• Published 24th May 2013
  • 1,678 Views, 74 Comments

Metamorphosis - Mares Guyver

"I believe a light will pierce the darkness and drive it away. I believe that someday we'll be able to laugh again under the clear blue sky. And I believe that Amethyst Star will be that sparkling light." [GUYVER PONIFICATION BEGINS]

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Chapter 4: Lost and Found (Part 2: Finders Keepers)

{For Those Who Came In Late . . .}

“GET DOWN!!” Alula yelled as she shoved Amethyst’s head back to the ground with her hoof. An irritated “Mmph!!” issued forth from the older pony, but she listened and stayed low.

Just as the others were once again beginning to question Alula’s sanity, they all finally heard it—a faint, whistling sound high above them. Gradually, but at an accelerating pace, the sound grew louder, deeper, and more resonant, eventually shaking the very canopy of the Everfree.

Eventually the whistle reached a fever pitch, and then it was joined by a *whoosh* of air and crackling boom as the forest suddenly decided to explode all around them.

{And Now, The Conclusion . . .}

Everypony screamed (or at least made a silent attempt to do so) as their prone bodies were washed with the dust, dirt, sticks, and stones dislodged by the force of the blast. Only Alula remained stoically silent, using all four of her legs and outstretched wings to both hold her friends on the ground and provide protective cover. After several heart-pounding moments, the wind buffeting against their bodies settled, then died down altogether.

Shakily, Alula rose up on rubbery legs and gingerly stepped away from the other prostrate ponies, breathing heavily. The others soon opened their eyes and began looking around, but it was Sweet Wheat’s startled gasp that drew their gazes to the standing pegasus, as three pairs of eyes went wide.

The filly’s back and legs were crisscrossed with nearly a dozen small cuts and several purplish welts. Her drooped wings were tattered, with several gaps where feathers had been either blown askew or torn away entirely.

Faster than the others, Sweet Wheat scrambled to her hooves and dashed to Alula’s side. The pegasus winced as Sweet Wheat began pulling leaves and bits of wood from her cuts, using larger leaves to clear the wounds. Amethyst and Dinky quickly joined the pair, and looked on as the earth pony worked.

“You idiot!” Sweet Wheat yelled hoarsely, tears burning her eyes even as she continued to tend to her friend. “W-what do you think you were d-doing, huh?! Trying to be s-some kind of superhero?”

“Couldn’t . . . let you . . . get hurt,” Alula wheezed, shivering and wincing as Sweet Wheat continued to prod at her back. Dinky whimpered lightly, rubbing her snoot in the crook of her friend’s neck. Alula returned the gesture with a nuzzle and soft smile of her own.

Frowning, Amethyst stepped away from Sweet Wheat and Alula and looked towards the epicenter of the blast, which was still shrouded in lingering dust. After a moment, Dinky slowly walked to her side while Alula hobbled over with one foreleg wrapped around Sweet Wheat for support. Question Mark, still shaking slightly, stayed in place, her ears swiveling back in forth as she whimpered and anxiously dug at the earth with one hoof.

“What in Celestia’s name caused this?” Dinky finally asked, echoing the thought running through the other ponies’ minds as the dust gradually cleared, giving them a full-on view of the devastation.

Where once there had been closed-off forest was now an open valley, tree trunks as thick as whole ponies ripped away to stumps and lying in scattered piles on the ground. With the trees gone, the twilight sky above was perfectly clear and visible. The four ponies stared at the twinkling stars for a moment before tilting their heads down to look into the crater gouged into the center of the blast zone.

Standing with spread legs in the middle of the lightly smoking crater, wings outstretched, head bowed, and eyes shut tightly in concentration, was a familiar grey-coated pegasus.

After a moment, the mare with the bubbly cutie mark slowly opened her eyes, her golden irises locked together in serious focus . . . until she noticed the depression she was standing in. At once, the pony’s eyes parted to their usual walleyed positions as she slowly took in the destruction around her.

