"I'm just saying, we should get some rubies while we are at it." Spike hinted to the mare in front of him. The green and purple dragon stood atop of a chair, using the kitchen table as a desk, while jotting down a growing list of groceries.
Twilight rolled her eyes, "For the fifth time Spike, the answer is still no. I’m still upset about last month. Besides we wouldn't want to ruin your appetite.”
“Oh come on, that was last month! "He protested. "And besides, when has a few gems stopped me from eating?" Raising a eyebrow.
“Fine, tell you what. We can get a few next week. After all, not all of us can live off gemstones like some dragons I know." Twilight giggled, opening the next shelf, before rummaging through it’s contents.
"Next week! But, you said that last we---- *Burp* really out of all times?” Snatching the letter quickly out of the air. “That's strange, didn't Princess Celestia send you a letter yesterday?" The little dragon said scratching his head, as the scroll suddenly was engulfed in a violet glow. Not letting go in time Spike was pulled off the chair, plopping face first into the floor just a foot short from the lavender unicorn.
Twilight unrolled the parchment, looking at the tiny dragon as he got up. "It doesn't matter how often she sends them Spike, it could be important." Returning her gaze to the levitating document.
As she read her eyes grew wide, the color draining slightly in her face. "This… this can't be right!" She exclaimed, flipping the document over multiple times a few feet away, expecting it burst into flames. Pulling it back, she read it once again, going over every little detail, before letting it fall to the floor. Twilight's left eye started to twitch as a few strands of hair popped out of place.
"Um, Twilight, you okay? Cause you don't look so good." Spike said waving a claw in front of her. Not getting any response he picked up the letter reading over it. "The heck is a human?" he asked, returning a claw to his head, scratching it in thought. After a while he just shrugged, before rolling it up. "Whatever it is, I’m sure its nothing you and the girls can't handle." Placing the letter on top of the kitchen table.
As soon as Twilight snapped out of her trance, she snatched the dragon up in her magic, pulling him only inches away from her muzzle. "Spike we need to get the girls, talk to the mayor, inform all the ponies in town, and prepare for the worst. This human ‘Nameless’ can't be allowed to cause trouble. I know the Princess said not to provoke him, but this could be the biggest breakthrough of our time. I mean just think about it, a walking, breathing, specimen from the legends of Starswirl the Bearded himself.” Gushing with excitement, she dropped Spike unceremoniously to the floor and rushed into the main lobby of the library. Pulling an assortment of books off the shelves, she continued her rant from the other room. “Just think of all the things we could learn from it. We could finally put-".
Spike ignored her at this point, knowing she would be like this for a while, and took it as his cue to leave. Heading quietly out the front door, he went in search to find the rest of the mane six. Figuring Applejack would be the easiest to find, he headed down to the market place. Coming around a couple of vegetable stands he spotted the orange earth pony. She was just finishing up a sale as he approached. "Hey Applejack", waddling up to her. Noticing her brother just as he pulled another bushel of apples out from behind the cart, “Hey Big Mac.”
“Eeyup” came his trademark reply.
"Oh hey Spike, what can Ah do for Yah? Does Twilight know you're out shopping without her again?" She chuckled, remembering how upset the unicorn got last time he bought a few gems with the spare bits.
"What? No! Twilight went on one of her rants. She wants you all to meet up at the library."
“Any idea what for?” she asked raising an eyebrow.
Spike dropped to a whisper, leaning in close enough making sure only the mare would hear. “A letter came in from the Princess and she thinks something bad is going to be happen soon.”
"Well Ah guess Ah could leave Big Mac to take care of things here." Looking over to her brother, he simply just nodded in acknowledgment. "Thanks big brother, Ah should be back before Yah know it, so don't hold up for me." Trotting off with the dragon in tow.
The large stallion walked to the front of the stand and replied, “Eeyup.”
As they walked down the road, she scanned the skies for a certain Pegasus that would likely be taking a nap around this time. After a few minutes, she finally found the rainbow colored tail hanging over an edge of cloud. Applejack stopped just below and yelled, “Hey Rainbow Dash!”
The cyan colored mare raised her head over the edge of the makeshift bed, spotting the two below her. "Oh, hey AJ. What's up, you two on a date?" She snickered, before stretching out lazily, "Because this better be important seeing as how I was in the middle of something."
"Very funny RD. Twilight wants us to get over to her place, something about a letter from Princess Celestia. It's got the poor girl all worked up, Ah don’t suppose Yah could round up Fluttershy and Pinkie?"
