Chapter 4: Discovery
Kaughn woke early, stamping out the remainder of his fire and gathering his gear. He then started off towards the town, keeping an ear out for any sounds that didn't fit with the rest of the forest. He neared the edge of the tree line, advancing cautiously as his desert camouflage didn't exactly blend with the vividly green environment. He found a tree with just enough leaves to give him good cover without impeding his view and climbed up as high as he dared to go. reaching a suitable perch, he hung his rucksack on a nearby branch and shouldered his rifle, aiming out towards the town. His rifle scope didn't offer much magnification, but he could pick out details in the town fairly well. At first all he noticed was that there was a lot of movement. most likely the inhabitants. But then as he focused, he began to see that the were all quadrupeds and their coats and manes were all very bright with many different colors.
'That's strange. Maybe it's a local custom, the work animals colored differently to distinguish ownership. If that is the case, then this town must be well off. Lots of different looking..... ponies? They're definitely not as big as regular horses.'
He observed the goings on for another few minutes before something else hit him.
'There aren't any people around, no bipeds of any kind.'
He pondered this for a moment before noticing movement out of the corner of his eye. Off to his left, a small colorful group was approaching the forest. He trained his scope on them and counted a total of six, three small and three larger. The larger ones stood at about three to four feet high. One was purple with a horn and the other two were the winged ones, one yellow with a pink mane, the other sky blue. With rainbow streaked hair?
This place was getting weirder and weirder. As he studied them a bit more, he noticed that the smaller ones were the same little foals he rescued the night before. And they were getting closer to his position.
'Uh-oh, time to go.'
Kaughn grabbed his rucksack before jumping down. He then ran back away from the tree line for a bit before jumping into a shallow ditch lined with bushes. Not long after, he heard the distinct sound of hooves traveling across the ground. The next thing he heard made his blood turn to ice water. Voices.
"I'm tellin' you Twilight, we saw it somewhere near here!" said one with a southern twang in her voice.
"Yeah, it was big and scary!" said another.
"But it saved us from the timber wolves!" said a third.
"This certainly sounds strange girls, but we should be careful if it really stood up to four timber wolves." said an adult sounding female.
"Maybe we should just go back home, I mean, its good enough that you girls are OK and it certainly sounds dangerous." said a timid voice. This one was difficult for Kaughn to hear, it was so soft.
He slowly raised his head and peered through the bushes as the group passed, searching for their owners. All he saw was the six ponies. Then the blue one spoke.
"Don't worry Fluttershy, whatever it is, it won't harm anypony here, not while I'm around," her voice dripping with confidence.
'That one spoke, they all spoke. They're speaking English!' He was starting to freak out again. 'This is actually happening! Where the FUCK am I?'
As they traveled farther down the small path, he followed silently behind them. Soon they all reached the clearing where he had happened upon the three little foals last night. The bodies of the wolves were still there, though they now looked like they were a pile of dried out branches.
"Oh, the poor things," said the timid yellow one. He guessed this was Fluttershy.
"That's the bush we were hiding in," stated the young southern filly.
The purple one examined the scene before making a deduction, "All four are still facing your hiding place, did the creature fight them in front of you?"
"That's the thing," replied the small purple maned pegasus, "one second they were about to pounce on us and the the next they all kinda just, dropped."
The magenta unicorn trotted over to the corpses, examining their bodies.
"This is strange. The only wounds are small holes in the back of their heads, but nothing else. What could have done this?"
Kaughn realized that she was quite intelligent. He couldn't afford to under estimate any of them. They definitely were not any kind of other animal, but rather another intelligent species. Much like his own, only instead of descendant from apes, they were ponies. Still, this was so confusing. He had seen nothing like this during his entire travels on earth. Was he even on earth?
The rainbow one then said, "If this is where you saw it then maybe it's still around. I'll fly up and see if I can spot anything."
A cold lump formed in the pit of Kaughn's stomach.
'They can't REALLY fly, there's no way......'
The lump/dropped out from under him as the light blue pegasus took to the air, shooting strait up into the sky.
'Oh dammit, I need to leave, NOW.'
Kaughn turned and started to slink away before he heard one of the few dreaded sounds in his life.
He was betrayed by nothing more than a small twig. Instantly the rainbow maned mare zeroed in on the sound, both their eyes locking for a brief moment.
