Coming to a sudden stop causes Starlight to also stop. I stand there for a solid minute just staring at the forest. The Everfree… been a long time since I’ve seen that place… I never got to explore the castle or the town either…
Starlight tugs on my pant leg, pulling my attention from the forest. Looking at her, I note the curiosity in her expression. Looking back at the forest, I speak. “Sorry, just got a bit distracted. That’s where I spent a thousand years of my life. Probably a lot more actually…”
She looks at the forest as well. “How can you tell?” she asks.
I point to the forest. “That’s the Everfree Forest. Way back when, before Luna was banished, their castle was in that forest. It’s ruins are probably still there too. But I bet you already knew that, didn’t you.”
She remains quiet and I consider my options. I really wanna go see the castle… despite it being destroyed, I feel compelled to do so. But at the same time, after what happened… the forest has changed quite a bit… glancing back at the info card that floats in my vision, I see a warning label that clearly reads out in red capital letters; DANGER
“You wanna go there, don’t you.” she states. It isn’t a question either.
“Mm… You’d be correct on that one.” looking back down at her, I continue. “But I’m not just gonna leave you here either.”
“We can go if you want. Honestly, I didn’t have any place in mind, I was just passing through town.” she suggests.
I raise an eyebrow at her. “You sure? That place is dangerous.”
She raises an eyebrow at me. “I thought you almost killed Princess Celestia. This forest is what scares you?”
“Alright you, if you’re so sure. We can talk at the castle then. Kill two birds with one stone.” I say as I start walking.
“I thought the phrase was ‘feed two birds with one scone.’” she questions.
“Bah, eat my diction.” I quip.
Giggling at my snarky remark, she starts walking ahead of me towards the forest. Shaking my head, I do a quick jog to catch up to her, and resume walking by her side.
For the bravery she was showing, it was quickly becoming apparent how much of an act it was. It started off small, walking closer to me than before, then a slightly anxious posture. Next was the shifty eyes, snapping toward any sound in the forest. One time she even bumped into me and yelped aloud, startling even me with the sudden noise.
Letting out a sigh, I stop and look at her with my arms crossed. “I told you we didn’t have to come in here if you didn’t want to.”
“I’m fine!” she says defensely. “It’s just… the Everfree is unnatural. It gets to you rather quickly.”
I crouch down and boop her, to which her face scrunches up cutely. “You ain’t gotta act tough ya know.” I get up and keep walking, throwing a careless hand into the air. “Besides, I’m scarier than anything we’re gonna find in this forest.”
She hurries along to keep pace with me, still on edge, and keeping even closer to me than before.
As we follow the path, I figure I could take her mind off being in the forest before she has a panic attack or something. “So, what’s buggin ya? You never did tell me.”
She looks up at me. “I thought we were gonna talk at the castle?”
I raise an eyebrow. “I don’t see why we can’t talk now. Unless you’re purposely avoiding the topic?”
She huffs and gets a rather annoyed look. “I’m not avoiding anything.”
“Then what, pray tell, was bothering you so much that you were just passing through town with no destination in mind?”
She stops and sighs. “Alright, I am avoiding it… I’m just… trying to gather my thoughts in a way I can express them. Not used to talking to others about anything.”
“Pft; yeah, I’m right there with ya sister.”
She gives me an accusatory look. “And how would you know?”
I cross my arms and give her a hard look. “Uh, hello? Stuck in stone for two thousand years? Conscious for about half of it? I think I know damn well what it’s like to not talk to others.” I state just a tad bit too harshly, as she flinches back from me. I sigh. “Sorry. Guess we’re both out of touch when it comes to friendship.”
I start walking and pat her on the head as I walk by her, mussing up her hair. “Come on, let’s keep going. It shouldn’t be too much farther.”
She follows. “I promise we’ll talk when we actually get to the castle, okay?”
I smirk. “I’m holding you to that.”
The rest of the way was walked in silence, and we approach the ruins of an old town. Old wooden posts, stone bricks, old cobblestone paths with cracks and grass growing through it. I look around, taking in sight.
“Huh… so this is where everyone lived. It’s smaller than I thought it would be.” I say.
“Well to be fair, it has been a thousand years since anypony’s inhabited this area. On top of that, when abandoning an area, ponies tend to take down their houses for materials. So it’s pretty safe to say that this is about half of what the outer town actually was.” Starlight explains.
“Mm… that makes sense. And there’s been plenty of time for nature to reclaim the land. So I shouldn’t be surprised… but I still am… wish I could have seen this place in its full glory.”
