Luna lead six ponies into the depths of Everfree. Her horn sparked as she shaped her aura into a buzzing blade of energy that hacked away at branches, filling the noses of the party with the spicy scent of severed foliage. She wore her mane in a bun to keep it from tangling in the low hanging branches. The magic that ran through her hair temporarily subdued to keep her mane in place. Twilight and company followed a similar trend, each wearing attire to protect from the elements. Each carried saddlebags with bare essentials. Trail mix, canteens, sleeping bags, and in Twilight's case, note books that she would occasionally retrieve with a spell to document interesting findings.
Gnarled trees made the hike claustrophobic. Each as tall as a castle yet tightly compacting each other with patches of sunlight breaching the canopies. So compact in fact, that Applejack managed to get herself stuck between them. She wiggled and tugged but couldn't escape the trees, or the snickering of Rainbow Dash and Pinkie pie.
“Dog garnit, can ah get some assistance please?”
Pinkie skipped her way toward Applejack. Reaching with her mouth, she removed a red jar from her saddle bag.
“What are y'all. . . HEY! That's cold!”
Pinkie giggled “What better way to get out of a jam, than with actual jam?"
She slathered the gaps between Applejack with raspberry preserves. Grabbing her hooves, Rainbowdash pulled Applejack free. “Well shoot, color me impressed, thank ya kindly, both of y'all.”
Rainbow Dash simply smirked, "No problem, Apple Jelly!”
Shaking her head, Applejack caught up to the others as they waited, “Sorry bout' the hold up Princess,” said Applejack, wipeing her jelly from her sides.
“DAMMIT!” shouted Luna, striking a vine with her magical cutter. Each strike was somehow repelled. The vines were twisted between flowering trees whose petals were like rainbows trapped in stained glass. They coiled like serpents caught in battle, forming a natural net that resisted every attempt Luna made at cutting them down with a defiant spark.
“Uh. . . What‘s the princess doin’ Twilight?”
“Well, she's having trouble with. . .”
“These wretched vines won't,” Whack! “come,” WHACK! “down!” Rapidly swinging the magical razor, Luna ground her teeth in frustration, earning a chuckle from observers behind her, “These vines are stubborn!” Luna shouted in irritation.
Applejack looked over the strange plants. Pale white, shining like the pearl of an oyster. Every time Luna hit it, the plant tensed up, blocking the blow with a flash of blue aura,“Yup, them that are Tangleweeds.” Applejack pointed out,”Dang things push as hard as you do , we used ta get em in our orchards when ah was a filly,”
Done with being made a fool of by a plant, Luna poured a spout of blue flames from the tip of her horn, the shrieking vines recoiled as the burned, leaving Luna with a satisfied smile on her face. Pinkie and Rarity looked at each other, surprised at the sudden outburst. Even Rainbow Dash ceased her snickering. "Problem solved!” Luna sighed with a devilish grin, kicking the crisp plants for good measure.
The deeper Luna lead the Mane Six, the more alien the forest became. Fluorescent mushrooms occasionally glowed in the darker corners of the forest. Draped over the trees were several spider webs. Impressed Applejack let out a long whistle “That's one doozy of a spider nest.”
Rarity’s eyes became pin pricks. The mere thought of such animals made her skin crawl, “S-s-spiders?!” she stammered, “There are spiders?!”
Each mare took a look at the large web. The strands were as thick as crayons. Pinkie took a strand in her hoof, pulled it back as far as she could before she snapped it back where it made a wobbly musical sound.”You could play bass on these!"
Pinkie began plucking away at the webbing only for Twilight to pull her away. “Pinkie, be careful! You may break it,” Twilight scolded her.
Luna looked over the hammock like web, nodding in agreement, “There is no telling how big the spider who made that is, last thing we need is to play a show for a hungry arachnid the size of a cart.”
“A cart sized spider?!” worried Rarity, pacing around, searching the treeline for such a beast.
“Oh. . . it's okay Rairty, there's no way a spider that big made the web.” Fluttershy told Rarity.
