Mane Allgood flicked her ears in annoyance, having finally stirred from her post-travel torpor. The train ride back to Ponyville from Shire Lanka was a long and arduous one and she was just glad to be free of the bumpy rails. Now she faced a far greater challenge, getting off the sofa she was sleeping on and wriggling free of the quilt cocoon she was in. The mare grunted, slowly moving her dully aching limbs to free her from the soft cushions she laid upon and the warm quilt draped over her body and head. Opening her eyes to a quiet, tranquil morning punctuated by beams of the morning sun streaming through the windows and the chirping of songbirds outside.
Rubbing her eyes and leaning back in the seat, the songbirds brought a smile to her face. She had forgotten how peaceful sounding they were compared to the cacophony that parrots would raise near her window. She was done travelling for now, and for a good long while at that. It was time to be a better parent to her Scootaloo. Lost in thought about her daughter, Allgood was oblivious to the soft clack of hooves against hardwood behind her until it was too late. Blunt teeth gently pinched the sensitive flesh of her ear and the mare panicked. Her wings extending to full length and the feathers on her body puffing outwards to broaden her outline. “Shutter! You cunt!” She croaked, leaning forward to pull her ear free from the loose bite of her husband.
Shutter giggled softly, his baritone voice rumbling more from his chest than from his mouth. “Sorry Goodie, ‘s just hanging over the edge there, right tempting it was. Don’t be crook with me now.” The stallion pleaded, plopping his neck down on the headrest next to his feathered wife. Giving his best, saucer-eyed puppy dog look that he could muster.
While most ponies would mistake Snap-Shutter for an earth pony at a passing glance, in reality he was a hybrid. Born to an earth pony father and a karkadann mother. He was larger and stockier than most ponies, with only exceptional individuals like Big Mac proving an equal in physicality. His tail was longer and more bovine in appearance, though it still looked mostly like a standard pony's. The hooves on his back legs were cloven rather than the uniform hooves of his front legs. Small splotches and spots adorned his coat along with some stripes, which were typically hidden behind the canvas fabric of a button-up shirt. His pelt was thin, which would allow a pony to glimpse in on the thick and scaly brown hide beneath his fur. Lastly, he had a very small dewlap only noticeable from the side and two small bumps on his forehead that were generally covered by his mane and hat.
“Whatever, not like I was going back to bed.” She muttered, wrapping her foreleg around Shutter’s neck and hugging him close. “Still love you, even if you are the biggest cunt I know.” The lanky mare smiled deeply and bent down to rub her nuzzle against Snap’s, a nicker of affection escaping her nostrils. “You check on the ankle biters before you came downstairs?”
Shutter nodded his head, rubbing his forehead against his wife’s nose. “Mhhm. All three are sleeping soundly. As are Lofty and Holiday.”
“You didn’t need to tell me about them hon, I can hear their snoring from down here.”
At that comment, Shutter’s nostrils flared in laughter as the stallion pulled free from Allgood’s grasp. “You want anything to eat Goodie?” he asked as he peered into the pantry and refrigerator both. “Looks like Holly went grocery shopping before we got back too. Bless her.”
Allgood slowly rolled off the couch, popping the joints in her legs as she flared her wings out wide, clenching her whole body in an early morning stretch. “Pancakes with blueberries, if we have them. Maybe some chocolate chip ones too, foals love those.” The abnormally tall mare stumbled a bit as she straightened up, lazily trotting deeper into her home to wake the dogs and let them out for a morning run, only to stop just before she left the living room.
“Are the dogs inside or did they get left out?” The pegasus called out.
“Outside. Smokey Beam let them out when he got here this morning. Popped in to say hi before he went out in the bush. Well, more he left a note, he’s got the sniffles so he doesn’t want to come inside and spread it everywhere.” Snap Shutter answered back over the clattering of pots, pans and various other cooking utensils, undercut with breathy swears at the organization of the cabinets.
“Bless him, we’d be up to our withers in briars otherwise.” Allgood exhaled, lazily making her way back towards the kitchen, passing Snap at the counters and shouldering her way into the open pantry. She began to peruse the shelves, brushing aside boxes and bottles in search of the dried, green gold she craved. Only to be met with a pang of horror as she couldn’t find any.
