• Published 11th May 2013
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Denuo Fortuna - Firecaller

She was a unicorn on the run. She needed somewhere to hide, somewhere quiet and boring. The tourist pamphlet was out of date but the place sounded ideal... Ponyville

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Chapter 3 - Mountains - Redone

Chapter 3 - Mountains - Redone

Slowly sliding down the boulder her back was pressed against, she whimpered quietly in the early morning light.

“Oh buck, oh buck, oh buck.”

She’d been following the narrow track as it had wound alongside mountain for several days now. Yesterday, much to her relief, it had finally reached its highest point and she’d started to head downhill. She’d set up camp for the night where the track had become a wide ledge. Even littered with boulders, most near the edge, there was still room for her to stretch out. In fact, she’d seated herself on one of the boulders and watched the valley below, with its long lake, fill with shadows as the sunset lit up the mountain range behind her.

Not that she was appreciating the view at this point. Right now she was hiding behind one of the bigger boulders, trying hard to not panic and, more importantly, not to be seen by the mountain troll currently poking around her campsite.

‘Think dammit you stupid mare… Mountain trolls, what do you remember about them, apart from them being able to tear a pony apart with its bare hooves... paws... talons? Focus! Right, it’s skin absorbs magic, so unless you’ve got an alicorn's level of magic to throw at it… don’t.’ She glanced down at her amulet and slumped. ‘And as you don’t work, I am sooo bucked.’

Jumping at the abrupt growl coming from the campsite, she was very glad she had already relieved herself this morning. In fact, it was the very reason she was behind the boulder in the first place. She’d been roused out of her meditative state of mind by shuffling noises coming from the other side of the boulder. Peering around it, only a rapidly applied, unwashed, hoof to her mouth had stifled the scream. A mountain troll was poking her still-warm bed roll.

Walking upright, trolls vaguely resembled Diamond Dogs in appearance and height, however, where Diamond Dogs tended to be thin, trolls were grotesquely over-muscled, especially in their upper torso and arms. Their short, stubby legs looked out of place on them but belied the speed they could reach when ambushing prey, even if they couldn’t keep that speed up for long. Their muzzles were far more pronounced than that of a Diamond Dog, enabling them to open their mouths wide, wide enough so a ponies head could comfortably fit between their jaws. With the front row of their teeth angled backwards, anything, once bitten down on, was not getting away. With its furless body having the colour, and texture, of rock, they easily blended into the mountainous terrain, allowing them to effortlessly ambush prey. Coupled with it’s immunity to magic, and a basic level of intelligence, they were the apex predator in the mountains. Anywhere where there were no dragons anyway.

Laying behind the rock, she was very much aware of this as she desperately tried to control her breathing... and her bladder.

‘Daggers? Swords? No! Its skin is thick enough to be like armour, besides, you left them in the campsite you bucking stupid…’ Pulling her lips back she snarled. ‘I can’t fight it! It’ll catch me and a view of its tonsils will be the last thing I’ll see right before...’ She shook her head violently. ‘Shut up, shut up, shut up! Not helping!’

Closing her eyes she slammed her head sideways against the boulder.

‘Ugh, now get a grip you stupid…’ Her eyes snapped open. ‘Oh Tartarus. Noise!’

Looking up, expecting to see the troll looking down at her, she crouched even lower. ‘Maybe I’d have time to throw myself off the cliff first...’ A few seconds passed. ‘Calm yourself you stupid mare, there's nothing there! It didn’t hear. Don’t panic, breathe. I just...' Putting her head between her forelegs, she closed her eyes tight. ‘Oh horseapples, I just wanna run right now.’

A stomp from the other side of the boulder made her curl up into a ball.

‘Don't charge up your horn! Don't charge up your horn! It can detect magic, but as I’ve been here all night, the area is saturated in my background magic. I’m hidden in the background noise as long as I don’t charge up my horn.’

