“And then I ran into you.” For the previous half hour, or so I had thought, I had discussed my situation to my serpentine comrade. Well, everything with the exception of being from another world. While he seemed quite upset that I had hit Rarity, who was apparently a friend of his, there was something that kept on making him smile. Regardless of his reasons for chuckling, Steven didn’t look like he was going to kill me anymore. Upon me finishing my explanation, he started laughing like an absolute lunatic. Apparently, he had been stifling himself while he waited for me to finish.
“Ah, that brings back memories…” he sighed, wiping a tear from his cheek. Memories? Did he go through the same problem I did?
“Care to elaborate?” I asked him, causing the large purple serpent to suffer a blush of all things. He tentatively rubbed the back of his neck as he chuckled awkwardly. A smile remained on his face, but it looked more like he was trying to hide the sudden redness.
“Long story short,” he began, “I accidentally ‘crashed’ a pony beach party. It’s why I prefer the Everfree to be honest.” I didn’t want to pry further, but I did imagine something akin to the beach scene from Jaws, only with a misunderstood, vegetarian shark. It was a funny scene indeed, but it was sad that the incident drove him to live in a river in a forest that no one would enter. Rarity had indeed befriended him, and over the course of our conversation so he had explained that others had apparently, so he wasn’t completely alone. I’d have to visit him from time to time, before I left anyways. Assuming I could get back with the help of the ponies. Assuming there was a way back at all…
I dismissed the negative thoughts away so I could focus back on the conversation. Survive, thrive, then find a way back. I may have been sucked into Crazyland in a couple seconds, but it sure looked like I wouldn’t leave it in the same time. The forest provided a natural barrier from my pursuers and Steven, in all his generosity, also gave me a run down on all the safe plants to eat. I was surprised to find out that the Everfree had most fruits and vegetables in common with Earth. How oranges, apples and rice could all grow in the same forest however, I had no idea. Fortunately, there was a fairly unprotected apple orchard and farm at the edge of the forest and plenty of berry bushes that grew up near the river.
The only thing that I had to worry about in the Everfree were the predators. From what I could gather, it was effectively a magical Africa crossed with Greek mythology. Manticores, along with giant cats, dogs and insects roamed around the forest. The cockatrice was what worried me most. They could turn you to stone, but you had to maintain eye contact with one for it to take full effect. When I asked about the close cousin of the cockatrice, the basilisk, Steven had told me that they only lived on the other side of continent. How very reassuring that only most of Greek mythology was coming to kill me in force. Fortunately, and oddly, enough predators completely disobeyed the regular laws of instinct. My previous worries about getting ambushed near a water source were dashed. Perhaps they were afraid of Steven, I had no idea, but they all seemed to cluster around the pony settlements. Though that just made it easier for me to get water in the future.
“Hey Steven,” I said, “Is there any place nearby that I could live in? An abandoned cottage or something? I need a place to rest up.” While predators probably wouldn’t pick a fight with me thanks to my new found comrade, I couldn’t just sit around on the mud banks. I needed a headquarter of operation. Besides, if ponies would be going to him to ask if he had seen me every time they flew by, it wouldn’t be very wise for me to remain so close.
“Well,” replied Steven slowly, “there is one place that you could try… The old palace of the pony sisters has been abandoned for over a thousand years. It’s pretty well preserved and fairly close, so I suppose you could hide out there.”
An abandoned palace of the pony sisters. Okay, guessing that it must have been some descendants of the princess, that still left the question of why the place was abandoned. No one in their right mind would just pack up and leave a perfectly good fortress. Was it invaded, or did the Everfree make it do dangerous to keep? According to Steven’s miniature history lesson on the general area, the Everfree was more than a thousand years old, so the palace and the forest once existed simultaneously. Regardless, if there was any place that I could remain in relatively safety inside the Everfree, it’d have to be the castle.
“Show me the way,” I commanded, my voice regaining a semblance of its old confidence.
“Just keep walking in that direction and you’ll run right into it,” Steven gestured over his shoulder, “You might be able to see a couple of the old towers from here.”
“May you give me a lift across the river?” I asked, realizing that I still had to cross the river. He lowered his scaly hand to the bank of the river for me to walk on. It might have been my imagination, but I could’ve sworn that the river bank had risen since I began talking with him. Regardless, I stood upon his outstretched hand and was lifted over the river. After saying our respective farewells, I went onwards north. Or at least I believed it was north, Steven had said that the pony settlement was to the South and I made a beeline in the opposite direction from that, so unless I got turned around a bit, I should’ve been heading north.
That was another thing that bothered me. Though I didn’t show it, I internally gagged when he mentioned the name of said settlement. “Ponyville”. Why would anyone name a town that? Was the next town over called Humanopolis, a bit further west was it Princessland? Why would you name the town after your species like that? Or at the very least, couldn’t they name it something that didn’t sound so incredibly stupid? If that was the name of some backwater town near the Everfree, I shuddered as to what their capital would have been called.
As I approached the old castle, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of it still standing. I had visited Roman ruins, they were pretty much holes where buildings where actual Romans used to be. The castle looked like it was ditched last year. There were some churches and other buildings that survived over the centuries, but you didn’t just keep a structure that big preserved by leaving it in the magical woods. What was more disturbing was that I recognized the design. The main building, what I assumed to be the palace, looked nearly identical to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The dome, the walls, they even had the four towers after it was turned into a mosque. I would’ve assumed I was in post-magical-apocalyptic Turkey if the crescent moon and star was on the top of the dome.
Regardless of the painstaking similarities, I continued forwards. The castle would provide me with an excellent hiding spot with enough ruined sections to conceal me from any patrols that came nearby. My plan, as it was at that moment, was wait out for a week or so and approach the settlement for some kind of negotiation. Once I had explained my actions and admitted my guilt, they would surely feel sorry for me. All that was necessary was waiting out the period of anger that they’d hold against me. The only thing I had to worry about then was getting a reliable source of food and water, which according to Steven, wasn’t that big of a concern.
I walked towards the grand, bronze door and attempted to open it. To no avail, I might add. As expected, the door had rusted and jammed over time. While I didn’t want to risk breaking my staff, I had to use it as a lever to pry the giant doors open. The painful screeching of metal against metal echoed in my ear drums as continually applied more pressure. Fortunately, the doors were quite thin and my staff appeared to be made out of obsidian. Minecraft obsidian. After roughly two minutes, give or take a few seconds, there was an opening big enough for me to squeeze into.
The Hagia Sophia rip off, thankfully, was a lot more different from the interior than the exterior. The inner room looked like some kind of throne room. Two thrones were raised on equal pedestals, the one to my right was embedded with the mark of a sun, the one to my left with the mark of the moon. While they didn’t look that comfortable for a few nights of sleep, they’d do. I approached the lunar throne and sat down on it, replicating the pose of the Thinker as I did. My head rested on my right hand as I clutched my staff in the left. I silently gave one last prayer that it was all a horrid nightmare before falling into a deep sleep.