It had started with a nightmare.
Johnathon Dwire had been asleep in his tent outside of the excavation site of a newly discovered archeological site deep in the Amazon rainforest when the sound woke him up. It was a cross between the sound of a bathtub drain and a hurricane. His tent was shaking, and he stopped long enough to dress and pull on his shoes before stumbling, blearily, still only half awake, out into the night to try and figure out what was making all the racket.
It was... indescribable. Like a hole in space, sucking at everything around it. It was so unreal, even as he felt it tugging on his body, that he took a step forward to get a better look at it. The pull from the... whatever it was, the nothing that was in front of him, suddenly increased by an order of magnitude, and the archeologist stumbled against the force, and found himself falling forward before he could stop himself. Only he didn't hit the ground.
Not at first. There was the briefest moment of indescribable pain... only not pain, as it was like he was not there to feel it, and then he was flying head first at a stone wall. Years of training had him attempt to take the blow on his shoulder, but there just was no time. He hit the wall with a sharp impact, slumped to the ground, not so much in pain as numb, his vision going red... blurry, then grey, and darker and darker. He was barely aware of the world around him, and it was... very, very strange. It seemed like the sun was now up... but then it was gone, and it was dark again. Strange creatures passed before his vision, changing shape even as he watched, and then vanishing. Sun and Moon, dark and light, followed rapidly one after the other as his vision continued to fade. He lost consciousness then, not sure what was real and what was just the result of an obvious concussion.
When he woke, he was nauseous. His mouth tasted terrible, and his head and neck ached, and he was lying on the cold ground, against a stone wall. He closed his eyes, his headache was immense, then forced himself to open them and look around.
"That... not right... is it?"
The ruins he had been investigating, along with a small team of fellow researchers, hadn't looked like this, had they? This structure was far more intact. While it's roof was obviously missing, and it was obvious that it had been many, many years since it had been inhabited, the structure was not mostly buried, like the ruins he had been camped outside of the... the previous night?
"How long was I out?"
Despite the nausea, he was hungry, and VERY thirsty. He may have been unconscious for more than a full day, by the way his body was feeling. He peeked inside the structure, and there was a peculiar pedestal-like structure with stone arms reaching out, that seemed incomplete somehow, as if it was meant to hold things.
"Kind of looks like an ancient hat rack," he commented to himself, chuckling slightly before wincing. "OK, no laughing till my head feels better...," he said in a quieter voice. Glancing around, Johnathon noted the remnants of what had to be stained glass windows all around the interior of what was otherwise a remarkably intact structure, although shattered and obviously quite old. "OK, now those don't belong in the Amazon... and they're from the wrong time period as well. They don't look any more than a few hundred years old... maybe a thousand, but... certainly not the same age as the ruins we were...."
He froze. "We... no, I was alone that night, everyone else had gone for supplies, but... how did I get here?" Johnathon Dwire looked around at the unfamiliar looking structure. The worst part was, while this structure could not possibly be the same as the one he had been helping examine, it had certain... structural similarities that almost could not be a coincidence.
He looked out through the broken windows, and saw another, larger structure in the distance, a ruin of an ancient tower of some sort. The design looked almost European, and suddenly his brain was supplying a suggestion.
"Perhaps ancient sailors found the site we did and emulated it's design here?" he looked around at the large broken structure in renewed confusion. "That explains the similarity of architecture, maybe, but not why this hasn't been found yet... and how I got here? Maybe I wandered here in the... storm last night?"
He frowned thoughtfully. "Storm... I think it was a storm. There were flashes, like... lightning?"
The injured man shook his head, and winced again. "OK, right... no sudden movements," he glanced up at the dark forest canopy, high overhead. "The trees don't even look right. It's like I'm someplace else entirely. Where on Earth am I... and how do I get back?"
Johnathon's questions didn't have good answers, and after examining the ruins halfheartedly, he sat down for a much needed rest. "I need food, and water... and soon. These ruins will provide shelter, but I can't rest yet." with an effort, he forced himself to his feet and started off, looking for water, his most pressing need.
He heard the sound of a river in the distance, and made for it. Before he got there, he found and crossed a rickety rope bridge, held up by stone monoliths but somehow still intact, although it looked like it had only recently been repaired. Crossing the chasm it covered, he made his way down a slope to a river. It was swift, and cool, and wide, and he drank his fill before laying down on it's bank, his energy fading even as one of his most pressing needs was filled. He managed to hang on to consciousness, but barely.
"Got to... keep going...."
Forcing himself to his feet, he staggered onwards, hoping to find food. He followed the course of the river, wanting to keep at least one landmark in sight.
After what seemed like hours, he spotted a number of rabbits, foraging. He started to creep forward, but they scattered at his approach. Glancing at the bush they had been nibbling at, he noticed that it carried what looked like boysenberries, and better than that, it looked like the rabbits had been at them, eating the berries closer to the ground.
"Probably not poisonous, then." Johnathon took one, and tried it. "Oh... yeah, now I'm hungry."
His stomach, suddenly aware of food, growled angrily, and he responded by picking berries as fast as he could get hold of them and stuffing them into his mouth. He forced himself to slow down, stopping after only a few mouthfuls.
"Better make sure these stay down before I gorge myself." he cautioned himself. Taking out a handkerchief, he collected as many as he could find, and tied it into a bundle, then struggled to his feet and started to walk again.
