60w, 5dEvery time I try to add a new chapter, I get wham-zoomed back to the main page of the site. 1 comments · 82 views
It couldn’t be Twilight. Not now, not ever. No way, no how, end of story.
Rainbow Dash had repeated that line to herself a bit over eight thousand times since that night. She had said it before falling asleep in her suite. She had said it waking up, and meeting her friends at the train station. She’d said it on the way back, and as she’d said goodbye to everyone but the beautiful—er, she meant magical—ok, perfectly average, not attractive in the slightest purple mare and flown home. Even now, almost two weeks after the incident, she was still repeating it in her head. And its effect was starting to frighten her.
That is to say, it had had no effect at all. If anything, all it had done was keep the topic fresh in her mind, and it had started to ferment there. Take root. Little vines, thoughts started to creep around in her head. Ideas of what might come. Little visions of picnics in the meadow in the morning, an evening spent watching the sunset, and at night they’d go home and…
When that last thought occurred, a flower pot went careening out of Rainbow Dash’s home, and though she didn’t know it, some distance below Big Macintosh narrowly avoided a terrible and somewhat humiliating end.
She had to find some way to make these thoughts stop. Nothing was working; she had already tried shutting the unicorn out of her life, purposely avoiding Twilight for the last week or so. But that just made Dash think about her more. And what was worse, the guilt was starting to pile up. She hated to think that Twilight was probably blaming herself for whatever mysterious circumstances were causing her and Rainbow Dash to grow apart, doing that cute little thing where she wrinkles her nose and—
Rainbow had attempted to slam her head against a wall, remembering too late that her home was made of clouds. With a trendy new hole in the side of her house, the pegasus officially gave up. She… may have had a thing for Twilight.
But she wasn’t in love. No way. Twilight was cool, but she wasn’t THAT awesome. Well, Dash thought, there was that thing with the Ursa Minor… and saving them all from Discord… and saving Cadance to stop the Changelings from invading Equestria… those were all flukes. They had to be.
Anyways, it wasn’t like she just had to sit around and wrangle with her thoughts all day. She had other places to be, other ponies to see. As it happened she had agreed to meet up with Fluttershy to take those three foals she babysat all the time for a hike in the Everfree Forest. Really, it was more like guard duty, as far as Rainbow could tell. Fluttershy being… Fluttershy, there was a good chance those fillies would find trouble. Only a pony as awesome as Rainbow Dash was qualified to deal with that sort of thing.
She left her cloud house in a bit of a hurry, quick to get away from the maelstrom of weird thoughts she’d been having in there. A bright rainbow trail streaked across the sky at blazing speed over Ponyville, coming to rest a few minutes later at Fluttershy’s tree home. Right on cue, as Fluttershy and the Cutie Mark Crusaders could be seen milling about by the chicken pens, eager to get started. Well, the CMC were at least.
“Oh, thank goodness you’re here.” Fluttershy exclaimed as best she could in that timid voice of hers the second Rainbow landed. “The girls have been getting antsy, and we should really probably be back before dark. If, um, that’s okay with you.”
“It’s no problem!” Dash responded, wrapping a leg around Fluttershy’s neck. “It’s what friends are for, right? I’m pretty much just the chaperone today, so you girls stay out as long as you want and I’ll kick the flank of anything you meet! So, let’s go?”
“Oh, no, not yet.” Fluttershy said, and innocent little smile on her face. It was a nice contrast to the bewildered stare on Rainbow’s. “We’re waiting on one more, then we’ll go.”
“One more?” Rainbow asked. “Who else would be—“
…No. Couldn’t be—“
Behind them, the door to Fluttershy’s house swung open and shut in swift order, causing the other mares to look over. Rainbow’s eyes shot wide open as a familiar purple mare descended the trail to meet up with the rest of them.
“Hey, Rainbow Dash!” The purple mare said, a wide grin plastered on her face. Her horn glowed with that reddish-purple aura it always did, and five saddlebags came floating down to rest on each of the other ponies’ backs. Rainbow felt so numb, she didn’t even feel the straps tighten around her belly. She glanced up at the sky. So open, so free. She could take off right now. Avoid this whole awkward situation… by creating a NEW awkward situation, which would sooner or later have to be addressed. “Horseapples.” she muttered.
“What was that?” Twilight asked.
“Oh, uh—uh, I said awesome!” Rainbow Dash replied, trying to sound as confident as possible. “I was just saying how awesome it was that you were coming with us, because, uh, I didn’t really know you were coming!”
