The Golden Oaks Library was a cozy looking structure. It was built out of a hollowed out tree yet the tree still remained alive, with green foliage topping it. Rounded windows were placed where large burls once were, and a small mossy roof hung over the doorway. Inside no lights were on, and no signs of anypony stirring about were evident.
"Well i suppose we should knock, i just hope the librarian won't be to upset at us for waking them at this hour," said Twilight.
"Actually Ponyville doesn't have a librarian anymore. Our last one had to leave because of the bee problem," said Derpy.
"Uh huh, he had an allergic reaction so bad he had to go to the hospital," said Lyra.
Hanging off one of the upper branches was a insect nest, a few solitary bees were flying back in now that the night was begging to cool off. "Well why did he leave? I'm sure a bee's nest would be a cinch for a pest control pony to take care of," said Twilight.
"Don't know, all i heard was he quit in a letter, left by train without saying goodbye to anypony. Kind of weird if you ask me," said Cloudchaser.
"At any rate the library is left locked, we'll need to find the key if we are going inside," said Lotus.
"No we don't, no one ever locks the skylight up top. I'll squeeze in through there and then unlock it from the inside." With that Derpy shot into the sky, she quickly disappeared through the tiny window. From outside the others could tell she was struggling to find her way through in the dark, with loud sounds of book cases spilling their contents.
After a few minuets the front door opened, the group was greeted by a smiling Derpy Hooves. "Sorry i took so long everypony. There's no light switch in here."
Indeed there were no lights, only a dusty old lamp. A small amount of moonlight seeped through the windows but only illuminated part of the building.
Twilight instinctively began casting an illumination spell, a purple glow from her horn shed more light inside. In front of one bookcase strewn about was a messy pile of detective pulp novels, bound volumes of the local newsprint and farmer's almanacs from years past.
"Hmm were going to need more light than this if were going to get anything done," said Twilight. She levitated the antique lantern, removing the cobwebs from it's chimney. "Anypony have matches?" The heads of the group bobbed back and fourth indicating no.
"Well we do have a fire breathing dragon, does that count?" Asked Derpy.
All turned to the sleeping drake, snoring away, he was muttering something about nightmares. "Alright i'll wake him," said Twilight.
Twilight gently got close to his ear, "Spike! Wake up no time for sleeping!"
"Whah!" Let out the startled dragon, flailing his arms as he fell of his perch on Lyra's back. "Oh no, Princess Celestia we have to find her!"
"Yes spike we will, but first we need you to do something for us," said Twilight.
"Would you be so kind as to provide us with some of your fire?" Lotus asked kindly.
"M'kay," Spike spit out a luminescent green flame, catching the oil soaked wick on fire. The dim light from the lantern radiated throughout the room, shadows of the ponies danced across the dusty walls. Now able to see the collection in it's entirety Twilight let out a gasp. "This is wonderful, there's so many books!"
"There's TOO many books, how are supposed to find what were looking for with all these?" asked Cloudchaser.
"It looks like there not organised correctly, all the sections are haphazardly put together. If we had any time to spare i'd definitely spend it re shelving this whole place." Twilight's mind was aflutter with an image of a bright shinny Golden Oaks with everything it it's proper place. "Let's just start out looking for anything with elements in the title and go on from there," Twilight suggested.
The six began searching shelves top to bottom, Lotus Blossom carefully taking books off the shelf peering at their covers, Lyra Heartstrings impatiently grabbing books and tossing unwanted ones behind her, Cloudchaser taking on the high shelves and Derpy using her unique eyes was scanning the whole room.
"Hey Twilight i think i found something," said spike as he excitedly climbed up a bookcase, reaching for a large book bigger than his head with gold bands on it's spine. "This is it, 'The Elements of Harmony: A Reference Guide'" The little dragon leapt off the shelf with book in hand, landing with a heavy thud.
"Good job Spike, alright gather round we think we found it." Twilight set the book on the floor and began looking for any pertinent information. "Hmm apparently the Elements of Harmony consists of six individual artifacts that combine their power as one. It says the bearers must display virtue to use them, not sure what it means by that. It also says the last know location of the elements was in the castle of the pony sisters. I haven't heard of that before, do any of you know about any castles in the area?" Twilight asked.
"Well there is one castle, and it's relatively close to Ponyville," said Lyra.
"Yeah close but inaccessible, to get to there we'd have to go through the Everfree Forest. Nopony ever goes in there, there's all manner of monsters and dangerous hazards in there," said Cloudchaser.
"We don't have allot of time, I don't know what Nightmare Moon will do if she's not stopped." Twilight pondered the predicament they were in, indeed none of this group were in any shape to take on the likes of an Ursa or whatever dwells in that forest. A thought occurred to Twilight. 'That pony from the celebration, she stood up to Nightmare Moon without batting an eye. She might be our ticket through.'
"If we have to go through such a dangerous area we'll need a guide, I say we get the help of the pony with the explosives." Twilight proposed to the group.
"Berry Punch!? Look Twilight i can see your a bit stressed out right now and might not be thinking strait, but everypony knows you don't hang around Berry Punch when she's been drinking," said Lyra.
"She's like a juggernaut!" Said Lotus.
"Exactly what we need, we'll cut a blazing path through the everfree strait to the castle." Twilight said with determination in her eyes.