A day later, his headache was finally fading, the nausea had gone and he was starting to feel almost human again. He had slept by the river, shivering a bit in the night's cold air, but not badly. That was strange as well. It wasn't supposed to get this cold at night in this part of the Amazon, was it? And the plant and animal life was wrong for this part of the world as well. He kept moving, following the river, until he finally came out of the forest, into an open plain surrounded by rambling hills. Off in the distance, a mountain loomed. Nothing seemed familiar.
"OK... this isn't making any sense. Where on Earth am I?" he asked himself for the second time in two days. Following the perimeter of the forest, he soon came across what almost had to be a trail. He bent down, and noted hoof prints in the dirt. "Hmm... those seem a bit small for horses, but someone must live near here..." Johnathon set off down the trail. In the far distance, he could see buildings. "Oh, finally, civilization!"
Still, it was miles off, and he was getting really, really hungry again. To his right, he spotted apple trees... or rather, an apple orchard, the largest one he had ever seen. He was practically falling down from hunger, and who would mind one or two apples to a starving man?
With half a dozen apple cores lying at the ground next to him, Johnathon rested his back against a tree in contentment. He hadn't eaten properly in days, and finally he was feeling full. A rustle of movement through the short grass around the trees behind him caused the man to glance around, and there, looking at him with wide eyes, was an adorable looking baby foal.
Johnathon's eyes went wide. "Weird coloring..." he commented out loud. A red mane over a yellow coat? That was pretty strange. It was obviously domesticated, a big pink bow was attached to it's mane. "A girl huh?" he guessed, assuming that the strange foal's owners wouldn't put a pink bow on a young colt. The small foal continued to stare at him, leaning forward slightly on it's forelegs as if to get a better look, and he returned the favor. He smiled, and reached over to one of the apples he hadn't eaten. "Hey there... want one?" he asked with a small grin. He slowly got to his feet, holding out the apple. The foal backed up a step, and... made a series of sounds that almost sounded like it was trying to talk. Johnathon's eyes went slightly wider, then he grinned again. "Aren't you a talkative one!" he commented softly, still holding out the apple.
Slowly, he approached the small foal. As he got closer, he realized it was probably older than his first guess... its small size had made him think it was a baby, but it had too much meat on its bones to be a baby horse... it looked half grown, and stockier, like a young pony. The small pony's eyes widened as he approached, and it made more soft horsey noises at him, the expression on its face looked as if trying to scold him, and he couldn't help but grin.
"What... did I take your apples, huh? Don't worry, I saved you one..." he grinned and knelt down about six feet away from the small pony, holding the apple out. Slowly, the young filly moved forward, and accepted the apple from his hand. With remarkable speed, the young pony polished off the apple in a few efficient bites, then looked at him quizzically. He gestured with his hand. "Come here, little one, I won't hurt you."
The little pony just looked at him sideways, but it seemed to understand his gesture, and came closer to him, till he could just reach out and touch her nose. He did, sliding a gentle hand up her face to her mane, and stroked it. She nickered at him, and then abruptly stepped away, looking almost affronted. Johnathon had to laugh, the look on the small pony's face was priceless, and the small horse sounds again sounded like it was scolding him for something. He sat back, watching the small filly, and as he retreated, she seemed to become more confident. It moved closer, and sat down itself like a large dog, it's hind quarters folding up so it could sit comfortably.
"Aren't you well trained." he commented thoughtfully. "Horses usually don't sit like that. Of course, you're a pony... I think, I guess I don't know as much about ponies." he reached out to pet her mane again, and this time the small filly took the gesture in stride, seeming a bit disgruntled, but willing to be petted. "I have two horses at home, you see. They roll on the ground, and lie down sometimes, but they don't sit..." he shook his head. "But of course, you don't understand a word I'm saying."
He got to his feet. "But where are your owners, hmm, little one? I didn't see any fences... you probably shouldn't be out this far, I'd guess. I bet you found your way through a gap in the fence, or jumped it someplace, huh?" the archeologist nodded to himself. "My gelding does that all the time. He's always pushing at the fences, and whenever he gets them low enough, he jumps them to visit the neighbors. He never goes far... but I'm always repairing fences."
Johnathon sighed, and smiled. "Why don't we get you back home, huh?" he slowly got to his feet, and reaching down, scooped the small pony up into his arms. Startled, the young filly struggled wildly at first, but he held it firmly but gently, talking to it to try and calm it down. "Whoa there! Calm down little one, we're just going to take you home... you don't exactly have a lead rope on you, and I doubt you'd just follow me... but don't worry, I'll put you down soon."
The little filly was sturdy, and heavier than she had looked at first, but she was a manageable burden. After about thirty seconds of wild struggling, the small pony nickered at him again, sounding angry, almost annoyed, but it stopped fighting, and seemed to be calming. With a smile, he started off down the trail, following the apple trees. In the distance, he could see a farmhouse and barn.
"Huh...." he muttered to himself as he got closer. "Looks a bit like American mid-west architecture... but... not. Weird." As he approached the barn, he saw another pony, this one full grown, with an orange coat and a blond mane. It had been walking tiredly across the field toward the barn, but it stopped dead in it's track on seeing him. The strangest part of the picture was the large cowboy hat perched firmly on the pony's head.
