The sun glimmered brilliantly off the roofs of the town. The heat quickly warmed my skin, softly massaging out the stress I was feeling from tagging along with an expedition into the Everfree Forest. I attempted to enjoy the scenery and the smell before I was cast into the dark, dank woods. Lyra still hopped beside me grinning ear to ear like her face was stuck that way. I took a deep breath in and smelled the nearby lilacs and tulips of the flower stall and the sweet scent of freshly cut grass being served to the small chattering group of ponies sitting at the tables. The pacing was much slower than I imagined Vinyl would have set it, but she seemed to be taking her time for some reason, but I didn’t pay much attention to overly notice or question why.
The birds chirped overhead as a three butterflies fluttered past my face. I had never taken note of the little idiosyncrasies that thrived within Ponyville until now. I figured it was mainly a drive of my body to enjoy what I could, forcing me to find any and everything that I enjoy in my life.
“Wait here.” Vinyl’s voice broke the silence and brought my focus back to her.
We had arrived at Sugarcube Corner where I guessed Ditsy was going to get another order of muffins, but I saw that she was sitting in the dust smiling, her bags already crammed with varying flavors and styles of muffins made solely for her insatiable consumption. There wasn’t a day where I questioned how that pony managed to keep her lean figure given the sheer amount of muffins that she consumes in a single day. Picturing an x-ray of her stomach only caused me to shake my head as I saw the lining burst only to be replaced by a three more stomachs.
I questioned what Vinyl was doing inside of Sugarcube Corner, but was answered quickly as she re-emerged from the store being followed by a familiar face.
“Doctor? You’re coming too?” The words slipped through my lips.
“What? Oh yes. Adventures and danger are my middle name. Well not really, but I have already forgotten it.” He shrugged. “Vinyl mentioned your little venture to me and I simply cannot turn down an adventure.” He thought for a few and shrugged as he added, “Plus someone needs to keep you girls safe.” He winked and chuckled.
“Always the same, eh Doctor?” I smiled at my childhood friend.
“Who is that slice of stallion?” Ditsy leaned in and whispered.
“That’s the Doctor.” I answered quietly back.
“Close. Doctor Whooves.” I corrected her.
“Whooves? That is a strange name.”
“Ahem. Ladies. Can we all be engaged in your conversation about me or should I just wait until you finish?” The Doctor joked.
“You’re fine.” Ditsy sighed out. “This adventure just keeps getting better isn’t it?” Her grin widened to what I could only imagine as being the precipice of any pony smile even beating Lyra’s perpetual grin.
“At least we won’t have to worry about anything being broken.” I winked at the brown stallion.
“Nothing is broken when The Doctor is around.” He struck a strong pose, caught in his own world of carefree jokes and enjoyment of his own wit.
Doctor was a strange fellow with many interesting quirks, some that I still didn’t understand. The main one being his innate ability to be able to fix everything brought to him and his origins, which still remained a mystery. I had met him when I was a filly. He was much older than me then. Surprisingly enough he had managed to look young through the years bringing me to believe that he was able to both fix any object, as he was able to fix himself and maintain a youthful appearance. I never put much thought behind it and when I had asked him he brushed it off as that he was always viewed younger than he truly was, which led me to ask about his age. He only chuckled at my question and gave his most common answer. “I forget to be honest.” I never thought he was honest, but it wasn’t a driving question.
Ditsy flapped her wings and lightly lifted from the ground and floated above The Doctor. I saw her nostrils flair before she visually relaxed and glided over to me. “He smells like muffins… I’m in heaven. I wonder if he tastes-“ I bit her tail before she could eat The Doctor, holding her in place before she gave up. “Even brown like a fresh made muffin.”
“Sounds like you’re in love.” I chuckled.
“In love with a muffin stallion.” She plopped back onto her rear and took another big whiff of the air. “He is going to drive me insane…” She quickly dug into her bag and procured a muffin. “We need a Doctor flavored or at least scented muffin.”