“Oops, my bad,” Ditzy Doo remarked, nearly flooring her four observers above her. [1]

Wavering on their legs, the group of friends traded glances between them, mouths gaping like seaponies as they struggled to process the sight before them.

“M-M-MOM?!?!?!” Amethyst and Dinky finally sputtered out together.

Ditzy’s ears twitched at the sound of the two unicorns’ cry, and she frantically turned around until her eyes settled on her daughter’s forms. Almost immediately, the mailmare’s mouth began quivering as tears dotted the corners of her eyes.

“MY MUFFINS!!!” Ditzy cried, her wings unfurling before she shot like a cannon towards the two Doo sisters. Sweet Wheat barely managed to pull Alula out of the way before the grey comet barreled into Dinky and Amethyst, knocking both of them to the ground.

Bawling, Ditzy sat up and crushed her daughters against her body. The two fillies struggled to push away, but between Dinky’s exhaustion and Amethyst’s injuries they were unable to break their mother’s stranglehold.

“Mom, you have to let go . . .” Dinky managed to say.

“NEVER!!!” Ditzy blubbered.

“But you’re choking us . . .” Amethyst squeaked out.

“My love will give you strength!”

“Vision . . . dimming . . .”

“You don’t need it—I haven’t!”

“I think . . . my wounds are reopening . . .”

“I’ll soak it up with my fur!”

“Losing . . . consciousness . . .”

“That’s right, my little muffins, just go to sleep . . .” Still grasping her daughters against her, Ditzy began swaying back and forth while gently humming. Eventually, she began to sing . . .

. . . and was abruptly cut off as she was suddenly yanked backwards by her mane. Suddenly free, both Amethyst and Dinky immediately proceeded to inhale large gulps of air—Sweet nectar of life!

Feeling the force pulling her mane let go, Ditzy whirled around, her eyes spinning until they settled on a pale gold-coated pegasus mare with a messy cyan mane, matching blue eyes, and a cutie mark resembling three drops of water. The hovering pony frowned, forelegs crossed as she spit a few blond hairs from her mouth.

“Good gravy, Ditzy!” Raindrops hollered, “I know you’re worried about your kids and all, but by Celestia, have some common sense for once!”

“Hehe, sorry . . .” Ditzy stated, rubbing the back of her head with one hoof, then blinked and gaped at the still frowning mare across from her. “Wait, Raindrops?! What’re you doing here?”

Raindrops narrowed her eyes, and with a huff dropped onto the ground. “Someone had to follow you after your shenanigans earlier! Really, Ditzy . . . ringing the town alarm, screaming at every pony you saw if they’d “seen your muffins,” and then blasting off again before giving any of us a chance to join you? Honestly . . .” she grumbled as she absently rummaging through the saddlebags strapped around her waist. After pulling out a roll of gauze in the crook of one foreleg, Raindrops turned around and began waving a trailing white strand in the air.

“Heeeyyyyyy!! We’re down here!” she yelled towards an indistinct speck in the sky above. In response to Raindrops’ call, the speck quickly grew larger, soon turning into a pegasus with an earth pony riding on her back.

Touching down, the pegasus—a smirking, persian blue-coated mare with a coifed, light-yellow mane—laughed out loud. “Well I’ll be mooned, Ditzy was right on the money!” Cloud Kicker exclaimed, as her passenger, a yellow-coated mare with a fiery orange mane, just rolled her eyes. [2]

Glancing around at the many stumps and fallen trees in the newly carved-out clearing, the weatherpony blew a low whistle. “For the love of Luna, Ditz, did you really have to flatten the entire Ever—?”

Cloud Kicker’s laughter squeaked to a halt as her eyes finally spied her sister Alula, still leaning against Sweet Wheat and smiling dopely at her older sibling.