“Snap! Do we not have any tea?” She pleaded, hoping desperately that her Oatstralian hubby would somehow have some. Months spent in Shire Lanka meant she had utterly spoiled herself with breakfast chai. The stuff was more addictive than any drug as far as she was concerned.
“Nope. Sorry, I know you’re devo about it. We do have some coffee though, I’ve already got that brewing.” Was her husband's quick and rehearsed response.
“Ech.” Mane exclaimed in disgust. She didn’t like coffee that much. Much too bitter for her tastes, but she needed that precious caffeine. This morning she’d just have to soldier through it. “Going to give Holly an earful when I see her next.” She mumbled under her breath while backing out of the pantry. Her steps were unenthusiastic as she began to make her way to the front door. She had been looking forward to sipping on some chai while rocking in her favorite chair.
Throwing open the front door, she was treated to a rush of cool air and the heavy scent of nature, she could even catch cut grass. The mare’s lip curled up in pleasure as the scent ran through her. It was relaxing compared to the thick, ever present pugency of the rainforest. Allgood enjoyed it all the way to her favorite chair, where the Pegasi got up and reclined. Letting a sigh of relief escape her muzzle. She would take the entire day nice and easy, just like this. Enjoy her summer before starting her new position at Twilight’s Sch-
Mane’s ears twitched and swiveled towards the sound of crunching gravel and grinding dirt, the mare quickly sitting upright within her chair. Someone was coming up the path, but who? Holly was never this early, and Smokey was far louder than this. Plus it didn’t sound like hoofsteps either. The mare’s wings flared to attention as she got out of her chair to get a better look, only to relax when she saw who it was. Her anxiety was replaced with confusion. Anton, a portly gargoyle working for Dr. Fauna, was walking down the path to her home. Why would one of Dr. Fauna’s assistants come all the way out here unannounced?
“Hey! Anton!” Allgood cried out, waving a wing at the gargoyle in greetings. “What brings you all the way out here?!”
Anton did not grace her with a response immediately, instead getting closer whilst slowing his pace. His tongue hung loose and he was panting heavily, trying to catch his breath. His lack of a shirt allowed one to glimpse at his furred chest and the purple discoloration underneath his tawny fur. Allgood winced upon noticing that little detail.
“Sorry, out of shape. Bruised my chest.” He wheezed, stopping just short of the porch. “Probably should have brought some water with me.”
Allgood took one look at the sweaty, panting assistant standing before her porch and decided she needed to help. “Well, come on in. Get yourself a drink.” She trotted over to the door and grabbed the handle in her frog, pulling it open wide for the chimeric courier.
“Thank you. Dr. Fauna sent me.” Anton clarified, straightening and tidying up his work pants as he strode through the door, giving a small bow and nod to Allgood on his way past. The mare followed him intently, wanting to hear the rest of the story. “Though I’d much rather tell you the story sitting down.”
“Alright, is it bad?” Allgood asked, mentally preparing herself in the event that it was. “We’re also making pancakes if you want any.”
“I know, I smelt them walking up and... uh to answer your question Allgood… It’s bad. Really bad.” He stated, his eyes glancing around nervously and his hackles raising, as if he was uncomfortable with mentioning the news by itself.
“And it was shaping up to be an acceptable morning.” Allgood muttered under her breath as she and Anton rounded the corner to the kitchen, spotting Snap Shutter hovering over a skillet with a spatula in hoof. His coat lightly dusted with flour and small flecks of batter as he babied the fluffy cakes from goop to perfection.
“Hey Anton, how’s my favorite larrikin doing?” The earth pony questioned, not taking his attention off the flapjacks for any length of time. “And what’s this about bad news?”
The opening and closing of a fridge was the immediate response as Anton grasped a water bottle out of the unit and quickly began to guzzle down on its icy contents. “Doing just fine, bruised my chest so I’ve had to walk around. It sucks, being grounded.”
