Fluttershy Goes on a Walk

by AsiagoUnicorn

In a cave

Deep within the Everfree Forest, far from the beaten path, sat a bubble of safety within the ever shifting dangers of the woods. The thick trees thinned, allowing the brightly colored underbrush to flourish and cover the landscape in a sea of blues and purples.

At the very center of this pocket was a small hole, not easy to see with the grass reaching out over it in hopes of catching some sunlight before it was stolen by its brethren. Indeed, when Fluttershy had found it so many moons ago, she had not done so knowingly.

She had tumbled through the earth in a clatter of rock and soil. Thankfully, she had not been injured in the fall, a reflexive beat of her wings cushioning the blow of the ground. That had been so long ago; Now a passing thought each time she carefully lowered herself down into the cave on her return.

Ensconced within the the natural granite walls, a warm orange in the brilliant light of the sun filtering through the leafy canopy above and mottled with soft green moss, she lay still save for the gentle rise and fall of her breaths. All was silent save for the wind through the trees above.

Motes of dust swirled around her, stirred by her arrival from the skies and not to settle until long after her departure. They spiraled through the air, lighting up like fireflies as they passed through beams of sunlight, only to dim as they drifted into shadow again.

There was no real way of knowing how long she had lain there, cradled in the warmth of the grotto. Time was meaningless there, a figment of the imagination affecting only those who let it. After an eternity she sighed and sleepily lifted herself to her hooves. Today she would have to let time in. There was something she needed to do.

Across from her, the walls of the cave parted, and a tunnel twisted away into cool darkness. She had never been down the tunnel. Something about it put her on edge, and day after day she had chosen to ignore it, and let herself be cocooned in the safety of the grotto.

She moved a hoof as if to step towards the tunnel, before glancing back up at the bright green of the sunlit canopy above her. She could still go back; Retreat into the safe, the warm, the known. She had done so so many times before. No pony would judge her. No pony would know.

She shook her head and walked into narrow tunnel. She could not let herself put off the exploration any longer. Something pulled at her through the darkness, each time she was there and it was time to finally heed its call.

The light faded away only hooves into the tunnel, blinding her to what might lay before her. She stretched her wings out, brushing their tips across the cool, damp walls. The rough texture of the stone across her primaries sent shivers down her spine.

Slowly she pressed onwards, feeling out each hoofstep before committing. Delving deeper and deeper, the tunnel sloped downwards almost imperceptibly. All thoughts of turning back seemed to vanish like dew in the morning sun. She would find the end of the tunnel or she would die trying.

She felt a certain amount of elation at her convictions. It was not often that she felt strongly about anything, and the sensation was even more elusive when it did not pertain to her friends. It was comforting; An affirmation that it was not an ability she had lost.

A dim blue glow began to seep into the all consuming darkness and she could begin to make out the silhouette of the tunnel around her, gently winding back and forth and obscuring what lay ahead. And she knew something lay ahead. She could feel it tugging on her, stronger than before. Urging her onwards.

She obliged.

The blue glow grew brighter, and with it came the sound of flowing water. Bioluminescent mushrooms clinged to the tunnel sprouting up from every available surface and filling the world with the blue glow that emanated from their speckled surface. Able to see more clearly, Fluttershy picked up her pace.

Passing around one final bend, the tunnel opened up into a massive cave, smattered with mushrooms and as bright as day. A river cut through the cave, shallow and full of rocks it babbled. Above the roof was distant and the swaths of mushrooms casting their specks of light gave it the appearance of the night sky.

Her eyes traveled downwards and alighted on the massive brass construction across from her. It was a massive arch, almost as tall as the cave itself. It was assembled from stone and still cogs, seemingly devoid of wear and tear. Perfectly preserved within the bowels of the earth. It was elevated ever so slightly above the rest of the cave, resting on a natural stone plinth that protected it from the rising and falling of the river as seasons passed.

To the side, she spotted a separate device, tethered to the arch with a wandering black cable. It was a smaller device with an array of buttons and dials across the front of it. A hexagonal slot sat in the center of the top, empty of whatever it was meant to hold. She knew somehow that this was a console, although she was unsure how she knew this.

Cantering to the edge of the river, she beat her wings and propelled herself over before walking to the console. Up close it was truly stunning; Engraved in intricate arcane designs and symbols. Her gaze drifted to the empty slot, and she wondered what it was intended to hold.

A wind blew through the cave, tugging at her hair. She reflexively turned to face it, and in doing so she spotted a small crystal by the tunnel that had lead her there. Something clicked in her mind and she retrieved it.

Holding the crystal in her mouth, her head hovered over the slot on the console. It would fit perfectly, she knew that, but still she hesitated. She had no real way of knowing what would happen if she inserted it.

The crystal clicked into place with ease, and for a moment nothing happened. Then slowly, everything began to whir imperceptibly into motion. She could feel it before she could hear it, the low thrumming of magical energy coursing through the arch.

With a groan, the clockwork ticked into motion. It moved lazily at first, gears grinding against each other hampered by so much time spent stationary, but before long they were spinning faster than Fluttershy could keep track of. Whirling and turning faster and faster and faster.

She could feel the magic building in the air, pulsing through her and standing her coat on end. The wind picked up, swirling around the cave fluttering her mane like a lost paper bag in the breeze. She stepped back, almost turning to gallop away as fast as she could.She held her ground though, be it by fear or something far less mundane.

A spark flew out of the center of the arch, arcing through up before slowing to a halt in the air, floating. Then another, and another. A cascade of sparks poured out, drowning the cerulean glow of the mushrooms with a blinding white radiance.

The flow slowed to a stop, and then everything hung still for a moment, the deafening ticking of clockwork still refusing to rest. Then the sparks began to reverse, falling back to the arch and coalescing into bright pulsing mass.

Another pulse of magic surged through the cave. Fluttershy covered her eyes with a foreleg as the rough sphere grew brighter. Slowly, the ball shifted, flattening out and expanding to fill the whole arch. And then, in an instant, everything dimmed. The whirring of the clockwork was replaced by the ticking of each passing second, and Fluttershy cautiously lower her foreleg.

Before her the arch, no gate, sat, its threshold filled with a shimmering prismatic fluid. She took a step forward, wide eyed. Another step. The pull felt stronger than it ever had before. Another, and another. She reached out with a foreleg.

It felt almost… cold and oily. Certainly not something she was expecting from something that had glowed so brilliantly only moments ago. She pushed her hoof deeper in, expecting to find the cave wall on the other side, but instead finding nothing but more of the same oily fluid.

She withdrew her hoof and took a step back. Then, sighing, she took a deep breath and ran. The last thing she saw was the shifting hues of the gate’s threshold.