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“The angels bore the Chosen One, who headed towards the tower that reached up unto the heavens. And that marked the beginning of the regeneration of the world.”
She strode confidently through the forest, paying little heed to the various pitfalls that would have easily ensnared any less-experienced traveler. She knew exactly where she was going, how she was going to get there, and what she was going to do when she got there. As a result, she had plenty of time to sink her mind into whatever interesting things she wanted to think.
She was in the middle of a rather interesting, if worn-out, line of thought regarding the number five when she noticed an unusual color out of the corner of her eye. Turning her head, she saw something she had never expected to see in her lifetime. Though it was a surprise, and certainly out of place in the glade in which it laid, she wasn't exactly miffed, for she knew exactly what to do with the forest's unexpected gift.
The girl awoke slowly and grudgingly. Her body ached lightly all over, which she supposed was a sign that nothing was seriously damaged, but wasn't exactly a welcome feeling. A stray thought made her start and open her eyes.
She was in a small, cozy room, most likely in an inn, with nobody else in it. She looked down at herself, and sighed in relief; nothing looked to be out of the ordinary. She heard footsteps outside, and sat up expectantly.
The door opened, and standing in it was...a blue pony wearing a hat. “Ah, good, you're awake. First things first, can you understand me?”
The girl blinked, then nodded hesitantly. “Ah...yes, I can understand you, ma'am.”
The pony chuckled. “Well, that should make this easy. Since you're sitting up, I'm going to assume you're feeling well enough to talk for a bit. What's your name?”
“What an interesting name. Stella, do you know what happened before you passed out?”
The girl closed her eyes in thought. “...I was out for a walk, when a bright light swallowed me up, and...that's about it.”
The blue pony looked pensive for a moment. “Hmm...probably some kind of magical sneak attack, then. That's worrying, I'll have to let Border Patrol know what happened. Hopefully they'll be able to investigate and prevent this from happening again. Now, first things first, you're currently in the town of Ponyville, which is part of the Principality of Equestria. You were found wounded in the Everfree Forest, but it wasn't anything the healer and I couldn't fix.” The girl opened her mouth to say something, but the pony waved a hoof dismissively. “Don't worry about paying for it, it's already been taken care of. Now, do you think you'll be able to get back to wherever you came from on your own?”
Stella bit her lip. “Well...it'll take a while, and I'll need to gather some supplies, but I should be able to get home from here, and I can probably help out around town in the meantime. That is, if anyone around here needs it.”
The pony smiled broadly. “Excellent, that makes my job much easier, and yes, there are several ponies in town who would appreciate your help. I just have one more question for you. This is more for filing than anything else, but I don't seem to have any species quite like yours in my records. Would you mind telling me what you are?”
“Oh, not at all, ma'am. I'm called a human.”
Stella felt uncomfortable with lying to the pony, but as soon as the pony had opened the door to her room she'd realized something had gone very, very wrong with the experiment; given her surroundings she thought it would be a good idea to wait until she had a good grasp on her situation before revealing anything significant about herself.
She'd gathered her belongings (which didn't really amount to much more than the clothes on her back, plus a small tent she'd been carrying for the experiment) and her wits before heading outside to see just what this town was like. Stella had, indeed, surmised correctly that she had been in an inn; as she entered the lobby a large, well-built stallion greeted her from behind the counter. “So you're the creature they found in the Everfree this mornin'. You call yerselves humans, right?”
Stella smiled. “Yes,we do. Thank you for letting me stay here, sir.”
The stallion waved her off. “Nah, it's just what I do. The town clinic's pretty small, see, so whenever it looks like somepony might need more'n a couple nights' bed rest, or when somethin' like you shows up that the doc and his lovely assistant aren't entirely sure what ta do with, they come right next door ta me, and we put 'em in that room you were in. Don't use it for anythin' else, and the only time I've ever been booked full enough that I might've considered lettin' somepony use it who wasn't injured was the Summer Sun Celebration seven years back.”
“Well, whatever the case may be, I'm still grateful for your help. Actually, do you know of anyone who needs help around here? It looks like I might be here for a while, and I need something to do while I work out how to get back home.”
“Well, let me think...” The stallion stared off to the side for a moment, then continued, “The doc and I are both pretty well off right now. Sweet Apple Acres usually needs some help, but you look like yer built more for endurance than strength, and bein' a farmhand for the Apples is all about raw strength. Same deal with the smithy. The bakery might also be a good place for you ta work, that's mostly an endurance job. There's a sorcerer in town who might take you if you can scribe or cast, though he tends ta be an oddball at the best of times. You could also try adventurin', if yer feelin' bold or have the skill.
Stella frowned. “What does adventuring involve, exactly?”
