Chapter 3: I’m not falling for you, I'm falling with you.
I don’t usually dream, so waking up remembering the absolute nonsense that ran through my head over the night was an odd experience. rubbing away the crust at the edge of my massive eyes I glanced around and had to remind myself that everything yesterday had really happened. I had to take a moment to push down my rising panic and resolved to break down once we were out of danger, letting hysteria take over would essentially kill me while I'm in this god/faust forsaken forest. I looked over the makeshift campsite and saw that I was the first to wake and that my wisp was still slowly circling the camp. after a quick look at the summoning skill itself I saw that the progress to the next level had risen all the way to 45% which means just having it summoned gave experience, thankfully, though I did have a bit of a headache From maintaining it, so for now I dispelled it and it was like a weight was lifted from my horn. The relief didn’t last long as the lack of anything to eat finally caught up to me and my stomach voiced its displeasure which means we should all get moving before we were too hungry to move anymore; I didn’t want to resort to mushrooms again.
“Alright it's morning, wake up, you two.” My raised voice seemed to jar Arthur enough to wake him without much fuss, thankfully, shaking himself he rose and trotted over to the stream and splashed some water onto his face, shivering a bit from the still freezing liquid. Then, with a quick flick of his hoof, he splashed some water onto the still slumbering Morgana, shocking her awake; which was a
dick plot hole move in my opinion.
“Ack!” With a startled shout, Morgana shot to her hooves and sent an annoyed glare at her brother, who then returned it with much more vitriol; making her quickly cower back down. The whole exchange only took a few seconds and even then it revealed so much of their relationship to me. Storing that information away for later, I stepped between the two in order to break up the tension and tried to bring the focus back to our current situation.
“Both of you need to calm down, now isn’t the time for infighting. Any grievances we have with each other can wait until we're not in danger of being eaten alive, got it!” That last bit was directed at Arthur and I was sure he caught it by the much deeper scowl he was shooting at me now, Morgana however actually seemed a bit relieved I stepped in and started to really wake herself up and stretch. I gave Arthur one more look before I turned my attention back to our small camp and the smouldering silver embers of the fire; or more specifically, one of the small stones that was on the edge of the pit. half of the palm-sized stone looked like it had been dipped in quiksilver, with the shiny film probably resulting from being baked by my magic fire. Levitating the stone closer I could see that the stone was really brittle, and I was easily able to snap the baked stone from its shiny edge. The snapping noise grabbed the attention of the siblings quickly, making them jump to attention and drop what they were doing. Arthur had been scrubbing his face with the river water and Morgana was over by the forest edge looking at some of the plants in the underbrush; though she wasn’t picking any from what I could see.
“Sorry about that, Just... experimenting; but we need to get moving now” I ended that quick statement by kicking dirt over the warm ashes to fully smother it and turning to walk upstream.
“Hey, we should be going downstream, not up.” Arthur’s voice stopped me, and for a moment I was about to question why he would want to go downstream, until I remembered the idea that civilization is always downstream or something and, if we were home on earth and lost I would listen to him this time. However, there was one oversight Arthur missed that changed that.
“Downstream means waterfalls and now that we’re in a cartoon world that means something is most likely gonna try and force us off of it” The looks I got from the two of them actually almost made me laugh, and after a few seconds of staring they seemed to realize I was being serious and actually started to consider what I was talking about. Strangely enough, Arthur was the first to grimace and nod before trotting forward and joining me further upstream. He was quickly followed by Morgana who seemed to still be thinking about it. There are so many cartoon tropes I was afraid of being real now, especially since none of us had the innate abilities of a cartoon character, so any slapstick gag could be potentially lethal.
