“Twilight, girls, what are we going to do about the buffalo and the Appaloosans?” Little Strongheart said with a rather worried expression. Twilight had spent a few minutes mending the damage from Applejack’s kick to her torso and the bandages had been removed. Applejack and Rainbow Dash were silent as they both looked over to Twilight Sparkle, who was staring at the ground seemingly lost in very deep thought.
It was silent around them as the three waited for Twilight to speak, only the sound of the crackling fire filling their ears. The unicorn eventually spoke up, looking rather sorrowfully across to the buffalo girl, “Strongheart… given the circumstances and how vicious you turned when under the influence of Discord, I fear for all of our safety if we even tried to bring any of the larger buffalo back.” She slowly shook her head letting out a deep sigh, “I just don‘t think it‘s possible right now… I‘m really sorry but I feel there‘s nothing we can do.” Twilight slowly rose her head, watching Strongheart’s face as she took in Twilight’s words, her expression a mix of different emotions,
“Twilight I don‘t blame any of you for not being able to help… I understand how dangerous it is because of what I‘ve seen from the buffalo myself.” Little Strongheart then stood, smiling across to the three, “I‘ll bring you all to the tablet containing the next clue on your search for the quill.” Rainbow Dash and Applejack stood with silent nods but as Twilight stood she let out another sigh,
“I know you must be disappointed…”
“As long as I can watch over the ponies and make sure they remain safe, I‘ll be fine. But Twilight, if you know of any place where you could find a more advanced version of your memory spell then please…” Strongheart looked at her with pleading eyes and a gentle smile, “Please go there and find a way to save all of them. Not just the ponies but all of the buffalo as well. They are just as much slaves as the ponies are.” Twilight nodded while returning the buffalo girl’s soft smile and after a few more minutes of packing up their things, the four left the cave, running across the uneven and rocky terrain.
A few minutes passed as the four simply ran but Twilight looked over to Strongheart with a bit of a quizzical expression on her face, “Strongheart, speaking of the Quill of Eternity, did you ever meet a pegasus by the name of Written Dreams?” She watched Twilight’s face for a moment, seemingly lost in thought for a few minutes before she nodded to the purple unicorn,
“Actually yes. He came by around…” She thought for another moment, “Two weeks ago I believe. He didn‘t stay all that long but he was very nice company.” The three mares seemed to give her shocked looks as they heard this, Applejack looking to the others and grinning,
“Looks like we‘re catchin‘ up right swiftly!” Strongheart seemed to tilt her head a little in response to Applejack’s words,
“You‘re trying to find him? If that‘s the case I apologize as I cannot effectively describe the clue itself. You‘ll all just have to wait till we get there.” Rainbow Dash piped up next, giving more of a gentle smile than her usual boisterous grin,
“Strongheart can you tell us about when he was here?” Strongheart looked ahead for almost a minute, silently gathering her thoughts before looking to the ponies with a smile,
“Alright then, let‘s see here…”
Little Strongheart’s ears perked a little as she noticed a dark blue and silver object flying overhead, continuing to watch as it became steadily bigger till the form of a pegasus was obvious above her. Written Dreams came to a landing about five feet from the buffalo girl facing away from her apparently looking around as his eyes were squinted, “Let‘s see now…” She heard him say as she walked over to him, raising a hoof and tapping his shoulder,
“Erm, excuse me…” She watched as he jumped a bit before quickly turning around to face her,
“Oh you‘re one of the buffalo!” He gave her a grin as he raised her hoof shaking it happily, “Pleasure to meet you my name‘s Written Dreams.” Little Strongheart blinked for a moment, a light blush appearing on her face as Written Dreams lifted her hoof further, placing a kiss on it before letting it fall back to the ground along with his own hoof, “May I know your name?” Strongheart took a step back, not used to such forward and gentlemanly behavior before she spoke while looking down a bit,
“My name is Little Strongheart.” She looked up again into the smiling face of the pegasus before looking off towards the orchard of apple trees,
“Did you just come from Appaloosa by any chance?” Written Dreams let out a bit of a chuckle as he followed her gaze towards the orchard, both of them looking in the direction of the town that neither could possibly see from their current location,
“Yes actually. They‘re a friendly bunch… especially that Braeburn pony.” The pegasus let out a laugh as he looked back to the buffalo, “He‘s pretty energetic about showing new ponies around the town.” Little Strongheart looked back to Written Dreams, nodding a little before smiling towards him,
“I wouldn‘t know. I mean, I‘ve met him but he seemed more like the logical thinking type of pony. I haven‘t seen him act all that energetic… Anyway, what brings you all the way out here Mr. Dreams?”
