I had never been more afraid in my life than I was right now. My eyes were starting to water, my lips were starting to chap, my muscles starting to burn, despite my adrenaline; I was running too damn fast. I was caught by surprise when I broke out of the Everfree Forest within mere minutes of grabbing my things and running. In addition to my fear of the dragon - whose consistent roars kept me going - I was beginning to fear that I would wipe out again, as I was galloping way too fast to be able to come to a quick stop if I would need to. The fact that I was constantly having to dodge vegetation didn't help, either. If only I could use my wings...
I had injured them several years ago while saving a filly that had fallen out of a building in Manehattan. Heroic: yes. Clichéd: double-yes. Foolish for not taking the course of action that was clearly better than the one that I took: ask my shattered wings. In hindsight, I keep bucking myself, because I know what I could have done: I could have easily trotted underneath the falling filly and basically called a fair catch. Instead, I had recklessly flown, caught the filly mid-dive, and crash landed on my back, completely shattering my wings in the process. I remember thinking that I had paralyzed them, since I couldn't feel them at all. Unfortunately, it was just adrenaline, as the excruciating pain that had come later proved. By the way, that pain still hasn't fully subsided. The filly was still safe, but the same obviously couldn't be said of my wings. By some miracle, I would eventually be able to fly again. However, after my wings healed - which still wouldn't be for at least another year - I would have to relearn how to fly. Before that "accident", I hadn't been a very fast flier, but I more than made up for that with my elusiveness and maneuverability. So much for that now.
Anyway, I refused to slow down, despite the numerous different factors that were all telling me to. It's a good thing I didn't, as moments later I had made it out - of the forest, that is, not of danger. Surprisingly, there was a town directly ahead of me. Who in their right minds would build a town on the edge of the Everfree Fore-...oh yeah, it's Ponyville. How did I forget that? Suddenly, it clicked: in this situation, town = help. I didn't slow down at all, especially as I saw an old friend of mine as I got closer to what I assumed was the town plaza.
"In the name of you, thank goodness you're here!" I shouted in a desperate - yet fortunately successful - attempt to get her attention.
Whether you decide to believe me or not, I am good friends with Princess Celestia herself. Oh, you decided not to believe me? Well guess what? I don't care. That won't change the fact that I am, and have been ever since I had helped her and her sister defe-- whoops, almost spilled the beans there; that's something I'm not supposed to talk about, as per the request of both of the Princesses. Anyway, she and I are not just 'old friends' - for reasons that she made me promise long ago I would keep quiet - but we are not only on a first name basis, not only on a nickname basis, but pretty much on a best-friends-who-like-to-mess-around-with-one-another-a-lot-more-than-is-probably-healthy-for-anypony-involved-in-any-way-shape-or-form sort of basis. Still don't believe me? Well, I still don't care.
As I got closer, I noticed that my timing couldn't be more perfect: considering the crowd in the plaza, as well as the royal chariot just behind the Princess, it looked like she was just about to leave. I also noticed that she seemed to be talking to one pony in particular...I remember Celestia telling me a while back that she had sent her personal protégé to Ponyville to help her make friends that weren't books. Haha! I still find that hilarious, especially because that's exactly how the Princess had worded it, too! Hm...what was her name though...uh...oh! Twilight Sparkle! That's it! I can't be certain that tha's who she's talking to now, but it's definitely worth the assumption.
As I got even closer, I decided to take a glance over my shoulder...only to discover that the dragon had now decided to take flight. Shiiiiiiit! Apparently, the Princess must have seen the dragon as well - thank...her, I guess - as I saw that she had begun trotting up to me as I looked forward again.
"A little help, please!" I shouted as I approached her, immediately followed by another loud dragon roar, this time audibly accompanied by fire.
Before this, I must've looked like a madstallion, but I hoped that the prescence of the dragon was proving me less insane to the ponyfolk in the town than I originally appeared to be. That doesn't necessarily mean that I wasn't insane. Fortunately, however, as soon as the dragon had gotten to within her range, my divine consort teleported it away with a laugh. Clearly she was trying to humiliate me by making it seem so simple. No matter; I'll get her back - I always have. With my well-being and safety now certain, however, my legs instinctively tightened up, causing me to immediately fall forward in a painful face-plant. I didn't really care, though; I was able to rest, and that's all that really mattered at that moment. I felt my saddlebags being lifted off of me magically and heard them gently placed next to me. This allowed me to roll over, though I was forced to be careful to not out any weight on my still-injured wings. Once I had, I saw Celestia leaning over me, a large grin planted on her face.
