John braced for the inevitable charge of his opponent, the mysterious ashen-grey stallion. He saw the stallion snort a puff of steam from his nostrils, dragging his hoof across the ground for emphasis, the classic signal for an incoming bull's charge. John was not disappointed, as the stallion did indeed charge forward, changing from a stand-still to a quick dash in mere moments. He was upon John almost immediately, rearing up on his hind legs, spear pointed downward.
But John would not be taken down so easily. as the spike of energy came swooping down, John dove forward, smashing his shoulder into the stallion's stomach. He could hear the wind rush out of his opponents lungs as he tumbled away from him, rolling across the ground like a rag doll.
The stallion got up almost instantly, hopping to his hooves in a flash. His attack had been countered, but that didn't mean he would lose. He wouldn't lose, couldn't lose. Once again, he charged, his tactic appearing unchanged to someone with no experience in combat.
John was no novice, however, and he was expecting something different. The stallion spun on a dime as he reached the spot just in front of John, pulling his legs back for a buck. John smiled a little, as he realized that one of his arresting guards had done the same thing. he sidestepped the hooves that shoot out at where he just was, hearing the 'whoosh' of air being shoved aside by a rushing force.
John grabbed the leg closest to him, gripping it in an iron vise. He yanked it to the side, hauling the stallion off his hooves as he was pulled in the direction he had kicked. John brought his knee smashing upwards, right into the passing chin of the stallion. He then released the leg, allowing his foe to fly through the air, the force of John's knee spinning him like a pinwheel.
A loud crack! rang out across the clearing as the stallion's body smashed into a thick tree. he slumped to the forest floor, limps splayed out in random directions. John breathed out, leaving his defensive stance. It came right back as the stallion became surrounded in a sickly purple haze, his body floating back into a standing position, limbs forced to bear the weight of his body. A snapping sound was heard as limbs came back into place, the stallion finally standing on his own two feet.
John did not let the stallion get a chance to attack him first, as he ran strait at the ashen form in front of him. He ground his feet into the ground when a lance of energy suddenly appeared out of thin air, right in his face. He ducked underneath it, already pulling his arm back for a punch, as a brilliant plume of pain spread across his left side, as he was hurled rolling across the ground.
John stopped, coming to his feet slowly. He looked at the stallion, only to see him already charging strait towards him, a maniacal grin plastered across his face. John lurched to the side, just in time to see the lance literally grind against the runes on his arms, sending a shower of red sparks through the air.
John spun with the tug of the lance's scrape, extending his left elbow as he did. He felt it impact, felt it hit something, before a burning pain like nothing John had ever felt before swarmed his arm, snaking through his bone and muscle. He saw a splash of red pass by his eyes, as everything slowed down. He turned his head, looking for what was bleeding. He saw the tip of the stallion's lance, then his arm, then the lance again.
His vision swam as he saw his arm pierced by the purple spike, before a horrible scream tore it self from his throat. In a rush of pure, unguided instinct, he lunged his open hand into the neck of the stallion. He squeezed as hard as his arm would allow, before lifting them up off the ground, then tossing them through the air.
The lance came with the stallion.
John screamed in pain, a new round of horrible burning sensations corrupting his being, filling his mind. Blackness began taking over his vision, cold, sweet blackness, free of pain and hurt. He dove into the dark, the unknown, allowing the wonderful relief of nothingness to wash over him.
The miner emerged from the haze of purple light, looking around him at the new environment that surrounded him. No longer was he in the catacombs of his little tunnel, but rather the top of a mountain, overlooking a misted valley, lush trees obscuring his view of the land below. He breathed in a deep breath, savoring the taste of fresh air. A smile found its way onto his dust-coated muzzle, the fell of wind simply divine compared to the stale air of the underground.
Now was not the time for sitting around and thinking about how wonderful the outdoors were. Now, he could be outdoors whenever he wanted, go anywhere he pleased at anytime. This simply wonderful thought made his smile grow even larger, to insane per-portions.
Yet, he had a sense of urgency, about him. He needed to complete his task. he didn't think about how he had never had these desires before, he didn't think about how he knew the things he now did, he simply began doing what his mind instructed. A deep chanting bean, words he had never spoken rolling out of his mouth with the ease of somepony who knew what they were saying. taking an almost musical undertone, the rhythm continued, a swirl of purple mist spiraling into a condensed mass of energy.
he didn't question how he was doing magic, or where it was coming from, only that he could do what he wanted, accomplish the goals he had. He let out a low, chilling laugh, growing in pitch as the mass of purple grew ever larger, sucking the very frames of the world into it's depths.