“Please, call me Written Dreams. And it was Braeburn that told me to come here. You see, I‘m looking for something and he said that the buffalo around here might know where it is.” Little Strongheart tilted her head in response to his words, giving him a quizzical look as she stared at him,
“Oh? What might you be looking for?”
“I‘m on a quest for the Quill of Eternity and the clue I followed told me that the next clue to find is… well it looked like it was in the center of a wide open plane. I was a bit surprised to see such a massive apple orchard out here.” Strongheart gave a nod as she smiled towards the pegasus and pointed out into the orchard,
“Oh you‘re another one of those ponies searching for the quill. We have a few legends about it and I‘m sure I could point you in the right direction but…” She paused as she looked at the pegasus, “You look pretty worn out. How about you come back to the camp I live at and rest for a bit? The buffalo of my tribe respect the quill hunters and enjoy hearing about the different experiences they‘ve had along their journey.” Written Dreams did not even pause to think before he gave her a happy grin and gave a bit of a happy trot to accompany it,
“With such a tempting offer how could I possibly refuse? Lead on, Little Strongheart.” As they began walking, Little Strongheart looked at him and tilted her head a bit,
“You seem as though you‘ve been flying for a long time. Did you have trouble finding this place?” Written Dreams turned to her as he continued trotting alongside the buffalo,
“It took me a while to find this place. I had to go back to the mountain several times to make sure I was in the right place… honestly I should have just asked someone in Appaloosa first… but that‘s no fun. Had to cross-reference the peninsulas and other rock formations against the apple trees to get them all to match up… a bit frustrating really.”
The two continued walking for a good ten minutes before arriving at Little Strongheart’s camp. A few of the buffalo gave him odd looks as he trotted through but the pegasus just hummed a soft tune as he trotted through with the buffalo girl, “Do the rest of the buffalo in your tribe not see ponies very often?” Little Strongheart looked back at the happy yet quizzical gaze of Written Dreams before she thought for a moment before speaking,
“We see some of the Appaloosans on occasion but few of them ever wander this far out so most of the buffalo in the tribe can go for months without seeing a single one.” The two of them continued walking for another minute or so before Little Strongheart and the pegasus came to a stop in front of a buffalo of a darker shade of brown than the others who wore a ceremonial headdress befitting a chief, “Chief Thunderhooves?” Written Dreams was silent as he looked up at the buffalo, who was staring down at him with both an expression of curiosity and great wisdom in his eyes,
“Why has Little Strongheart brought you before me, pegasus?” Written Dreams was silent for a few moments as he scanned the buffalo before him before he spoke in his normally cheery tone,
“Well she insisted on bringing me here after I told her I‘m on a search for the Quill of Eternity. My name‘s Written Dreams and I‘d be more than happy to share a story or two with you all!” Chief Thunderhooves looked down into the grinning face of the pegasus for a moment, seemingly lost in thought before he slowly nodded and waved his hoof,
“Very well. But that must wait until tonight. There are a few preparations to make before your story can be told Written Dreams.”
The remaining hours of the day were rather uneventful as Written Dreams mingled with the buffalo and Little Strongheart, occasionally making her blush with a word of praise or admiration for her tribe periodically.
The hours passed by rather swiftly, a few buffalo walking around and gathering various things from herbs and powders to some paints and dyes. Once darkness had fallen Written Dreams waited patiently as a few of the buffalo put paint on his cheeks in red and white lines curving up to his eyes and rings of black around his ears connecting to the white lines and both circled his eyes connecting at the top. After the paint was put onto his face a headband was put around his head consisting of many light blue and white triangles and in the back, two eagle feathers rose up connected to the ring. He sat on a log with the entire tribe gathered around a very large and roaring fire in front of them all. Little Strongheart approached him, handing him a small bowl of powder and looked up at him with a smile, “Cast some of the powder on the fire for each story you tell.” The pegasus paused to gather his thoughts before bringing a bit of the powder onto his hoof and blew it into the fire after gathering his thoughts.