The pegasus promptly bolted forward, causing her carrot-flanked passenger to tumble head over hooves onto the ground. Ignoring the shouts from behind her, Cloud Kicker soared forward like a spear, passing Ditzy, her daughters, and Raindrops (who was in the process of bandaging Amethyst’s wounds) and finally alighting in front of Alula and Sweet Wheat. Shoving the protesting masseuse aside, Cloud Kicker quickly began probing her sister’s body with her hooves, taking care not to reopen closed cuts or press down too harshly on her fading bruises.

“‘Lula, are you—? How bad—? What happen—?” Cloud Kicker stammered as her eyes continued to trace across her little sister’s mottled fur, until a weight on her chest made her pause. Cloud Kicker glanced down to the top of her sister’s violet mane as Alula gently nuzzled against the older pegasus.

“S’not bad, s’already healing . . .” Alula mumbled as she continued to press her muzzle deep into her sister’s coat. “M’okay, Cloudy, m’okay.”

Hearing these words, Cloud Kicker sighed with relief. ’Bless Luna’s ink-stained cheeks,” she breathed, her body relaxing as she wrapped one foreleg gently around her sister’s shoulders.

Observing the exchange, Sweet Wheat struggled between trying to give the two pegasi room and wanting to shove herself in-between, her tail twitching as she snorted with agitation. The adolescent’s ear flicked as she sensed hoof-falls behind her, and she turned to look up at the wan smile of her own older sister.

“You okay?” Golden Harvest asked gently as she settled beside Sweet Wheat, throwing one foreleg across the other’s shoulders.

“About the only one who is, physically at least . . .” Sweet Wheat grumbled, her eyes lowered as she traced one hoof on the ground. After a moment, the filly began to shake, tears forming in her eyes and teeth gnashing together before she finally stammered, “I’m sorry, sis! It’s my fault we were out here! I should have—!”

“Hush,” Golden Harvest cut in, and she turned and pulled her sister into a much firmer embrace as Sweet Wheat continued to utter muffled recriminations. “Just give your big sister a hug . . .”

The remaining mares watched the two reunions quietly, Raindrops with her omnipresent frown as she continued to tend to the two Doo sisters, Amethyst and Dinky with small smiles, and Ditzy with an oddly blank expression.

Gulping, Ditzy turned from watching her friends to once again face her own daughters.

“Um . . . that hug earlier, can . . . can we try that again?”

Amethyst and Dinky paused to glance at one another, but then shared a grin and slowly stepped forward to embrace their mother. Together, the three Doos formed a three-way hug between them.

“My Muffins . . .” Ditzy mumbled between sobs, over and over again. “My Muffins . . .”

“It’s okay, Mom,” Amethyst said soothingly, though her own eyes were moist as she rubbed her mother’s back with her free hoof. “We’re all okay.”

“Don’t be sad, Momma,” Dinky added, nuzzling her mother gently from the other side. “Please . . . don’t cry.”

Several more minutes passed as the group of ponies reconciled, tended to the wounds of the injured, and let their varying feelings towards the evening simmer. Eventually, the small party began trudging up out of the clearing created by Ditzy’s dynamic entrance back towards the edge of the Everfree, heading in the direction of Ponyville.

Shortly after the other ponies began their climb, a small pile of earth near where they had been standing shifted, and then Question Mark’s head popped out of the newly formed hole. Raising her muzzle into the air, she sniffed sharply as her head tilted around in a circle, and then she licked her lips as she settled on one direction in particular. Pulling herself out of the ground, she began a slow shuffle out of the clearing, following the path that Amethyst Star and the other ponies had previously trod.

* * * * * *


The low glow of torchlights threw the enraged visage of the Changeling Captain into sharp relief, lines of shadow making the edges of his chitin-covered face even more severe and pronounced. Raising himself up by the armrests of his stone chair, the Changeling Captain glowered down at the assembly of drones trembling before his dais, dancing light glinting off his green-colored helm and dark carapace.

<You fools, that creature you encountered was the Guyver Unit! It could be nothing else!> he bellowed, his monochrome eyes gazing disparagingly over the gathered troops.