We walked for a few minutes with myself closest to the river,Arthur walking in silence next to me and staring straight ahead. He was followed by Morgana who started to drift closer to the forest looking for what I can only assume were herbs. I took this time to glance at my status screen; my bruises seemed to have healed overnight and I was now healthy, albeit tired as my stamina was decreasing faster than usual. I could only guess it was being sapped by my hunger. I was about to open up my skills menu to see if I could find a way to get skills without using skill points when I was suddenly jarred from it by Arthur’s red hoof grabbing my shoulder roughly. slightly irritated, I turned my attention from my menu and looked over at Arthur, only to pause when I saw the terrified look on his face. Arthur didn’t really strike me as someone who would willingly show fear; I wouldn’t have been surprised if he thought of it as a weakness; so when I saw his red muzzle wide-eyed with the blood draining out of his formerly blood-red coat I knew something was really wrong. I followed his gaze; not forward; but down, across my path and into the river, where we saw there, floating serenely, a hoof… a severed hoof surrounded by a trail of blood-tainted water that was snaking down the river, getting darker and darker. Almost in perfect sync Arthur and I visually followed the trail of blood further and further, until the both of us were leaning to the side to try and see around the bend. a few adjusting steps, the rolling snowball of dread suddenly turned into a landslide of terror as we saw the cause. Around the bend on the opposite shore was a creature that, if I had seen it any other time, would have made me say aww; but with its current… adornments, it only inspired fear. The creature looked like someone took a pile of clouds and tried to shape them into an approximation of a mountain lion, which would have gave the creature an adorably fluffy and bright look, but right now the while cloudy creature was absolutely covered in both dried and fresh blood. It didn't help that it was currently surrounded by the… remains of it’s past pony meals and was currently gnawing on the spine of it’s latest kill, hanging out of its saber-toothed maw.
‘We need to run!’ was my first thought, which was quickly followed by a string of internal cursing as the cloud lion seemed to perk up as if it could hear my thoughts. It made direct eye contact with the two of us and sprang to its sizable paws to make an almost weightless leap across the river. By the time it had reached the opposite bank, Arthur and I had hurried back around the river bend and joined back up with Morgana; who, by then, seemed to have realized something bad was happening and was waiting with bated breath.
“Run!” was the one word I needed to say for Morgana to turn and join me in sprinting back downstream. after a moment I realized that Arthur wasn’t following us and looked back to see him doing the most idiotic thing I had ever seen; he was standing there with a defiant smile on his face looking like he wanted to fight the fluffy terror! A quick yank with my levitation got him out of harm's way and, with a hard shove forward, I managed to get him running with us just as the lion landed where he used to be standing. As much as I wished I could outrun what I could only assume is a magical mountain lion I couldn’t, and it was quickly gaining on the three of us with me slowly beginning to lag behind the group, being the slowest of us. my stamina was already down to half, and we had only just reached our old campsite, so in an effort to give us a bit of breathing room I steeled myself and summoned my wisp. Suddenly using so much mana at once made me stumble for a moment, but the end result was the same as my wisp darted back and started to swarm around the lion’s face, blasting it with small mana beams. This was apparently pretty painful as it actually stopped for a moment and swatted at my summon, giving us more time to run further down the stream leaving behind the infuriated lion. I had less than one fourth of my stamina left when I felt my summon be destroyed; which felt like someone yanking a clump of hairs out. I sped up a bit at the knowledge that we were being pursued again. A glance at my mana showed me that I had lost around a fourth of it from my summon being destroyed. I didn’t give a second thought about summoning another one. I was about to send it back to distract the lion again when I heard a sound that both infuriated me and filled me with a bit of hope… the rumble of a lot of water moving really fast.
“Oh you’ve got to be kidding me!” The medium-sized river we were running next to gradually opened up and connected to other rivers until we were standing at the edge of a massive sprawling waterfall, which actually clued me into the fact that we were in the equestria equivalent of niagara falls; which, under other circumstances, would actually be quite the breathtaking sight; but at the moment I was more preoccupied with the lion trying to take my life. Morgana was still looking over the edge, but Arthur had whipped around and seemed ready to confront the lion much to my alarm. So, before the lion caught up I made a choice.