The Pony eyed him worriedly, poised as if to flee, when something changed in it's demeanor. It's eyes went wide, and it whinnied at the top of it's lungs. Again, Johnathon was struck by the... variation and quality of the pony's voice. It was almost as if it was yelling... something. It sounded almost like language, but that couldn't be, could it? The orange pony then reared, and started to gallop towards him at full speed, obviously angry.
"Oh shit..." Johnathon glanced down at the small filly that he was holding, and the only explanation he could think of at first was a mother's love. "This must be her foal... and she thinks I'm going to hurt her?"
Quickly he set the filly down, almost dropping her as she kicked free once his grip slackened, and started to walk backwards, his hands upwards, palms facing the enraged little pony. Of course, little was relative. While quite a bit short of a full grown horse, the orange pony probably out-massed him by quite a bit, and it was remarkably fast. He dodged backwards as the mare reared up and kicked out with it's front hooves, trying to remain cool.
"OK!, OK! I'm going! Your foal is fine, see? Just... just calm down now..."
The orange pony stood it's ground in front of the small foal, nickering dangerously at him, and put a leg out to stop the smaller pony from moving around it towards him.
"Right... I'll just.... be going then." he turned and started to run, heading for the road. There was an almost indignant whinny from behind him, and he glanced over his shoulder to see the orange, cowboy hat wearing pony whirling a rope... no, a lasso, over it's head with it's teeth. His eyes widened in surprise, and he nearly tripped over his own feet in shock at the sight. "What the hell... hey!"
The rope came right at him, and would have come down around his torso if he hadn't snapped out a hand to grab the rope, or attempt to, before it wrapped around him. He missed his grab, causing the lasso to wrap around his upper forearm rather than his body. The lasso snapped tight in a moment, the orange pony demonstrating remarkable skill with it's use, and he found himself pulled roughly from his feet, going to his hands and knees as she started pulling him backwards toward the small farm. The small filly was jumping up and down excitedly, but Johnathon was seeing little but the determined Orange Pony's eyes, and then he was seeing, and eating dirt, as she yanked him forwards again, still walking herself backwards, taking him with her. Spitting dirt, the archeologist started to see red.
"You...." *Splat* "Hey!" *Splat* "Quit it!!!" *Splat* Every few moments, she'd yank on the rope again, throwing him into the dirt by his outstretched arm with frightening skill. "OK, that's it!" Johnathon scrambled around, getting his feet in front of him, and letting the pony yank him to his feet. He dug his heels in, and they had a very short tug of war before the orange pony once again dumped him face first in the barnyard dirt.
"Ouch." he muttered. "Stronger than she looks." he rolled and twisted, got his feet under him again, and this time, as she yanked, he went with it, charging at the orange pony with a fierce light in his eyes and a wild grin on his face. Scooping up a couple big loops of rope as he ran forward, he dived headfirst upon the surprised looking pony and grappled her by the neck. Her surprise was only momentarily, and she started bucking, but his feet were on the ground and he managed to maintain his hold. He got one arm free and started throwing loops of rope around the mare's thrashing feet. He lucked out, a loop coiling on the ground around her rear hooves for a moment, just as he pulled backwards, wrapping her hind legs together.
And then it got REALLY tough. The orange pony was incredibly strong, and even with his advantage of leverage, she nearly broke loose several times before he finally managed to get all four legs wrapped in coils of rope. He was pulling the rope around her legs for a fourth loop, fearing that the mare's insane strength would allow her to snap even the sturdy looking rope if she had a moment to attempt it, when he heard the sounds of something galloping his way. Something bigger than a pony.
Well... a bit bigger. A cherry red pony... it wasn't tall enough to be a horse, although it might have been close, with a brownish orange mane, wearing a horse collar, was charging at him at high speed, a VERY angry look in it's eyes. The... stallion, at least, the archeologist assumed it was a stallion, was massively built, with a powerful chest and legs that looked like they could kick through a door with ease. And it would reach him in moments.
Johnathon stood up, gathered himself, and at the last second, lowered his shoulder and braced his feet. He had once stopped his full grown thoroughbred mare from charging out an open gate with a block like that... and she was over a thousand pounds, and as tall at the shoulder as he was. Regardless of its muscular build, this pony couldn't hit harder than that, right?
He was wrong. Johnathon's shoulder felt like he had been hit by a moving car, and his knees bent under the impact, but the stallion had been stopped. It stepped back, shaking it's head as if it too was feeling the pain of the impact, but in moments, it had lowered it's head, obviously about to charge him again.
"Whoa!" Johnathon backpedaled several more steps, not wanting to take another hit like that. "You win! I'm going, I'm going! Just don't throw any more ropes at... me...." he stared at his upper arm, where a loop of rope was still wrapped, and quickly started pulling it loose as he backed away. He strained and pulled his arm free, and continued to walk backwards quickly. The little foal was still jumping up and down, nickering up a storm, and the Orange pony was struggling with the rope around her legs, biting at it and making a surprising amount of progress towards freeing herself.
"OK, time to leave." the tired and sore man told himself, and started to run toward the town at top speed. Thankfully, the small group of ponies did not pursue him. At least not at first.
Johnathon Dwire came to a dead stop as he entered what appeared to be a main square in the small town, and stared. The town was full of ponies. Ponies of every color and description, and... did that one have a horn in the middle of it's forehead?