He told them of his time in the Everfree forest, his trip to the ruins of the castle of the royal pony sisters and his experiences in sunny town, leaving no detail unturned as he smiled at the awed faces around him. He began telling them of his experiences in Ponyville, gathering his various supplies for his journey and his multiple meetings of Zecora the zebra.
Hours passed as Written Dreams covered each detail of his various meetings and the relationships he felt had formed from them, pausing after a while as he saw a bowl of red liquid being passed from buffalo to buffalo before Little Strongheart held it out to him, “It‘s traditional for the Quill Hunter to partake in this ritual. Don‘t worry, it‘s safe.” He took the bowl from her, seeing that he was the last in line he stared down into the bowl for a few moments before drinking the contents, a smile appearing on the faces of each of the buffalo as he did so. Chief Thunderhooves spoke up next, standing and walking over to the pegasus sitting on the log and watched as the pony looked up at him,
“And on this night, I grant you the name Starwriter and welcome you into the tribe. Are there any objections?” Chief Thunderhooves looked over the crowd of faces, seeing them all smile and cheer in response. Written Dreams smiled warmly as he looked at them all,
“I am truly honored to become a member of your tribe. Thank you very much.” As the minutes passed Written Dreams had finished his story and had began simply staring into the fire, the images that had appeared as he recounted his tale had disappeared leaving only the waving oranges and reds in his eyes. His pupils had become a little smaller and he said nothing as he quietly stared. Strongheart sat by his side, giggling a bit as she saw his expression,
“Just relax Starwriter, it‘s perfectly normal to hallucinate a bit. You‘re safe and nothing is going to hurt you here.” Little Strongheart said as she looked up at him with a gentle smile, continuing to say soothing things to him until he eventually passed out, laying on the log as he silently slept. Little Strongheart stood from her lying position and found a blanket nearby, draping it over him Eventually he was brought into one of the teepees that lined the camp in various places and slept soundly throughout the night.
Written Dreams awoke the next morning rather hazily, his eyes very slowly blinking open before he looked around with a bit of a groan before he paused for a moment and turned to his left, seeing Little Strongheart smiling at him as she had only awoken a few moments ago, “Morning!” She said before sitting up. Written Dreams simply stared at her for a few moments with an expression that seemed to be piecing together different thoughts before he blinked a few times,
“Did we…?” Strongheart blinked for a moment, simply staring at him before laughing and shaking her head with a light blush on her face,
“Absolutely not! Mine is just the only teepee that has room in it…” She rolled her eyes with a nervous chuckle, “Believe me I‘ve been asked that question a lot of times when the hunters wake up. Always an awkward moment really…” Written Dreams chuckled a bit as he sat up and brought a hoof to his head letting out a little groan as his other hoof fixed his bed head,
“Last night was just… wow. I‘m not sure if I‘ll ever have an experience like that again.” Little Strongheart stood with a small smile as she looked across to him,
“Everyone sees a lot of different things but you‘re not allowed to tell me what you saw. Those images are for you to think and reflect on during your journey.” Written Dreams tilted his head a little as he looked back to her,
“I can‘t tell anyone?” Little Strongheart thought for a moment, bringing a hoof to her chin before smiling,
“Well I suppose if you wrote them down somewhere like in a diary or something like that and someone happened to see it…” Little Strongheart smiled gently as Written Dreams stood up and stretched, flexing his wings for a few moments before nodding to her with a small grin,
“I see what you mean Strongheart.” The two of them trotted out of the teepee and looked around. The sun had risen but it wasn’t yet high in the sky leading the pegasus to believe it was only around nine in the morning at the time. He looked to the buffalo with a slight smile as he looked around, “I suppose I‘d better be on my way soon. Would you be so kind as to lead me to the center of the stampeding grounds?” Little Strongheart gave a nod and the two of them left the camp, heading back towards the enormous orchard of apple trees.
They walked for nearly thirty minutes before Little Strongheart smiled, turning to look back at him and pointed to a pile of disturbed earth that had been stomped flat by numerous hooves running over it, “Starwriter we‘re here.” Written Dreams looked to her with a smile and walked over to the patch of earth, beginning to dig rapidly with his hooves, Strongheart joining in after a short while and the two of them eventually unearthed a rather small tablet,
“There it is… what a beautiful piece of work.”