The changeling soldiers were clustered in a large, domed chamber deep within a cave on the edge of the Everfree Forest, The cavern itself was one of several lining the sides of the Ghastly Gorge, and had previously been the home to one of the many Quarray eels that routinely nested in the gorge’s stone walls. Now, it served as the forward base camp for an entire platoon of changelings, dispatched by Queen Chrysalis from their subterranean kingdom south of the Macintosh Hills. [3]

<U-u-understood, s-sir, but wha-what were we supposed to—?> one drone attempted, only to be cut off by the roar of his superior’s wings.

<You were supposed to retrieve the stolen units and bring Ephemero back, alive,> the Changeling Captain barked in reply. <But instead, you not only come back to me empty-hooved, but also to tell me our hive’s greatest scientific mind is dead, two units are missing and one apparently activated!!> Hovering in the air, the Changeling Captain looked over the assembly of drones, eyes narrowed to mere slits. <Who among you is responsible for this debacle?!>

The lower-ranking changelings nervously glanced at one another—some gulping, others visibly shaking—but not one of them dared to speak up. As the tension continued to build and the hovering Captain began the growl through clenched teeth, one high-pitched voice suddenly rang out:

<It . . . it was the Commander, sir! He-he’s the one who de-decided to fight the creat—, I mean, the Guyver, sir.>

A beat passed, and then the sea of seemingly identical changelings parted, revealing one lone, female lieutenant standing still, a hoof covering her muzzle as her widened eyes shifted back and forth. Forelegs crossed, the Changeling Captain lowered down until he was nearly level with the separated drone, shoving his face forward until they were practically muzzle-to-muzzle. Still shaking, the subordinate soldier attempted to back up and lower herself away from her superior, but to no avail.

<Name and rank . . .> the Captain growled, drawing out every last hummed syllable.

The female changeling’s gulp echoed across the chamber.

<Lieutenant, Third Squad, designation Seventh of Nine, sir!> she finally replied, and in response the Captain’s eyes narrowed further.

<I didn’t ask for your designation, lieutenant; I asked for your name,> the Captain reiterated, slowly and menacingly, purposely ignoring the gasps and hushed whispers from the other soldiers around him. To ask for another changeling’s personal name . . . that was only something known to kin, very close friends, equals in terms of rank or position . . . or lovers.

<It’s . . . Polygonia, sir,> the lieutenant hesitantly offered, two points of red visible beneath the chitin covering her cheeks.

<Polygonia . . .> the Changeling Captain repeated, and then after one more awkwardly long moment finally backed up and away from the female drone, much to her embarrassed relief. <There was mention in the reports of a female drone who questioned Commander Solenopsis during the battle, and also ordered the retreat after he was defeated . . .> the Captain remarked. <Was this you, Polygonia?>

At the subordinate changeling’s nod, the Captain stroked the underside of his chin with one hoof, hovering back and forth in front of his raised chair. Finally, the Captain lowered back to his seat and looked purposefully at the cowering lieutenant.

<Congratulations, Commander, you’ve just been promoted,> he stated, his horn lighting up with neon green as a familiar, chipped blue helm and collar floated into the air, and then over to the stunned drone. <Your new designation is Third of Five, and as Solenopsis’s replacement, your first assignment is to drill with your squad before going back into the field. They obviously could use the refresher.>

The Changeling Captain then looked over the rest of the now grumbling changeling crew with a smirk. <Best listen to this one, you maggots. She’s the only one that seems to have any brains among you, not that it’s really any surprise . . .>

The Changeling Captain’s smirk grew as his words had their intended effect, as the other drones were now eyeing their newly assigned Commander with hate-filled gazes and deep-set, fanged grimaces. The drone in question still seemed stunned, holding the helmet and collar in both forelegs until she noticed the stares she was receiving from her former contemporaries. The raw contempt being conveyed by those monochromatic gazes and buzzing sub-vocalizations caused Polygonia to shrink into herself, but after taking one more large gulp she shakily donned the collar and helmet of her predecessor, and then raised a foreleg up in salute.