“Realy? You think what ever made this crochet from hell is gone?”
“W-Well, uhm, no, I mean, the spiders who made it are still here, they are social spiders, really tiny like specks of dirt”
Rarity swallowed. Shaking, she looked down at the web. Sure enough, she could make out tiny spots of brown moving. Hundreds, if not thousands of spiders, crawling all over the web in unison.
Fluttershy smiled as she observed them,“I'd say there are at least five hundred thousand, maybe more in this colony."
Blank faced and frightened on the inside, rarity turned quickly “Oh look at the time, let's get a move on, wouldn't want to waste daylight, come along, away from these unholy things.”
They continued their journey into the forest. Hours go by, to pass the time, Twilight Sparkle lectured her friends on the three hundred and ninth of the three hundred and eighty types fungus types located within the forest, much to the dismay of her comrades. "Oh! And on that tree is the fungi P. Voracious Thiccius! It is used to treat rashes and skin wounds, Spike once ran through a bunch of poison ivy, so I made a salve using this fungi to sooth his..."
"Twi, no offense,” an irritated Applejack interrupted, wiping away the sweat from her brow, “but ah think ah speak fer every pony when ah say we heard enough about fungi,"
"Oooo who's a fun guy?" smiled Pinkie, her back carrying a large wedding cake protected by plastic wrap with little to no effort on her back.
"No, Pinkie she means fungus," sighed Rainbow Dash, swallowing a swig from her canteen, "Is that all the food you packed?"
"Oh this? Yeah! It's a super yummy banana cream cake! I had so many baked goodies I couldn't choose! So I decided on one big treat we can snack on for days! I'll save some for Fun Gus too!"
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes at her naive friend, “Pinkie, I don’t think anyone wants to eat the same cake for four days in a row!,” Fluttershy added.
“Yeah. . . see I kinda didn’t wanna carry all that food, so I baked it all into one big cake!” Pinkie Pie explained,” It has everything you need! Fruit, frosting, eggs, flour, frosting, sugar…”
"Ya just wanted an excuse to make a giant cake so ya could lick the bowls and beaters, didn'tcha Pinkie?" Applejack asked, knowingly.
"Guilty as charged," Pinkie Pie chuckled weakly.
"Great job on the survival gear, by the way, Rares,” complemented Rainbow Dash, changing the subject, “ you should totally design some cosplay for me, these threads look straight out of a Daring Do book!"
“These are far better than cosplay, these are functional! I knew how much you enjoyed Daring Do novels, so I took a little inspiration. I'm glad you like them!" Rarity removed her hat, lamenting how it frazzled her mane,"Although I admit, I can see why the rest of you omitted these wretched things, it turns your head into a sauna!"
"Uhm, Princess Luna," squeaked Fluttershy as she stumbled after Luna and Twilight "I never seen these parts of the forest, y-you have a map right?"
"No need to be so formal, Fluttershy, we're all friends here.” Luna stopped and sat on a small boulder, the others sat down to rest. Luna's horn flashed blue causing a map to appear on the ground before them."This is all my scouts could map of known Everfree. Once we pass this," Luna pointed to a large river at the very edge of the map "We will be in uncharted territory, it is somewhere near there we will find that meteorite. This map is enchanted to fill itself as we go, but I need each of you to not only aid me in finding that meteor but also help to catalog new discoveries,"
"That’s why Luna has asked me to assemble a team to brave this new frontier!" Twilight added "Fluttershy, I want you to document any new animals we may find, PinkiePie is in charge of food and supplies, Apple Jack and Rainbow, we need you. . .”
"Twilight," interjected Rarity, "Forgive me for interrupting, but I don't think I'm suited for this trip into the woods," Rarity grimaced as her boot became stuck in the mud, she raised her leg in an attempt to free it but the footwear simply slid off with a pop, "Ugh! Just what is it you need me for, again?"
"I'm glad you asked, " smiled Twilight, "Your magic is key to this expedition!"