“Oh, right! Sorry about that.” Twilight replied. Her horn glowed again, and a scroll slipped out of her saddlebag and unrolled into a map. “I’ve been working on a map of the Everfree Forest, and when I heard you and Fluttershy were going on a hike through it I couldn’t pass up the opportunity!”
“A map, huh? Cool. That’s great.” Rainbow Dash asserted as Twilight walked past her to join the others.
About five minutes later, the five ponies had begun their trek into the forest, and already they had no idea where they were really going. They’d deliberately avoided the path to Zecora’s home; everypony knew that way. If Twilight’s map was going to be worth its weight in bits then it needed to cover ground most ponies wouldn’t know by heart. The purple unicorn was working busily with the map hovering in front of her face as a quillpen scratched across its surface at a frantic pace. She was muttering little things to herself, about how big the forest was. It was really kind of adorable seeing her whisper like tha—
Rainbow’s head hit a tree trunk like an axe, and a few unlucky squirrels were knocked to the ground in a daze. Fluttershy nearly fainted from the shock of it, and rustled up the squirrels as fast as she could to calm them down. Twilight looked up from her map, looking a little confused. “Uh, Rainbow Dash, is everything ok?”
“Ehhh-wha?” The pegasus replied, a dopey little grin on her face on account of not quite regaining her mental functions yet. She realized just how stupid she must look with a mortified gasp and shook her skull until she was back to normal. If a little dizzy. “Oh, uh, yeah I’m fine. Just a little, uh, training Soarin taught me at the wedding. Self-inflicted head injuries build up a tolerance, so it won’t hurt so bad if you crash when you’re flying!”
That was complete crap, and Rainbow knew it. Twilight probably knew it too, but if she did she didn’t say anything. She just stared down the blue mare with a keenly analytical gaze, observing some sort of detail. Those purple eyes had that little sparkle that they always did when she was deducing something. Rainbow knew she needed to do something to change the topic fast. But she could take a few more seconds to stare at those eyes, right?
Wait, what? No, of course she couldn’t! She shouldn’t be staring at them to begin with! She tried her best to stammer out a new conversation point. “So, uh, Twilight, haven’t seen ya in a while. What’ve you been up to?”
“Who, me?” Twilight Sparkle asked, seemingly disbelieving Rainbow would take an interest. “Uh, nothing special I guess. Just taking care of the library… I sent a letter to the Princess after I helped Rarity out with that rival dress-maker… Oh! Spike and I have been working on a new spell lately. I guess that’s new.”
“New spell? Cool!” Rainbow assured her, nearly not believing her distraction was working. “What does it do?”
“Well, I guess I shouldn’t take all the credit for it.” Twilight explained as she thought about it, twirling a hoof in circles on the ground while she pondered. Rainbow’s eyes were glued to that hoof, following the simple spiral pattern as Twilight kept gabbing. “I guess the most important part is that it’ll be the 50th spell I’ve ever mastered. But it’s based on one of the spells I saw the Princess use at the wedding. I don’t think I’ll ever be USING it, but…”
“Why not?” Rainbow asked, her eyes finally breaking away from the hoof.
“Hm? Oh, it’s actually kind of limited in its usable situations. But VERY useful when you need it. You see, it’s all about directing your magical aura to your horn, and then you—“
Twilight and Rainbow Dash were cut off from their conversation to see Fluttershy frantically hopping around the clearing they were in, poking her head in every bush she could. “What’s the problem, Fluttershy?” the unicorn asked.
“Oh, Twilight, this is awful!” the yellow pegasus told her, her eyes starting to bug out a bit. “When I was talking to the squirrels, Scootaloo Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom disappeared! They could be anywhere by now.” Fluttershy hung her head in shame, shaking it around as she tried to think. Rainbow immediately tried to take to the skies, but a purple hoof grabbed her by the tail and yanked her back to the ground. The pegasus smacked into the dirt and glared at Twilight. “What was that for?!”
“There’s a better way to do this than scanning the whole forest.” Twilight insisted. “Fluttershy, why not ask the animals around here if they saw where the girls went?”
“Oh. That’s a good idea.” Fluttershy exclaimed, as best as her meager voice could manage. A soft knock on the nearest tree brought down the squirrels from before, who clambered onto her back and hair as she conversed with them in hushed tones. Twilight and Rainbow stared on in fascination; to that day, cutie mark or not, they couldn’t understand how that mare did that. In a few moments, the squirrels nodded happily and took off along the ground into the bushes to the trio’s left.