"When isn’t that egghead worried?” Looking down from her cloud, she saw the stern look of the earth pony staring back. “Alright, I'm on it. Geez." Dash grumbled, taking off towards Fluttershy's cottage.
"We should hurry before Twilight walks a hole in the floor." Spike suggested, getting a small laugh out of AJ, as they moved forward.
***30 minutes later inside the library***
As the last of the main six arrived, Twilight was busy stacking the last of the books regarding myths and legends, particularly any that pertained to humans. Once she finished, Twilight turned her attention to her friends that were waiting patiently. "Sorry for the short notice girls, but the Princess has requested our help.”
“Let me guess. She wants us to kick some evil pony’s flank.” Said Rainbow Dash.
Twilight just shook her head, continuing on. “Actually no, she has requested our assistance in locating a human in Equestria, while insuring that everypony re---." She was suddenly interrupted by the mares across from her, as they broke into a variety of laughs and snorts.
Twilight calming waited for her friends to get it out of their system before she continued. Though after several minutes, the only change they had was the need to breath, before breaking down again. Twilight’s brow furrowed as her patience finally wavered. "Girls, this is serious!" Stomping her hoof down onto the floor, loud enough to get their attention.
Rainbow Dash was first to recover, wiping away the tears streaming down her face. "Sorry Twilight, but come on, you can't seriously believe this. I mean really, a human in Equestria. They’re just a myth for crying out loud. Heck, even Zecora told a few stories about them during last year’s Nightmare Night. Which by the way was totally awesome. But no matter how you look at it, they're just a legend.
"I have to agree with Rainbow darling, I still remember my parents telling me how dreadful those creature were. They even make diamond dogs seem civilized, which is a feat itself. Something like that just doesn't exist. The world is better off that way.” Rarity interjected, flicking her mane out of her eyes.
"That's what I thought too, but Princess Luna claims that she saw one, and that it's referring to itself as Nameless. Now I’ve taken the liberty and gathered all the books regarding humans, so we need everypony to study up. After all, we don't want to make any negative impressions when we meet it." Twilight gleamed, pointing a hoof to the tower of books behind her.
"Umm… if its so dangerous, why do we have to meet it? Can't we just… I don't know, leave it alone?" Fluttershy timidly asked, clocking behind her mane.
"Why not throw it a party! I'm sure even a human would love a party! Though its best if we leave the whole eating foals out of the party plan. Cause devouring fillies and colts is a terrible idea, especially when you have cupcakes instead." Pinkie proposed, as a huge grin spread across her face.
Applejack gave Pinkie a funny look, before shaking her head. Returning her observation towards Twilight. "Ah don't see why we have to be ready for meeting it. Heck, Yah make it sound like it plans to come here just for us." Just as she finished, everypony's attention snapped back to Twilight.
“About that.” She nervously laughed, shuffling a hoof around on the wooden boards. Spike took the opportunity to step forward, holding the letter from earlier in front of the mare's face. Letting go as soon as the magical glow surrounded it. "Oh, thank you Spike." Twilight smiled unraveling the parchment, clearing her throat before reading it aloud.
My faithful student,
I have grave news concerning the future of Equestria. During Princess Luna’s charge, she came across a strange bipedal creature claiming to be a human, and it is somewhere in Equestria. Referring to itself as Nameless, believing that in a new world, a new name is necessary. Luna made it clear that Nameless is not seeking any help from her or myself.
It also seems to have knowledge of past events, though we are unsure how much. It did divulge a few intentions, including an peaceful audience with you and your friends. Presently, we are unsure if this is all it is planning, for it has a rather violent past and behavior.
What is most worrisome, is that this being, is at least capable of dream magic. We are unaware of the full extent of its abilities, but advise on the side of caution. Being that it is a sporadic acting creature, we will be sending a small contingent of our best guards to Ponyville, as well as the elements.
I have full faith in you, and the other Bearers, that this will be resolved in a peaceful manner.
Finishing off the letter Twilight continued, "So you see everypony, we have to be ready. We don't know what Nameless’s true intentions are or even what it’s truly capable of. The princess is trusting us to handle this." waving her hoof in a wide arch at the stacked books.
Rainbow Dash was clearly distraught at the thought of studying, decided to give another option, “Well if it's so dangerous, why can't we just blast it with the elements like every other baddie and be done with it."
"Sorry Dash, but Princess Celestia told us it is seeking a peaceful meeting and I doubt ‘blasting’-”, Twilight gestured the word with her front hooves. “-would be considered a peaceful act by the human. If Nameless does attacks us, then we will use the elements, but only if there isn’t any other option." She finished, though in truth she wanted to study the human and find out all she could about it's kind.