"It's been a while, Bri'," she greeted me.
"That it has, Celly. And thank you, by the way."
As she assisted me back up to my hooves with her magic, I immediately flipped my blind-bangs back over my right eye; I no longer needed to use it for my complete night vision, and when I no longer need to use it, I don't. It's really that simple. Additionally, I didn't want anypony to see it yet, with the lone exception of Celestia, who had been the first to point it out to me in the first place. As I looked around me, I was somewhat surprised to find that the majority of the ponies that had been gathered earlier had dispersed. As I thought about it, though, it made sense: it was late. The ponies who were still present, though - with the exception of the Princess - were six mares, whom I managed to vaguely recognize as the Elements of Harmony, solely because of my familiarity of the legend. Well, that as well as practically all legends...I like legends, okay? Don't judge me! Anyway, one thing that I had always found to be intriguing about the Elements of Harmony in particular was that they not only were directly tied in with my friend Celestia, but also because they - unlike the vast majority of all the legends I've ever heard of - are solely based on facts, as they themselves are nothing but fact.
Now, Celestia finally took the time to formally introduce me to the Elements...well, that is until she went all Trollestia on me and decided to have me try to guess each of their names, as well as the respective Elements that they each represent. Again with the humiliation! Well, it would be were it not for my familiarity of their names and respective Elements. All I had to do really was match the name with the pony, which is really simple, especially with a bit of deducing...and I actually feel somewhat pathetic now, as earlier I had some trouble recalling the name of Twilight Sparkle - Celestia's student - yet I had completely whiffed the fact that she's the Element of Magic. Wooooww....
Anyway, the first match that I was able to make was Rainbow Dash, Element of Loyalty. As I looked at her, I noticed that the combination of her rainbow mane and tail contrasted with her cyan coat to perfectly make me think of an actual rainbow arcing through a cloudless, blue sky. That's pretty damn cool, I think. Anyway, she was rather obvious to point out, considering her namesake mane and tail made her stick out like a wingboner. Speaking of which...she was also making me overwhelmingly thankful for once that both of my wings were strapped to my body, as otherwise I would probably have a wingboner myself. Yes, I admit, I was finding her extremely attractive. I doubt you could blame me, though. Well, at least I hope you couldn't blame me. Regardless, if circumstances would permit, I would like to be able to get to know her better...no, not in that way...well, yet, at least, but that's besides the point, as I was relating to a different reason, one that would apply to the other five Elements as well:
I've always make it a priority to establish a new permanent connection each time I visit a town, village, etc., whether I've been there before or not. Over the years, I've found that such connections are crucial, especially for the ever-wandering lifestyle that I have. These connections help me by, for example, giving me shelter for a couple nights, food, etc., whereas I return the favor through...well, favors; helping with chores, run an errand or two, those sorts of things. However, the thing I find most...empowering regarding these connections is the bond that is formed through it, as well as the trust, good nature, and understanding that comes with it. Even though my estimate of the average time between my visits of any one connection is around six to eight months, those bonds stand the test of time. It's truly remarkable! Almost as remarkable as the connections themselves, which include the famous DJ Vinyl Scratch - AKA DJ P0N-3 - Soarin' of the Wonderbolts, and of course, Princess Celestia. Again you don't believe me? Well again, I don't care.
Moving on, my next guess was Fluttershy, Element of Kindness. I was actually somewhat saddened when I saw her not only hiding her face behind her pink mane, but also that she was trying to hide behind her peers. Unfortunately for her, though, having a yellow coat didn't help her cause much.
Next was Pinkie Pie, Element of Laughter. I had guessed her not only because of her pink coat, mane and tail, but also because of the abnormally-large smile plastered on her face. From the way I looked at it, it looked to be permanent. The fact that her mane and tail looked and smelled like cotton candy help quite a bit in my deduction as well.
I'm honestly surprised that I hadn't named Applejack, Element of Honesty, sooner, particularly because of her trademark stetson, which gave her away to me immediately. Additionally, I knew that she was a co-owner of Sweet Apple Acres. Their product - apples, obviously, but damn delicious ones - had actually begun to be something I was sick of hearing of, due to how famous they were no matter where I was; no matter how good something is, is starts to get really annoying when it's more-or-less the only thing that you ever hear anypony talking about. I decided to vocalize that, but before I could clarify what I meant, the orange farmmare thanked me for the complement, and gave the explanation I was going to give to her confused friends. I always like it when things are done for you.
