37w, 5dMonster Hunter
---Chapter 2 // Deeper---
As the ponies approached the Everfree Forest, Fluttershy spoke up.
"I know Twilight needs to find that hermit, but the forest feels... different today. I think we should be careful."
Rainbow Dash scoffed at the suggestion, "It doesn't really matter much. Anything this dumb forest can throw at us, we can handle."
Twilight intervened, "No Dash, I think Fluttershy has the right of it. The forest seems odd today, like there is magic in the air. Besides, being overconfident has been the downfall of many ponies."
"Humph. We should probably get moving though, it looks like your coat is getting even lighter."
The group set off into the forest, moving at a steady pace while Pinkie Pie bounced happily alongside. They passed Zecora's house, and waved when they saw that she was out working in her herb garden.
After many more minutes of walking, they came to the ruins of the old royal castle. The ruins were now overgrown with ivy and other creeping vines, moss grew between the pavers. Twilight stopped for a moment, partially to catch her breath, and partially because she was experiencing a brief bit of nostalgia. Twilight shook her head and continued to walk onwards.
The scenery began to change as the group moved forward, the trees were much larger now, and the canopy overhead seemed to block out the sun.
Fluttershy spoke out, "Something is wrong. Ever since we passed the ruins, I have not seen any animals. What do you think it means?"
Pinkie Pie responded with a grin, "I think it means we are about to be eaten by zombies."
Fluttershy was visibly disturbed, so Pinkie quickly added, "Just kidding! All the little animals are probably hibernating or something."
Fluttershy still looked unhappy, but tried not to let it show. "But it's the middle of summer..."
After a few more minutes of walking, there was something large and brown blocking the path. The obstacle appeared to be a close cluster of six thick trees.
Applejack volunteered to help move the thing, but Twilight stopped her. "It has a strong sense of magic around it, which is odd, because plants don't have magic. Be careful."
Applejack walked up to it, and proceeded to give it her strongest kick. The thing didn't even budge.
"Hmm. It felt like some kind of carapace, which is weird, because only insects have carapaces."
Just then, the ground started to shake a little. The weird tree-thing was moving towards the group!
"What is that thing?!" shouted Rarity, who was walking backwards at a quick trot.
"Some kind of magical beast! I'm not sure if anything can break through that carapace!" Twilight answered, also stepping back.
"Yeah, if it can withstand my best bucking, I don't see what else can stop it!" said Applejack, who was hiding behind a tree with Fluttershy and Spike.
"Wait, Dash! What are you doing?!"
Rainbow Dash was flying straight at the mammoth beast. "If power won't work, I'll try speed!"
The air around Rainbow Dash was a blur as she gained momentum. Upon contact with the body of the beast, Rainbow Dash was flung backwards through the air, landing on the grass with a thud. The animal did not appear to have even chipped a scale.
"You have to hit it in the eyes!" called a stallion's voice from an overhead cliff. 'I'll show you!"
A dark figure leapt off the cliff, silhouetted against the sunny sky. Diving in a hawklike manner, the stallion kicked the beast in the face, hitting an unprotected patch of skin. The beast howled in pain, and broke into a run in the opposite direction.
Gliding to the ground, the stallion launched into a lengthy speech.
"And that is how to beat a Behemoth! In fact, I...' his voice trailed off as his gaze turned to Twilight. "We need to get you to my house right away. The affliction has progressed far enough that recovery will be difficult, but not impossible."
"Follow me. We aren't too far away from the observatory."
Spike had shifted to ride with Applejack, because Twilight was barely able to carry herself, much less Spike too.
They trod on, deeper into the forest.
---Chapter 2 // Deeper // END---