The ponies stared back at the man, who by now was grass stained and wild eyed, and as one they started to run in every direction, whinnying and crying out in those strange, horse-like, but too complex voices as they fled.
A shadow flashed by him... something had blocked out the sun for a moment, and when he looked, he saw a shadow racing across the ground... looking up, he saw something blue flash by like a bird, but far too large to be a bird, and then start circling overhead. It was a...
He slumped to his knees. A Pegasus, a blue Pegasus with a mane and tail that were nothing if not a brilliant rainbow, was coming around for another look at him overhead, hovering about twenty feet over him as it looked down at him with interest.
"I'm dead." he decided. "Or I'm in a coma... I'm dreaming all this... except, why does it hurt so much?" his shoulder, where he had body blocked the large red stallion, and his arm, where the rope had tightened around his forearm, and his nose, which had gotten planted into the dirt so many times... all hurt. It had felt... so real. It LOOKED real. But it couldn't be real, could it?
He slumped sideways, resting against the fence of someone's garden, gazing up at the rainbow maned Pegasus in confusion. Behind him, the three ponies from the farm charged up, but he barely noticed. There was a lot of noise... that strange, equine language, and he could see eyes from shop windows around him... pony eyes, watching him warily, but somehow, none of that seemed to matter.
"This is... insane." he said firmly. "I'm having a mental collapse."
As he tried to figure out what the last real thing he had actually seen was, a purple... PURPLE? A purple unicorn carrying something scaly and also purple... a large lizard? On it's back, started approaching him from one of the buildings. It spoke to him calmly in it's strange language, and it was a language, wasn't it? He struggled to try to understand, but aside from the fact that the purple unicorn, and it was a unicorn, the horn in the middle of it's forehead was plainly visible, seemed to be concerned rather than angry, he couldn't understand it.
"Why would I be able to understand it anyway?" he asked rhetorically. "It's a... pony sized unicorn!" he shook his head, and started to force his tired body to stand. "OK... I'm dreaming...." he said firmly. He started to walk toward the purple unicorn, reaching out to try and touch it. "This can't be real, can it?"
He sensed movement behind him, but he had no time to turn before something struck him in the back of the head, and he fell senseless to the cobbled street.
"Rainbow Dash!" Twilight Sparkle chided the cyan Pegasus with a frown. "You didn't need to do that! I don't think it was trying to hurt me."
"Hey! I was just trying to protect you, OK?" Rainbow Dash looked disgruntled at the lack of thanks. "Whatever it is, it could be dangerous!"
"It's not dangerous now, sugar." Applejack said wryly as she walked up to inspect the back of the strange creature's head. "Still breathing, but you rattled it's brains about a two bits more than enough." she judged as she peered at the hoof print in the back of the creature's skull. "We'd better get Fluttershy. This critter will probably need some looking after, and while I know a little stuff about fix'n up critters, she's the expert round these parts."
Twilight approached as well, her horn glowing as she carefully lifted the creature in a telekinetic field. "I'll carry it. Where did it come from, anyway? Did anyone see?"
Applebloom spoke up. "I think it came from the Everfree forest!" she announced loudly. "On account of I found it eating our apples on the side of our farm that's right by the edge."
"And how did it manage to get a hold of you?" Applejack asked, sounding more like a mother than a big sister as the worry and concern for her small sibling broke through. "When I saw that creature holding you... I thought you were in real trouble!"
"Nah." the small filly said dismissively. "Like I told you, he was nice! I mean, he shared an apple with me, and he patted my head all gentle like, and... well, I didn't like it when he picked me up, but he didn't hurt me none. He just took me toward the farm. I'm pretty sure he was gonna let me go before you scared him, Applejack."
"Now, you don't know any such thing, little filly." Applejack scolded. "For all you know, he was going to walk right off with you, or...."
"Or eat you up in a big tasty stew!" a bubbly voice added helpfully.
"Right." Applejack agreed. "Or eat ya..." she glanced over her shoulder. "Oh, hey Pinkie." She greeted the party pony with a bit of a smile. "Yeah, what Pinkie said."
Applebloom did not look convinced. "He wouldn't have done that. He eats apples, not ponies! And he looked like he'd had his fill anyhow."
"How do you know it's a he?" Twilight said curiously.
Applebloom blinked, and looked at the unconscious creature. "I don't know... he just... looks like a he. You know?"
Applejack frowned, then shrugged. "I guess, a little." she looked at the strange creature for several long moments, then got closer. "He don't look so good, maybe we'd better get him to Fluttershy's place rapid like?"
Johnathon woke slowly. His head was pounding, and as he opened his eyes, he heard a squeak and a yellow and pink blur vanished around the corner of a... couch? He slowly lifted his head. He was in a small house of some kind, very pleasant looking, in greens and browns, surrounded by... ponies. Half a dozen of them, in fact. He recognized several. The small yellow foal with the red mane was hiding behind the orange coated pony with the blond mane and the cowboy hat who he had hog tied earlier, and next to her, a startlingly pink pony with a poofy mane and a slightly crazy expression, The blue... no, cyan Pegasus was hovering in the center of the room as if flying was as natural as breathing to it... her? There was the purple unicorn, with and another unicorn, this one white, with a dark blue mane, and a pattern of three dark blue gemstones on her flank. Actually, as he looked at them, he realized that all of them, save the smaller filly, had a mark of some sort on their flanks.