<Sir!> Commander Polygonia intoned, and then without another word took to the air and quickly departed the antechamber. After a few moment’s pause, the other drones followed suit, more slowly and still grumbling to one another.

As he watched the small grouping flit away into the dark, the Changeling Captain again allowed himself a small smile. While it would certainly benefit his troops to have a more level-headed and fast-thinking Commander leading them in the field, at the same time such blatant freethought and initiative needed to be kept in-check. In alienating the young lieutenant-now-commander from her peers, as well as making her a target for their ire and resentment, the Captain felt he had ensured Polygonia would tread far more carefully in the future, especially before acting even the slightest bit autonomously.

Rising from his chair, the Captain hovered upwards towards the ceiling before alighting to the side into another, smaller room offset from the main chamber. This room, like so many of the other small hollows dotting the sides of the primary hall, had previously served as storage and nesting chambers for the eggs of the Quarray eels. Now it served as a strategy room for the Captain and his Commanders, the remaining four of whom were gathered around a raised table in the center of the chamber.

As the Changeling Captain entered, his four subordinates made to stand, but were held back by a casual wave of their superior’s holed foreleg. Taking his place at the table, the Captain glanced between his men, noting the whiff of nervous energy darting between them, made more obvious by the thinly veiled glances they were giving one another.

<Sir . . .> one of the commanders finally ventured. <There are rumors floating up from medical. Is it true what happened to Solenopsis? Did he really . . .?>

<Lose his transformation ability? Yes, it’s true,> the Changeling Captain replied, allowing a moment for the revelation to settle amongst the other changelings before continuing. <From what the medics have been able to tell me, apparently the destruction of the former Third of Five’s Zoal Gem nullified his ability to use transformation magic. He’s no more than a worthless grub now.>

The first commander who had spoken gulped audibly, his polished collar rising from his neck as he did so. <Sir, could that mean . . .> the changeling hesitatingly stated, <I mean, could it be that Ephemero was ri—>

<I’ll not have that traitorous talk in my presence, Fourth of Five,> the Changeling Captain cut-in. <I’ll do my best to forget what you were just beginning to say.>

The other commanders snickered lightly as Fourth of Five drew lower into himself, seemingly trying to disappear into his armored helmet and vestments.

<Y-you’re t-too kind, s-sir,> he finally stated, drawing another guffaw or two from his compatriots.

Smirking lightly himself, the Changeling Captain turned to face a particularly tall and composed changeling at his right. <Number One, are your drones prepared for our next infiltration?>

The tall changeling smiled thinly.

<Among her squadmates, your newest Commander was particularly detailed in her report, sir,> The Commander designated First of Five intoned. <We shall seek out the witnesses from earlier today, and determine whatever it is they know about the Guyver unit and its current loca—>


The sudden cry caused the other changelings to turn and look at a Changeling Commander on the far left side of the Captain—a wiry drone who was shuttering with gritted teeth and agitation. The commander had both of his forehooves on the table, using them for leverage to push himself forward and into the Captain’s field of vision.

<Please sir, allow me to take on this mission!> he exclaimed, then blinked his monochromatic eyes and seemed to take in the stares of the others . . . and the icy glare of First of Five. Setting back into a slightly more sedate but still tensed posture, the changeling bowed his head and continued, <Thir-, I mean, Solenopsis was me comrade, sir. We were clutchmates growin’ up, we was, an’ we went through the same training group before enterin’ service as attack drones. For ‘im . . . I means to find the one who activated the Guyver unit an’ take vengeance upon ‘im.>

The Changeling Captain cocked his head, one brow raised with curiosity.

<Your emotions cloud your judgment, Fifth of Five . . .> he remarked, observing how his subordinate seemed to slump at his words. <Given how far behind the former Third of Five and how underwhelming your performance has always been, I dare say you are hardly the most qualified to tackle this assignment.>

The Changeling Captain briefly looked away, stroking the underside of his chitin-coated jaw with one hoof.

