John's eyes snapped open when he heard Rainbow Dash's shrill scream outside his tent. He got to his feet in an instant, and burst into the sunlight as he drew his knife from its sheath. He quickly scanned the campsite, and saw the reptile beast immediately. It glared at him as it made eye contact, and it seemed to hesitate for a split second, confused by the strange new creature it saw. Then it sprinted at John, bringing the club over its head.
John sidestepped, the sound of the club whizzing past echoing in his ears. He slashed at the creature, but his knife bounced off of its scales harmlessly.Frowning, he changed his tactic. He brought his knee up towards the creature's stomach, and felt only air when it leaped away.
John continued to aim blow after blow at the creature, yet it avoided every attempt he made at harming it. having only one arm didn't help, and was limiting his fighting abilities considerably. The reptile, grinned, before lunging forward with its maw open wide. John stumbled backwards, tripping over a small rock. He fell to the ground, the razor teeth snapping shut harmlessly overhead.
John saw his chance, and kicked upwards, shooting his legs into the creature's gut. It let out a squeal, and fell backwards, stepping away dizzily from John. Without a moment's pause, John brought his fist swinging in a hook, and smashed it into the huge jaw of the creature. Without giving it a chance to recoil, he jabbed his elbow into its throat, and kicked it away from him.
The creature was wobbling on its scaled feet, eyes unfocused and glazed over. John took a deep breath, collecting himself, before bringing his knife back for one more try. "WAIT!" John froze, stopping his knife in mid-swing. Just in front of its deadly point was Fluttershy, holding her hooves out and signalling him to stop.
Everything froze. No one moved, and silence took its place in the camp. Even the lizard stood still, confused as to why John had stopped his knife, and why the pony was defending it. Fluttershy slowly moved towards it, whispering calm reassurance in its ear. When she got close enough to touch it, John held his breath, expecting it to attack suddenly. Yet, the lizard accepted her kind motions, and glared at John before walking back into the forest.
Fluttershy walked back to the group, a soft and satisfied smile on her face. "What did you tell it?" John asked, not really sure how she managed to make the beast leave.
"Oh, I just said that if he left, their wouldn't have to be any fight." The simple answer was enough for John, He didn't know how wildlife worked here. Maybe it wanted to give them hugs until he attacked it. He sighed, feeling tired from the short but tough battle.
"I think I could use some more sleep after that." John offered no other explanation, simply turning and walking towards his tent. As he turned, he noticed a glare from Rainbow Dash. He kept turning, and walked into the tent regardless.
Why was Rainbow Dash glaring at him? Was she angry for him allowing the lizard to go free, or because he had tried to kill it in the first place? Or was it something else? Quite frankly, John was too tired to think about something so trivial. He sat back down in his tent, hardly noticing as Twilight's still sleeping form snuggled against him.
John drifted off to sleep almost instantly, not noticing when he himself snuggled up closer to Twilight. All he felt was a comfortable warmth on his side, and that it felt nice.
Outside the tent, everypony was moving about, preparing for breakfast. Applejack was sent out for firewood as a replacement for John, and everyone else brought out various vegetables, and waited for Applejack to return so they could make fried veggies.
Rainbow Dash sat on a log, farther away from the camp than the others, and the annoying thoughts crept back into her head. Why couldn't she get some peace and quiet in her head for once? she rolled over constantly, no position satisfying her irritated mind.
Why did this bother her so much? it wasn't like her feelings were known by anypony other than herself, and she had no idea if Twilight returned those same feelings. The fact that Twilight slept in John's tent didn't bode well, but Rainbow Dash held on to her hope that it was an accident, rather than intentional.
Her ears perked up when she heard the clop of hoof steps behind her, and she raised her head to look who it was. To her slight surprise, it was none other than Rarity, who wore a concerned look on their face. "Why are you sitting alone out here, Dash? Is something the matter?"
No buck something is the matter. "I'm just fine, Rarity, thanks for the concern." she said, some of her discontent seeping through her attempts to hide it.
Rarity didn't have to think too hard to realize that she was lying. "So what is the matter, Dash?"
Rainbow Dash sighed, wishing that she could think of a way to avoid saying something like this to anypony. "I, well, you see, ummm..."