A few awkward moments of silence passed, before Rarity broke the silence that settled over the room. "I understand what is at stake dear, but is it possible we can each just take a few books and study at our own leisure? I'm sure this human, “Nameless,” won't simply stroll into town tonight. And I really must get back to the shop. I simply must finish up the latest designs for Hoity Toity in Canterlot by the end of the week.
Pondering at the idea for a moment, Twilight nodded her head in agreement. "Okay, that sounds reasonable. I’ll assign everypony a few books, then we can share with each other what we found out. It will be like just like a book report!" She squealed with excitement, clapping her hooves together. Turning her attention to the mound of hardcovers in the corner, she failed to notice the painful expressions on the mares faces.
As the ponies bid each farewell, each carrying an assortment of different sized books. Twilight stood in the library’s door frame, waving them each goodbye. As the last of her visitors disappeared out of sight, she let out a small sigh of relief before heading back inside. Gently closing the door, she returned her attention to the remaining stack of books. “Well Spike, looks like it’ll be another late tonight." Twilight couldn’t help but smile. "Do you think you could go and get the shopping done without me?
"Fine, but don't think I've forgotten about next week." He huffed, grabbing the shopping list and bits off the kitchen table and making his way out the door.
Twilight’s smile never wavered as she rolled her eyes. Levitating the first of many books, she sat on the nearby pillow and made herself comfortable for the study session. She opened the thick tome across the desk. It took most of the available space once it was fully opened. Reading the first passage, the unicorn couldn’t help but giggle to herself. She levitated a piece of paper in front of herself as she prepped a quill with ink before jotting down a few questions. Its not everyday a myth comes to Equestria.
Just outside the rather gloomy forest, sat a mare with a gray coat. Her white mane gently blowing in unseen wind. She didn’t move. She just sat there, staring blankly at the mass of trees in front of her. If not for her about to say a monologue, one would have expected her to be nothing more than a wax statue.
"Fate, if you can hear me, I just want to let you know. I hate you. I really do. And if I ever find you, I’m going to-... Actually scratch that. I’m going to make it a surprise, just so you know how I feel." Finishing off my threat to the deity, the forest in front of me seemingly darkened, as if it sucked the light right out of the sky in retort.
"Yeah, well screw you too!” Shouting into the brush. “But seriously, couldn’t someone just put up a big fuckin' billboard out here that says, 'Welcome to the Everfree Forest! It sucks, stay out!'” It would at least made me feel a hell of a lot better, before marching my happy-go-lucky ass all the way over here!"
I waited there for a few minutes until I finally gave up any hope of the sign randomly growing out of the ground. "So much for being a land full of magic,” I said as I waved my hooves in the air for dramatic effect. “Welp, now would be a good time as any for getting over one’s fear." Wincing at the idea.
I looking up at the sky above, the weather was mainly clear, with just a few clouds dotting the blue overhead, adding a forecast to the already dark forest. Taking a slowly breath, I closed my eyes, mentally picturing myself as a random Pegasus. The familiar flames quickly circled around me before dissipating, leaving behind a green colored pony with a single red stripe running through her black mane. Taking a glance at my flank, I was less then entertained to see what looked to be a large boulder with a pair of wings jutting out of it. Though to my credit, I learned growling as a pony is a rather interesting sound.
"Hope this works." I nervously spoke, gulping down a dry lump in my throat. As I got into a small crouch, I shut my eyes tight, before hopping into the air, gingerly flapping my wings. Carefully, I cracked one eye open to glance at the ground below. Immediately, I felt childish. Being four inches off the ground wasn’t exactly inspiring my fear of heights. “Damn it, really!? Well, at least its not as bad as last time.” Beating my wings a bit harder, I slowly ascended, stopping just a few feet shy above the largest tree top.
Ever so slightly, I angled my wings, pushing myself forward. It was working, but if I was attempting to out race a snail, it would have been an evenly matched race. Note to self, get flying lessons. Trying to increase my speed, I tilted a bit more and successfully started moving at a more acceptable pace. Looking at the distance spanning ahead of me, I realized this was going to take a while.
Hours went by as the sun started to dip further towards the horizon. Focusing ahead, a few structures started to litterer the distant ground. After getting a bit closer and with the added help of squinting, I began to make out one and two story structures with small rivers running nearby. Off to the side laid a older style home with a equally large red barn, surrounded by what could have been mistaken as an apple tree forest. "Bingo" I said, cracking a smile.