"Um... hello?" He ventured, looking around carefully, and reaching up to gingerly touch his head. He felt cotton, and reached around to find his head was bandaged, with some padding under the bandage at the back of his head, where he felt the worst.
The purple unicorn approached him slowly, and spoke to him for a while in the strange equine language. She was obviously intent on something, but aside from knowing she was trying to tell him something, he did not know what she wanted. He frowned to himself. Why was he sure she was a female? Something about her build, the sound of her voice, and the style of her mane seemed to indicate it to him, but he couldn't be sure. It was just an impression.
"I'm sorry... I don't understand." he answered. Dream or not, it seemed like these... ponies, were... intelligent? It certainly seemed like it. They seemed to communicate with each other in complex ways, and they didn't act like animals. And that orange pony's use of her lasso had been... startling, but at the same time, it told him that they were, at least moderately, tool using. And unless there were humans around that he hadn't seen, they had built... a town? Was that even possible?
The purple unicorn seemed to think for a moment, said something to the others in her strange, almost lyrical voice, then, with a flash of light, vanished from the room.
He sat up in shock, and immediately regretted it, his head swimming as he nearly lost consciousness again. The orange pony stepped up to him and put a hoof on his shoulder, as if to gently force him back into the couch, and he sagged back, not having the energy or the willpower to resist. She was glaring at him, although not with quite as much hostility as she had been before. At least it didn't seem like she would attack him. The cyan Pegasus fluttered over above him, looking down at him in curiosity, and staring at him like he was an exhibit at a zoo, He found himself staring back. This one was certainly a female, and... had the most extraordinary coloring he had ever seen. Her rainbow mane did not look like it was dyed, it looked... soft, natural, although a bit wind swept. If it was dye, it was the best job he had ever seen.
Or course, the fact that she was FLYING... that she had wings and that they worked... despite the fact that they looked too small to do the job, was making his head swim even more than his injuries. A real Pegasus? And it's looking at me like it's never seen a human before. Actually, they all have been looking at me like that. He thought to himself.
Then there was another flash of light, and the purple unicorn was back. There was a large book floating next to her, glowing slightly, and it opened as he stared, and the purple unicorn started to flip through it's pages, apparently reading aloud to herself as she went.
Rarity was eying the strange creature carefully and she approached to stand next to Applejack as the Earth Pony kept a hoof on its shoulder, holding it down lightly. "It's obviously intelligent." she said thoughtfully. "I mean, look at the clothing it's wearing!" she glanced at Applejack. "I really don't think he's going to start attacking anypony." she said with a calm expression. "I admit he looks... strange, but surely a creature with such... sophisticated attire would not be uncivilized."
"Sophisti-whatnow?" Applejack said uncertainly. "Those look like work duds to me, sugar. I mean, he's covered near head to toe in em, but they aren't all froo-froo like or nothing..."
"But the fit! The craftsmanship!" Rarity pointed her nose at the man's blue jeans. "The stitching! It's top notch work, if I do so say myself, and I would know! I don't KNOW how they managed to get the stitches so fine, but I recognize quality when I see it, even it does appear to be work attire."
Applejack blinked. "I'll take your word for it, Rare. They look like they've seen better days though."
The man lay passively under Applejack's hoof, his neck craning about to look at the room, but not attempting to get up.
She eased up slightly, but kept her hoof on his shoulder. "Don't think it... he's harmless just because he's got nice duds though, sugar." the orange earth pony warned. "He's stronger than he looks... and tricky. He hogtied me with my own rope, and stopped Big Mac in his tracks, near enough."
"Heh." Rainbow Dash chuckled from near the ceiling. "He managed to hog tie you? I wish I'd been there for that!"
"I'm sure you'd have been laughing your foal head off." Applejack said gruffly. "Only he had just been grabbing my sister, and when he managed to get the upper hoof on me, I didn't know what he was going ta do. I'm just glad Big Mac showed up as quick as he did."
"He wasn't going to hurt ya!" Applebloom's high pitched voice broke in. "He was just... angry, I guess, at you roping him when he didn't mean to do nothing."
"Well then, let's ask him." Twilight's voice broke through the others as she closed the book with a satisfied look on her face. "I found the translation spell. Everypony stand back now."
Applejack glared down at the man, then backed off with the rest, and Twilight Sparkle concentrated, her horn glowing brighter and brighter as she focused.
Johnathon had no idea what was going on, but apparently unicorns could teleport, and make books float... and all these... ponies were apparently discussing what to do with him? He wasn't positive, but it seemed like the white unicorn was on his side, as was the little yellow foal that he had first met in the apple orchard, while the strong orange mare didn't trust him at all. Not that he could blame her, he supposed. Then the purple unicorn's horn started to glow, and the other ponies started backing away from him as she pointed it right at him. He threw up his arm in front of his face as the light flashed and a beam of purple light struck him, and closed his eyes.
"Can you understand me now?" the voice was female... and vaguely familiar, as if he'd heard it before, and he opened his eyes to see the purple unicorn standing near him, looking at him with a small hesitant smile. "Can you talk?" she asked hopefully as he stared in wonder.
"Um... yeah, I can understand you." Johnathon said slowly. "What just happened? I couldn't understand a thing you were saying a minute ago."