Rarity simply smiled, trying to reassure Rainbow Dash. "I can't help you if you don't tell me what's wrong." She sat down on the log next to Rainbow Dash, waiting for her reply.
Rainbow Dash began sweating, thinking hard on a way to say what her problem was, without saying what her problem was. "Well, um, you see, I ah, may have a crush on a... colt... Who I'm not sure returns my feelings..."
Rarity's eyes lit up. This was a subject that she knew she could help with. "Well, do they know you have these feelings? If they don't, you need to let them know! Oh, but don't be blunt about it, they don't want it all laid on them at once, they might be overwhelmed."
Rainbow dash continued to suck in everything that Rarity said, memorizing every word spoken. Rarity had a long list on the finer points of romance, and the list was growing larger and larger every minute. Roughly twenty minutes after the talk began, Rarity finished.
"Well, that should be every thing you need to know. Good luck with your romance quest, Dash!"
"Thanks, Rarity!" Dash said as Rarity moved to the now roaring fireplace, Applejack having arrived many minutes ago. Rainbow Dash moved to join her, but then thought to wake up Twilight, not seeing her around the fire.
She approached the tent, fearing what she might find inside. She gulped, swallowing the sudden lump in her throat. Your just waking her up, Rainbow. No biggie. She opened the tent, and found her fears confirmed. Twilight was perhaps smuggling closer than last time to John, if possible.
Rainbow Dash stepped over to Twilight, and nudged her roughly. "Come on, enough sleep, up and at 'em!" She continued to nudge Twilight, until she stirred.
"What... what time is it?" Twilight said, before yawning loudly. She blinked, trying to clear the drowsiness from her eyes.
"No idea, but breakfast is ready. Come on." she left the tent, not even checking if Twilight was following before plopping herself down on a log. Grabbing her meal, she didn't even glance at it before digging in. It tasted like fried cabbage, but she both didn't care and didn't wan't to check.
Twilight sat beside her, grabbing herself a serving of the meal. She too ate without speaking, just sitting in silence. It was an awkward meal, to say the least.
It was going to be a long day, Rainbow Dash could just tell.
* * * * *
Finally, after many more hours spent trekking through the insufferable forest, they had finally found the portal. It stood before them, nestled in the crutch of many tight-knit tress, hard to find unless you knew where it was, which they did.
John approached it, before looking back at the group and giving a smile. "So, who's ready to go somewhere new?" He looked around, and everypony nodded. They all made a ring around it, and placed their hooves on the murky red sphere once again.
The transition from world to energy river was just as jarring as ever, and everyone took a moment to clear their heads via shaking. They all looked around at the familiar purple stream, the sheer volume of color never ceasing to amaze and entrance them.
Then they were placed into another world, and they all looked around quickly, hoping to get their bearings on the surroundings. They saw snow falling from the sky in large clumps, making it hard to see far in any direction. The silhouette of a mountain loomed in the background, large and ominous. Sparse trees could be seen on the rocky terrain they were standing on, and the chill quickly began eating away at them.
John decided that the less time spent turning into a living popsicle, the better, so he turned to the portal and immediately began the process of sealing. He focused on his arm, the sparks of red coming almost instantly, the strain from his first attempt reduced to a dull itch.
Raising his fist into the air, John allowed some satisfaction to go into him. The ringing crack that echoed across the frozen terrain signaled that the portal was sealed, and he was about to signal the others to transfer when a ear splitting roar shattered the quiet of the land.
Floating to the ground on massive, jet black wings was a dragon.
Spines lined its body, sleek scales coating it. Small, red beady eyes stared at him from small, sunken in sockets. It roared again, and suddenly dark clouds loomed behind it. It stopped flapping its wings, and it fell to the ground with an ear splitting smash.
It began growling as John got to his feet, The dragon dwarfed him in size. He was only twice the size of its head, an din all probability it could devour him in one bite. Smoke rose from its nostrils, the growling growing in intensity.
John was scared. He had taken on a manticore, but this was completely different. It was bigger and more threatning, with cold and hungry eyes glaring at him from the sunken in sockets. Maybe if he tried to-
"Fus ro DAH!!"
