Silver Lining walked along the dirt road towards a small cottage, hoping that maybe he could make some more factual headway in his mission. He looked at the rather peaceful scenery around him and found it oddly calming given the fact he was on the hunt for a monster that could easily kill him and the whole town.
As the chilling thought went through his mind, the young stallion sighed and swallowed nervously. So far from what he could tell, the town was in a frenzy over the upcoming holiday and that there were a few ghost stories going around. Most of them were a little on the bland side, stories that were told every year, like the headless horse, but from what he could tell the tale that the filly Apple Bloom was telling was not in the norm for the town.
So far her tale has a little more... evidence to it... Missing animals, and her friends claiming to have seen the creature as well, as well as the fact this story hasn't been heard before... Silver stopped walking and looked up at the crisp Autumn sky and breathed in a deep breath as the sun warmed his coat. Maybe this is a really good hoax by a group of smart foals... He gave a weak chuckle to try to make the idea seem stronger.
The unicorn continued walking and passed over a small bridge that went over a creek then spotted what he hoped was his destination. A small cottage that was made from a large tree appeared ahead of him on the path and he gave a small smile due to the peaceful air it gave off.
He walked closer to the home and heard a pair of voices talking. As he drew closer he recognized them as the voices of two mares. The stallion walked over another small bridge and spotted two mares. One was a bright yellow if a light pink mane. She also had butterflies as her cutie mark, which made Silver guess that she was either an animal lover or a nature lover of some kind.
The second mare made the stallion pause as he became breathless. A unicorn mare with a light blue coat and a dark green mane was talking to Fluttershy, while holding an iguana. Silver was amazed by how, for the lack of a better word, cute this mare was. He could barely think and it took almost a minute for him to notice that he had stopped walking. The stallion gave his head a shake and took a deep breath.
Focus. Deal with the possible monster first then think about the really cute mare... Silver found himself looking at the blue unicorn again and found himself suddenly feeling very warm, nervous and felt his limbs grow weak as he walked towards her and the yellow mare. Please let the yellow one be Fluttershy. I really don't think I could talk to the blue one.
He reached the two mares and cleared his throat to get their attention. "Um... hey... I was told that Fluttershy lived here. I wanted to talk to her about the local wildlife."
The blue mare turned around and locked eyes with Silver as the yellow mare let out a small squeak of surprise and jumped slightly. As the yellow mare settled down the blue unicorn spoke, her voice smooth and light.
"Hi there. I guess we didn't hear you coming along." She smiled at Silver which made his legs feel like jelly. "I'm Sapphire Cog." She pointed to the yellow mare. "That's Fluttershy, she's the mare you're looking for. I'm just here to pick up my new pet."
The blue unicorn held up the iguana so that Silver could look at it. It was a deep yellow color and had only on eye focused on him. Silver gave the mare and the lizard in front of him an awkward smile. The mare placed the iguana on her back and smiled back.
"Anyways, I should let you two talk about whatever it is you want to talk about." Without another word she walked pass the silver maned stallion and walked down the path that he had just come up. Silver found himself looking at her flank, and catching two things. The first was that her mark was a silver pocket watch with its inner mechanisms exposed. The second thing was that she walked with a little sway to her hips and a slight bounce that was mesmerizing.
It was a tiny cough that broke the spell that the unicorn's hips were casting. "Um... you wanted to talk to me?"
Silver turned back to the yellow mare and saw that she was giving him a small smile. The stallion gave a small cough and smiled back.
"Um, hello... I came here because I heard that some of the local wild life has gone missing. Would you mind telling me about that?"
The yellow mare looked at him then to the leaving mare then back at him. She smiled. "Sure, would you like to come inside?"
Silver nodded and gave one last look at the blue unicorn. He had no clue why she made him feel the way he did but he knew that he liked the feeling. With a small smile he turned around and followed the yellow mare into the tree cottage.
"I'm Silver Lining by the way."
Fluttershy looked behind her and smiled. "It's nice to meet you Silver. So um... are you new here in town?"
The stallion walked into the home and took a small look around. "Yeah... I'm in town for a while. I'm working on a project, and it's mostly about nature and the creatures in it."
Silver was rather impressed by how cozy and warm the home felt, while at the same time rustic and unique. He spotted a few birds fluttering around near the staircase that had birdhouses built into it. The unicorn stood there for a moment, watching the birds.
"So, what exactly do you want to know about the animals?"
The young stallion looked over to the mare. "Well I heard that some of the wildlife has disappeared. Could you tell me what happened?"
Fluttershy motioned for him to sit down. "I suppose I could... Would you like something to drink?"
Silver shook his head. "No, I'll be fine. So, what exactly has been going on with the wild life?"
Fluttershy sat down. "It started about three weeks ago. The animals I take care of started feeling nervous when they went into the forest. Then they started to avoid going in there alone, and about a week ago most my animals started refusing to go near the forest. Some of the animals that live in the forest that I take care of stopped visiting when they were supposed to, and some are just hiding in their homes."
Silver watched the yellow mare sigh as a look of deep concern passed over her delicate features. He could tell that she was deeply worried about her animals.