"Oh, I cast a translation spell!" she explained helpfully. "And it looks like it worked!"
"Um... apparently." Johnathon agreed hesitantly. "A spell? You mean, like magic?"
The purple unicorn nodded. "That's right. I used magic to make it so you can understand us, and we can understand you. How are you feeling? I'm afraid Rainbow Dash might have hurt you... but I promise, nopony is going to hurt you any more."
"We'll see about that." Came a flat, angry voice from the orange pony. "I have a bone to pick with him about a certain hog tying he did on a certain pony..."
Johnathon flinched. "Er... sorry about that? You were... well, you were hurting me, dragging me along the ground like that. I think I ate half a pound of dirt, all those times you slammed me into the ground face first... and I'm surprised you didn't break my nose in the process. My whole face hurts." he paused. "So... I kinda got carried away a little, but I really didn't see how I was going to get away from you unless I tied you up first. You did seem to make it clear that you weren't going to just let me run away."
Applejack blinked, then frowned. "You were holding my sister! I though you were going to hurt her or something... and then you turned and ran like a chicken...." Johnathon was getting a little annoyed. Brushing her hoof off his shoulder with one hand, he sat up, glaring at the orange pony.
"I didn't hurt your... your sister, and I wasn't planning on it! I was just taking her home! Or at least I was trying to, when you ran at me like you were going to murder me!"
Applejack blinked, then got ready to yell some more when Applebloom spoke up. "I told you he was nice!" she piped in from behind her big sister. "I tried to get you two to stop fighting, but you wouldn't listen to me!"
Johnathon hesitated. "Er... well, I didn't understand what you were saying... but I didn't want to fight any... er... anypony, I just wanted to get away... your... big sister looked mad, that's all."
Applebloom pushed her way between Applejack and Rarity to grin at him. "She get's like that when she's worried. I want to run away when she's mad too, but she means well, honest."
The archeologist nodded. "Sure. I get that. Heck, I understood why she was mad the second I saw her... although I didn't mean to scare her like that." he turned to Applejack. "I am really sorry I scared you...." he shook his head, winced, and sighed. "I'm getting new head injuries on a daily basis now it seems... I hope I don't have a concussion... or worse, that I'm in a coma and just dreaming all this."
He hesitated. "Of course, the other option is that I've gone insane, which makes me think I might be better off if this was a coma."
Twilight looked worried. "Why do you think you might be insane... or in a coma?"
Johnathon opened his mouth to speak, closed it, then opened it again. "Because... this can't be real. I mean... you're... talking, and flying, and magic... ponies? What's up with that?"
Twilight's eyes went wide. "I thought it might be something like that! No wonder I can't find a record of your species in my books! You're not from Equestria, are you! Where do you come from? Is it very far? How did you get here?"
Johnathon put up a hand. "Whoa... slow down a little. I don't know the answers to most of that, but at the least, I can say that I'm certainly not from... around here. Where I come from, ponies don't talk... or have wings... or do magic."
Twilight blinked. "There are ponies where you come from?"
Johnathon hesitated again. "Well... sort of? Not really like you... like any of you. They're... er... not intelligent, and they don't really look quite the same, but they have four hooves, and they're about your size, and mostly resemble... er... well, the ones of you without wings and horns, I guess."
Twilight blinked. "What do you mean, not intelligent?"
He winced, expecting this to be a touchy subject. "Er... they don't speak... well, at least as far as we can tell, and they're, er... this is going to sound bad... but they're domesticated animals."
Twilight blinked again. "Like pets?"
Johnathon nodded. "Er... yeah. Like pets." he nodded at Applebloom slowly. "Actually, when I first saw... this little filly...." He blinked. "Oh, we never got to introduce myself... my name is Johnathon. What's your name? Do you have a name?"
"Of course I have a name, silly! I'm Applebloom! What's John...a thin mean?" the pint sized filly answered, tripping over his name a bit as she tried to say it right.
"Mean?" Johnathon blinked. "It's my name. It doesn't really mean anything."
Applebloom blinked. "Oh. That's kinda weird."
Applejack spoke up. "What were you going to say... when you saw Applebloom.... what?"
Johnathon grimaced. "Well.... I thought she was... er... someone's pet. I thought she was lost or something, and I figured I'd take her to the farm and see who she belonged to."
Applejack's eyes narrowed. "My farm. Sweet Apple Acres, you mean? You thought my sister was somepony's pet?"
Johnathon winced. "I'm sorry! I've never met... ponies like you! I didn't mean any harm."
Applebloom giggled. "So that's why you were acting weird! You were acting like I was a puppy or something. Petting my head like Applejack does with Winona!"
Johnathon blinked. "Winona?"
Applebloom nodded. "That's our dog!"
Johnathon blinked. "And she's your pet?"
Applebloom nodded again. "Yup! She's a great dog! She helps us with the herding!"
Johnathon nodded slowly. "OK, at least that's the same. We have dogs as pets where I come from as well." he turned to Applejack. "I figured out that you weren't... er... the kind of ponies I was used to as soon as I saw you slinging that lasso. You're... incredible with that thing, by the way. I've never seen anyone quite so good."
Applejack's expression softened slightly. "Well... shucks. That's mighty kind of ya to say." she hesitated, then looked at him straight. "I guess you didn't know better... did you?"