Grinding her teeth, she was finding it surprisingly difficult not to charge up her horn when threatened.

‘Oh horseapples! I’m gonna die here. Death by troll, I was so close…’

A gust of wind, causing an entire body shiver, brought her out of her downward spiral. A gallows-humor snigger followed. ‘Careful, with the wind chill, you could freeze to death out here. Hah! I know quite a ponies that would pay to see that, and... Wait! I can’t hear it… maybe it’s moved on.’

Stretching her neck, she slowly moved an eye past the boulder.

‘Has it moved a boulder? I don’t remember there being one there. I should have a clear view of the campsite... Oh... Buck!’

She lay there, unable to move, as she stared at the troll’s back. Close enough so that she could make out the individual hairs on it. The troll had seated itself down, its back to her, and was watching the campsite intently.

Her breathing, now short and erratic, was fortunately drowned out by the mountain wind.

As was her gasp when it suddenly stood up.

Kicking the ground, it turned towards the path and shuffled off, never once looking back and seeing a face peering around a boulder. With her eyes wide, but her pupil's nothing but a pair of tiny dots, she watched it leave.

She finally drew her head back and stared into the distance as her entire body started to shake uncontrollably.

‘You should be dead now, you stupid mare, freezing like that. I… Shut up! Move! Get your stuff and run!’

She continued to lay there.

‘Get up! Get up… Oh please get up… Oh buck! I can't move my legs! Think, think, think...’

Lowering her head, she sank her teeth into her right hind leg.

That broke the spell her body was under. Slowly pushing herself up into a sitting position, she took a minute to get her breathing back under control before trying to stand up. Keeping a close eye on the path where the troll had gone she, hesitantly, re-entered her campsite.

Making sure not to use magic, she slowly lifted the bandolier of daggers up with her teeth and flipped it over her head. Lowering her head again she took the middle section of her saddlebags between her teeth.

A rockfall nearby caused her head shoot up in alarm. With both ears pointing in the direction of the sound, and saddlebags swinging wildly, she stood there frozen.

A shuffling noise just beyond the campsite prompted instinct to take over.

She ran, not caring where she was running to, just as long as it was away. She didn’t notice her saddlebags, still gripped in her teeth, slapping her forelegs with every stride of her panicked run.

The bed roll, cloak, and the sword were all left behind.

* * *

Finally slowing down to a stop, she spat out the saddlebags and let herself fall to the ground. Looking over her shoulder, panting heavily, she could see nothing moving on the track behind her.

‘You bucking stupid mare! Damn lucky you didn’t trip over those saddlebags and send your sorry flank over the edge.’

She looked down at the cuts and bruises on her legs.

“Still preferable to being eaten alive,though, what’s more…”

Her nose wrinkled. Lifting her head, she sniffed the air before turning to look, with a sinking feeling, at her hindquarters.

* * *

Sitting in the middle of the stream, her hindquarters submerged as her tail streamed out behind her in the flow, she tried to look as nonchalant as possible.

For most of the afternoon, while descending into the Equestrian foothills, she’d been on the lookout for a stream big enough for her purposes.

She rolled her shoulders. “Note to self, drink upstream.”

Sitting there, she took the time to look around the pine woodland she was now in. The sun, now low on the horizon, was casting long shadows and tinting the woodland red. She scowled at the pine needles covering the ground.

‘Going to need to find somewhere to sleep, without getting all those needles in my fur.’

Her head started to droop as the cold water slowly lost its battle to keep her awake. It was her chin hitting her chest that woke her up.

‘Okay, need to lay down, need to sleep. Don’t care about the needles. Just need to make it out of the stream. Deal with ‘whatever’... later.’

Every limb now feeling very heavy, she hauled herself out of the stream, collapsing just a foot away from the bank.

‘Okay, I am gonna be picking needles out of my fur for days now… Don’t... care...’

And she was asleep.