“Having a muffin smell as witty as me would be quite an irritation though an enjoyable chew nonetheless. Is your friend going to be alright?” The Doctor asked.
“She’ll be fine. You just smell like muffins and Ditsy here loves muffins.” I explained.
“Muuuuuuffins…” Ditsy droned.
The Doctor looked at her in an awkward silence and I didn’t blame him seeing as Ditsy was still staring at him hungrily and licking her lips.
“Ditsy? He isn’t a muffin. Snap out of it.” I walked in front of her to break her view.
“What? Oh… I’m sorry.” The shock at what she was doing sent her gliding up slightly, levitating just slightly above the ground. Her face turned a deep red as she shook her head.
“Is everything going to be alright?” Vinyl questioned, trying to stifle a laugh.
“Yes.” Ditsy fluttered over to Vinyl with her regular smile.
It was one of those few moments when I questioned how real her smile was and how many things she was hiding behind it, but I felt it wasn’t my place to question it nor search for it without her permission and I kept it as a mystery.
“Now that we have all the formalities out of the way, can we proceed to the Everfree Forest?” The brown pony questioned, nodding to us and turning to the dark expanse of trees in the distance.
I could only nod as a means to hide my reluctance, but the unison of voices from the other three answered his question better and we began our trot toward the forest. Vinyl took point with Ditsy, followed by Lyra, then The Doctor and me. I tossed him a few glances, a question burning at the tip of my tongue, but unsure if I should ask. He never broke his gaze from the forest and I wondered if he saw my failed attempts at starting a conversation.
“What do you have on your mind Octavia?” My curiosity was sated.
“Why exactly are you coming along and when did Vinyl ask you?” The words were hesitant as they passed from my lips.
“Why? Well I don’t rightfully know how to answer that question, maybe just the desire for something new, some thrill of adventure and the adrenaline of danger has been on my mind. As for Vinyl, she came to me early this morning and asked if I would be willing participant for an adventure into the Everfree Forest to find the fairy tale pony, Eyn Spyyr.” He smirked at the name.
“Do you believe he is real?” I had to ask.
“I believe that there is a chance of it like there is a chance for everything to exist.” A nod of self-satisfaction from his answer broke his composure.
“So you think he does exist?” Again, I felt compelled to ask.
“I would hope to find out.” He finally turned to me and gave me a glance that I had only seen him give the most challenging of tasks.
His answers made sense to me and made the journey seem more reasonable and maybe not completely fruitless, but I still had my doubts as to the desired outcome of this journey. If something went wrong- if something happened to- I had to slam my eyes shut and shake the thoughts from my head. Everything will be fine. You need to stop worrying and do your best to keep everypony safe. I nodded at my added resolve and looked at the long road still ahead of me to the entrance to the forest and back at The Doctor.
“We don’t talk much.” I stated.
“We don’t though it would seem that we would both have plenty to discuss.” He answered with his usual hint of slyness.
“When did you first come to Ponyville and Canterlot?”
“Those were quite a few years ago and I forget how many had passed, but I met you on my second day living there. I was taking a stroll, trying to find my bearings in your quaint little town when I stumbled through your rock farm. I had heard a trumpet and music coming from the silo. I decided to check it out and stumbled across a party amid the dismal setting that the rock farm had generated, but seeing you and Pinkie dancing together, fighting the sadness of the environment, I had to make an entrance.” The Doctor explained.
“You did just walk in our celebration.” I had to laugh at the memory. “It scared my father a great deal.”
“Send him my apologies. I did not mean to frighten.” He tossed a disarming smile and looked back at the forest. “This forest it something isn’t it.”
At first I didn’t know what he was getting at, but when I turned my attention to the forest again, I saw that within the trees, wisps of fog had begun to rise out and reach to the sky as if to escape it, but being held within it. The broken and twisting branches that reached out from the edges became increasingly more intimidating and cracked as if with each step I took toward them, they grew with evil. The trunks slowly became distorted faces in my eyes, screaming up in agony as if the ground they stood on was burning them. Only the screams were in my head, but I would guess that they had to be screaming.
