As the remnants of Gala's consciousness began to slowly right themselves, he began to feel his sense of awareness returning. The darkness he had lost himself in, had brightened to a slighter shade of black. It didn't feel so cold and lonely anymore as he felt a radiating power bathe his body. No longer was he floating in an infinite abyss, he could feel the familiar feel of bark on his back and Auntie Jack's hat weigh on over his face. Before his eyes even opened, he already knew he was in the Everfree forest.
But something felt wrong. Things not only felt different somehow to before but things had become blatantly missing. Several comforts of his home were not around to reassure him that he was indeed where he thought he was.
His first instinct was to be ready for a fight,
"Applejack!" At the mention of that name Gala's eyes snapped open. "Applejack!" It was the sound of a young girl, a filly barely out of foalhood.
"Appleja- oh... Y'all ain't Applejack." The voice was still fairly in the distance, but by how the grass underneath their hooves hissed at their approach, Gala knew they were approaching. Yes... he could indeed hear three sets of little hoof steps.
"Hey mister are you okay?" He removed the hat over his face and was welcomed with an unfamiliar bright light. It burned his retinas white for a moment, it had him groaning in pain as he adjusted to the new alien environment. To play it safe, he wore Auntie Jack's stetson a little further over his eyes than usual, tilted down as if he were trying to hide his face.
Slowly he stood up, all four hooves touching earth with four little sparks. He cycled through how he should react to this situation and eventually decided to go for a casual welcome. Letting the fear of this alien place consume him would only panic the little fillies.
"Howdy to you too..." His voice was low and raspy. The three fillies backed away, feeling the threat in his voice. Testily he smacked his lips and noticed that he was quite parched and the dryness of his throat made his voice sound unnatural to even his own ears. He coughed to clear his throat. "Howdy to all of you." Most of the raspiness in his voice was gone. The smile he wore slight, but inviting. The earth pony and pegasus walked closer, while the white unicorn in their middle stared blankly.
"Did you see that?!" A voice shouted out. It was squeaking with hysteria. With Gala's eyes finally fully adjusting, he looked to the source to be a small unicorn filly. Charity? No, not quite. Too young and her mane was a different colour and this one didn't hold the same determined eyes. There was too much innocence, to be anypony he knew.
"See what Sweetie belle?" A red haired yellow earth filly replied.
"Yeah... see what?" The small orange pegasus said distantly. Her cheeks were blushing as she purposely looked away, yet somehow Gala could feel her gaze when she thought he wasn't paying attention.
"His hooves. They sparkle! When his hooves hit the ground they sparkled and made a zapping sound!" The filly cantered over and reached for his hooves. He jumped back and instinctively took up a defensive low crouch like a hunting Everfree Tiger. He relaxed his stance instantly, knowing he wasn't in a battle situation.
"Whooooa!" All three said in unison and then excitedly scuttled along towards Gala. "Do it again" Squeaked the filly named Sweetie belle.
"Yeah! Do it again." The orange and purple pegasus chimed.
Gala backed away, jumping back whenever the fillies got too close.
"Don't touch me!" There was a tree behind him and Gala bucked it, fully intending to call out his mother to protect the fillies from him. Instead multi-coloured apples rained down on the three fillies, earning them little stinging shocks for their troubles.
There was no resonance, Gala noticed. He couldn't hear the voice of his mother. He kept tapping the zap apple tree which only caused to spawn zap apples at his touch, they then fell on the fillies. He felt nothing as he called out with his touch. Nothing at all.
"Wow! Zap apples!" The little earth pony bundled the fruit around her hooves as if she were hugging precious gems. "But Zap apple season isn't for a few months! How did you do that mister?"
"I..." Gala backed into the tree. He didn't really care for the fillies annoying presence anymore. He just wanted to understand what in Equestria was going on. The Everfree bathed in sunlight was one thing and something to definitely panic over, yet somehow he managed to keep himself calm. But an Everfree forest without the mother's spirit!? This was just impossible!