She looked at the birds for a moment then continued. "I think a new creature has moved into the forest. It got like this when the manticore herd moved into a small cave near the waterfall in the forest. Maybe another herd of something moved in. I would go in there and find out what it is, but I have no clue if it would be dangerous."
The unicorn swallowed and thought over what she had said for a moment. He knew that this was yet even more evidence that something had moved into the forest, but she made him think about a new angle. What if the thing or things that moved into the forest was a more mundane monster that his order didn't care for. Manticores were no longer considered as dangerous, and more than likely if something moved into the forest with them, it wasn't going to be try to mess with a pride of manticores.
Maybe this might be something that I won't have to deal with at all. Silver bit his lip as he thought about all the monsters that could live in the forest that his order wouldn't care about, and while he was thinking Fluttershy gave a small hum to collect his attention.
"So, how long will you be in town?"
The unicorn shuffled in his seat to get more comfortable. "I'll be staying for maybe a month or so. I have a small project I need to do."
The yellow mare smiled. "Will you be going to the Nightmare Night festival?" She paused as she saw the slight frown on Silver's face. "Maybe you could go with Sapphire and spend the night with her. I mean, you were blushing a lot when she said hello."
Silver felt his face go warm as he opened his mouth to reply and nothing came out. He shifted in the seat he was in for a moment. After a minute of mental fumbling he finally managed to speak.
"I think I might... um... be busy a little that night... Besides, she might already have a friend or something to do..."
Fluttershy smiled. "She doesn't. She's the cousin of one of the masseuses, Aloe, and we've spent a little bit of time talking. She's here to visit them and she could use a friend for the festival." She smiled at him. "I mean, you both are new to the town, and you could take a small break from your project."
As the stallion shuffled and felt his cheeks warm even more, he couldn't help but think that the whole idea sounded nice. He gave a small smile as he thought about talking to Sapphire for a while. "I'll... I'll give that some thought... I might need a costume for Nightmare Night if I go ahead with that idea..."
The pair of ponies talked some more about the local wildlife, after shifting the conversation back to the forest and its new residents, and after almost an hour Silver left the cottage and gave the yellow mare a small wave and a smile.
So... that went far better than I hoped... I might not have to face a blood thirsty monster and I met two mares... one really nice, and the other... The stallion let out a small, content sigh as the image of the blue mare's smile flashed through his mind.
Guardian awoke in the small hut of Zecora and looked around, his vision much better, though slightly blurry in some of his smaller eyes. He rose slowly from the floor and glanced around the small hut. The masks gazed back at him and he spotted the sleeping form of the zebra that had taken care of him and opened her home up. He watched as her chest rose and fell gently as she slept. He felt something he hadn't felt for a pony in a long time. He felt thankful that she was there.
She allowed me into her home, and used so much salve to heal me... He looked to the shelves that housed the herbs and jars that had stopped his pain last night. He scanned the shelves and found that many of them were bare or holding empty jars. So many hard earned herbs used on me... He looked back to the sleeping zebra and walked up to her. I must repay her for this kindness.
Guardian spotted that the blanket on the mare below him had slipped off slightly and took a moment to place it back over her. It was with a small bit of satisfaction that he noticed Zecora's sleeping face smile a little as the blanket was placed over her shoulder. He walked over to the shelves and began sniffing the jars of empty salve and the other herbs to identify which ones she had used.
Wolfsbane, Wormwood... Blood Tears and... Black Lilies... these would be hard for even a skilled pony to find. He grinned and chuckled softly to himself. Luckily, I'm not a pony. He made a mental note of how much to gather of each herb and walked to the door. He took a moment to look at the bandaged parts of his body and began removing them. They would only restrict his movement.
After removing the last of the bandages, he stretched his legs and gave a small grunt as he rolled his shoulders and walked out of the hut. He looked at the early nighttime light.
"Shouldn't take me very long to gather most of these." The large creature smiled as he looked up into the trees. "A nice stretch should help me, and I can repay my debt to her."
He leaped up into the branches and began his search.
Apple Bloom walked along the small forest path in the dead of the night and shivered. A chill had descended onto Ponyville, as it did every year at Nightmare Night. It was as if the holiday brought with it a cold wind to make the time of year even scarier. The filly watched the shadows as they seemed to dance in the pale moonlight as she walked along the small path.
It was when the forest went silent that she knew that she wasn't alone on the path. "Guardian? Is that you?"
The massive form of Guardian walked beside her and nodded. "I am here. What brings you my patch of forest today?"
Apple Bloom spotted small bundles on his back. "Ah came lookin' for ya, and Ah wanted to invite you to a festival. What's that you got?"
Guardian took a small glance at the bundles. "Herbs for Zecora. She helped me, and now I'm repaying the favor."
The yellow filly nodded and walked closer to the large creature. "Zecora came into town while you slept... she said you were pretty badly hurt. You slept for almost a full day... Are you feeling better?"
Guardian nodded. "I'm recovering well."
Apple Bloom's eyes grew concerned for her friend. "She said you were really feeling bad... Did the tree hurt you that bad?"