John's eyes snapped open as he was wrenched from the depths of his sleep. His mind worked itself into a fever as he took in surroundings that weren't there when he fell asleep, that shouldn't be there. Clean white walls were pressing in from all sides, seeming to get closer with every moment. John's first thought was that he was back at the castle, as he sat up in his bed. Wait, he was in a bed? When did this happen? John shook his head, trying to clear it of all the clutter inside of it.
He realized that there was a dull throbbing emanating from his left arm, and in a sudden rush of realization, he remembered everything that had happened before he passed into a deep slumber. He snapped his head to his left looking with suddenly frightened eyes at where the magical spear had punctured his body.
Tons upon tons of bandages, all stained a horrible crimson red, were wrapped time and time again over his left arm. Or what was left of it. A stump was all that was left, his arm ending just above where his elbow should have been. A cold sweat broke across his forehead, the sensation of not feeling his arm horribly disorienting.
His state of confusion was given long to live, however, as a door, disguised among the white walls due to its equal amounts of pure lack of color, opened, and a white pony with a red cross mark on its flank walked into the room. She wore a small, white hat, in the typical nurse fashion, that also bore a red cross on it. In a bout of wild, untamed genus, John guessed she was a nurse.
"Good morning, Mr. Abraham! You got brought in here by Twilght and the others. I looked at your wound, and it should be good for now. I'm... I'm sorry about your arm. They didn't tell me how you lost, but it must have been horrible."
this new information took a moment for John to process. He had been brought to some kind of hospital, where he had been treated by this nurse pony. He realized that his companions were nowhere to be seen, which confused John. Where exactly did they go, with him sitting there in the hospital?
The nurse seemed to sense the question in the air, speaking with the same artificial happiness. "your friends are waiting for you in the lobby, Mr. Abraham." John nodded, before standing up. the ceiling just barely was above his height, and John realized that that meant he would have to duck through the doorway. He sighed, as he passed by the nurse pony, limped through the cramped door, and into a strait hallway.
Almost immediately, John was given a dose of deja-vu as a mass of pink swarmed his field of vision. "Oh my gosh! Your alright, mister human thingy! When that meanie-baginie guy poked you with the magic stick, I was all mad, but then you threw him into a tree, and I was like, 'go human guy!' and did you know you snore really loudly?"
John's eyes practically spun at the quick barrage of words, but he had made sense of them, at least he hoped he did. "I'm glad I had someone cheering for me, Pinkie." There it was again, that strange sense of comfort and belonging. He simply didn't understand what it was, perhaps their bright colors, or simple, innocent ways? He didn't know the answer to that question, and he didn't think he was ever going to find out.
He noticed the others walking up behind Pinkie, concerned frowns turning to cheerful smiles when they saw that he was well enough to handle one of Pinkie Pie's greetings. he smiled in return, happy that there were people that cared about him again. Memories of a darker time resurfaced in his mind, and he drifted into the realm of the past.
* * *
Dammit, Diane! You can hold on, come on, don't give up now!" John was holding his wife's hand, squeezing it with pent up stress and anxiety. "Come on, don't give up, don't give up! Not now!" John's voice was cracking, his worry for his wife's safety making itself known to anyone who could hear him.
"Don't worry, John. I'm not giving up. Just facing reality." her voice was angelic to Johns ears, even in its weakened state. His worry only grew, though when he heard that sentence come from her mouth. It was similar, too similar to the cliche lines from movies.
The cliche lines of people about to die.
"No, you can't die, you can't! think of Amanda, our daughter!" His voice was even more frantic now, slurred with tears dripping from his face. His wife gave no response, her eyes slowly closing and clouding over, arm going limp in John's grasp. "No no no no no no NO NO NO NO NO!" but scream and cry as he might, John could not prevent the inevitable. He could not change destiny, could not save a single life.
Diane's hand fell from his grasp, his hands shaking as his wife's breath stopped, her chest no longer rising. It couldn't be real, it coudn't be happening, but try as me might, the cold truth would not be denied, would not be ignored. So John wept, wept for everything that the horrible cataclysm had reaped from the world.
* * *
John was shaken from his memories by a orange hoof, shaking him by the shoulder. "Hey! you alright, sugarcube?" John stumbled back, the sudden shift from the past to present jarring him. he realized that tears now stained his cheeks, and he wiped them away with his good arm. Applejack stared at him like he was insane, along with everypony else.
"I-I'm sorry, just got lost in thought there." he muttered in apology, still shaken from the transition from dream to reality.
Applejack stared at him some more, only this time as if accusing him of lying. "Must ave' been some sad thoughts to get you into a cryin' fit."
John sighed. He didn't want to burden these ponies with more tales of sadness from his past. "Look, I might not be fine, but we don't need to turn this into a bigger deal than it is already, alright?" Applejack decided not to press the issue, but by no means was she going to forget it. She would try and ask him about it later.