“Get ready to jump!” I shouted. I didn’t have time to see if either of them heard me because by the time I finished speaking the lion launched out from the underbrush, cornering the three of us on the cliff. an impromptu staredown started as I waited for the perfect moment and it seemed to savour the moment as it was slowly padding towards us. I could see from my peripherals that Arthur had begun to take a step forward towards the cloud lion while Morgana did the opposite and took a step back towards the edge, getting ready to jump. seeing what I would need to do, I pushed down my fear and panic one more time before gathering up my mana. At the same time, my wisp fired a beam towards the lion, but instead of striking it directly, the wisp’s beam was aimed at the ground and kicked up a dust cloud to obscure us. Soon after, my own beam flew straight and burst right into the eye of the enraged and now half blind lion.
“Now!” My two companions both jumped at my command… just in two different directions as Arthur launched himself at the temporarily blinded lion and Morgana launched herself off the edge of the waterfall. in the spur of the moment in order to stop Arthur from committing suicide via lion I flared my magic and yanked him off the edge as well with my [Levitation]. In hindsight it probably wasn’t the smartest idea to tackle anyone off the edge of a waterfall but at the time I wasn’t really thinking about the consequences.
Now, many people say that when you're in a dangerous situation your life would flash before your eyes; That didn’t happen to me. The only thought that repeatedly shot through my mana-drained mind was ‘Water is harder than concrete when unbroken.’ and, sure enough, where we were going to land was a smooth, unbroken surface of water; and we were approaching fast. I could see that all three of us were going to land in about the same area, so using the last bit of mana I had I fired repeated weak beams down at the water which streaked past Arthur and Morgana and burst once they hit the water’s surface. The lances of energy gratifyingly broke up the glassy surface, turning it choppy. Before we actually hit the water another frantic thought burst through; ‘Do I know how to swim?’ I was apparently about to learn how because the first thing I felt after crashing into the broken water surface was the cold stabbing into my bones. the next thing I felt was the vast amount of bruises that were going to develop after this. A brief amount of panic underwater reminded me to hold my breath and reorient myself after getting flipped by the swirling current that was suddenly pushing us. Thankfully the doggy paddle still worked as a pony, though it was slow going. Breaking the surface with a massive gasp of air, I had to whip my mane out of my face and frantically search for my companions. further down the river I saw Morgana struggling to keep her head above water.
“Where’s Arthur!?” Morgana’s strained yell grabbed my attention, one of my eyes was being covered by my sopping wet mane but I could tell that Arthur hadn’t surfaced yet. I didn’t hesitate for a moment and took a deep breath before diving back down, but this time cracking my eyes open a bit under the water to see. It was hard to spot him with his dark coat under the water, but I did locate him at the bottom of the lakebed struggling to get his hoof unstuck from something. I was paddling as hard as I could and, just when I was sure I was going to run out of stamina before I reached him, Arthur noticed me and reached out with a hoof to pull me down next to him to help. Now that I was closer I could see that his hoof had punched through some rotted logs and gotten trapped and it didn’t look pleasant at all. A quick internal glance at my mana showed me I was on my last sliver of mana, and didn’t have enough to just blast him out, so I simply swam beside him and started pulling with him, though it seemed to only cause him more pain. My lungs were really starting to burn and judging from the look on Arthur’s face he was running out of air as well, a twinge on the edge of my mind caught my attention and glancing up at the surface gave me the key to releasing my trapped companion… my wisp was still alive and was circling the water above us. A quick mental command of ‘Assist’ was all that was need for it to plunk right into the water and snake down to us much faster than I could even swim, getting down close to the logs my wisp started blasting the wood closest to Arthur’s leg giving him a bigger opening and with a hard pull from both of us he was free to claw to the surface with me.