Where was he? Where were his friends? What happened to the battle? Did Everfree get taken over by the empire? Ideas and theories and jumbled memories swirled in his head. Suddenly implausible things were considered possibilities, likely things were now implausible and he was somewhere he shouldn't be and the prospect of return was an unreachable, unsolvable conundrum.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGHH!" The confusion and fears had reached a boiling point now. He was nothing more than a colt lost out in a new world. And he was alone, with no friends and no family.
"Mister... are you okay?" The orange pegasus tried to reach out for him to shake him from his catatonic state as he curled up and against the tree trunk of the huge Zap Apple tree.
"Don't touch him, Scootaloo!" Scootaloo did what she was told. "If you touch him you'll get shocked by the tree too." Reluctantly her hoof met the ground once again.
"Hey! Look at his cutie mark!" The Charity lookalike chirped. All three looked to his flank and saw the simple zap apple there.
The unicorn and pegasus looked to the earth pony, who just had nothing to say about the matter.
"Applebloom! Scootaloo! Sweetie Belle! Soup's on everypony!" The sounding chime of a triangle echoed through the vastness of the forest. Applejack's voice could be heard over the constant ringing of steel on steel.
"Let's go tell Applejack about this." Applebloom finally replied. There original intentions of finding her utterly forgotten.
"You guys... go ahead. I'll stick around to make sure he's okay." Scootaloo replied as the other two noticed that their friend wasn't galloping off with them. The pair exchanged looks.
"I-it's not like that! It's just, you shouldn't leave a hurt pony behind. So..." Scootaloo looked back at the older colt, the blush that was on her face only intensified.
A grin widened on both her friends' faces.
"We'll be talking about this later tonight." Sweetie belle wasn't suggesting.
"Y'all better be ready to get all the turns on true or dare." Applebloom said over Sweetie belle.
With their parting words they left them alone in each other's company.
Scootaloo sat a few steps away from the pony beside her. He was breathing heavily as he lost himself with his own thoughts. For a good while they sat their quietly, the young pegasus content to listen to the colt's breathing and struggling to comprehend why it made her heart race so much. She put her hoof to her heart and felt it pulse at her touch. She closed his eyes and noticed that his breathing began to synchronise with her racing heart. Both things seemed to be calling out to each other. Their respective existence becoming part of each other's world.
Her heart began to slow and so did his breathing. As if both brought comfort to each other's vicinity. Or at least, she liked to think so.
A loud crunch sounded beside her and she jumped at the sound. The stranger had taken a zap apple and began eating it as he laid on the zap apple tree trunk. He didn't feel like he was suffering from touching the tree at all. In fact it seemed like he was very at home there, as if it was something he'd do out of habit.
"Who... are you, mister?" Scootaloo didn't know why but it seemed like less of a curious ice breaker and more a desperate desire to know what drove her to ask him.
Gala snaps was silent, wordlessly offering bits of the apple he was eating to the young filly. She merely stared at it. In aggravation he placed it beside her and stood up. Politely she took it in her hooves.
"I'll be right back, kid." At those word the sounds of howling timbre wolves echoed in the distance. "Stay right where you are."
"But I wanna go with you!" The filly shouted out. She didn't know why but she did.
"Just stay put and wait for your friends." Gala adjusted his hat so that his green eyes were plain to see. His short gold mane crackled and swayed with power as a pulse of zaps tickled along his body.
"And do me a solid and finish that apple. I don't like wasting food, but I wasn't as hungry as I thought." And with those words he was gone, galloping deeper into the woods.
Pretty soon Scootaloo was all alone. A half eaten apple that he bit on in her hooves. Blushing deeply, she began to move it closer to her mouth, fully intent to savour the juices and texture of the delicious fruit.
"Angel! Wait!" Fluttershy mutedly shouted. He either didn't hear or was not intent to listen. But with a pack of timbre wolves after him, he had no intention of stopping what he was doing.
