Chapter 4 – Night Fall
The journey through the Everfree forest has been held at the older and slower stallion's pace. Although neither Clover or Preston say anything to him as they both continue to calm themselves from their run in with the strange orb. In fact, Clover has taken the slower walk to her advantage as she continues to speak, "...So Master what would cause a Will-O-Wisp to come this far into the forest?"
Star Swirl clears his throat as he continues to duck under the few branches he trots into. The absence of his voice does little to curve the younger pony as she continues to ask questions, "And why has the forest grown so much? Are the Will-O-wisp to blame?"
The sound of a crackling fire and a dim orange light starts to peek a little further down the forest path as Star Swirl turns his head back to the mare, "I see you have maintained your inquisitive mind Clover...But your observations to the Will-O-Wisp is far from correct."
Clover gives a little nod as the stallion's horn sparks up in a bright gold glow to move the rest of the lower tree's branches to reveal the little campsite that was hidden.
Swirl's voice comes up again as he clears his throat once more, "Now, please come and take a seat...I am far too old to talk and trot."
The words bring Clover forward as she starts towards the crackling fire, Preston follows after her but he is stopped as Star Swirl raises a hoof to block his path.
The older stallion's wrinkled face now squints to the man in front of him as his voice comes up, "Preston?" His tone is almost surprised as he blinks to the man, "B-but I had thought Celestia's spell turned you into a pony?"
Preston nods his head as he rubs his chest a little, "Ya, it-..."
Clover's voice comes up as she turns back to Star Swirl, "The spell was not able to hold."
For a moment Star Swirl just stares to the blonde haired man but he nods as he turns his trot towards his little camp.
The older stallion mutters something to himself, but the crackle of the fire cuts his voice off. However, the low muttering is quickly brought to an end as he sits his flank to one of the logs he must have dragged over to the fire.
To the seated stallion Clover speaks up, "Master why did you go into the forest for so long?"
The old stallion brings his hoof to a small stick that was sitting on the ground as he pokes it to something in the small pot that hangs over the open flame, "Checking on me are you Clover?"
An old man smile comes to the stallion as he continues, "And there is no need to call me Master, I am no longer your teacher."
The mare nods to the comment as she moves to sit on one of the logs near the fire, "I believe I will always call you Master. And I will never stop learning from you Star Swirl."
The tender moment between the mare and the older stallion is quickly brought to an end as Preston comes into the little clearing with a laugh, "Ya, she can't even help me with my magic Gandalf." He holds his laughing tone as he sits to the log next to the now annoyed mare.
"Bha." Star Swirl lifts his other hoof as he points to the smiling man, "You do not learn because you still do not want to believe in magic. That is most likely why Celestia's transformation spell was broken."
The man's smile is lost as he gives a simple nod.
"Do not just nod your head Preston. Look at me ." The words bring Preston's head up as he stares to the older pony's bright amber eyes.
Star Swirl squints his eyes as he wiggles his hoof a little, "Now, repeat after me Preston, magic is real."
A faint laugh comes up from Preston as he speaks up, "I'm pretty sure I know that b-..."
"Say it." The older stallion's held stare finally breaks down the man's smile as he nods.
"Okay, magic is real."
Star Swirl nods as he gives a little smile, "Good, now hold out your...Claw thing."
"Hand?" Preston gives a little smile as he extends his hand to the older stallion.
"Yes yes, hand." Star Swirl turns his attention back to the pot as his horn sparks up to float the slightly steaming pot over towards Preston's hand.
The wobbly magic that holds just above his hand slowly starts to loosen Preston's confidence in the older stallion as he speaks up, "Uh...What's you doing Star Swirl?"
"Shh.." The stallion’s eyes focus on the man's hand as he tilts the hot pot, which spills the water that was inside onto Preston's hand before he can jerk it back.
Clover's eyes along with Preston's fly open to the water that splashes onto the man's extended hand. However no cry of pain comes up as Preston's hand just shakes from the fear of what he thought he would feel.
"Master?! What was that for?" Clover holds her hoof towards Preston's hand but Star Swirl's voice comes up to stop her motion, "No, do not touch him."
Star Swirl leans his head a little closer as he looks to the small black item that was poured to the man's hand, "Tell me, Preston. Did you feel any heat?"
The man gives a little laugh as he shakes his head, "N-no, what was that a spell?"
"No Preston, that is a rock." Star Swirl points his hoof to the small black stone that sits in Preston's hand. The old stallion bobs his head a little as he pulls to his beard, "Hm..."
