Inventor walked into Ponyville with a grin on his face. After discussing his ability to hire ponies with Luna herself, the man had been allowed to bring on Derpy as his assistant. Now all that was left was to tell her that she had gotten the job. This brought him to the current dilemma of finding her somewhere in the sprawling town of Ponyville. With a pause in his step, he silently cursed himself at not asking for her address when they had talked at the castle. Then, with a grin still on his face, he decided that the scenic route to her house would be more fun anyway, assuming he couldn’t get directions, of course.
As he approached, ponies would stop and stare, causing anyone who wasn’t facing him to turn and look as well. The general feeling of the town was curiosity, not fear, due to the silver outfit and the letter that had been sent ahead to the mayor. She was told to inform the citizens of a biped with such attire, which allowed them to confirm that he was the bodyguard of Luna and no threat to the town. All the ponies who had previously been busy with something turned back to their work while a few looked curiously at the man. Realizing he had drawn some attention, Inventor smiled and approached one of the ponies who was looking at him.
“Do you happen to know where I could find a Miss Derpy Doo?” the man asked. He was answered as the pony raised their hoof and pointed behind Inventor. With an eyebrow raised, the biped turned around, just in time to dive out of the way as a familiar grey blur shot past his eyes. Standing from the ground, the man brushed off his outfit. “Thanks,” he said to the pony who still had their hoof raised. With that, he was off after his unaware assistant.
After several confusing turns through the alleys and walkways of Ponyville, Inventor managed to spot the grey pegasus just as she turned onto a street ahead. In response, the man pumped his legs faster and managed to catch up to her just as she rested herself on a fountain at the end of said street. With a grin he approached, his gut dropping when he noticed she was staring into the water. “Hey Derpy, something the matter?”
She turned from her staring contest with the water to look at the man with bloodshot eyes. Her mind stumbled for a moment to try and remember the man in her distress, until she recalled him as the bodyguard that Luna had taken on. “Dinky’s missing.”
All sense of joviality left Inventor’s face as he joined her by the fountain, taking a seat on the edge of the rim next to her. “I assume that you aren’t having the best of luck finding her then.”
The mare shook her head from side to side, her blonde hair swaying through the air from her motions. “She said she was going to try and get her cutie mark with the Crusaders, but I can’t find her, or them, anywhere.”
“And where did you search?” Inventor asked as he rolled up the sleeve of his normal arm. The mare was about to answer when the distinct form of two of the Elements of Harmony became clear. Rarity and Applejack approached at a jog, gazing uncertainly at the man as they closed the distance to where Derpy sat on her haunches.
“We’ve searched the whole of the town and we haven’t spotted neither hide nor hair of them, darling,” Rarity said, directing her words to the grey pegasus while she looked at the man out of the corner of her eye.
“And can you think of anywhere else they might be?” Inventor asked, removing the white glove from his normal hand to reveal the flesh underneath. Then, he placed the glove in a pocket of his silver suit.
The mares looked towards Inventor once again, Applejack taking the opportunity to speak up. “I reckon you must be that bodyguard everyone was talkin’ ‘bout. Nice ta meet ya.”
“Hardly the time for introductions, so let me repeat myself,” Inventor said as he waved away her greeting, making it clear that time was of the essence. “Do you know of anywhere else they might be?”
“Well, I reckon if they aren’t in town, then they musta gone into the Everfree. In fact, we were just goin’ ta get the rest of our friends to come help us search,” AJ said, slightly annoyed by the tone that the man had taken with her.
“Everfree it is then. Point me in the direction, Derpy.” Inventor reached into the pockets of his coat and seemed disgusted when he found them to be empty.
“Now just hold yer engines for one second. You can’t just rush into the Everfree forest without some preparation. Even then, there’s just the two of ya.”
Inventor spun around and glared into the mare’s eyes, fire and insanity dancing in his own pupils. “Watch me.” A moment of stillness passed before the biped turned away from the farmer and looked once again to Derpy to repeat his previous statement. “Lead the way.” The pegasus looked between the madman and two Elements before nodding once and flying off in the direction of the forest with Inventor following just behind, leaving two befuddled mares behind.
“There are monsters in there. Shouldn’t we get the Elements to help us or something?”
“There are monsters everywhere. That’s hardly an excuse, and time is of the essence, making any unneeded wastes of time pointless. Anything else?”
“You don’t know where you’re going. How can you hope to find them?”
“Luck and will power,” the man answered simply.
“But...it’s... scary,” Derpy said, gazing at the ground in shame.