He took off running as fast as he could.
The cyan pegasus yelled, "I see it, I'm going after it," before accelerating towards her quarry.
"Rainbow Dash, WAIT!" Twilight Sparkle cried out.
Kaughn ran as fast as he could, but the many colored mare was catching up to him with a look of determination on her face. As she closed in for a tackle, Kaughn suddenly stopped and leaned back away from the speedy pony. As she passed through the space where he used to be, he grabbed one of her forelegs and, using her momentum, whipped her around into a nearby bush. He took off again going in the general direction of his base camp, but angling away from it so he didn't lead them back there. He'd have to circle back around to it later after he lost them, if he could. Evading something that could fly was hard enough as it is.
"HEY, get back here!" The rainbow maned pegasus yelled.
Kaughn glanced back to see that she was still trying to untangle herself from the bush.
'Not a chance,' he mused to himself, 'I'm outta here.'
Kaughn kept up his pace for a while before coming to a halt and listening for any signs of pursuit. He then scanned what sky he could see through the thick canopy, just in case. Satisfied, but still wary, he flipped out his compass to get his bearings. He figured that he had ran about four or five miles to the north east. he would continue east for a while before angling back south to his cave. If he kept a steady pace and he didn't run into any more surprises, he could make it back in about a day.
It was strenuous, and he had to dodge a strange lion looking thing with a scorpion tail, but Kaughn had made it back. As he neared though, he thought he heard someone talking.
'No, they couldn't have beat me back here, could they? How would they even have found it?'
The sun was high in the sky now, starting to make its decent. He would have to keep to the shadows as much as possible. Not too difficult considering the dense foliage around him. He crept up low, on his stomach, to get a good look at things. As he gazed around he could see the same yellow and blue pegasi, plus a regular looking orange pony with a blonde mane. Also, it was wearing a hat. Neither the three little ones or the unicorn were visible.
"C'mon Twi, whadja find down there?" The orange pony hollered down into the cave with a familiar southern twang.
Kaughn guessed the unicorn was down in his little 'home away from home,' searching through his stuff.
'Dammit, so that's 'Twilight' then.' At least he had another name now. As far as Kaughn could guess, the unicorn was 'Twilight,' the yellow pegasus was 'Fluttershy' and the blue one was 'Rainbow Dash.' The orange one was still nameless.
'Weird names,' Kaughn said in his thoughts, 'but I've heard some pretty raunchy nicknames myself in the service.'
"You guys won't believe the things I've found down here, I haven't seen anything like them before!" Came the reply from the cave.
The next thing Kaughn saw truly boggled his mind. Out from the cave, surrounded in a purple aura, floated his helmet, extra MREs and magazines for his rifle and pistol. He had left them behind to make for easier going through the woods. Nevermind that though, how was any of what he was witnessing possible? The purple colored unicorn followed close behind, the same purple aura shimmering around her horn.
"There was also a powerful magical residue permeating the air down there. It's unlike anything I've ever experienced before. This definitely merits further study," she stated.
The yellow pegasus started speaking softly, "Maybe we should do it another day, Twilight. It IS getting late after all and this IS still the Everfree Forest. It could be dangerous here."
"Hold on Fluttershy, I want to try and cast a locator spell on these objects." Twilight said as her horn started glowing.
'Magical? Spell? Wait, she said locator. Surely there's no way she could--'
"Girls! I'm getting something! And it's nearby!"
"Just let me at'em! It's time I got some payback for yesterday!"
"Settle down Rainbow," said the country pony, "we don't want ta hurt it. Applebloom said that 'fore they ran off, she thought she heard it talkin' to them."
"Everyone quiet. I think it's watching us from the bushes." Twilight said as the others silenced themselves, Twilight herself looking in the direction of Kaughn's hiding place.
'You gotta be kiddin' me.'
Kaughn didn't think he could get away this time. If the rainbow one could fly, then so could the yellow one. Not to mention the fact that they had some how gotten here faster then he had, or that they had even found this place.
"Screw it," he said to himself, "at least they don't seem to be armed."
He made sure his rifle was still slung on his back and his pistol was holstered. Assured that everything was where it should be and within easy reach (just in case), he slowly stepped out from where he was concealed.
"Alright, you got me," he said, his hands held up in front of him.
"What in the hay are you?"