Star Swirl turns to Clover as he continues to pull to his beard, "Clover, could you please take the rock from his hand?"
"Um...Y-yes Master?" Clover blinks to the strange request as she slowly brings her hoof to the rock, however as her hoof touches it the sick sound of her fur slightly sizzling comes up, "OW!!"
She jerks her hoof back as she hits Preston's arm a little out of anger, "You liar! That is scolding!"
The hard hoof to his arm causes the hot rock to fall to the ground as Preston shakes his head, "What? No it's not?"
"Yes it was!"
Clover and Preston's little banter continues to play out in front of the old stallion as he moves his stick to poke at the hot rock for a moment.
However, Clover and Preston's conversation is brought to an end as the old stallion speaks up, "You are both right."
The words turn Clover's head as she lowers the hoof she was getting ready to again smack Preston's arm with, "What?"
Star Swirls magic sets the pot back over the flame as the stallion nods his head, "The stone was actually scolding, but at the same time it was also freezing as if it were still on the ground..." The older stallion tosses the stick into the fire as he takes a deep breath, "I noticed the forest growing a few weeks after Celestia had me study the Element of Harmony crown."
The stallion brings his hoof to his mouth as a sickening cough comes up from him, "A-as you know Clover this forest is not bound by the laws of Pegasus weather control, this and a few other areas of the world. But..." Star Swirl leans forward a little as he squints his eyes, "These areas of the world are bound by their own magic. A magic we have disrupted by creating an object that can completely alter the feelings of ponies."
Clover and Preston both stare to the stallion as they await for his lengthy speech to finish.
"...I have been collecting things from the forest to test them, and from what I can suspect the change in our world's natural magic is actually because of...Well you Preston, and the other two that came with you those few months ago."
Preston gives a little chuckle to the comment as he shakes his head, "W-what why is it my fault?"
"No no, it is not entirely your fault." Star Swirls tone gets a little lower as he sighs, "It is actually because of the actions of a pony, Princess Platinum to be exact. When she...Charged, the crown with your." The old stallion struggles to say the next word as he studies the man's face, "-Your brother, she altered the natural magic with a form of magic not found before in this land."
Preston just gives a nod as he tries to not show the emotion that lays just behind his eyes.
Star Swirls little speech continues as the stallion hoofs towards the pot, "Now, eventually the magic will subside and everything will come back to normal." The stallion coughs a little as he nods, "As long as Princess Celestia read my letter that I sent her those few months ago."
The stallion brings a smile back to his face as he sets his hoof back to the ground, "Now, why did you two come this far hmm? Was the company of the other not suffice?"
Clover gives a slight laugh as she shifts a little on her seat, "Princess Celestia should have sent you a letter correct?"
Star Swirl nods towards the simple looking tent behind him, "Yes yes, Wispy had not given me the letter but I found it. Although I have not read it."
The comment flicks the mare's ear as she cocks her head, "But Master, She has sent you more than one?"
"Bha, I have only seen the one this morning." Star Swirl wiggles his hoof to the mare as his comment rings out.
Clover just nods as she speaks up, "And mine?"
The stallion blinks to the comment as he tugs to his beard, "I believe I had Wispy send those letters.." He nods his head as he continues to play with his beard.
As the conversations starts to die down Preston rubs at his chest again.
His motion's catch the older stallion's eye as he looks over the slight burn mark on the man's wool shirt, "Are you okay Preston?"
The man rolls his hand to the comment as he nods, "Ya, that Willy-Woop or whatever you called it just bit me or something."
Star Swirl stops his motions on his beard as his eyes widen a little, "The Will-O-Wisp burnt you? W-why did you not say so??"
Preston stops his motions on his chest as he speaks up a little concerned, "Why is that bad?"
The older stallion nods his head as he stands up, "Well not bad, but a Will-O-Wisp burn can cause a severe rash, and I for one do not care to catch that rash." He wiggles his hoof towards the tree line a little towards Preston’s left, "We are close to a warm spring, my safety spell will make the plants immovable but to my magic, so you will be safe. Oh and the water is clean, I tested it on a rock."
"Um...T-thanks?" Preston stands as he points towards the tree line, "So like what a few feet away right?"
Star Swirl nods his head as he speaks up, "Yes yes, and while you clean up I will cook something."
Clover's voice comes up as she wiggles her hoof, "Master I can make something, please just sit down."
As Preston moves towards the trees Clover helps the older stallion back to his seat on the log.
End of chapter 4