Scratching my neck as I walk, I add on as an afterthought. “Though to be fair, If I could have, I’d probably be the reason why it is the way it is now.”
“Why’s that?” Starlight questions.
I chuckle. “I don’t think I cared enough about Luna back then; I was too angry. Though I guess it does depend on how far along I was in my imprisonment.”
“...Why do you care about Princess Luna anyways? No offense.”
I let out a sigh. “She was the only one who cared about me, and thought I didn’t deserve what happened to me. Starswirl cared a bit as well, but that’s only because Luna asked him to help her free me. Honestly I don’t think she’d have been able to stop me from killing her sister back then even if she was able to free me. Reason she was able to stop me a couple of days ago was because I was in so much shock at having found her again… I thought she was gone forever. I didn’t want to lose that.”
“... So… what did happen to you? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“... Celestia and Luna used the elements of harmony on me; turned me to stone. There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to get into it right now. Maybe I’ll tell you the full story in the future.”
With that, I continue making my way to the castle itself. Arriving at the gate, I barely nudge it and it falls off the hinges completely. “Dunno what I was expecting honestly.” looking up at the ruins of the castle proper, I glance off to the right. “See that building there?” I ask, pointing to said building, which is dilapidated like the rest, but at least still standing. “That was Starswirl's school of magic. Dunno if there’s anything still there.” looking directly across from the school, I scowl. “And that’s the castle garden. Wasn’t much, but it was where I stood.”
Walking over to it, I slow my stride and look around the area. “It’s so different…”
A sharp pain stabs at my mind, bringing me to my knees. Images flash through my mind, all of my time standing here. The mortar strikes from when Sombra attacked. The two guards fighting in the dueling circle. Various snippets of conversations that have happened in front of me. I can feel myself struggling to breath, as if I’ve forgotten how to again. Curling up on my side, shaking, I can feel myself pushing my arms against my chest, my heart beating a million miles a minute.
I’m snapped from it all when I feel something collide with my face. Still shaking, I turn, and see Starlight standing over me, her hoof raised to smack me again. I take a moment to calm my breathing, and try to get my heart rate back to normal.
Sitting cross legged, I continue looking at her. “S-sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”
She looks at my with a bit of concern on her face. “I’m not an expert on… whatever you are… but I don’t think that’s healthy.”
“Just a couple of flashbacks… nothing serious.”
“If it was just a flashback, it’d be fine. But you were having a full on panic attack there. Are you sure coming here was a good idea?” she questions.
Looking at the castle, I get up and dust myself off. “Maybe not. But were here now anyways. Come on, lets go explore what’s left of the castle. Find somewhere still intact that we can sit down and talk in. sound good?”
She gives me an annoyed look, but nods. “Alright, but if you have another panic attack, I’m dragging you away from here.”
I shrug and walk into the castle itself.
Upon walking into the throne room, I get another flashback, this one not nearly as debilitating as the previous one. Visions of my time spent in the throne room when Luna refused to leave. The fight between her and her sister. I grab my head and shake it all off, hoping Starlight doesn’t notice.
Spoiler, she did. But since it wasn’t as bad as last time, she merely gives me a skeptical look but says nothing.
I find myself wandering the halls on the bottom floor, seeing as what’s left of the higher up floors doesn’t look stable at all. There really isn’t much to see; some shreds of tapestry, busted up pedestals, ripped up rug covered in dirt, entire chunks of floor missing, etc.
After numerous dead end halls and empty rooms, I find a dark stairwell leading down underground. Heading down it, I hear Starlight speak up from behind me. “Do you even know where that leads?”
Turning back to look at her, I shake my head. “Nope. But adventure calls! Besides, I never knew much about this castle, despite being here for so long. Don’t tell me you aren’t curious about what’s down here.”
She shuffles side to side with indecision clearly written on her face. I’m about to try and say something else to try and convince her, but it seems I don’t have to as she shakes her head and starts descending the stairs, using a spell to light up the area with her horn. Not that I need it, but she probably does. I nod and keep going down myself. “I call dibs on the first thing I see that I want though.”
I nod. “Assuming there even is something down here worth wanting.”
Upon reaching the bottom, I’m a little confused. I see a pathway, but overlapping it I also see a stone brick wall that matches the rest of the stairwell. I’m more confused when Starlight speaks up.
“A stairwell that leads to nothing? What’s the point of that?”
I continue to look at the path, and close my left eye. Doing so, the path disappears. Swapping eyes, now with my right eye closed instead, I clearly see the path.