"Precisely," Luna added "Twilight tells me you can detect precious gemstones, is that correct? That is a impressive skill, one even my sister or I lack."
"Well, I wouldn't call it impressive per se," blushed Rarity, trying to remain humble “But it is one of my many gifts at my disposal."
"Twilight thinks you can use it to detect metals as well, " continued Luna "We need you to use your magic to find a large chunk of metal, can I trust you to try?"
"I will do my best, princess, but I admit it would be rather difficult, learning to find metal with my horn rather than gemstones in such short notice."
"I did some research at home and found a few formulas that can help,” said Twilight excitedly. ”It would take an average pony decades to learn the spell, but with your natural talent, I believe you can have down within a day." A lone rain drop fell on Twilight’s muzzle, preventing her from adding anymore to the conversation, “Strange,” Twilight mumbled “Hey Rainbow, were we expecting rain today?”
“No, not for at least a week, you don't think Everfree has its own rainfall too?”
A sudden flash lit up the forest and thunder rumbled, startling poor Fluttershy. "Eep!" she shrieked as she dove under a fallen log.
Within seconds a torrent of rain fell upon the girls. Each drop was fat and heavy, smacking both pony and soil alike with the beat of a drum. The wind whipped and wailed as it tore loose branches and leaves, spraying water everywhere. Applejack could hardly make out the sound of snapping wood before realizing the storm tore a mighty tree in half and sent it plummeting toward an oblivious Pinkie Pie splashing in a mud puddle. “Pinkie, look out!" shouted Applejack as she dashed to her friend, fighting the wind in hopes of reaching Pinkie before the trunk of the tree.
"Look at wha- SWEET SARSAPARILLA!" Exclaimed Pinkie as she realized the sudden danger.
With a gallant leap, Applejack tackled Pinkie out of the way, the wind ripping her hat from her head. But they were not of reach. Groaning on the way down, the tree feel toward the duo. Applejack and Pinkie squeezed each other as their body was overshadowed by the silhouette of the gigantic tree. Both realized neither would move out of the way in time.
Finally able to get a clear view, Luna surrounded the broken tree in her aura stopping it inches from crushing her friends, chucking it aside with minimal effort.
"Rainbow Dash, can you clear any of this?!" shouted Twilight.
"Can do!" Rainbow Dash shouted back.
She took off into the air to buck the storm clouds away but soon saw her mistake as the wind pushed her back to the ground like a rag doll. Frustration drove her to fight against it. Flying head on as the wet spray dampened her feathers, she battled the elements. Rainbow dash refused to give up, flapping harder and harder against the storm, moving bit by bit. It was all in vain. The harsh winds tore her from the sky and slammed her into Applejack and Pinkie Pie, sending the trio tumbling down hill,
"DASH! PINKIE! APPLEJACK!" Twilight yelled for her friends, but they were too far to hear her and any response was drowned out by the fearsome storm.
"SOMEPONY HELP!" screamed a terrified Fluttershy.
"Fluttershy! Stay put! Rarity, Twilight! We have to get her and find higher ground!“ commanded Luna, taking charge of the situation.
The three rushed toward the frightened cries for help of their friend, slowed by mud and rising flood. They neared the log where Fluttershy hid, now up to their necks in water. Thankfully, the log floated with Fluttershy now on top. The four clung to the log, paddling it in an attempt to prevent it from being caught in a surprise current from the flash flood. "It's alright, Fluttershy, we're here now." Rarity told a shaking, sobbing Fluttershy.
"B-b-buh Pinkie, and Apple Jack and. . .and," croaked Fluttershy, burying her face into Rarity's shoulder.
Luna and Twilight Sparkle joined them in their hug, uncertain of the fates of their friends. Twilight looked up at Luna with sad eyes, her lip quivering. It took her several tries to speak.
"It's my fault! I asked Rainbow to try and clear the weather!"
"Nonsense," Luna assured them," It's nopony's fault, let's try and find them.” Huddling together, the four floated down stream toward the last place they saw their friends. Wings dampened, spirits down, and worried about what will happen next.