Johnathon shook his head. "I honestly didn't. When Applebloom was trying to talk to me... well, it seemed like her voice was really... complex... but I just didn't figure out what was going on until... well, it didn't really sink in until I ran into town, I guess." he reached up a hand to touch the side of Applejack's face. "I didn't hurt you too much, did I? I wasn't trying to do any damage...."
Applejack flinched away and he pulled his hand back, but her face softened a bit more. "Didn't do me any harm, save my pride. You're pretty good with a rope yourself there, mister. I guess you've worked on a farm a time or two yourself, eh? You hog tied me right professional like, for all I was bucking."
Johnathon shrugged. "Well, I have lived on a farm... I owned one, back... home, although it wasn't really a working farm. My wife and I had a couple horses.... and some goats." he hesitated. "Er... do you have horses and goats here?"
Twilight blinked. "Goats yes. I've never seen a real horse, unfortunately, although I've read about them, and I did do this one spell to turn mice into horses once...."
Johnathon hesitated before deciding to ignore the part about turning mice into horses. "Well, they look like you... er... like a pony, except they're taller, and thinner, with longer legs, proportionately."
Twilight blinked. "Like the princesses?"
Johnathon looked confused. "I have no idea what you mean."
She blinked again. "Well, like you said, they're taller, and thinner... with longer legs. And they have both horns and wings."
Johnathon shook his head. "No horns or wings... that's what really shocked me... I've never seen a real... unicorn, or Pegasus before."
Twilight looked interested. "But you know about us somehow? I mean... you recognize a unicorn or a pegasus?"
He nodded. "Yeah... they're... well, myths where I come from. They're in books... in stories, not in real life."
Twilight beamed. "Then maybe our people encountered each other long ago!"
Johnathon nodded again. "Sounds... plausible, at least. I still don't know how I got here though. Or where here is. If... well, if I'm not dreaming, or crazy, this isn't my... well, my planet at all."
Twilight's eyes went wide. "Oh! You're from another world! Well, that would make sense! Maybe you came through some sort of dimensional rift... or...." she looked at him sharply. "When did you first come here... I mean, to this place?"
Johnathon hesitated. "I think... two... maybe three days ago? I hit my head pretty hard... when I got here, I think."
"Discord!" the purple unicorn said with a knowing nod. "You must have been brought here by the Chaos storm Discord created! The only thing I can't figure out why you didn't go back when everything else went back to normal."
Johnathon shook his head. "What's a Discord? What's a chaos storm? And... what's your name? I can't just call you purple unicorn, can I?"
Twilight blushed, a strange sight for a man who had never seen a purple unicorn pony become embarrassed before. "Oh. I'm sorry. I'm Twilight Sparkle. These are my friends." she nodded to each in turn. "This is Pinkie Pie."
The pink pony giggled and waved at him. "Hi! Do you like parties?"
The Cyan and Rainbow Pegasus grinned at him sheepishly. "Sorry about the concussion."
The White Unicorn gave a small bow, her expression calm and almost regal. "Charmed, I'm sure."
"And you've met Applejack and Applebloom."
Johnathon nodded at the sisters. "Apple farmers, I suppose?"
"Apple family!" Applebloom asserted strongly.
"And Fluttershy is the one who bandaged up your head." Twilight blinked and turned around. "Fluttershy, are you still here?"
There was a soft "eep!" from the other side of the couch, and Johnathon sat up to peer over the back. A Pegasus with a yellow coat and a pink mane was cowering there, looking scared.
"Hi... Fluttershy, was it?" he said gently. "Thanks for bandaging up my head."
Fluttershy managed a very quiet, "you're welcome" with her front hooves in front of her face.
Johnathon grinned slightly, she was adorably cute for a fictional creature. "Well, I promise, I won't hurt you, OK? Don't be scared."
"ok." She squeaked again, almost too softly to hear.
"Don't worry, she just takes a bit to get used to new ponies..." Twilight explained helpfully. "Not that you're a pony... new... creatures.... although usually she's very brave around woodland creatures."
"Not a woodland creature!" Fluttershy said in a slightly louder squeak, then looked apologetic. "Not that that's a bad thing or anything... I've just... never seen anything like... you before." she was speaking at almost a regular volume now, slowly getting to her feet to look at him. "Are you... are you feeling alright? How's your head?"
"Hurts..." Johnathon admitted. "But I've had worse... not often, but I figure I'll live."
Fluttershy looked at Rainbow Dash with an almost disappointed expression. "I'm so sorry. Rainbow can be a bit too rough sometimes, but I'm sure she's very sorry she hurt you."
Rainbow Dash shrugged, and Johnathon smiled slightly. "So she said." he nodded at rainbow maned mare. "I do accept your apology. You're really fast though, I didn't see you coming."
"Fastest flyer in Equestria!" she bragged. "I kicked a dragon in the nose once!"
His eyes went wide. "Dragon? They have those here too? Are they really big?"
Rainbow Dash grinned. "This one was! He must have been more than a hundred feet tall!"
"Long." Twilight corrected. "Perhaps as much as 90 feet from nose to tail, but he certainly wasn't a hundred feet tall, Rainbow Dash."
"Whatever. I kicked him in the nose GOOD and hard. He never saw it coming."
"You just made him mad!"