“They said to follow them.” Fluttershy said with a little grin, and traipsed into the bushes after them. The other two mares shrugged and followed her deeper into the forest.
Their whimsical visit was growing more and more ominous as they delved deeper into the Everfree Forest. Celestia’s sun was having more trouble as they got further in trying to pierce the thick canopy of leaves and branches. The squirrels—and Fluttershy—were still marching on, like nothing was wrong, so Twilight and Rainbow followed them. But they shared more than a few whispers with each other on how eerie this was getting.
“Doesn’t this scream a bit too much of ‘trap’ to you?” Rainbow asked.
“I’m not sure, but this IS getting a bit further into the forest than I’d have liked. Maybe you should keep an eye out for any creatures sneaking up on us.”
“Good idea.” Rainbow slowed her pace a bit to slip behind the rest. To guard their rears. In case of attack by monsters. Twilight’s flank now being in full view had nothing to do with it.
About ten minutes later, the duty-bound squirrels finally brought them to their destination. A cliff face in a small clearing, with a cave hewn into its side. The entrance was at least three ponies tall. Fluttershy couldn’t help but gulp as she took in the foreboding place.
“Um, are you SURE this is where they went, Fluttershy?” Twilight asked.
“Really, really sure?” Rainbow added; she may have been brave, but not to the point of insanity… All right, yes, to the point of insanity, but this place was like an artist had tried to personify “suicide”. The greens and earthy browns of the Everfree Forest had been replaced by oppressive grays and dull reds. Flat-out unsafe.
“Y-y-yes… The squirrels’ friends are, uh, certain they saw the girls go inside there.”
“Grrreat.” The pegasus grumbled. She was the first to step forward, followed by Fluttershy and then Twilight. “Might as well get this over with.”
The cave’s maw let them in with no trouble, but they wished it had clamped shut the moment they got inside. There were absolutely no light sources inside that place, and as they got further in that little dot of daylight was drifting further out of sight. Twilight, out of necessity, coaxed a bit of magic into her horn and risked a little light. The place wasn’t particularly wide, looking claustrophobic even in the relaxing purplish hues of their light source. Little nooks and crannies undoubtedly hiding all sorts of critters pocked the sides of the rock. And further on, around the corner, they heard voices.
“Awww, shucks. I was sure I saw it come in here!”
“Well if we hadn’t had to stop for a breather we’d never have lost it!”
“You’re both crazy, we should’ve just made a trap like I said!”
They recognized those voices instantly. The mares dashed around the corner to see the Cutie Mark Crusaders arguing with each other; the little fillies stopped the moment they spotted the light, and looked more than a little terrified as they recognized the ponies that had come looking for them. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle zipped behind their pegasus friend for cover, who nervously waved a hoof at them.
“Oh! Uh… hi, everypony. We were, um, wondering where you had gotten to!...?”
“Girls, I am very disappointed.” Fluttershy expressed in her angriest tone. It ended up just sounding very crestfallen, which had a potentially better effect than anger once they saw the reaction it got out of the fillies. “The Forest is dangerous this far out. What were you doing?”
“Well, we saw this big purple bird flyin’ by!” Apple Bloom explained.
“We’d heard these stories that if you caught that kind of bird, you’d get good luck!” Sweetie Belle continued.
“Yeah! So we chased after it, ‘cause it might help us get our cutie marks!” Scootaloo capped off. All three fillies took a deep breath in preparation for the next line, which caused Twilight to get an expression like she’d seen a ghost in the cave with them.
“CUTIE MARK CRUSADER BIRD CATCHERS! YAAA—MMMF!” The fillies’ battlecry was cut off as Twilight Sparkle clamped a hoof over each of their mouths and whispered in a startled whisper.
“Girls, you can’t go shouting in caves this far in the forest! You never know what’s living in these things! It might be, a-a manticore, or a cockatrice, or a… a…”
In the dim light, a gigantic shadow lifted up and loomed over the six ponies, who took in the form with horror.
“…a cave bear.”