“Yeah… it’s something.” I practically groaned.
“You’re not looking forward to this?” He asked, finally showing some concern as to how I was taking the journey.
“No, not overly.” I admitted.
“Then why did you come?” He questioned.
I wanted to say a better excuse than my initial thought. I felt the wooden box hit my side within my bag and turned to him quickly. “Because Vinyl gave me an anniversary gift, but it is under lock and key unless I go with her.”
“Huh… I didn’t know you two were dating. How many years has this been going on?” He asked.
“What? No. We aren’t dating. It’s just something that we started as being roommates for so long. It has always been a wonderful moment for us to reconnect and not fight that day.” I joked.
“That sounds like a sweet thing. What did you get her, if I may ask?”
“I haven’t really got her the gift yet. I just need to pick it up from the record store.” I kept my voice down.
“Ah… well I think she will enjoy whatever gift you get her.” The Doctor whispered back.
I just hoped I would have some alone time when I got back to manage to get to the record store before she would notice and get it to her. I questioned the gift inside of the small box in my bag and even why I had wished to bring it along with me. I figured the best answer was that it was one of the few reasons why I was going along with my agreement to Vinyl so it would be best to keep it next to me for moral support.
The longer I walked the more I needed to think about everything. The weight of the world never seemed to vanish completely and only increased in magnitude. I slowly began to feel more aware of another weight inside of myself. My heart seemed to be dragging more than usual and it almost felt like it had formed a link to whatever was inside of the box. It gave me hope as much as it drove my curiosity to try and figure out what it was and why she would go through so much trouble to give me something that even needed an ornate box to house it.
I had to look up at white unicorn walking in front of me, her blue hair jutting everywhere and softly moving in the breeze, her glasses popped on her eyes to block the glare of the sun, but her teeth reflected it brilliantly as she laughed at one of Ditsy’s jokes. Ditsy flapped her wings and laughed, kicking up dust around her feet and almost dancing. Vinyl must have been discussing when her next rave would be and Ditsy had always been excited to participate in them. The sight of those two always caused feelings inside of me to grow, and a happiness to fill me. Even in the short amount of time I had met Lyra, we had connected in a way that I don’t normally associate myself with. As for The Doctor, he always had some sort of fatherly presence about him.
The town sat behind us as we crossed the halfway mark. I hoped everything would go well inside of the forest, but deep down I knew that the unfortunate would occur in some form or another and it came down to me wondering which event I would have to adapt for and if it would be at all possible for me to save them if it came down to it. I could only sigh and stare at the ground as if defeated by my own thoughts, and finally was just going with it. I would still prefer to be realistic about this journey.
Instead of worrying about the journey I decided to try and imagine what such an old alicorn like Eyn would even look like, or even more questionable, what would a male alicorn look like? Everything became a question as I tried to paint a picture inside of my head on how he would look. I started with Princess Celestia and tried to make her more manly. It was hard work, but I eventually made something that looked decently male. I wondered about the mane and could only give up and make up some random pattern. I assumed he had to be some color different from white or black, but which was still only guesswork. What would he even tell me if he existed and if I found him?
Moments passed where I all I did was walk and think. I created glorified acquaintances and settings. I questioned what wonders I would be able to create given a blessing of Eyn. All of the thoughts began to excite me as much as they had excited everyone else. Vinyl glanced back at me and must have seen my smile and excitement because she nodded and smiled back at me. She had won my support over by instilling this thought in me and sending me on an adventure to please the thought. Inside, I wanted to forget about Eyn and focus on the dangers that awaited us, but I felt just as lost as the rest of the group. It felt that he was sitting just behind the first tree, waiting for us and congratulating us before guiding us to his swamp home and instill his methods of inspiration onto us.