The others shared concerned glances. "I hope you're right Twilight, we'll be taking an awful risk involving her," said a worried Derpy.
"I'm sure once we explain what we need she'll be more than happy to help us, she was very nice this morning." Twilight said.
With that the six left Golden Oaks Library and it's written knowledge behind. From outside the lantern light lit up the grimy windows, the tree grew smaller and smaller as the pack moved to the tall house where Berry Punch resided. The lower floor had the lights on so at least somepony was awake.
Twilight rapped noisily on the door with her hoof, "Hello, Ms. Punch! This is Twilight Sparkle, from earlier today. My friends and i need your help." The door slowly opened but instead of Berry Punch it was answered by the filly who was by her side tonight. "Hi there could you get your mommy t-" Twilight was cut off when the door was slammed in her face.
Rubbing her sore snout, she said, "whasht wahs phat about." She again knocked on the door, "Excuse me, we really need to see your mother, this is an emergency." Reluctantly the door opened, again greeted by little Berry the younger.
She was scowling at Twilight, "Why are you here? Haven't you caused enough trouble tonight?" Said the little filly talking down to her as if she was her elder.
I'll admit i did cause a bit of a ruckus with my being late to meet the decorator but i hardly think that's something to get this upset over." Twilight thought to herself.
The filly continued, "You made mommy so upset by what you said this morning she started drinking again!" She shouted, her voice carried across the neighborhood.
"You were pretty loose when talking about Nightmare Moon, even I was a bit scared by how you were describing it," said Derpy.
Tired groaning came from inside, labored hoofsteps indicated somepony else was coming to the door. Berry Punch came into view massaging her temples, "Pinch, baby what did mommy say about loud noises when she has a headache?" It appeared she was now suffering the after affects of today's binge.
"You said to let you sleep and to play quietly," Berry Pinch said shrinking back a bit.
"There's a good girl," she said giving her daughter a noogie. "Why don't you run upstairs and i'll tuck you in, mommy has some grown up stuff to talk about with Ms. Sparkle,"
Berry Pinch obediently ran up the stairs up to her room, when she was gone Berry Punch looked Twilight square i the eyes. "I think i can guess why your here, but i'll let you explain before i make any decisions."
Twilight drew a breath, "We need to face Nightmare Moon again if were going to find out what happened to Princess Celestia, but in order to do that we have to find the artifacts the Princess used to defeat her before. The only problem is those artifacts are in the castle in the Everfree Forest. We were hoping that since you were able to fend off Nightmare Moon's attack before you'd be skilled enough to guide us through the forest?" Twilight looked at her with pleading eyes.
Berry only nodded yes in reply, cheers erupted from the group. "Thank you thank you thank you," Twilight said in quick succession.
"I wan't you to know Twilight Sparkle, the only reason i'm going with you is to keep her safe. I've been thinking allot about that today, about what i'm willing to do-" She looked back at the weapon leaning against the wall. " Anyway i have a little filly waiting to be tucked in for the night," She turned away and began walking up the stairs.
Spike pitched in with his chipper attitude "Sweet, this is gonna be awesome, between Berry's explosives and my fire nothings gonna stop us!"
Before Berry Punch reached the top step Twilight spoke up, "Berry i know this might be asking a bit much, but can Spike stay here while were in the forest?"
"I don't see why not," Berry said with a shrug, then continued on her way.
Spike sat with mouth agape. "Come on Twilight let me go with you guys, i promise i won't get in the way!" Pleaded Spike.
"I know that Spike, but where were going is too dangerous. If something were to happen to you i don't know what i'd do without you," said Twilight.
The little dragon hugged Twilight burring his face in her side. "I love you mom, please come back safe."
"I will Spike don't worry," said Twilight. "You can cry if you want, i don't mind." Twilight said in a soft voice mimicking their heart to heart earlier. This time she felt the cool tears run down her fur, she didn't mind, only kept patting her son on the back reassuring him, "there there."
After a few minuets Berry Punch returned, "Alright i'm ready," She said while strapping her saddle bag on her back. "There's food in the fridge if you get hungry while were gone, and the couch is a hide-a-bed you can sleep on."
Spike waved goodbye from the doorway as the group walked off toward the forest. Finally they came to a stop at it's boundary, the green grassy pasture came to an abrupt stop at the wall of decaying trees and thick foliage.
"It sure is dark in there, i don't even think the moonlight is getting through," said Lyra.
"Be careful everypony, the creatures that call this place home wont hesitate to make a snack out of ponies like us, be on your guard at all times." Said Berry, the others shivered in their at the thought of what might be in there. All but Derpy who happily smiled as she trotted across the forest's boundary.
"Come on you slow pokes, we're not gonna get anything done standing here shaking in our boots, Allons-y!" Derpy shouted trying to inspire the group.
"Allan what, quit speaking fancy," said Lyra.
"It's not fancy it's Prench, you know that major language spoken by the ponies in Prance," said Cloudchaser.
"Oh is that what it is, i didn't have any clue what it was. It's just something my coltfriend says allot, and i thought it sounded cool." said Derpy.
All eyes were now on the grey Pegasus, all mouths expressed the same sentiment. "YOU HAVE A COLTFRIEND?!?"