"Girls..." Fluttershy broke in, then looked a bit surprised at herself. "Rainbow, what have I told you about kicking creatures like that? If he had been a mean dragon, he might have eaten you up... or roasted you and the rest of us. It's just lucky he was nice."
"And that you're the Stare Master!" Applebloom put in with a cheer. "Fluttershy can stare down ANYTHING!" she told Johnathon proudly. "Even a Cockatrice!"
Johnathon blinked. "Er... that's great." he shook his head, and winced once again. "Ow. Dragons... pegasi, unicorns, and cockatrice..." he glanced at Twilight. "Is that a sort of chicken like creature that can turn people into stone, or am I remembering my mythology wrong?"
Twilight looked impressed. "No, that's right. Head of a chicken, body of a lizard... its stare turns ponies to stone."
Johnathon. "Huh. Well, either our worlds did have some sort of meeting in the far past... or I've got a better imagination then I realized.... but for now, I'll tentatively go with accepting this as reality."
Applejack looked dubiously at him, then at Twilight. "So you're saying that his here... fella, came outta some other place where we're all myths and legends and whatnot... when Discord was messing everything up?"
Twilight nodded. "That's my theory... for the moment. The timing works, and I can't think of anypony else powerful enough to create a rift in space... or time, or whatever it was that brought Johnathon here." she looked at him curiously. "How did you get here, Johnathon? Can you remember?"
Johnathon frowned. "Well, I was sleeping in my tent... just outside of this ruin we were excavating in the Amazon... that's a rainforest where I come from, and there was a really weird... noise outside my tent. I went out to look, and it... I can't describe it. It was like there was a hole... a nothing... was there... and I got... sucked into it, I think? Then I hit my head, and woke up next to this big ruin out in the woods. These big woods out past... er... Applejack's farm. They kind of looked similar, but these were a lot less... old. So after I recovered a bit, I started walking, looking for civilization, and I found... here. It took me about two days to get here... although I wasn't at my best."
"Ruins? In the Ever-free forest?" Twilight asked, looking at him with wide eyes.
"If that's what those woods are called, yeah." Johnathon said. "Looked... oh, hundreds of years old... roof mostly gone... some stained glass windows were partially intact. Very nice columns...?"
"The castle of the royal sisters!" Twilight said excitedly. "That must be..." she shook her head. "Well I don't know what, but it must have something to do with why you're here... and why you didn't go back when everything else did."
Johnathon put up a hand. "Everything else? I take it that I'm not the only unusual thing that's appeared around here recently?"
Applejack rolled her eyes. "Not hardly! The whole world was going topsy turvy for a while there, sugar."
Twilight nodded seriously. "Discord... he was... is, a powerful force of Chaos. He escaped from his imprisonment a few days ago, and we only recently managed to seal him in stone again. In the meantime, he caused all manner of chaos."
Pinkie Pie sighed. "I miss the chocolate rain...." she said wistfully, then turned to look at Johnathon hopefully. "Do they have chocolate rain where you come from?"
He blinked, and shook his head. "No... not that I know of."
Twilight grinned slightly. "That was probably just a transformation spell... although a really powerful one." she turned to Johnathon. "If Discord was the one who brought you here...." she frowned as if that idea was not a pleasant one. "Well, I don't know if it'll be very easy to figure out how to get you back, but I'll try."
Johnathon smiled. "Well... thank you. That's very generous. I don't know if I'll be able to repay your efforts, but I'll try."
Twilight Sparkle smiled. "Well, if you could tell me something about your world, I would appreciate it. I've never met anyone from another world before!"
Johnathon nodded, and immediately a wave of dizziness swept through him. "I'll be happy to tell you... something about my world...." his vision swam in and out for a second. "Ohh... sorry, got a bit dizzy there for a moment."
"Alright then, that's enough for today." Fluttershy's voice, for a change, was startlingly firm. "Johnathon has answered enough questions for one day, he needs his rest. He's just going to get sick if he doesn't lie down soon. A concussion is no laughing matter!" The normally shy yellow pegasus stuck to her guns, and in minutes, the rest of the ponies had cleared out of her small cottage.
"I'm sorry about all that." she said to Johnathon softly as she brought him a blanket. "They're good ponies, just a little excitable sometimes."
"That's quite alright." the man told her equally softly, his head starting to really hurt now. "I'm sure that they're just as fascinated by me as I am with all of you. It's not everyday you... meet creatures from your story books, after all."
Fluttershy seemed to sense his growing pain level in his voice. "Can I get you some medicine? Only, I don't know what creatures like you can take without becoming sick... oh dear."
"We call ourselves humans." he told her. "And I'm not sure myself. I could use something for pain. Do you have anything along those lines?"
Fluttershy nodded. "I do, although I'm not sure which to use. I've never treated a... human before."
Johnathon closed his eyes and thought about it. "Well... I wouldn't know what to call it here... but... I noticed most of the plants seemed pretty familiar to me. Do you have anything like willowbark tea?"
Fluttershy blinked. "Oh! I do know what you mean! I have a pill that uses the same medicine that is in willowbark, only a bit stronger. Would that be alright?"
Johnathon nodded slowly. "Let's try that."
The gentle yellow pegasus brought him a pill and a cup of water, and he soon found his pain easing. It didn't fade entirely, but it allowed him to sleep.
Johnathon's dreams that night seemed almost normal in comparison to the waking world he had found himself within.