<And yet, vengeance can be a powerful motivator . . .> he mused aloud, noting in the corner of his eye how Fifth of Five seemed to inflate with sudden hope. Grinning slyly, the Captain said, <Very well, Commander. Ready your troops—you set out at dawn. The rest of you, leave me.>

The four Commanders quickly stood and saluted (Fifth of Five with particular gusto), which the Captain returned dutifully. Three of the Commanders quickly took to the air and departed the chamber, but the tall First of Five hesitated, briefly following the others before stopping at the lip of the exit and touching down on the ground.

<I would never question your decisions, Captain, not in front of the others . . .> he began, turning to face his superior whose back was to him. <But are you sure Abedus is up to this task?>

For a moment, the Changeling Captain merely stared at his subordinate, who met the higher-ranked changeling’s gaze unwavering and without fear. Eventually, the Captain stood on all four hooves and began lightly pacing within the tight confines of the meeting room.

<No. But it is a relatively simple task of information retrieval and little else, despite what grandiose images of revenge may be driving him,> the Changeling Captain replied. <And should he find and do battle with the Guyver, Fifth of Five’s particular transmutation should prove an interesting test of the bio-booster armor’s abilities. Should he succeed, Commander Abedus will properly be recognized as a hero . . .>

Pausing, the Captain turned, a slight smirk on his face as he matched gazes with his right-hoof changeling. <Should he fail, well . . . no great loss,> he stated with a shrug.

First of Five blinked, and then mirrored his superior’s leer. <I see . . . indeed, the Greater Good, then. Very well, I will see that the other troops are kept at the ready> he said, his wings buzzing as he hovered into the air and raised one foreleg in salute.

The Changeling Captain nodded, returning the salute. <See that you do . . . Number One.>

As the other changeling departed, the captain turned and shuffled back over to the table, resting his hooves upon it as his eyes gazed into nothingness. Though he had been quick to dismiss it, Fourth of Five’s comments had aroused a number of deep and dangerous thoughts within him.

‘Ephemero . . .’

Doctor Ephemero had literally been the changelings’ best and brightest. A third-rate attack drone, but a brilliant scientist, it had been Ephemero who had deciphered the cryptic writings found in the ruins and relics uncovered beneath the Changeling Kingdom. It had also been Ephemero who had discovered the process for creating Zoal Gems—jeweled organs that could serve as capacitors of emotion and magical energy, thus reducing the need for changelings to constantly scavenge and be in a state of near starvation. It was Ephemero who had worked out how to convert the standard changeling storage pod into a metamorphic matrix, allowing any drone to undergo conversion and be granted a specialized transmutation tied to their individual Zoal Gem, one more powerful and more versatile than any mimicked form a changeling could assume on his or her own.

And it had been Ephemero who, not more than a few days prior, had led a revolt deep into the center of the ruins, stolen the Guyver units, caused untold havoc and destruction, and in sum, betrayed them all.

The Changeling Captain growled, his fangs clenched tightly as he fought to suppress the indignant rage brought on that simple word, betrayal. To a changeling, all of whom were brought up to work for the Greater Good, to put the needs of the many above the needs of the few, there could be no greater crime than betraying the collectivist goals of one’s hive. Ephemero may have felt he was in the right . . . for months he had been ranting to anypony who would listen to him about how he no longer felt that the Zoal Gem conversions were in the best interests of the changeling race; that they represented some sort of perversion or danger. Of course, no one listened to such obvious lunacy; after all, the conversion had been endorsed and even undertaken by Queen Chrysalis herself. If the Queen was willing to undergo such a transformation, then surely it must be safe for her subjects to do so.

And yet . . . if what happened to Solenopsis was any indication . . .