The two unicorns were all that remained, and of the two I first named Rarity, Element of Generosity. In regard to her...well...her name just fit her appearance. I can't find the proper words to explain how I knew, but it...just made sense, I guess. Well, that and her elegantly-flowing mane and tail, her tri-gem cutie mark, her stereotypically-accurate regal appearance...okay, I guess I was able to find the proper words.
Lastly, I named off the Princess' personal protégé, Twilight Sparkle, Element of Magic. Similar to Rainbow Dash, I felt that her appearance compared well with the sky, though not as perfectly as the former. As for this studious mare, however, I felt the comparison would be focused simply on her mane, the colors in particular. It is a deep violet - almost an indigo - with purple and magenta streaks in it, reminiscent of a beautiful night sky at dusk. Additionally, I realized that I undoubtedly would end up getting to know her a lot better, particularly due to our mutual relationship with the Princess.
Getting my priorities back together, I opened up my saddlebags, sat down, and let Poeni out, cradling her aging figure in my forelegs for a short while. As I was doing so, I had some sudden realizations. First off, looking down at Poeni, I noticed that phoenixes seem to grow smaller as they near the need to be reborn. In Poeni's case, she's approximately ⅓ to ½ the size that I am, with a six to eight hoof wingspan. When she's healthy, that is. Considering this, as well as the fact that Poeni, in her current state, can easily fit in one of my saddlebags, I fully realized how little time I truly have, in the long run.
I looked up and noticed that five of the six Elements were donning confused expressions, with the lone exception being the Princess' personal protégé, Twilight Sparkle, who bore an expression of pure intrigue. I followed her gaze as she took a couple steps forward, and recognized that she was looking at Poeni.
"Poenus antiques..." the violet mare exclaimed, thus confirming my realization.
Before I could reply, the other five Elements decided to take their leave, which I completely understood, considering how late it was. After they left for their respective homes, I set Poeni down next to my saddlebags and took out the sack, opening it up to let Poeni stick her head in. A couple seconds later, Poeni pulled her head back out, giving me a look and a kaw.
"Yeah, I know it isn't enough, Popo, but it is a good portion of what we need!" I confessed with a sigh.
I looked and noticed that Celestia seemed to recognize the scent, as evidenced when she correctly guessed what it was: myrrh. The Princess then moved on to her next point, asking me if I had a place to stay, or if I was wandering around Equestria like I usually do. Replying that it's the latter, her violet student immediately offered to let me stay with her for the time being.
I hesitated. Despite having met so many different ponies, an immediate invitation into the home of somepony you had just met was extremely rare, and thus was something that I was rather unexperienced with. Fortunately, however, Celestia had me covered.The Princess pulled me aside, and explained to me - again - that the biggest reason why she had even sent her protégé to Ponyville was so that the latter's social life could include more than just herself and the books in the Canterlot library. She then began to continue, but as soon as she said "she also lives in the town library" - which was in fact the first thing she said - my obvious intrigue made her stop. I turned back to Twilight and accepted her offer, saying that it would help to research potential locations of the remaining ingredients. However, before I could finish the word 'research', Twilight squees, picked up me and my belongings - Poeni included - and started happily cantering off to her house, jubilantly bidding goodbye to the princess as she did.
"Goodbye, Twilight! Have fun, Briar!" the Princess replied with a sarcastic wink that was aimed at me.
"Oh, I'm certain I will," I retorted with a clearly-unamused face
When we arrived, Twilight seemed surprised to see her assistant waiting for her. She introduced him and I - whose name is Spike, by the way - before explaining to him why I'm here, and that I'm a good friend of the Princess. However, when Twilight introduced us, I noticed that she had referred to her assistant as "a baby dragon". He was definitely a dragon, but it was clear to me that - despite his small stature - he was prepubescent. I decided to point this fact out to her, resulting in an exasperated "thank you!" from the purple-and-green reptile, leading me to believe that this had been something that had been annoying him for some time.
Twilight decided to move on to the next topic, immediately offering me the use of her bed for the night, which I respectfully declined. Based upon her facial expression that followed my declination, I knew she would need some convincing, so I didn't wait to give it. I explained that there would be a high chance that I would end up curled up on the floor anyway. When Twilight then pushed the subject by asking me to specify further, I took advantage of her analytical personality and gave her what she asked for.
"95%," I specified with an amused grin.
"Oh..." she muttered in response, furling her lips.
After several moments of awkward silence, Twilight finally submitted and began making her way up the staircase to her room - with her already-sleeping assistant on her back - before turning back half-way to bid me goodnight.
Sure enough, I ended up falling asleep with Poeni in the center of the library floor.