A ring of azure energy slammed into the dragon from the side, causing it to recoil in pain. It's attention diverted from John, and he did not waste this opportunity to escape. He ran to the portal and placed his hand on it, instantly washing away the cold winds and freezing snow around him.
Looking further along the purple stream, John could see specks of white, pink, orange, blue, yellow, and a slightly lighter shade of purple that signify his friends escape. A smile spread across his face, and the fear that previously resided in him faded into nothingness.
John finally popped out of the gateway between dimensions, and glanced around to make certain that everypony had made it through. Not disappointed, the smile remained on his face, only growing wider by the minute.
Turning to seal the portal, John felt happy. His group had conquered two rifts already, and although they didn't do perfectly on either, they got the job done, and that was good enough for him. They just needed this luck to keep up, and they would be fine.
When the portal shattered into shimmering chunks, John couldn't help but sense the feeling of wonderment rise within him once again. Even during the day, the twinkling specks of light were something new to him, and his smile grew even wider, as impossible as that may seem.
Pulling his eyes from the light show in the sky, John placed his palm on his eyelid. Barely disturbed by the following crutch, he swiftly found the next portal, and pointed with a finger once his hand fell away from his face. Leading a fast paced march, John could hear the clank of everypony's packs as they fell in behind him.
Now he wished that he knew what exactly it was that saved them. The mysterious halo of blue looked like another form of magic, meaning the pony's world wasn't unique in that sense. But what had used the magic? Another dragon? Some other creature? John didn't feel that it was worth it to go back in the portal even if he could, so he lay the questions to rest.
Rainbow Dash was thinking to herself as well. Now that all the action was over, the same thing that had been nagging at her presented itself once again, and it irritated her to no end. She could hardly focus on the ground in front of her, and barely manged to stop herself from tripping on twisted roots.
Get your head out of the clouds, Dash! Look at yourself, beating yourself up over... her... Despite her best efforts, Rainbow Dash could not get the thoughts out of her head. It angered her, to be unable to keep control of her own head.
Her eyes wandered across the landscape, bored with the repetitive scenery. Nothing but trees, trees, some dirt, and more trees. She could tell it would be a long walk.
* * * * *
John pushed branches and leaves aside. he could see the edge of the forest up ahead, and the thought of escaping the insect infested swamp cheered him up. Quickening his pace, John rushed forward while everypony else tried to match his new pace.
Breaking the treeline, John looked around at the land around him. Sprawling hills gently sloped in calm mounds, with bright green grass and a few trees scattered about. Although some of its essence could still be seen and felt, the swamp was now behind them.
He turned to face his friends, and spread his arms. "I think getting out of the swamp deserves celebration, don't you?" Before another word could be said, Pinkie was smiling ear to ear and hopping in place.
"I haven't had a party in soooooo long, I'll have to make this the best party ever!" With that, she pulled a canon from nowhere and fried it, spreading a blanket cross the ground, complete with plate of cupcakes.
While John tried to figure out where the canon had come from, everypony else trotted over the the blanket with excitement. Time spent with friends and food would do them good after all the time spent in the swamp. After failing to come up with anything resembling a good answer, John joined them.
In the few moments he hadn't been right next to her, Pinkie had also set up a punch bowl and nachos with cheese dip. Deciding that it would be best not to question anything that had to do with Pinkie for the rest of his life, John happily dug into the food.
It was a massive improvement over the scavenged meat he was used to, and it almost brought tears to his eyes, it was so good. After a few seconds, he noticed the odd looks he was getting, so he gave a smile.
"It just tastes so good..." Nothing more needed to be said, and everypony grinned at him and got food of their own. John felt wonderful, better than he had in a long time. A weight had been lifted from his shoulders, and he didn't even know what the weight was. All he knew was that he felt great.
A party could do him even more good, right?
* * * * *
A/N: It is finally here. After a month of procrastinating, I got off my lazy butt and wrote some more on this story. I hope the end result means that I can get more chapters done at a much faster pace, since a once a month schedule isn't that good.
please, give me feedback, and don't forget to leave a rating after your done reading this chapter. Have a good day everypony!