by websterhamster

Chapter Two - The Adventure (and the danger) Begins!

Roads go ever ever on,

Over rock and under tree,

By caves where never sun has shone,

By streams that never find the sea;

-JRR Tolkien


Chapter 2 – The Adventure Begins

Two hours later, they were all packed. In addition to the necessities, Midnight was carrying the most important of his books and scrolls, while Forest was carrying the paraphernalia required to mix her brews and potions, with a small supply of prepared herbs.

Midnight carefully placed the rest of his books and scrolls into a locked chest, and buried it in the bottom of his lab. There were dangerous ideas there, and he didn't want anypony who wasn't mentally prepared to come across them accidentally.

Taking one last look around the house he had lived in for the last thirty years, he locked the door and headed out.

They leisurely picked their way through the undergrowth until they reached the main road through the forest. It was about five feet across, and was rarely used. The only thing that kept it from being completely reclaimed by the forest was the amount of rocks in the ground here, with boulders sticking out occasionally. The explorer's who had first blazed the trail had chosen the rocky way, where the trees and brush would be less inclined to grow, thus not needing constant clearing.

"Which way shall we go, young Miss Shadow?" Inquired the old stallion. "Ours is a journey of discovery, so without a clear destination, as my student you should have the honor of directing our beginning course."

The green filly hesitated. Rarely had her master given her such an important decision! She considered her options carefully. Midnight had taught her that only seldom were all the options for choices obvious; thus, in addition to the directions of east and west, she knew she could choose north, the way they were going, or south, back towards and past the cabin. The closest way to the edge of the forest was west, with north being a close second. Going south would take twice as long as west or north to leave the forest, and the ocean was there too. If she chose east, nopony knew what they would find; the farthest east the explorers and cartographers had gotten was only two days' journey from where they presently stood.

And there, her choice was practically made for her. Lifting her head, she said confidently, "East. We should go east."

Midnight lifted an eyebrow, but was completely content with her decision. "And so East it is, my young student! I hope you brought plenty of writing supplies of your own, for we shall be seeing things that nopony in written history has ever seen before, and shall be going places nopony has gone before. A journey of epic proportions have you chosen for us."

With that settled, they turned to the right, and marched on.

Nothing eventful happened that day. Part of the reason Midnight had chosen this neck of the woods for his cabin was to avoid the dangerous animals that roamed the forest, since there seemed to be less of them here. It was perfect for his studies and experimentation, as there were no distractions and no strange magical things to mess him up.

He led Forest to a clearing slightly off the path to the left, and together they set up camp. Midnight assembled the tent, while his assistant went about gathering wood and building the fire. When they had finished the housekeeping, they sat down next to the small fire, and ate the dinner they had brought with them in silence.

Finally, Midnight turned to his apprentice, and seeing she was about to nod off, shook her gently. “Not yet, little one. While we're on this adventure, every night, before you go to sleep, you should write about what happened and what you saw during the day. Even if nothing important or special happened, you should still record it, because one day you may find knowledge there that you overlooked at the time.”

She nodded and took a blank book and quill out of her saddlebags. Satisfied that she was writing her experiences in adequate detail, Midnight retired to the tent and wrote in his own journal by the light of his horn.

When he was finished, he called to Forest, “You must be finished by now, come along and get to bed!” When there was no response, he frowned, and thinking she must have fallen asleep by the fire, stuck his head out the door-flap of the tent and looked for her. There were no signs of a little green filly, just her journal lying open on the ground, and several large three-toed footprints around the campsite.

“Forest! Forest Treasure! Where are you?” He called, but to no avail. He knew it was possible that she would wander off in search of some new plant to document and learn about, but she had been so tired before he told her to write in her journal, that he didn't think that was the case. The footprints made that conclusion unlikely anyway.

Anxious for his student's safety, he quickly broke camp, packing everything away in his saddlebags, and placing Forest's bags on his back as well. Then, his horn glowing so he could see the way, Midnight headed deeper into the forest, away from the path, following the trail of footprints that he knew would lead him to whatever had taken Forest Treasure.

Just to be sure, while he ran he quickly cast a simple finding spell he had discovered when he first began his studies. Having as many books and scrolls full of information as he had accumulated meant either using a spell to search for what he needed, or spending hours every day seeking out that elusive scroll.

The glow from his horn brightened in a direction a little to the right of where he was headed, but he stuck to the trail to make sure it didn't turn ahead. Sure enough, five minutes later he came to a small stream, where the trail turned right and followed it closely for several hundred meters.

“It wasn't that long before I got running, so I must be getting close now,” the blue stallion thought. The trail continued on, however, first going up a hill, then turning to the left and crossing the stream on a fallen tree, then following the stream to the right again. Finally, after galloping for what felt like ages, but was probably only around a half an hour, the path went underground.

Stopping at the entrance to this lair, Midnight took his bearings. He was far from the road, in the middle of a dangerous forest in the dark of night, following who-knew-what into a cave that was either a lair or an underground cave system that led who-knew-where. He sighed. The first night on his quest for knowledge and he was already facing disaster!

But there would be enough time for self-pity later. Now was time to be a hero and rescue his apprentice. Steeling his nerves, he descended into the gloom.