The ponies sprinted out of the cave as fast as their hooves could take them, the Cutie Mark Crusaders piled up on Scootaloo’s scooter to keep up with the faster adults. Behind them, a bulky white frame nearly blew open the entrance with its sheer girth as it ran at an even pace with the ponies. Rainbow Dash risked a glance back, and almost shrieked wishing she hadn’t. The thing was a bear, all right, but it was still so wrong. Its body was nearly twice the size of a normal one, mounds of shaggy white fur flapping in the wind its own humongous frame was creating. Its huge tongue lolled out the side of its snout between gigantic yellow fangs, its eyes were sunken in and milky white like a fog. And the noises, dear Celestia, the noises the thing made. Weird grunts, and moans, and pants, all mixed with the terrifying roar of the average bear led up to a monstrosity nopony wanted to be left alone with.
They were back in the clearing they’d been in before in less than five minutes, but by now the ponies were getting tired. Fluttershy and Twilight lagged behind the rest, drifting ever closer to the waiting jaws of the bear. Rainbow Dash gritted her teeth as she considered their options. Running would just tiring them out more. Thus, bear food. Only other option, as far as the pegasus was concerned, was to fight it.
Her wings began to flap, and Rainbow took off at top speed about thirty feet ahead to a perfectly-sized tree trunk. Her hooves pounded onto the bark and gripped, spinning her around it and catapulting her back in the direction of the ursine tormentor, smashing the lithe weatherpony’s body into it at about three-quarters the speed of sound.
The impact was disorienting for the giant creature, being stopped by something so tiny. It was difficult to describe the rippling waves through its flesh and fur as the thing flipped onto its head, and then onto its back still at its sprinting speed, leaving Rainbow Dash sprawled out on the ground behind it. The cave bear tumbled like that for a good twenty feet before it smashed into a thick tree trunk.
Bark splinters filled the air as Twilight and Fluttershy finally stopped for a few precious breaths. They stopped, and looked back at their savior to cheer her on. That notion was wiped away when they saw her lying unconscious on the ground; Rainbow’s left wing was crumpled, and laying on the ground in an unnatural way. The two conscious mares shared a glance, simultaneously terrified but understanding what they had to do. Fluttershy turned to the three fillies and quickly whispered “Go home as fast as you can. Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, tell your sisters to come here, OK?”
The Cutie Mark Crusaders had no issues with an order to get away from the vicious cave bear, and took off the instant Fluttershy was finished talking. The yellow pegasus joined Twilight by Rainbow’s side. She was already slowly starting to come to with a bit of prodding from Twilight’s hoof.
“Uh… wha-what happene—ow! My wing!”
“It looks broken.” Twilight told her, putting her head up to her side to help lift the shaky blue mare onto her feet. Dash complied, but nearly toppled over again. Twilight sighed in frustration and propped the Rainbow Dash against her side to keep her from falling again. “You DID slow the cave bear down…”
The disturbing ursine was by now starting to shake itself away from the tree, and was scrambling to its feet fast as its odd feet could move it.
“…But you didn’t stop it.”
“Wow. Great. So what now?” Rainbow asked. She didn’t get a verbal answer, but her eyes took in all the response they needed as the cave bear approached, and was halted by the demure yellow mare fluttering in front of it. There was no questioning it, and no way to stop the horrors the poor bear was in for. Fluttershy was using The Stare.
“What in Equestria do you think you’re doing?” Fluttershy asked the beast. “Terrorizing my friends, disturbing the rest of all your neighbors, and being such a—such a meanie! Just WHAT do you have to say for yourself, hmm?”
A heavy silence hung in the air as the mares watched with bated breath. The cave bear stood in silence, then it—it…
It smacked Fluttershy out of the air without a second thought, and the frail little pony landed next to her friends. Her expression was absolutely devastated.
“I-I-It… the stare didn’t work??” Fluttershy asked, dumbfounded.
“No, Fluttershy, it couldn’t work.” Twilight informed her. “Cave bears are blind. They spend so much time in the dark their eyesight is nonexistent. The Stare won’t work on it!”
“Horseapples, now what?!” Rainbow asked, her voice cracking in a growing sense of desperation. Twilight frantically looked around the clearing, and pointed a hoof at a particularly large old tree.
“Into there!” she shouted. The trio ran, pursued closely by the bear. They were lucky enough for that tree trunk to have a spacious entrance for them that was nonetheless impenetrable for the giant bear. It waved a paw into the hollowed space of the tree, missing Rainbow by inches. The pegasus scooted further back into her friends. Just to be safe.
“Um, Twilight, I’m sorry if I don’t understand but, aren’t we trapped now?” Fluttershy asked.
