evilwort, a pinch of soulsbane, some nightknife, and a dash of murkbloom. Oh, and a purgeroot.”
“I’ve heard of the first four, but they’re all poisonous. I guess the purgeroot negates their venomous qualities?”
“A very intelligent mare indeed! Yes, the root acts as an inverter, turning the negative properties of the herbs into positive effects. Also, your reflection is still in the pot over there, you might want it back.”
Twilight turned back to the table, where the rest of the group was sitting. She looked back into the pot, seeing that the reflection in the pot was white and hazy.
“Basically, you just traded bodies with your reflection. Now you’re cured, but your reflection is still sick. That just means that as long as you never meet your reflection again, you’ll be fine. However, your reflection will be able to get closer if you work any illusion magic. Also, steer clear of mirrors for about a week.”
“So, why do you live here, anyway? It seems kinda lonely, even for you.”
“In order to answer that question, you need to do some reading. Wait here.”
Gaul’thera pulled out an old manuscript from one of the many bookshelves surrounding the table. He sets the parchment gingerly on the table in front of Twilight.
Twilight’s jaw dropped in shock when she read the title.
“I thought all the copies of ‘Theories And Calculations Upon The Subject of Alicorn Origin’ were outlawed for slander under order of Princess Celestia? How did you acquire this?”
Gaul’thera broke out in a huge grin.
“It isn’t a copy, this is the original manuscript. I wrote it, after all.”
Twilight did a double take.
“What, really? I had no idea! Why didn’t you claim authorship, besides the fact that it’s outlawed?”
“I don’t believe in ownership of facts, I think that information should be freely available for all.”
“That’s an interesting concept, I’ve never thought about it that way before.”
After a long discussion regarding freedom of press and the rights of ponies, Gaul’thera abruptly changed the subject.
“It’s getting dark enough, would anypony like to go stargazing?”
Everypony nodded and cheered, because the light pollution from towns and cities such as Ponyville or Canterlot was not present here within the natural confines of the Everfree Forest, making it easier to see the stars.
Spike decided to stay downstairs and read one of Gaul’s many adventure novels.
Gaul’thera led the rest of the group up a set of sturdy wooden stairs, into a large glass dome with a enormous telescope jutting out from one side.
Twilight gasped in awe at the sheer size of the telescope. Her own telescope back in Ponyville seemed miniscule by comparison.
Gaul’thera stepped aside to let Twilight through.
“Twilight, why don’t you take the first look, as a congratulation for getting cured?”
Twilight nodded and walked over the the massive telescope. She already knew how to work the controls, even though they were larger than she was used to. As the telescope swept the sky, it lighted upon an unfamiliar constellation.
“Hey Gaul, what’s this one? I’ve never seen it before.”
A gasp escaped Gaul’thera’s lips as he looked into the telescope.
“That’s the Black Hunter! I’ve only seen it once before, eight years ago, when I first came to Equestria. I wonder what it signifies?”
The others had no time to inquire into what he meant, because the stars suddenly shone with a blinding light, bright as that of the sun. Gaul’s eyes shone with a dazzling light, then saw no more. Gaul’thera and the rest of the ponies had vanished into the night sky.
---Chapter 3 // Into The Night // END---