“I… hate… waterfalls!” Aurthur shouted as soon as there was air in his lungs. This might have been the first thing we actually agreed on as the both of us weakly treaded water, searching for the closest shore. we didn’t have to search long as Morgana’s voice sounded out from behind us where she stood on a nearby sandy shore with a long branch in her grasp. With a sigh of relief I started to paddle towards her with an equally weary Arthur just behind. while we neared
“Grab onto this;” Morgana said as she extended the branch to us when we reached the halfway point. A brief struggle against the current we were pulled onto the sandy embankment, getting itchy clumps of sand stuck in our coats, which, by the way, felt worse than getting it in your pants. I realized that my mana had bottomed out while underwater and my wisp had disappeared after releasing Arthur. Being empty of both mana and stamina gave me this sort of messed up, hollow feeling on top of feeling bone dead tired, not to mention a deep cold had started to settle in my bones. bottom line; I felt awful. Staggering to my hooves I felt like my whole body was one massive bruise, my legs were shaking from exhaustion and I wanted to sleep forever. a rough shove from Arthur knocked me from my self-examinations and made me stumble right into Morgana, who managed to steady me. After letting out a worried gasp, quickly let me go and hurried over to Arthur’s side. As quickly as I could I turned to ask him why he shoved me, but that was put on the wayside when I caught sight of him sitting on his haunches and supporting his previously trapped hoof with a pained grimace. His hoof was covered in lacerations and, while it fortunately wasn’t bleeding anymore, it was starting to swell with a not-so-healthy dark purple color.
“Heal me now!” Arthur demanded Even though she was already getting ready to use a healing spell. His words caused her to flinch back for a moment, startled, before shaking her head and wrapping her hooves around his injured limb. The first to disappear was the purple swelling, which I assume was a fracture of some kind, followed by the lacerations, which was morbidly fascinating to watch; the individual fibers of muscle and skin regrowing and reconnecting until all that was left was a slightly swollen hoof that had a few small cuts here and there. Releasing his hoof Morgana took a step back and examined his hoof. after a mere moment she dubbed it okay and nodded, looking a bit proud at her work; though apparently this wasn’t good enough for Arthur.
“Again! It still hurts!” Arthur said, Roughly shoving his hoof back into her face. Morgana had to quickly take a lurch back to avoid being jabbed in the face, and for a moment she was taken aback before softly replying; simultaneously trying to calm him down while also explaining something; which, unfortunately, seemed very practiced. A quick glance at my stamina and mana made me mentally curse as my stamina was still empty while my mana was almost full enough to use the shadow tendril if worse came to worst.
“I already used up all my mana healing you, I'll need a few hours for it to come back, okay?” Morgana said calmly. As much as I wished that was the end of it, it wasn’t, Arthur seemed to have a small fit as he started to thrash and stomp around while awkwardly still avoiding putting too much weight on his still injured leg. He went arond the water’s edge and punched and bucked the nearby trees to let out some of his rage. During all of this, both Morgana and I had started to back away out of range of his tantrum. He seemed to calm himself down after a bit and turned back to Morgana and took a threatening step towards her.
“Why are you so useless! I would have been fine without you!” Any threat of bodily harm seemed to pale in comparison to the pure hurt that bled through Morgana’s expression. Now I'm not usually the one who plays the white knight but getting angry at the person who had just healed him was a step too far in my opinion. I stepped up in front of Morgana to defend her and finally try and fix his attitude.
“Alright now you’ve gone too far! What the f-buck is your problem?” Lighting my horn for added intimidation made Arthur hesitate in his next step before his expression twisted further, the look of rage on his face intimidated me slightly, and another glance at my mana bar worried me further as I was still just short of a shadow tendril.
“My problem?” Arthur said in almost a whisper; “What’s your problem? If you had just let me fight that cloud monster we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place! Just because you’re too weak to fight doesn’t mean I can’t!” Near the end of his tirade Arthur’s voice started to get louder and louder until he was shouting in my face. When he finished speaking we just stood there, almost nose to nose staring each other down with neither of us giving ground and after a tense moment of silence… Arthur looked away first, but not in surrender.
“I’m stronger than this…” He growled; And with that he turned away from the two of us and started to limp away into the forest. for a second Morgana and I started to follow him, but we were stopped by a sudden shout from Arthur.
“Don’t Follow me! I don’t want any deadweight bringing me down!”
Arthur’s command just earned a raised brow from me and a silent comparison to sasuke in my head, but my mental roasting was put on hold Morgana’s soft sobbing. An endless amount of different conflicting emotions flashed on her face, but there were two constant ones among them; sadness… and resignation.