* * *

Plunging her face into the cold water of the stream, she shook her head from side to side, trying to wake herself up. While the sun had been up for hours, she’d only been up for a few minutes now. Her late breakfast, the last of the dried biscuits, had not been as filling as she’d hoped.

Looking down at the fur on her belly, she winced when she tried to pull out one of the many needles now embedded in her fur. With a shake of her head, she let her hoof fall, without trying again.

Her gaze turned to her saddlebags. “No point putting this off any longer… Oh, I am so not looking forward to this.”

Levitating her saddlebags over, she floated out the wooden case that held the two flat crystals. Opening it, she stared at them for a minute before turning her head to look at the cutie mark on her left flank.

A white snake, jaws open in mid-strike, icicles for fangs, looked back at her.

“And you, my lovely, are going bye-bye.”

Levitating one of the vials of red liquid out from her bags, she lay down before using her magic to twist it into the soft ground. She made sure it could stand upright unaided before removing the stopper.

Selecting a sturdy-looking fallen branch, she floated it over to in front of her face. Turning it, she examined it intently before opening her mouth and taking the branch between her teeth.

‘Seems okay, I...’ Her ears fell flat. ‘I hate pain.’

Turning back to the open box, she levitated one of the crystals out in front of her. Making sure that the notch was pointing upward, she floated it around to her left flank and placed it against her cutie mark.

For a few minutes, she lay there doing nothing.

‘This is not getting anything done, lets do this... Actually, how about we don’t and just say we did?’

Biting down hard on the branch, she pushed magic into the crystal. The crystal felt warm against her flank, then…

The sound of sizzling flesh, and a muffled scream, could be heard in the woodland.

* * *

Laying there, panting rapidly, her thoughts slowly returned. The branch, now with a deep set of teeth marks, had been spat to one side and an empty vial lay in front of her. She couldn’t remember doing either. Unfortunately, the directions on using the vials had been clear, drink afterwards, only.

Letting her head drop onto the ground, tears in her eyes, she lay there for a good twenty minutes.

Hesitantly, she lifted her head to look at the results. Where her snake cutie mark used to be, were two hoof silhouettes side-by-side and pointing upwards. A black circle of burnt fur surrounded her new cutie mark.

‘Oh thank buck for that, the right way up. He said the potion should be an effective pain-killer, prevent infection and speed up the regrowth of the burnt fur. If it doesn't... I’m so gonna nail his hide to the wall.’

Turning to look at the other cutie mark, she grimaced before turning to look at the remaining crystal. An sly grin formed at a growing realization.

‘Hah, I’m getting butterflies. My body always was smarter than me.’

Levitating out the other red vial, she placed it in the same hole made by the first, digging it a bit deeper this time. The branch was placed back between her teeth again and the last crystal was floated out and placed over her right cutie mark.

Only to be yanked away before she even started to charge it up.

‘Make sure the bucker is the right way up -before- you start, you stupid mare.’

Placing the crystal back over her cutie mark, the notch now facing upwards, she tried to push magic into the crystal. On the third attempt, she was finally able to push the magic into the crystal.

-* * *

Bitten in two, the branch lay in front of her. She’d drunk the second vial of liquid, unmindful of any splinters that may have been in her mouth at the time.

After a while, she was finally able to lift her head and examine the cutie mark on her other flank.

With a sigh of relief, her head fell to the ground and she smiled faintly.

‘All ok, hope that was worth all the money, and pain... Damn, I smell like I’m the guest of honour at a griffon barbecue. At least now nopony will be able to detect my old cutie marks. Not unless they’re an alicorn.’

Burying her face in the soft earth, she listened to the noise of the woodland as a soft smile formed.

“I made it! I actually bucking made it Mr Sable! I’m here. So, welcome to Equestria, Miss… Miss...” Looking up, she smiled as she reached and let a sunbeam play across her hoof.

“Miss Sunbeam.”

Author's Note:

Updated 22 Sept 2014

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