“He left shortly after he found the clue. I believe he may have headed back to Appaloosa first though but he did come back to the reservation with me to say goodbye to everyone first.” As the four looked ahead, they were running down a thin trail between the mostly barren apple trees of the orchard, Twilight letting out a light sigh of contentment as she looked over to the buffalo with a soft smile,
“It‘s really nice hearing about his journey from all of our old friends… I wonder who we‘ll hear from next?” The four of them soon stopped less than a minute later as Little Strongheart walked over to a patch of disturbed earth. Applejack chuckled a bit as she poked Rainbow Dash’s side with her hoof,
“Maybe Rainbow if she ever feels like talkin‘ about it!” Rainbow Dash narrowed her eyes at Applejack with a noticeable blush on the boisterous pegasus’ face,
“Pfft, yeah right AJ. There‘s nothing you can say that would make me spill the beans about that!” Applejack raised an eyebrow in response, bringing her hoof up and tapped one of Rainbow Dash’s upward-facing wings,
“Hoowee Rainbow, ya‘ll‘re lookin‘ like a tomato with that blush on yer face and yer wings are lookin‘ mighty impressive too!” Twilight Sparkle rolled her eyes as she looked back to little Strongheart, the two of them digging into the earth together as the pegasus and earth pony argued.
The mare and buffalo stopped after Twilight’s hoof hit something hard. She paused for a moment, using the side of her hoof to wipe some of the dirt from the tablet before her horn glowed and the tablet rose out of the ground, her hoof wiping some of the grime from it and she squinted her eyes as she looked at it, “It‘s too dirty.” She reached into her pack and withdrew her canteen, emptying some of the water from it onto the tablet and watched as the dirt slowly loosened from around the carving. She repeated this numerous times, lifting the water from the tablet with her magic before pouring it back onto the tablet until it was completely clean. Twilight paused as she gazed down at the tablet laying on the ground in front of her, steadily looking over to Applejack for a moment seeing the two mares still fighting, “Girls!” The two mares stopped the instant Twilight yelled, Rainbow Dash’s tail falling out of Applejack’s mouth as they both looked over to her, “Applejack is this what I think it is?” The farm pony tilted her head a little as she walked over to Twilight,
“Whatcha mean Twi?” She paused looking down at the tablet before her eyes widened and she tilted her head, “That‘s…” The tablet laying before them had a perfect depiction of Sweet Apple Acers in its entirety. The barn and the farmhouse, along with the vast orchard of apple trees in amazing detail. Even each individual apple was carved into the stone that was before them, “But that doesn‘t make any sense though… Twilight you said that this feller put all the clues in place more than a thousand years ago!” Twilight was silently studying the carving before them, her eyes drifting slowly around before she looked over to Applejack,
“There are quite a lot of similarities but… the farmhouse and everything looks a little older while where you live looks fixed up and brand new. Applejack, how long has your family been living in Sweet Apple Acres?” Applejack paused for a moment as she shook her head,
“I‘d say ‘round eighty or ninety years by now. Not nearly long enough.” Twilight Sparkle looked back to the tablet, studying it closely before shaking her head and pointed to a small X near one of the trees,
“Well regardless this is the clue and we have to follow it even if it doesn‘t make any sense.” Little Strongheart looked down at the tablet and smiled gently towards the three of them,
“It‘s said that the one who carried the quill did this after he partook in the same ritual that Starwriter… or Written Dreams went through. Perhaps he saw this in a vision?” The three mares nodded and after another few minutes they reburied the tablet in the ground, the three of them shaking hooves with Little Strongheart before they turned to leave and Twilight looked back to Little Strongheart for a moment,
“Braeburn is still safe in Appaloosa Little Strongheart. You should head over there and speak with him about what you know about the ponies. We‘re going to see what we can find out about a mass memory spell and we‘ll return once we‘re able to help out the buffalo.” Little Strongheart gave a very grateful smile in response as she looked towards the unicorn,
“It‘s good to know I won‘t have to be alone in this. I‘ll go see him soon then. Goodbye Twilight, goodbye Rainbow Dash and goodbye Applejack.” With that, the three friends turned and started running once again across the barren landscape once they had left the orchard unsure of what they might find at the farm.