Further on was a city, just below a grand castle that impossibly clung to the side of a mountain that would make any physicist roll in their graves at it's mention. Left of the mountain and it's defying architectural build, was another marvel blotching the sky, which I assumed was Cloudsdale. Being a puffy white ball of structures, puking out all those rainbow waterfalls, it was an easy guess. As great as things were starting to looking up, I first had to run a few more tests. I'd rather not get knock unconscious by a random party cannon. Because if the show is accurate about changelings, that will disrupt my form, and I'd rather get caught with my nonexistent pants down.
"I need to do this in a controlled environment where the local wildlife won’t end up with an easy meal and I don’t require headbutting a boulder." Looking back at my flank. That’s what my cutie mark is telling me! Shaking my head, “The fuck brain! Where the hell did that even come from!?” After a few minutes of silence, I got back on track to the task at hand, figuring the most closest and most reliable resource was Zecora.
Slowing down, I returned to a hover while I scanned the vegetation for the mysterious hut. As time ticked by, all I could see were more trees then I could care to count and a few faint colors that clashed against their green canopy. “Great now my eyes are playing with me. Well so much for this being easy." I sighed, turning back to Ponyville and increasing my speed as I went.
Before I could even move five feet, frantic screaming burst from somewhere below "AHHHHHH!!! SOMEPONY! ANYPONY HELP ME!" As the terrified shrieks continued, I adjusted my flight towards the pleas. Almost sounds like a child's voice. If I was a betting man, ten bucks says that the CMC are involved. As I got closer to the source, a faint blue glow with a foal outline materialized under the trees ahead of me, followed shortly by an orange snake like silhouette. "I would ask if that was normal, but I think we passed the point of rationality." I said shaking my head.
Mentally steadying myself, I took a long drawn breath through my nose, immediately regretting the motion. The sudden smell of trees and flowers assaulted my senses, reminding me of the holiday sales at perfume stores, making me reflexively gag. Then a lingering smell caught my attention, it was faint, but noticeable. Sniffing again, I did my best to block out the sweet aromas of mother nature, identifying the strange scent; sweat and feathers.
"That's interesting." I muttered, flying a few yards ahead of the fuzzy blue form. Breaking below the tree top, I landed behind a cluster of tall bushes, but ended up tripping face first in the dirt. Grumbling, I got back on all fours and shifted into a griffin, then I laid in wait.
The sounds of labored breathing and tiny hooves clattering against the forest floor became louder as the blue hue got closer. Coming into reaching distance, I quickly lunged out, grabbing a small orange filly before recoiling back to my hiding spot. Hearing a gasp of air, I clamped her little muzzle shut with a talon, forcing her to breathe through her snout.
Past the thick canopy of leaves, the orange snake glow emerged, coming down the path just taken by its prey. As the sound of scales slithered near by, the serpent shape stopped dead in it's movements looking around. After a time, it sporadically circled the area multiple times, clearly confusion in it’s movements.
Holding my breathe, I eased up on the fillies’ muzzle giving her more access to air. I could feel her heart racing a hundred miles an hour, her terrified shaking, and her fearful stare on me. Doing my best to pay her no heed, I kept most of my concentration on the creature in front of me. The orange color changed to a dark muddy red, radiating what I could feel as outright anger. Circling a few more times, it finally stopped before turning to our hiding place. Shit, so much for plan A. Looking at the filly for the first time, seeing that it was indeed a very scared Scootaloo. Her head was against my chest, so she was able to see my face. I tried to put on my best smile to reassure her. Knowing there wasn't an easy way out of this, I decided to go with plan B.
Easing her down, I raised a now free talon to my beak in a quiet motion, then towards the bushes in front of us. Still holding her muzzle, she nodded her head as much as possible in acknowledgment. Satisfied, I released my grip. Her mouth now free from its constraints, greedily gulped in the air. “Who are you?” she whispered.
“The one who saving your flank. Now be quiet!” I hissed, wishing she would have just stayed silent.
She scrunched up her brows, putting on a confident game face, trying to act tough. Though the blue aura around her said otherwise, she was practically dripping with the feeling of fear. Guess that's how changelings hunt. Turning my attention back to the red hue as it stalked closer to our position. Crouching down low, I tensed every muscle in my body. Taking in small controlled breaths, my chest clenched tight and my heart was already beginning to bursting with adrenaline. I could almost taste the blood of the serpent in my mouth and I felt my blood rushing through my head in anticipation. It was a unique feeling like no other, I wanted to kill.