The innkeeper's eyes unfocused slightly as he replied. “Well, what adventurers do is, they band up in groups and wander the countryside doin' various tasks that the locals can't do for themselves for one reason or another. That tends ta involve a lot of fightin' monsters, a bit like what the Border Patrol does, but it also involves keepin' the peace when the Guard can't, findin' things the wizards can't find themselves, and in general bein' more skilled than anyone else around. Problem is, adventurers tend ta fall victim ta the old sayin', 'anythin' that can go wrong, will.' If you aren't more skilled than anyone else around, you get terminated pretty quick, and for adventurers, the term tends ta be literal.” He blinked, then looked directly at Stella. “I used ta be an adventurer years ago, but I decided ta retire when one of my jobs ended with everyone but me dead, and me with an arrow straight through my knee.” He noticed the look on Stella's face, and hastily added, “Don't worry about it, I got over it ages ago, and not to speak ill of the dead, but those buggers I was with at the time nearly deserved what came to 'em anyway. To make a long story short, I bought this inn, I've been runnin' it ever since, and I don't regret quittin' adventurin', but I'm still glad I did it, if only because I'd never have made enough to buy the inn if I hadn't.
“So...I should probably avoid adventuring, at least until I'm sure I can handle getting ambushed by a half-dozen cockatrices by myself, huh?” Stella asked, smiling.
The stallion laughed. “Well, ya at least got the paranoia down!”
Stella noted with some bemusement as she left the inn that the sign hanging to the side of the door read “The Prancing Pony.” Shrugging, she turned and began to head into town, following the innkeeper's directions.
As she looked around, she saw what looked to be a fairly normal village, although some of the buildings looked even more out of place than their counterparts in her hometown. The ponies passing by gave her curious looks, but didn't seem too startled at the presence of a creature that had never been seen in the area before. That's one point in these ponies' favor, she thought, they certainly don't seem to be afraid of other species. But...I'm not sure if that's a good thing, or a bad thing.
After a few minutes of strolling, she rounded a corner and saw her destination at the end of the street. Before she could head towards it, however, she was stopped by a voice behind her. “Pardon me, would you be the...'human'...that was attacked
Stella turned to see a stallion in dark, but polished, armor who was almost as tall as she was. “Yes, that was me...er...I'm sorry, I'm not sure how to address you.”
The stallion snorted. “Not much of a surprise, hardly anywhere outside Equestria has any sort of organized Guard. My rank is Knight-Captain, and as you are not a member of the guard you would either refer to me, or any other guardsman, as 'officer'; or to me, or any other knight, as 'sir'. Is that clear?”
Stella shifted uneasily. “Er...yes, thank you, sir, I will be sure to remember that. What did you need me for?”
The captain snorted again. “Calm down, skinny, I just need to get an account directly from you about how you were attacked. Now, tell me everything you remember between heading out for a walk and waking up in the inn.
Stella remained silent for a moment, staring at the building she'd been heading towards before the captain had spoken to her. “Well, I was walking through a forest near my hometown, a bit like your...Everfree, was it?” She looked at the captain, who nodded, and she continued, “Except from what I hear, the Everfree is a great deal more dangerous. At any rate, a...chimera? Some sort of creature made of a few other creatures, anyway...suddenly charged out of a bush at me.”
The captain spoke up. “Could you tell what animals this creature looked like?”
Stella quickly shook her head. “No, it was moving too quickly, and I was a bit busy trying to dodge it, but it definitely had fur and scales. Anyway, it actually ran past me, and when I looked to see what it was running from, there was a bright light, and then I woke up in the inn.” She shrugged. “I'm sorry I can't be more helpful.”
The captain snorted at this. “At least you're being honest that you don't know, which is more than I can say for half of this town. Thank you for cooperating, I honestly doubt that much will come of this, it sounds like some witch's pet escaped and she decided to blame you for it, but regulations are what they are. Carry on, human.”
Stella watched the captain leave for a moment, then continued toward her destination. That could have gone worse, I'm still not being entirely honest with them, and it looks like they're just trying to help. I just hope this doesn't come back to bite me later.
Stella had finally reached her destination: the sorcerer’s house. When the innkeeper had been describing it to her, she wasn't sure whether to believe it or not, but here it was: a house built into a large, still-living tree. After a moment, she walked up and knocked on the door.
From within the tree came a muffled voice. “Coming! Just a mome—oh dear.” After the noise of a few heavy objects falling, the door opened. A young unicorn stood in the door; if Stella had to guess, the unicorn was close to her own age. Her tail seemed to be smoking. “Hello, how can I help you?”
Stella cleared her throat. “Ah, yes. I'm Stella, a human, and the innkeeper at the Prancing Pony said that the sorcerer who lives here may be looking for some sort of help? And, uh, your tail's on fire.”
“Oh, for—I thought I put that out!” The unicorn glared at her smoking appendage, which promptly fizzled out after her horn glowed briefly. She then turned back to Stella, smiling. “Yes, we could certainly use some help around here, magic or not! I'll take you right up to Master Star Swirl. I'm his apprentice, by the way, Dinky Hooves. It's nice to meet you!”