Bird song was a foreign concept to Tori. She knew what birds were, but she didn't know they could sing! The charming whistle of the colorful animals were a welcome change. Home was never this pretty. The song was upbeat, the bluejay flew about, branch to branch, humming its tune as it went. It stopped only long enough to pluck a grub from the bark. It continued its melodious whistle, Tori felt like it knew she was watching, and it put on quite the show for her.
“They are fascinating creatures,” Weaver said, holding a small set of stones in his hand,”It has been quite some time since I last saw such animals.”
Weaver handed Tori a stone, taking her by the hand, he led her toward the nearby river.“You can see the bottom! It's like a viewing table!” Tori marveled, looking into the water.
“Even better. Tori. I used to take your mother to places like this. She would skip stones while I gathered firewood. I want to show you how to do it.”
“Skipping stones?” she questioned.
“Allow me,” Taking her hands in his, Weaver puppeteered her into the motions. "First you bend your wrists”
Miming weaver's actions, she turned, “Like this?”
“Yes. Then step forward. Then toss the stone with a flick of your wrists. Aim for the surface.”
Tori nodded. Weaver released her, allowing her to try on her own. She took three steps forward, flicking the stone as hard as she could. Her face lit up as the stone glided gracefully across the surface.Three times the stone skipped over the water and into the reeds on the other side.
“Did you see that?! It floated! It actually floated!”
“Very good. Perhaps you should practice and beat your record of three.”
“Can I? Let me get some more stones!” Tori went to the water's edge. Using her parka like a basket, she stuffed as many stones as she could carry. Weaver stood over her, staring through the hood of his cloak. "Weaver. What's wrong?
Immediately Weaver darted for Tori, yanking her up and onto his shoulders, running away from the riverbanks. “You made me drop me stones, Weevah!”
It was then Tori felt the rain. A single drop landed in the tip of her nose. Then another, and another, an another. Soon she was being pelted as weaver made a mad dash toward the crashed ship, sitting her on top of it. She looked down at Weaver, his eyelights illuminating the darkness. A flash of lightning , then the roar of thunder boomed in the distance.
“What was that?!” Tori yelled over the wind, frightened by the sudden storm.
Weaver was up to his head in water, he struggled to stay above.
“Tori. Do not move. Regardless of what happens.”
“Weevah, what's going on?”
A log hit Weaver hard before he could answer. Tori could hear the thud of wet wood against his face, knocked from gripping the top of the ship, Weaver was carried down river, underwater. Within a fraction of a second, Tori was alone.
“Weevah?! Weevah no!” she screamed, "Weevah! Answer me, please!" she cried "please. . ."
No reply, save angry wind and pelting rain. Tori was tempted to swim under after Weaver but hesitated, his last words played in her head several times with each attempted dip with her feet. "Do not move. Regardless of what happens." Before the water crashed over him, splashing her with an icy spray.
"Weevah, not you too!" Tori moaned into her hands.
She dropped herself onto the ground, but the sudden shift in weight caused her to slip downhill into the river’s chilling embrace. Faster and faster she sank, each flail and kick only pushed her deeper underneath the flood. The underwater waves and furious currents battered her around like a fly in a storm drain. Lighting and thunder occasionally pierced the silent depths, showing her taunting glimpses of the surface. Tori began thinking of home, of her mother as the pain of her tired muscles began to lull her to a state of drowsiness. She realized she was fighting a pointless battle. As her resolve to struggle waned, one thought stuck in her mind.
If she stops, she will die.
Tori panicked, fighting against the pull of the floodwaters with sudden desperation, weakened and worn. Her lungs burned, her vision blurred. Her small body ached yet she refused to give in for fear of succumbing to the violent waves. Her struggling only made her more tired, and her parka only made her sink faster. Soon her body became too fatigued to fight the current. No more lighting flashed, denying her the last glimpse of hope to ever reach the surface again. Exhausted, Tori finally gave up. Her eyes grew heavier and heavier and her flailing ceased.