“Well, technically… yeah. We’re trapped.” Twilight told her. She sounded a bit disappointed; she hadn’t thought this part quite all the way through. “But on the bright side, we’ve got time to think now.”
“Think about what?!” Rainbow squeaked, her voice cracking as her stress levels skyrocketed. Some awkward hike this was turning out to be.
“Think about how to beat this bear!” Twilight snapped back. She struggled a bit, trying to find some room to do a thinking pace. But being a tree trunk, no such space existed. The purple mare grumbled and pouted to herself as she sat down. Dash, luckily, was too terrified at the time to admire this little moment. “Let’s see… it’s blind. So nothing sight based will work. But that DOES mean it must use its other senses to operate. Smell and hearing, mostly. So if I can think of a way to… that’s it!”
“What?! What’s ‘it’?!”
“Stand back, girls!”
The mares awkwardly shifted positions, moving Twilight to the front to face down the paw shifting around the entrance. She stared it down, waiting for the right moment. On cue, the paw retracted and the bear stuck its head into the entrance to try and get a view of what was going on inside.
“Gotcha!” Twilight’s horn glowed brightly in the dim light of the tree. The light extended out to the snout of the bear, who stopped, confused until in a loud “POP” a huge, bushy moustache had been conjured on its face. The thing wasn’t groomed, and unruly whiskers shot off in every direction. Even the bear’s nose wasn’t safe, as huge tufts of hair stuffed up its nostrils and effectively blocked its smell. The cave bear retracted, growling and gurgling as it swiped at the moustache to try and remove it. Try as it might, the thick and unwieldy claws did little in the way of removing the obstacle on the end of its snout, and distracted it as Twilight exited the trunk.
“Now then, Spell #18!”
The purple unicorn’s horn glowed again in the light of the Forest, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy looking on as two hoof-sized purple bubbles conjured on either side of the bear’s head. One popped, a sharp and disorienting sound that even hurt the mares’ ears at a distance of ten feet. The bear was worse off, its acute hearing catching every nuance of painful noise. It instinctively leaned away from the popping, inadvertently slamming its still-functioning ear into the other bubble. The result was predictable, and the popping was so tormenting that time that the creature flipped onto its back and began to roll around flailing.
Twilight concentrated. Her horn began to glow purple, and white sparks flew in every direction as she focused her magic into one of her most powerful spells. Behind the bear, a mighty tree began to shake and shiver. Its roots slithered through the ground, lifting themselves from the dirt and removing the tree’s grounding. Its large trunk, now unbalanced, toppled straight on top of the bear and cut off its cries mid-sentence. The entire forest hushed for a brief silence as the other two mares look at Twilight’s handiwork. Mouths agape.
A muffled sound came up from under the trunk, as the bear pleaded for freedom in its bear language. The ponies paid it no heed, and gave a wide berth to the tree as Fluttershy rushed Twilight to squeeze her in a tight hug.
“Twilight, that was amazing!” Fluttershy exclaimed. Softly, of course. “I thought we would—well, we would be—“
“Hey, we’re not. That’s all that matters, right?” Twilight asked. Fluttershy nodded happily and released her friend. About that time, they heard two other ponies approaching them, still calling out their names.
“…darlings, speak up! Where ARE you?”
“C’mon, girls, give a holler! We can’t search the whole forest!”
Fluttershy breathed a sigh of relief at hearing Rarity and Applejack’s voices, and trotted off to get their attention. Twilight watched her go, and turned back to Rainbow Dash. The mare was still staring in utter shock at the fallen tree. “Come on, Rainbow!” She said, followed by a playful giggle. “The other girls will probably leave us here if we don’t hurry up!”
Twilight started walking away at a brisk pace, leaving Rainbow alone with her thoughts long enough to let out a single whispered sentence.
“That… was awesome.”
Great. Her last line of defense, torn to shreds. Twilight was everything at once, the whole bushel of apples, she guessed Applejack might put it. Not much could be done to deny that anymore. I mean, what pony could EVER top something like that? It was time to entertain the thought that she MIGHT, stress MIGHT, with a capital—oh, what the hay was the point? She was pretty much certain she was falling in love with Twilight at this point.
But what could she do about it?
She finally noticed the throbbing of her wing, and the painful reminder brought to her attention the fact that her wing was indeed broken, and had not stopped BEING broken while she was watching Twilight do her thing. Rainbow stared back at the crumpled wing, thinking as she moved to catch up with her friends. “Maybe I could use this to my advantage…”