The large creature chuckled. "It hurt, but I'm lucky that I, and my kind, heal quickly and are very tough, so we are hard to kill. I'll be fully healed in a day, and the soreness will go away in a few days." He glanced over and spotted a small amount of Wolfsbane growing. He walked over to it and began carefully picking the herbs. "You mentioned an invitation to a festival. What festival would that be?"
Apple Bloom followed him over to the herb and smiled. "Well, it's the Nightmare Night festival! It happens every year and it's always fun!"
Guardian finished gathering his herbs and looked over at the filly. "Nightmare Night? What sort of festival is that?"
The red maned filly's eyes lit up. "It's one of the best holidays of the year! Everypony dresses up as monsters, and heroes and all sorts of things and go door to door trick or treating! And when they aren't doing that the town center is a giant carnival with games, food, and lots of cool things!" She stopped to take a breath. So far for the last few years Princess Luna showed up and helped scare some ponies and had some fun with us! So do you wanna come to the festival with me and the girls?"
A few things went through the Archnapony's mind. What was Nightmare Night, and why did they need to dress up for it? What the heck did she mean by trick or treating? Why would the princess of the night be...
His eyes snapped to the filly. "Did you say Princess Luna?"
"Yeah! It's her holiday and she loves it! She gets a large candy offering from all the fillies and colts." The filly smiled up at Guardian. "I know you would love it, and we could always use a sneaky pony... spider... you for pranking ponies."
Guardian stopped listening to the filly as she began to talk about possible pranks and targets as he focused in on one piece of information. Princess Luna was walking the earth once more, and would be very close to him and the tree. The matriarch... she lives... After all these years she's alive and among her ponies again...
The filly failed to notice his lack of attention and continued talking. "...And she even scared Rainbow Dash the first Nightmare Night, which was almost half a year after she returned. That Nightmare Moon was scary, but I'm happy we have Luna now. She's really nice and knows how to have a fun night."
"And you say the Princess of the Night shall be there?"
The yellow filly nodded. "The Mayor got Luna's letter this mornin' and announced that she would be comin' again." She smiled at the larger creature. "So... will you please come with us?"
Guardian looked at the filly for a moment in silence. "I see... While I appreciate the offer, there is a major issue here. I can't exactly fit in, even to a festival with lots of dressing up." He tapped his claws and mandibles together. "I don't exactly look like a costume."
The filly’s ears fell at his words. "Oh... maybe you could hide on the roofs and shadows? I mean, you are super sneaky."
The spider-like eyes looked at the filly as his face slowly turned into a smile. "I guess I could do that. I think I would be right in saying that it would be in the holiday spirit." He chuckled. I would also get a chance to be reunited with the Matriarch... "I would be honored to join you and the others for the festival." He thought for a moment. "I also have a unicorn that I need to discuss a few things with."
Apple Bloom eyes shined in the moonlight and she hugged Guardian. "Thank ya! I know this will be really fun, and you'll have a great time."
Guardian returned the hug after a few moments. "You feel cold. You should return home and go to sleep in a warm bed."
"Ah'm not that tired. Ah wanted to talk to you for a while." She shivered after giving the taller creature a fond look.
Guardian chuckled and picked up the little filly and placed her on his back. "I shan't risk your health so you can talk to me. I shall take you home, and make sure you are warm."
Apple Bloom was about to protest, but she got a feeling that she wasn't going to win the argument, so she decided to enjoy the ride through the forest. They reached the farm house quickly and the large creature stopped and looked at the windows.
"Which window is yours?"
The filly pointed to a window on the second floor. "It's that one... why do you want to know?"
Guardian looked at it for a moment. "Hold onto me very tight."
Apple Bloom had only a moment to hold on before the large creature began moving up the wall. He stopped at her window and opened it and gently picked up the filly and placed her inside the room. She looked around the room for a moment then to the creature hanging onto the wall of her home.
"Do you want to come inside? I mean, we could talk for a little bit."
Guardian thought for a moment then nodded. "I suppose I can agree to that. Go lie down on your bed. You need to warm up."
Apple Bloom nodded and rushed over to her bed and jumped on it. She wrapped herself in her blanket and looked back to the window. She let out a small cry of surprise when she saw that Guardian was sitting next to her bed.
"How did you get in here?"
"Through the window." Guardian reached over to her and finished wrapping the blanket around her. "Spiders can get anywhere, and I have that talent as well." He chuckled and fluffed the pillow. "So, I think you should get a nice night of sleep. Too many late nights can ruin your sleeping patterns."
Apple Bloom stifled a yawn and found herself being very tired. "Okay... Would you be willing to spend some time with me... and cuddle? My big brother Big Mac does it from time to time when I have trouble sleeping."
Guardian hesitated for a moment then smiled as he felt a deep warmth towards the filly. "I think I can do that for a while." He picked up the filly and her pillow and cuddled up to her. "Now then, I know of a little filly that needs a nice night’s sleep."
The night moved on as the most unusual pair enjoyed each other’s company, the younger of the two sleeping very peacefully.