“Neat, so am I. Now let’s go.” The impatience was clear in his tone as he pushed past the pegasus and into the shaded woodland, leaving the mare to follow him into the greenery. The forest was home to a multitude of other creatures that hunted and fought tooth and nail for their lives nearly every day, making a ponies chances in the forest slim.
Every step was measured as the duo waded deeper and deeper into the forest through waist-high grass. The entire collection of trees was mostly silent, bar the rustling of the stalks as Inventor and Derpy forged into the labyrinth of brown and green. The exit to the forest had just been obscured by the thick trunks of the trees, when Inventor paused and looked toward the mare with his finger to his lips.
After a moment of silence, a rustling echoed from off to the right of the pair, causing Inventor to turn to the sound in preparation. The rustling was immediately followed by an explosion of noise as a manticore jumped at the duo from the shade of the trees.
Inventor brought his still sleeved arm in front of himself to block. The manticore didn’t mind and clenched its jaw around the limb to the sound of a metal ringing noise. Without missing a beat, Inventor let loose a shout of rage and bolted forward in a small leap.
The manticore was caught unexpected and was pinned to the ground as the arm in its mouth pushed it down, crushing the grass flat under its back. Inventor reared back, bringing the manticore’s head off the ground and pushed forward again, this time smashing the creature’s head against a rock that rested behind it’s head. The process was repeated multiple times until the manticore let loose the arm and ran into the trees, whimpering in pain.
“Manticores. Sure, why not,” Inventor said in a tired voice as he looked at the sleeve of his bitten arm. A smile crossed his face for a moment as the cloth knitted itself back together and closed the holes created by the creature’s teeth. “Magic. Gotta love the stuff.”
Derpy looked on in amazement. The man who had just defeated the manticore was more concerned with his clothing than he was the arm underneath it. With a shake of the arm in question, the man turned his gaze back to the forest and set off once again, determination in his gaze as Derpy followed behind him.
It was only a few more steps in that Inventor stopped once again, this time with Derpy looking around frantically for whatever was going to attack them. Instead, Inventor dropped onto one knee and examined the ground. Derpy took flight and hovered behind him to look over his shoulder. She flew closer in effort to see what had caught his attention, and was greeted with a sleeping manticore. Immediately, the pegasus backpedaled away and ducked behind a tree, looking out of the side toward where the man still sat. Feeling a little braver, she emerged once again and approached what she now realized was not a sleeping body, but rather a corpse.
The position of the body is what had confused her though. It rested with its head on its paws, giving the appearance that it had just lain down and fallen asleep. Or at least, it would, if it’s eyes weren’t locked open with a penetrating gaze of fear. A shiver ran down the mare’s spine as she floated slowly away from the dead being. With a shake of his head, Inventor closed the eyes of the creature and stood from his position, taking a quick look around the area before looking back to the mare.
“I want you to go home, Derpy. Things just got much more risky and I don’t want you to die because of my curiosity and blitzkrieging attitude.”
“I can’t just leave! What if whatever killed that manticore is going after my daughter?! No, I came here to find my daughter and I won’t leave without her.”
“Please, Derpy, I...” Inventor let the sentence stop and he looked into the distance. “I guess if I can’t convince you, it would be best if you came with me then.” The man paused once again as he subconsciously grabbed his right shoulder. “Let’s go.” Not questioning his words, the mare followed him as he steadily walked deeper into the Everfree.
They shortly arrived at a small pool and were greeted by another corpse, this one of a large alligator who showed the same signs as the manticore had before. “It’s fear,” Inventor said under his breath as he looked at the floating reptile corpse. “It kills with fear, but how?” The mare lacked the answers that the man was looking for, instead looking to the side and spotting a disturbance in the mud a short distance away.
She made her way through the air toward the mud and was followed shortly by Inventor. Both paused to examine the prints. Collected in the mud was a series of small hoofprints that led deeper into the woods. “They must have stopped here to drink,” Inventor said, kneeling for a moment by the imprints.
Without prior warning, Inventor rose from the ground in a burst of sudden energy and ran in the direction of the hoofprints, leaving Derpy to fly along in his wake. She was lagging slightly behind, the speedy flight wearing on her energy, when she heard a young voice in the distance crying out.
“Mom!” With renewed speed, she overtook the man and broke through the branches of some low trees to show up in a clearing of the forest.
Within, she spotted all three of the crusaders and her daughter backed against a cliff face. Approaching them was a large black silhouette. When the children all looked at her with relief and hope on their face, the creature turned around to face the pegasus mare.