“It isn’t a dead end. It’s an illusion.” I state, walking up to the path and putting my hand on the fake wall. Pushing on it, it takes a moment before I fall through it, to which Starlight gives a yelp of fear.
I call back after getting my footing. “I’m fine! I told ya, it was an illusion. Just do what I did.”
A moment later, I see her phase through the wall as well. She looks back at the illusionary wall, raises an eyebrow. “That’s a pretty strong illusion… must have been cast by the princesses themselves.” she turns to me. “How did you know it was an illusion?”
I point to my left eye. “Well, I was able to see right through it with my left eye. Only my left eye though, that’s why I was confused. It looks really weird. On top of that, a stair well that leads to nothing? Kinda hard to believe.”
Hiking her eyebrow even higher, she looks at my left eye. “You can see through illusions? What else can that thing do?”
“That thing, is my eye thank you very much. And as for what else it can do, a couple things. But in terms of just normal eyesight, it seems it’s just really enhanced and unaffected by anything. So… yeah.” I say with a shrug. Looking down the hall, I see it leads to a room, it’s content hidden behind a door. Walking to the door, I open it and find a room filled with various things. Weapons, artifacts of various kinds, books, potions, etc.
Starlights eyes light up like a christmas tree, and immediately darts into the room and starts looking through the stuff. I shake my head and follow her in, looking through the various things.
I don’t know what any of these potions are, so I decide to just grab a couple and stick them in my bag, for curiosity’s sake. Looking over at the unicorn, I see her nose deep in an unmarked book. “What’s the book about?”
She looks up at me with a wide grin and a glint in her eye. “This is a book detailing Starswirl's research into forbidden magic, and magic that was lost overtime! Do you know how much I could learn from this?!”
I raise an eyebrow. “You sure it’s a good idea to be learning forbidden magic?”
She immediately closes the book and hugs it tightly to her chest. “Hey, I called dibs on the first thing I wanted. You’re not taking this from me.” she says defensively.
Raising my hands in a placating manner, I motion for her to calm down. “You can keep it or burn it for all I care. Just saying, it’s probably forbidden for a reason. Just don’t do anything stupid with it, like mess up the flow of time or something, okay?” I say jokingly.
She chuckles awkwardly. “Hehe, yeah…”
I look at her for a moment before my eyes widen. “WAIT THERE’S ACTUALLY A TIME TRAVEL SPELL IN THERE?!”
She winces at my tone, but hesitantly nods.
I sigh and really contemplate if I should let her keep it. “Tell you what. You can keep it. But don’t use the dangerous spells in there, like the aforementioned time travel. You mentioned there was lost magic in there?”
She nods. “Yeah, stuff that just sorta got lost over time. Not all of it’s dangerous.”
“I’ll take your word for it, because I don’t feel like trying to recall what I know about magic.” I state as I go to the books. Sifting through them, I find a particular blue book. Raising an eyebrow, I open it up and after glancing through its contents, I hand it to Starlight. She takes it, albeit confused.
Apparently it was his notes on magic in general. Shortcuts to make almost all spells more magic efficient, more effective, etc.
I also find a book about the potions that I took. Flipping through it and comparing the potions I took, I find myself putting a couple back, as they are either useless or something so dangerous I don’t feel okay with carrying. The potions I kept along with the others I took to replace the ones I put back, are just a couple healing potions, pain nullifiers, stamina and strength boosters. Each last about a half hour, except the healing potion since it works differently. I decided to keep the book as well in case I ever wanted to get into potion making.
Looking around the room, my eyes fall on the weapons. I walk over to them as Starlight continues going through the books. Most look to be either made for ponies, or too big for me to even use properly. Cursing my youthful body, I glance over to the smaller weapons. Assorted versions of crossbows and daggers. I decide to just take a dagger, seeing as a crossbow would be useless to me. The dagger I grabbed at random is strange. Instead of a simple double edged blade, it’s got teeth cut into it and a blade on the other side. Shrugging, I strap it to my bag and decide I’m done here.
Looking over at Starlight, I see most of the books are gone. “Where did the books go?” I question.
She looks over and smiles. “Pocket dimension! Glad I found that spell early.”
I roll my eyes. “Well then you can read them all at your own leisure. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
I jump out of my skin when I hear a voice I wasn’t expecting. “Yes, you should get out of here, shouldn’t you.”
Turning to face the entrance of the room, standing there, is Princess Luna, along with Skyline.
And she does not look happy.