"Agh!" A high-pitched scream stopped Angel bunny's instinct to prioritise himself. He stopped and stood on his hind legs and raised his ears to listen.
"No!" He definitely heard right, that was Fluttershy and she was in trouble. Making a complete U-turn he ran back the direction he came from. In the distant horizon he could see a pair of timbre wolves in hot pursuit of him.
His expression made the look of bewilderment, as if a face could say "What the hell am I doing?" The bunny ran on heedless of all thought telling him to turn around.
Suddenly something blazed pass him, as a shadow from above whizzed by over his small body. He didn't stop to look for what other predator it was however, since he already had two wolves he needed to focus on.
Panic was marring his face and something resembling mania. He was terrified but was transcending every notion of what all that meant. As if a madness had come over him, he felt like he had the strength to win, simply by the strength of delusion.
Now close enough for the kill, the wolves pounced at the same time. Angel bunny, too scared to look at the mouths of death, he jumped with his little bunny legs reaching out for a kick in the snout.
And then suddenly the a loud rumble exploded out in front of him. He could feel splinters shower him, hitting him all over his face and front. Eyes too closed to see the ground, his hind leg screwed up his landing and he tumbled into a heap. After the world had stopped spinning, he opened his eyes, watching a pony gallop into the distance.
"No! Rainbow dash! Leave the poor dears alone!" Fluttershy shouted out as best she could, Doing what one should do with ravenous wolves at this situation. Remain eye contact and slowly back away, ever ready to run as fast as you could. As ponies, they could run much faster than wolves.
"Poor dears? These are timbre wolves we're dealing with here!" It'd be a simple matter of flying away from danger, but Rainbow dash had found Fluttershy with her wings hurt. And no pony hurts Rainbow dash's friends and gets away with it. She had no idea which one did it, but if she had to beat up all of them to find the right one then so be it.
She could totally beat up a pack of timbre wolves. Totally. Ten seconds flat.
Gala snaps had probably galloped a major length of the whole forest to get where he was. But he made it. It was a good decision to gallop on when he saved that bunny, it was clear that the ponies in trouble were about to be ripped to shreds and he had just made it in time.
"Applejack! Yeah wolfie, you're in trouble now. Two of us and seven of you. The odds almost seem so unfair." Rainbow dash said, almost provoking the wolves to rip her face off as she met one's gaze snout to snout.
"Unfair? Let me even the odds then." Gala always did have a weakness for fairness. Often times he'd act as an equaliser in all struggles. After all the Everfree was a neutral faction in the war. The republic and empire could destroy each other to their hearts content. But he would never tolerate cheating so long as he lived.
"I challenge your wolf pack leader." Gala smashed his hoof into the earth and the charge in his body pulsed across the earth and into the timbre wolves. For that brief contact of souls, they resonated.
In understanding the biggest wolf came forward to meet the young colt.
"I don't think that's Applejack Rainbow..." Fluttershy said, fascinated by how he could communicate with timbre wolves. Animals that were even beyond her ability to come to an understanding with. Rainbow dash was too distracted by the rest of the pack walling her away from the fight.
With no provocation from the other, the wolf and pony pair charged. Gala clenched the muscles in his fore hooves and felt charge increase in his right hoof. The timbre wolf pounced like all wolves did with it's wide jaw open to become a rending vice on it's victim's throat. He fully expected this however and ducked beneath the pounce and tapped his on the wolf's under belly of twigs and branches. On contact a flash of light exploded into arcs of lightning. Yelping in more surprise than pain, the wolf landed on it's side and used the momentum to roll back to it's feet.
This wolf had seen some fighting it seemed. And he knew that it was outmatched. Yelling a few commanding barks, the wolves retreated. Gala and the wolf exchanged a look, it howled for him and Gala smiled and nodded in reply.