“Ah, so some new food has found its way into my nest. What a lovely surprise. This will be quite the feast of life essence indeed.” The voice sounded like mud as it gurgled the words out, the smell of rotting flesh filling the air with every exhale from the creature.
Derpy recoiled at the smell, backing away from the monster that had just now started its own approach toward her. “You should just give up and join the others. I would hate to have to hobble my food before I eat it.” Derpy continued to back away from the creature and it let loose what could be construed as a sigh. “I guess I have no choice.”
In front of the mare’s eyes, the creature began to collect and transform until a different being stood in front of her. It was a being that the mare had hoped never to see again and its voice chilled her to the bone.
“Derpy, I’ve come to take Dinky back. I have the court backing me up and I demand custody of her.” The pegasus dropped to the ground and was frozen in unnatural fear as the world shifted around her, disorienting her and making her feel helpless. As all this occurred, the stallion approached her, metal clinking with every step. “Now, just give her over and we can settle this without much pain.” Tears began to fall from her face as the stallion approached and Derpy shut her eyes.
As soon as she had done so, the creature lunged for her.
Only to meet empty air.
Instead, the mare had been moved backward and he was now being faced by a tall biped who looked down at the thing before him. “I think you could accurately be described as a Dirty Trick, hmm? I’ll make sure to name your species that when I get back to Canterlot.”
“You assume too much, biped. You won’t be leaving my trap.” The creature once again started to transform, the shifting body of the stallion disappearing.
“You misunderstand, monster. I won as soon as you thought you could use my fear to kill me.” Halfway through its new transformation, it began to let loose a horrid sound that could be compared to a scream.
“What’s this?! What’s happening?! You oddity, what have you done?!” It was too late for the being to stop however, and it finished its transformation. In front of Inventor, lay a corpse of a young human girl. Without even a pause, Inventor immediately dropped to his knees, his eyes turning cold and dead as he looked at the motionless girl.
After a moment more of silence, Derpy recovered and slowly approached the unmoving man. “Inventor?” she asked as she hovered closer to him.
“He can’t move Derpy; not while he’s like this. It didn’t expect my fear to be what it is. It’s not an object so much as it’s a regret, something without a physical form. Meaning the beast is effectively dead.” Inventor paused for a moment, his eyes still locked on the corpse in front of him. “Take the girls. Go back to that clearing where I fought the manticore. I’ll meet you soon.” His voice was full of sorrow as he said the words, though whether it was from what he was seeing, or what he had done, couldn’t be determined. Derpy nodded in reply and ushered the girls out of the area, leaving the mourning man behind.
They arrived at the clearing and an awkward silence fell over the area. “Your sisters are going to be very upset with you. You’ve had them worried sick,” Derpy finally said to break the icy grip of fear that held the group.
“It was Scootaloo’s idea. ‘Hey, how about we get our exploring cutie marks in the Everfree?’ ” Sweetie Belle said, doing a poor mimic of the orange pegasus as she did so.
“Yea, but you guys didn’t do much to stop me,” Scootaloo said as she tried to defend herself.
“That’s ‘cause we knew we wouldn’t be able to change yer mind,” Applebloom countered, leaving Scootaloo to slump slightly where she rested.
Dinky didn’t bother offering an excuse, instead running up to her mother and hugging her around the neck. “I was so worried I wouldn’t see you again Mom. I don’t know what I would do without our muffin mondays. I...” The young unicorn sniffed. “I love you, Mom.”
“I love you too, Dinky. I love you too.” The pair embraced tighter as their eyes moistened from tears. A rustle from the bushes interrupted them.
The group huddled close together and stared toward the cause of the sound. Inventor emerged from the brush, his face solemn with half glazed over eyes. Without a word to the girls, he waved his hand toward the exit, giving them the sign to follow him.
The remainder of the exit went without incident and Inventor stopped at the edge of the forest. “I’m heading back to Canterlot. You got a job as my assistant, by the way. If you still want it, I’ll see you when you come down.” Without another word, he was gone. Derpy contemplated going after him, but the presence of the fillies reminded her that she had more pressing matters and she led them back to Ponyville.
“Inventor... For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” Derpy said under her breath with a final glance in the direction of the biped, though he was too far away to hear her.
(More thanks to StapleCactus for being an awesome editor. Tn other news I’m feeling particularly awesome right now. Hope you enjoyed the chapter and don’t forget to ask me any questions you might have for me on my tumblr. See ya next chapter. -N64Fan)