“You seem to be a bit chipper.” The Doctor pointed out, breaking my trance.
“My head is a safe place to stay.”
“It would be best to keep your eyes open now.” Doctor Whooves motioned forward.
I snapped myself out from the daydreams and found the dark and dismal trees of the forest staring down at me. I had never been in the Everfree and from all of the stories I had heard, my superstitions were pretty high. I imagined that at any second the trees were going to bend down and snatch me up and eat my friends or me. It was mere seconds before I realized that I had stopped in my tracks and simply stood in a frightened trance. My knees locked as my mouth slowly dropped. I was never to be afraid of anything, but the forest had an effect on me, which I had no words to explain. The group halted just at the edge of the trees, shrouded by the evil shadow, looking back at me.
“Aren’t you coming, Octavia?” Their demon voices hissed, their bodies turning black and eyes burning with a crimson red. Wisps of fright fell from them crept along the ground, infecting the land. They were lost. Lost. Lost.
“Octavia?” I opened my eyes to find myself paralyzed in front of the trees. Shame filled my body as I blushed at how I was acting, but the fear still held me firmly in place. “Octavia?” It was Vinyl’s voice, growing with concern as she galloped out to me. “Octavia?”
I snapped out of the phobia that coursed through my veins and turned to her. Her red eyes were calming and soothing like soft campfire embers that put us to sleep in the living room. The muscles loosened around my heart and I began to feel at ease. I felt the wooden edge of the box poke my side, edging me forward. I stepped forward in response, each step sending a wave of fear through me, waiting for the trees to grab me. Stories of my past filled my mind and every unimaginable thing echoed through me. I had promised to protect my friends when I was acting like this? I was pitiful and weak. How could I protect my friends when I was this weak?
“Octavia?” Vinyl spoke again, softly and lovingly.
My voice still shook from the fear I was overcoming. “What is it Vinyl?” I asked, trying to set my next foot in front of the other.
“Are you sure you want to do this? You seem a bit, traumatized.” She smiled to try to ease what she was saying onto me, but I knew what she was getting at and I didn’t want to hear it. I was here to protect my friends and I was going to do that.
The resolve that was building inside of me pushed me ahead. I had to prove myself, not to my friends, but for myself. I drove the fear quickly out of my head as music rose up in my head. I would not let this fear beat me. I visualized the edge of the forest as the edge of the curtain, a stage leading out into a crowd of onlookers waiting to hear the skill they paid for. Taking poise and aligning my lungs I walked through the curtain and into the darkness of the theater, taking my seat, feeling the glare of a hundred onlookers. I was nervous as with every show, but my confidence outmatched the force to withdraw. Raising my bow, I set it upon the strings and let it fill the air. The notes played brilliantly inside of my head, starting from where I had left the song last, marching me into the darkness.
My friends stared at me with smiles and grins as the excitement that I had quickly broken my fear of the forest. I didn’t want to admit that the fear wasn’t broken, but that I had raised my confidence far above it. Vinyl walked from behind me, sliding her head close to mine.
“You are doing wonderfully. Thank you for coming.” She whispered to me, retaking point.
“What was that song you were humming?” Lyra asked.
“I was humming?” I didn’t know my music had been verbalized.
“It was beautiful…” Lyra reared up her legs happily. “It made me feel braver inside of these woods.”
I finally had the opportunity to look at my surroundings. My eyes had adjusted to the lower lighting, but my body had not yet taken in all of the sensations inside of here. The ground squished beneath my feet. The rocks even felt soft while others felt sharp and painfully jagged, no middle ground existed. The smell quickly caught up to me as I caught the smell of wet rotting wood and decaying plant matter. The scent of the few flowers was bitter and biting, and it would be best to avoid smelling one directly. Crickets chirped as frogs croaked and dragonflies buzzed. Everything about it reminded me of Ponyville, and at the same time it felt foreign.
“Where to first?”