Everypony else made their concerns known, asking him if the stump hurt, what it felt like, so on and so forth. He answered their questions as best he could, trying to find the right words to describe the feeling of not feeling. It wasn't easy. He then asked a question of his own, inquiring as to where they were.
Twilight was happy to supply an answer. "We're in the Ponyville hospital, of course. Applejack here carried you back from the forest after you passed out." John nodded, satisfied with the answer. A realization hit him like a speeding train, however, interrupting his nodding.
"Wait, what happened to the pony I fought?" he asked, looking at each of them for an answer. They all looked down at their hooves, as if ashamed of something. This was a good enough as a spoken reply for John, who brought his hand to his forehead, rubbing his temples with thumb and forefinger. "He escaped, didn't he?" They all nodded, somehow managing to do so at the same time.
John sighed, an occurrence that was becoming more and more common in his messed up life. "How , exactly, did he escape?" he asked, his already bad mood becoming worse.
"Well, uh, you see, sugarcube, he, uh, jus' sorta vanished." Applejack stammered, visibly ashamed that John's wound went in vain. John sighed, wishing that he heard heard wrong, but knowing all the same that he had heard right.
Of course, the mysterious stallion's presence raised more questions than John cared to have. Why was this pony opening portal between world? Was he not satisfied with world domination? How did he open a portal, wasn't that tough to do or something? It sounds like it would be. John shook his head, clearing it of the messy jumble of un-answered questions.
"So now what do we do?" he asked, talking more to himself than anyone else. Every single person/pony in the room brought a hand or hoof to there chin, stroking it like they had some sort of imaginary beard. No one really knew the answer, not for certain. Should they wait out John's recovery, or head out to different portals?
John realized that he hadn't even sealed the portal in the Everfree forest. he face-palmed, groaning as he did so. This meant that they would have to go back into the Everfree forest to actually solve the problem that got him hurt. His mind wouldn't let him simply ignore the portal until he got better from getting his arm chopped off, he had to settle at least one problem before he gave up for a while.
"You ponies do realize that we didn't seal the first portal, right?" they all stopped their respective chin-stroking, eyes wide with surprised realization, before a chorus of slapping noises assaulted John's ears as they all did simultaneous face-hooves. The scene would have been comedic, if not for the reasoning behind there annoyance.
"S-so we h-h-have to go b-back into the f-forest?" Fluttershy practically whispered as she began quaking with fear at the prospect of going back into the horrible sea of green.
Rainbow Dash trotted up behind her, before laying a comforting hoof on her shoulder. "Hey, its no biggie. that guy ran away, right? So he's not gonna be there anymore, alright, Fluttershy?" Fluttershy's shacking grew less violent, and she got out a nod in-between shivers.
"Well, I guess there's no point in waiting. We should head out right now and get that out of the way!" John proclaimed with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. It wasn't much, but apparently it could inspire a march from the ponies. they all walked out of the hospital, and immediately, glances were thrown in John's direction by the citizens of Ponyville, noticing the lack of arm.
The attention was unnerving to John. Nopony said anything, simply looked on and stared at the missing part of him. He was suprised that his arm wasn't hurting that much, although he was in a world where you could open rifts to other dimensions, so stopping the pain in an arm probably wasn't to hard.
They continued to weave and wind through the twisting streets of Ponyville, once again heading for the fringe of green that could be seen just above the roof's of the town's buildings. Hopefully, no new monster or pony or anything would be waiting for them just inside the forest boundaries.
Eventually they did reach the forest edge, as the sun was beginning its lazy descent from the sky to the horizon, Luna's moon beginning to break away from the earth and soaring into the sky. They hesitated at the edge once again, thinking that it might not be worth it to head out in the beginnings of nightfall.
They got close to voicing their worries, their doubts. Fluttershy was about to speak up and say what all of the ponies thought, but she never got the chance; she was interrupted by John. "It's now or never. You gals don't have to come with me, you know."
Twilight, however, simply could not abandon the person that her teacher and trusted mentor, not to mention princess, had said they had to protect him. "No way are we going to let you go an your own, John. Princess Celestia said we were your guards, and we aren't going to give up because of some big trees!"
Everypony else echoed Twilight's thoughts, all of them refusing to let John go on his own merry way. They all cared about him, even only having met a day ago, or however long he had been in the hospital. They were, dare he say it, friends, and a good friend doesn't just let you wander off into dangerous woods.
What good is a friend, if they don't look out for you?
A/N: Hmmmmm... this chapter feels a little iffy to me. At least the middle section does. I think the fight turned out great, but some of the dialogue feels really awkward. Oh well, if you guys like it, I like it!