"That's actually a very good question, Rainbow Dash. I've definitely never seen anything even resembling you before," Twilight started firing off, "and you really can talk. Does that mean you are an intelligent species?"
Fluttershy just stood in the back, hiding behind her mane.
The orange pony in the Stetson cut in, taking a defensive stance, "Hold on sugarcube, this is still the creature that supposedly killed those timber wolves. It could be dangerous."
"Hey, hey, I'm not going to attack you. Besides, the rainbow one tried to tackle me yesterday," Kaughn retorted.
"Well, you threw me into the bushes!" shot back Rainbow Dash.
"Yeah, because you tried to tackle me. It was a defensive move," was Kaughn's reply, standing there with his arms crossed.
Twilight then interjected. "All right! Everypony just calm down! Rainbow Dash, Applejack, relax. If it wanted to hurt us it would have."
"I'm a He. A man."
"A what now?"
"A man, a boy, a guy."
"You mean like a stallion?"
"Uh, yeah, sure."
"Look, I think we started off on the wrong hoof here. My name is Twilight Sparkle. This is Applejack and Rainbow Dash," she pointed to the orange and blue ponies respectively, "and the pony trying to hide behind us is Fluttershy." She finished with a smile.
"I'm James Kaughn."
"And, what exactly are you Mr. Kaughn, if you don't mind me asking?"
"You don't have humans here? People?"
"No. As far as I'm aware, you're the only one anypony has ever encountered."
"Now if you don't mind me asking, where exactly are we?"
"You mean you don't know? You don't live here in the forest?"
"No. I actually just kind of, well, woke up here. I think I've been here only about a week."
"You said you woke up here?"
"Yup, in that cave." He pointed over to the entrance.
"Interesting. Well you're in Equestria. Where are you originally from?"
"You ever hear of a place called America?"
She shook her head "no".
Again, she shook her head.
"Uh, guys? I'd love to stay here and listen to your non-boring conversation, but it really is getting late," Rainbow Dash interrupted.
"Yeah and Ah got to be gettin' back to the farm. We got an early day tomorrow."
"And I need to go back and feed my animals. Oh, they must be very hungry by now."
Twilight turned back to the human still standing in front of them.
"Well, Mr. Kaughn...."
"Please, just call me James."
"Ok, James, do you have any other place to stay? Besides here I mean."
"Not unless I can find a better place to make camp."
"Well, why don't you come back to Ponyville with us? I'm sure we kind find you a place to stay."
"He could stay out in th' old barn near the edge of our property for now. We ain't usin' it for nuthin' at the moment," offered up Applejack.
"That's a great idea, AJ. Does that sound ok to you James?"
He was still wary of these strange ponies, but he didn't really have a wealth of choices.
"Sounds good to me. Just please give me a moment to collect the rest of my gear. It shouldn't take too long."
"Ok, we'll wait right here for you."
He turned around and walked down into his musty abode. He had only taken a few steps when he noticed the rainbow maned one, Rainbow Dash he remembered, trotted up beside him. Reflexively, his hand moved closer to his thigh holster.
"Soooo, James, right?"
"I'm kind of, sort of...... sorry, for attacking you like that. I was just protecting my friends."
"It's ok, I understand. Sorry for throwing you into the bush. You didn't get hurt, did you?"
"Nope, I'm fine. That was actually pretty cool, how you did that. I'm one of the fastest fliers in Equestria and I was going pretty fast!"
He just smiled, gathering the rest of his rations and equipment. He stuffed the MREs and extra ammo into his rucksack and clipped his helmet to the outside. Shouldering his pack, he turned and walked back outside with his companion.
"Got everything?" asked Twilight.
"Yeah. So how'd you guys get here? We're pretty far from the edge of the forest and I don't see any transport of any kind."
"Oh, we came by hot air balloon. Its nearby in another clearing."
'So that's how they managed it. They probably flew over the forest, spotting part of my camp from the air. A lot faster than trudging through the undergrowth, like I did. But how did they steer something like that?'
As they arrived at the next clearing he saw a large purple balloon. After they all climbed in, Twilight fired the exhaust with her magic. James was still amazed by it. When the balloon cleared the tree canopy Rainbow Dash jumped out and grabbed a rope, pulling them in the direction of the town.
'Well, that solves the steering problem.'