"That was... awesome." Rainbow dash cantered over. But Gala knew this routine. If he made friends with outsiders they'd only come back and bring themselves in harms way. Besides, he's had friends before. Not true friends but infiltrators of the outside, they got on his good side, betrayed his secrets and put all of the Everfree in danger. He knew what friends were and they weren't these ponies.
Gala truly hoped they were okay. His last memory of them, was just too much fuel for worry. Maybe his old self was right. He should be alone, so that everyone wouldn't hurt anypony. And more importantly, no pony would hurt him with this lingering heart ache.
"You should leave this place. Leave and never come back." Gala refused to make eye contact and with his back turned, he began to walk towards the darkness, deeper into the Everfree forest.
"It was amazing though." Gala stopped as he heard that voice. As in really heard it. Not as some pony in trouble's voice. It was a voice he knew. He'd never heard it in his whole life, but his memory knew this voice.
Gala wheeled to face the two ponies. Fluttershy, her eyes wide with astound and excited with intrigue was already in front of him. Before her was a pony that knew how to talk with animals too, and he was better than her at it and it isn't even his special talent if his cutie mark was any indication.
"Yeah, I know right? That was so cool when you were like, slide and bam!" Rainbow said excited for whole other reason.
"I mean really amazing. I've never seen timbre wolves act like they did." Fluttershy spoke over Rainbow dash, he wasn't really listening to the Rainbow mare anyway. Fluttershy was before her, in person, not as some intangible, incorporeal spirit but as a real pony with a voice and a face, hooves and mane and tail and wings and everything.
He could reach out and touch her right then and there. He could know what it meant to be...held by a mother.
"How did you do it? How did you talk to the timbre wolves." Fluttershy asked excitedly.
"Well I... I just touched them." Gala said sheepishly.
"Touched them? I didn't see you touch anything. You just sorta slammed a hoof in the earth and they listened." Rainbow dash said confused. Fluttershy however nodded in some rudimentary understanding.
"Like... touching the heart. That feeling when your beings understand each other simply by knowing each other's existence." This was how Fluttershy understood how she could communicate with animals. There was no command or dominance. Just the kindness of understanding what each other needed, and cooperating.
The concept went way over Rainbow's head as she watched with a dumb-founded expression on her face. Gala snaps however nodded approvingly which brought a smile to Fluttershy
"Can you show me...?" Fluttershy said, her eyes looking at him almost begging him with them.
"Sure... you just hold out your hoof..." Coyly Gala raised his right hoof and Fluttershy mirrored him. Slowly and cautiously they gravitated towards each other. Their eyes locked in contact. This was his mother, this power was given to him by her. His touch would not harm her, because together they were a part of each other. And this power was what connected them.
Their hooves touched and Fluttershy gasped at the new sensation. All the knowledge Gala snap had, his memories, his ideals, her future, the great war, everything poured into Fluttershy all at once.
"Fluttershy!" Rainbow swooped in to catch her as she fainted. Her eyes were wide open, tears freely flowing from them, there was a shock to her body that overwhelmed her ability to move. Her mind was a cloud of so much knowledge, her only reaction to her comprehension of it all was a whispering of denial.
"No... No... No..." Said Fluttershy, over and over as she denied what she knew with certainty as undeniable. For she knew, Gala was not a heart that could lie. As the element of honesty, he would rather die than do a dishonest thing.
Gala snaps understood everything now. Fluttershy understood too much.
"I... I'm sorry!" Turning away, he galloped as fast as he could. What he did was a terrible mistake. Such a pure and innocent heart, shattered because he existed to ruin it. He wanted to apologise properly, proportionate to what he had done, but he could think of nothing. He needed to go away. To keep himself from doing anymore damage to this world. He needed to go back to where he belonged. In the battlefield, in the great war, where he could do something besides hurt all those he cared about.
Angel bunny watched as a colt galloped into the direction he came from, leaving him with a Fluttershy in some sort of pain and a bewildered Rainbow dash who didn't know what to do about anything.
He turned his eyes back to the retreating pony, and he glared.