“I bet it does with those skinny legs of yours. What’d you do if you don’t mind me askin’?” Shutter questioned back, flipping the final flapjack off the pan and onto a pile of flapjacks currently hosted on a large serving plate.
“Was an idiot and took off right into a tree-limb, lucky I didn’t hit my head. Didn’t bust anything but by Scorpan’s teeth it hurts.” He looked off into the distance for a moment as if trying to recall something, quickly snapping out of his contemplativeness a moment afterwards. “As for your earlier question. Well, I won’t sugarcoat it.”
“Yesterday at around ten when Dr. Fauna was going to leave and let Dr. Ocatillo take over, we get a dragon-fire letter, addressed from Fluttershy. It said that we need to make our way to her cottage and to bring a stretcher and a trauma kit.” Anton leaned against the counter, taking a long swig from his water-bottle. “So of course we do that and go out to her sanctuary with haste. You know, she doesn’t call us if it’s something she can fix there. Anyways we get there, Fluttershy’s inside her cottage and this deer is outside to meet us. Think his name was Blackthorn or something. Says he saw what looked to be poachers and then found a wounded animal after he scared them off.”
At the mention of poachers the air in the room soured. Allgood found her feathers ruffling in suppressed anger whilst her husband gave a disgusted snort, his brow narrowing.
“So we go inside and Fluttershy is tending to this ape of some sorts. I’m not a primatologist, but this creature looks almost nothing like any other ape anyone’s ever seen. Closest relative is a sasquatch is our current theory. Anyways, Fluttershy’s done an amazing job stabilizing her, the ape, but it’s pretty serious stuff. She’s got cuts and bruises all over, spear-wounds on her legs and a deep one in her belly. But the worst of it is up near her head. Skull’d been shattered around the left side of her head, skin broken too. Could see into her braincase, was not pretty in the slightest. Then I guess figuring they’d killed their quarry, they tried to take her scalp as a trophy, but they screwed up and only got part of it and an ear.”
Allgood was fuming at this point, her feathers and fur fully puffed out as she paced back in forth in the kitchen. It was one thing to poach, another to do it for sport, but something completely else to do it to something as intelligent and empathetic as an ape. Her husband wasn’t faring much better, although held onto a stoic look far better than his wife did. But one could hear him bruxing underneath his shut lips
“She’s awake during all of this, never going to forget that look in her eyes or those sounds. We thanked Fluttershy, got the ape on a stretcher, and got her back to be treated. Flutters came with us and Briarthorn went to the guard. Got back, Dr Fauna and Ocatillo were up the whole night fixing her up. They sent me back home because they needed people who were going to be functional come morning. Last I heard they patched her up good, but they don’t know if she’s ever going to recover right. That head wound got into her brain, Fauna could tell you the specifics.” Anton finished, taking a final swig from his water bottle and shuddering from the memories of the sounds of pure terror and pain that came from that creature. Despite the water he still felt as cotton mouthed when he began.
Allgood looked down at her hooves, wings flared and feathers ruffled like an angry hen. Taking a deep breath before exhaling, letting her plumage settle down. “Thank you for telling me Anton, I’ll be glad, nay, honored to help you and Dr Fauna get this ape back on her hooves. Is she there in her office?” Mane inquired, taking a look over her shoulder to gaze at Snap Shutter heading off upstairs. Likely to swear profusely under his breath before getting the foals up for breakfast.
“Mhhm. Been spending most of the day asleep, eating and helping us here and there. Don’t blame her, surgery is exhausting. Couldn’t imagine having to fix the type of wounds that poor ape got.” Anton commented, fishing another water bottle out of the fridge in quick order.
“She’s a good vet, the Celestia-damned best this side of the Ponpogne as far as I’m aware.” Allgood commented, retrieving a stack of plates from a cabinet. “Help yourself to some hotcakes. I’ll head back with you after breakfast.” Allgood sat back on her haunches and let the gargoyle help himself to a small portion of pancakes. She had left Shire Lanka to get away from this to focus on her family, but it seemed to have followed her here. At the very least she wouldn’t have to fly across a whole continent to see her foals when the day was done.