Just as she was about to shut her eyes, she saw it. Three teal lights in the darkness followed by a familiar hand reaching for her. Tori grabbed for it, tightly squeezing the limp appendage as it hoisted her out of the water and onto the banks of dry land. Tori let go of her breath and inhaled. Weaver placed an arm around her, pulling the little girl close to his body in attempt to keep her warm. Tori looked up at her guardian, grateful for him once again saving her life. “Tori. I am here now.”
Tori could hardly be live it. Weaver, her hero clad in white armor, the light granting him a halo, stood in one piece. His armor chipped, and his voice unshaken, he was a sight of relief. The child touched the side of his helmet to be sure this was no illusion, burying herself into his chest with tears of fear and joy flowing freely onto her face. "You are safe now. Do not cry," said Weaver, breaking the silence.
"I th-thought I-I lost you!" she wailed, her voice shaking with emotion.
"Do not worry. I would simply sink. Forgive me for startling you," Weaver began stroking Tori’s wet hair as he shielded her body from the rain. She looked at his face. Weaver’s expression, as always, was difficult to determine as his face was hidden under the armoured plating. Two teal lenses where his eyes should be, one dotting his for head like a crown jewel. What Weaver couldn’t express with his face, he made up with his actions, checking over Tori as he ripped strips from his cloak to wrap around her bruised legs.
Like magic, Weaver's right hand heated up. Gently Weaver ran his fingers over Tori’s tired muscles to soothe them. Weaver has used this trick many times, his body heat transferred over to another in a selfless act of kindness. But something was off, his energy seemed weaker. To be safe tori looked over weaver more cautiously, looking for any damage to his armored body. At first glance, nothing was amiss. It was difficult to tell since Weaver’s plates hid most of his body. Satisfied she embraced Weaver in a tight hug, but it is there she found what was wrong with her friend.
"Where- what. . . ”
“Do not look at it," Weaver stated calmly.
Frantically she felt up and down the side of Weaver's frame, searching for something but not finding it. Her heart sank, she slowly turned her head toward the area she prodded, afraid of what she would find.
"Tori. Do not look at it."
Ignoring Weaver’s warning, she looked at his left side, horrified at the sight. "Weevah, where is your arm!?" she shrieked as she stared at a mangled forearm.
Armor and all was gone. The limb leaked viscous grey fluid as the machinery within turned uselessly in an. attempt to move the phantom limb. Tori could see hundreds of wires that sparked as Weaver's body tried in vain to power them.
"It had to be removed. If I dove back for you I would sink. You would drown. This was the best option.” Weaver explained, unfazed by the grievous damage.
Tori was horrified, she felt a mixture of empathy and guilt. She looked at the remainder of his arm. To a machine like Weaver, it was nothing, to a human, it looked unbearable.
"But your arm! Your arm I-I-it's gone!" she sobbed hysterically.
"It was the best option to reach you."
"You're hurt! You hurt yourself trying to help me!"
"Look. Tori. The rain has stopped. The sun is out." Weaver said, his voice punctuated by a slight hum. ”I cannot feel sunlight. Describe it to me please.”
Weaver knew if Tori put her mind on something else, that would help her calm down. Eager to share the feeling with him, Tori wiped away her tears Tori stretched an arm into the sun.
"It's warm and tingly."
"More," Weaver requested.
"It feels like a hug. All over me ahrm."
"Yes. It sounds appealing. Thank you for sharing the sensation with me. I cannot feel things as you do.”
Tori rubbed her eyes and smiled finally understanding her friend was in no pain.Tori laid in the sun allowing the light to dry her off, her mind finally at ease and off of Weaver's injury.
Weaver began grabbing branches that floated by, quickly placing tinder in a orderly pile. As the water receded Weaver waded to the crater where their ship crashed, salvaging anything he could, making sure certain to stay within sight of his human companion so she could enjoy her first day in the sun in peace.