Shaking his head, the Changeling Captain took his own advice and buried any such traitorous thinking—it would do him no good in the long run. Besides, he had greater concerns to contend with, now that Ephemero was dead. How was he supposed to report that to her Highness without immediately being ordered back to be executed for his failure? Or worse, crippled and cast amongst the unwashed ranks of the grubs. And even that news was a hoofful of puppy love next to the fact that the three stolen units, the greatest potential weapons in the slowly reviving Changeling army’s arsenal, were still missing . . .

‘And now one unit has been activated. But then . . . where are the other two?’

* * * * * *

To call the Everfree Forest “dangerous” would be to seriously underestimate the sheer breadth of its perils, practically to the point of rudeness for not giving the haven of manticore, cragadiles, and hydras the proper respect. However, just because the Everfree was hazardous did not mean that it couldn’t be safely traversed. One merely had to follow one of the many paths crossing through the various sections the woods, and never, ever wander onto a road less taken.

This night, a lone figure could be found traveling along one such path, headed at a leisurely pace in the direction of Ponyville. The figure was shrouded in a rich purple cloak and hood which completely obscured its features, though the four hooves that softly clopped against the earth announced its likely equine nature.

Every once and a while, the figure paused and glanced upwards at the stars and moon alighting the nighttime sky, silently considering them before bowing its head and continuing along the moonlit path. At some point, a quiet gurgle could be heard coming from beneath the ground-trailing cloak, and once again the figure paused, clutching at its midsection. The head beneath the hood looked around, and after a moment the form seemed to settle its gaze on a pinecone sitting near the treeline.

Unbidden, the pinecone rose into the air suffused in an aura of light magenta, and then floated over to the hood of the figure. A dainty muzzle reached out from the depths of the hood and gingerly took a bite from the pinecone, emitting soft crunching noises before settling into a frown.

“Needs some peanut butter . . .” a haughty voice muttered, and with another lash of magenta the pine cone was tossed into a bush on the path’s edge. A metallic *tink* drew a pause from the shadowy figure, and after a moment the cloaked form slowly and carefully made its way over to the bush.

Individual branches from the foliage parted as the hooded figure leaned to peer inside. A small *gasp!* escaped the hood’s confines as the figure took in the wheeled object nestled within the bush’s innards.

“Huh, what’s this?” the form wondered aloud as a ring of light slowly flickered into being within the rim of the dented, metallic orb sitting in the center of the contraption. Slowly, coils within the clamped, outer casing of the device began to ungulate and twist against one another, over and over, with rapidly increasing speed . . .

For yet another time that day, and most certainly not for the last, the relative peace of the Everfree Forest was shattered as a scream echoed out between the branches and leaves of the woodland canopy. [4]

* * * * * *

Outside the Everfree, and walking along the road to Ponyville, Question Mark trailed several yards behind the happy, loving families, using the sounds of their hooves on the ground and quiet conversation in part to guide her. As she shuffled along, she occasionally shifted her shoulders, causing a muffled clatter in her backpack as its precious cargo was moved into a more comfortable position.

Settling the wheeled apparatus contained within between her shoulder blades, Question Mark continued forward, still smiling ever so softly. Despite some, unfortunate, setbacks, a mishap here and there, and more than one unplanned encounter, all and all . . .

This day had been just perfect. [5]


Author's Note:

[1]: For those of you who may question whether or not the level of destruction described is within Ditzy's ability, may I remind you that this is the mare who nearly demolished Ponyville Town Hall Without. Even. Trying. Couple in the fact that she was crazy worried and desperate to find her foals, and who knows what feats she may be capable of?

[2]: Golden Harvest had to put up with jokes about "riding Cloud Kicker for the first time" the entire way to the Everfree.

[3]: As seen in IDW Publishing's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Issue #2, true believers!

[4]: Now see, it's things like this that, as my proofreader CrowMagnon pointed out, are enough to justify a paranoid mistrust of wheels in all shapes and sizes.

[5]: But, can a girl, really, have it all?

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