The cockatrice took a while to notice the leaves that littered the ground near a few bushes, but once it did it knew its prey had to be on the other side. Creeping up slowly as not to scare off the meal, the half dragon ferociously licked its beak as the saliva flowed freely down in small streams. When it was a mere inch away, the bushes suddenly burst outwards as a much larger creature’s maw and talons dove into it’s flesh.
Scootaloo stood there quaking where the griffin left her before it had launched out of the bushes like a possessed pony. The noise of the two struggling went on for a while, before abruptly ending just a fast as it began. Fearing the worst she poked her head out into the clearing, ready to bolt at a moments notice. Upon seeing the female griffin, she let out a sigh of relief. Her savior stood over top of the cockatrice, breathing heavily with chips of stone scattered around her. Getting clear of the bushes Scootaloo took a hesitant step forward, stepping on a twig as it made a resounding *snap* under her hoof, before being swallowed up by the surrounding foliage.
No longer concerned with making noise, the orange filly finally spoke up. "Um, are you okay? I mean thanks for saving me and all, but that was really awesome, how you just, BAM! And-" Her words caught in her throat, as the griffin turned around, staring directly at her. Its beak and talons dripped small droplets of the red fluid that stained the ground where they fell. While it’s body was bathed in a crimson color. Fear flooded the little filly’s mind as she took in the full scene of the skirmish. The cockatrice's throat was ripped out, where its body was coated in multiple gouges. It’s heart still pumping blood that formed an ever growing pool around the griffin. The half bird just stood there, simply smiling at her as everything went dark.
"Well, I always told I had a way with kids." I chuckled to myself, looking down at the unconscious filly. Turning away from the passed out fluff ball, I examined the rather large cockatrice that tried to turn me to garden ornament. "Then again, I don't remember you guys being quite this big in the show, maybe the other one was just a baby." Shrugging, I reflexively licked my beak, tasting the blood that covered it, surprised by the taste “Hmm, sweet, yet bitter.” That's when my stomach prompted a reminder, that I haven't ate since coming to this world. I was already starting to feel weak as the adrenaline wore off, unknowingly looking at Scootaloo as my vision hazed..
I need nourishment, just a bit though. My body started taking unconscious steps towards her, closing the gap between us. Not much, just enough. I bent down, leaning in close, exposing a pair of fangs in my opened beak. No one would be the wiser. Laying the magical fangs on her neck, I felt the pressure of her soft hair start to give. It will be quick, she’ll be fine. Just before I could bury them, she squirmed a bit, moaning in discomfort. It was enough to snap me out of my daze. Realizing I was doing, what I almost did, I fell backwards. Frantically scooting away from her, my eyes wide, as my mind recoiled at the horror of what I nearly done to Scootaloo.
I wanted to scream, to vomit, to take the burning car crash all over again, anything to forget the memory. But I couldn’t, not here, not now. Her life was already in danger, being out here and I couldn’t put her through any more. But right now I had to eat, and I knew of one cockatrice that wouldn't protest.
“Just think of it as a really rare steak.” I kept repeating as a mantra, as I crawled over the corpse. Tearing a fresh piece of flesh away, swallowing it whole. It tasted worse than I could’ve imagined. But to me, it was a better choice than the alternative. In a way, it was a small price to pay for my crime. Eating several large bites of the beast, I was able to satisfy my hunger long enough to think straight.
Staring down at myself, the blood was already drying in splotches, caking the fur and feathers in clumps. With no water around, the best I could do was rub a few plants against myself, in hopes to transfer some of the gore off. I went to work with some leaves, but smeared the stains further.
Sighing in defeat, I turned my attention back to Scootaloo, her chest was rising slowly up and down. Sleeping soundly, completely oblivious to the crime I almost of committed to her. I could have walked away and left her alone, but something inside me told me she wouldn’t make it out alive.
Standing over top of her small form, I inhaled a deep long breath, steeling my mind. Reaching down, I hesitated for a moment, before scooping her up in my arms. Careful to arrange her face away from me. Once satisfied of her position, it was time to get moving again. I looked around at the clearing and grumbled, before getting into a semi crouch.
Upon breaking the canopy, I glanced around, finding the town of Ponyville off in the distance. The forest ending just a mile or so from where I hovered holding Scootaloo. “Don’t worry kid, you’ll be with friends soon enough.” I gently said to her, tilting my body and beginning the slow flight. "And with luck, far away from me.”