• Published 26th May 2013
  • 1,427 Views, 162 Comments

No Heroes Part II - The Journey Home - PaulAsaran



Fine Crime and Princess Luna have chosen their team. Now there's just the minor problem of bringing them together. Every team needs a base of operations, and what place better than Ponyville?

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One Night in Everfree

It was an overcast day, chilled by the steady approach of winter. A perfect day for a nap, or so Nye thought. Of course naps were always better when he had them with a fellow expert, so he was on his way to see Rainbow Dash. She would undoubtedly be finished with her weather duties for the afternoon, and she almost always took a snooze afterwards, so it was the perfect timing! He just hoped she was home…

She was home, but she wasn’t napping. And she wasn’t alone.

As he cleared the hill he saw the pegasus pony standing tall before her friend Applejack… and neither of them looked very happy. Behind her sat a very worried-looking Scootaloo, hiding her face with her mane timidly. Between them, casting her eyes back and forth like a referee searching for fouls, was Twilight Sparkle.

“…shouldn’t go, RD,” Applejack was saying as he approached. “You should see her! Why I’ve never seen Apple Bloom cry so much.”

“That’s exactly why we want to go,” Rainbow countered firmly. “She has to see that there’s nothing out there, that it was just some dream she had or something like that.”

Twilight tried to intervene. “Maybe you should go to her, Rainbow, explain why you’re doing it.”

“What’s going on?” Nye asked curiously when he was finally close enough to be noticed.

Rainbow, her attention still focused on the orange pony, answered. “Me and Scoots were going to spend a night or two in the Everfree Forest.”

“No, ya’ll aren’t,” Applejack countered warningly.

“The forest?” Nye glanced between the two mares. “Isn’t that dangerous?”

The pegasus stood on her hind legs and struck a confident pose. “You kidding? I can take on a few timberwolves! Nothing to it.”

At that comment Twilight gave her a bland look. “That’s not what it looked like the last time we ran into them.”

Rainbow wilted just a little and cast a nervous smile towards Scootaloo. “Hehe… yeah… well they just surprised me that time, that’s all.”

“I’m not worried about you, Rainbow,” Applejack confessed, “I know ya can take care of yerself, and Scoots too. It’s Apple Bloom that bothers me.”

“I didn’t want her to find out…” Scootaloo admitted miserably.

“Wait, I’m lost,” Nye confessed. “Why are you going into the Ever Free forest? And why does it bother Apple Bloom?”

“She’s been having these nightmares,” Scootaloo explained. “She says they started when she saw something terrible in the forest.”

Twilight blushed. “It’s my fault, actually. She went with me to Zecora’s a couple weeks ago and got lost in the woods.”

“And now me and Scoots want to spend some time out there, just to show her it’s not that dangerous,” Rainbow concluded before casting a grumpy look at Applejack, “but somepony thinks that’s a bad idea.”

“It is a bad idea,” the earth pony snapped, stomping her hoof. “I know you mean well, RD, but now my sister’s in a panic because she thinks you two won’t come out of the forest!”

“Really?” Scootaloo asked unhappily, “is it that bad?”

Rainbow let out an angry groan. “So what, we’re just gonna ban ponies from the entire forest from now on just because one filly got scared?”

“She has a point,” Twilight admitted nervously.

Applejack set a hoof to her face tenderly and sat on her haunches. “I get it, ya’ll, but think about my sister. I can’t stand seeing her all terrified like that. There has to be some other way.”

The ponies fell into a contemplative silence, Nye casting a look at each mare thoughtfully. He finally cast his eye on Scootaloo, who appeared so miserable with worry for her friend he felt his heart might crack.

“I have an idea,” he offered at last. They all shot doubting expressions his way, which made him shrink back. But he had their attention; might as well go on. “What if you could contact Apple Bloom while you were out, report to her that everything was okay?”

“Well that might help,” Applejack admitted uncertainly, “but how would they do that?”

“I use a potion to send letters to Princess Luna,” he answered. “Maybe Twilight can reproduce it so that Scootaloo can send letters to Apple Bloom.”

All eyes turned to Twilight, who considered the proposal. “I dunno, that’s some complicated magic. I’m not sure I could make it work.”

“But if you could,” Rainbow pressed, turning to Applejack, “would you let me do this?”

“Please?” Scootaloo added from behind her.

The orange mare rubbed her chin for a few seconds. “I’d have to talk to Apple Bloom about it,” she answered at last, “but it’s a heck of a lot better than her trembling like a leaf for a couple days.”

Twilight nodded. “Come on, Nye, let’s get some of that potion.”


Twilight Sparkle had been at it for three days trying to replicate Princess Luna’s potion. Nye had suggested writing to the alicorn for some help, but the purple unicorn refused; she wanted to solve this puzzle on her own. He realized she saw it as a challenge, and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that. He didn’t stick around for the work – he didn’t understand magic hardly at all and imagined he’d just get in the way. Besides, he had a coffee and cocoa shop to run.

On the evening of the third day he went to check on her progress. Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Scootaloo and Apple Bloom were in the basement (or ‘lab’ as Twilight preferred to call it) already.

“Anything?” he asked, though he suspected he knew the answer from their frustrated faces.

Twilight, sitting before a table with safety goggles on, looked as if she wanted to pull her mane out. “I was so certain it would work this time!”

“Alright, last one,” Rainbow muttered, clearly having low expectations. She dropped a piece of paper with something written on it in a purple potion that looked exactingly like the ones he used. The paper merely floated in the liquid. No go.

“I just don’t get it,” Twilight explained to them. “I just know I’ve got the basics worked out of this. The note should be going to Apple Bloom.”

“It’s alright, Twilight,” the yellow-coated filly told her with a sad expression.

“No, it’s not alright,” Rainbow said, though without enthusiasm.

“It was a good idea and all,” Applejack admitted with a nod to Nye, “but I’m not sure it’s gonna work.”

Nye approached the three potions, set side-by-side, and studied them for a moment. They really did look just like the ones he used all the time. Maybe looks weren’t everything when it came to potions.

“I’m sorry, Scootaloo,” Twilight said after a long silence, “but I’m not sure I can do this without help.”

“I could still write Princess Luna,” he ventured.

She sighed and waved a hoof. “You might as well. I so wanted to get this one right, though…”

He glanced at the three bottles again, and on impulse pulled a sheet of parchment from the table. He wrote a couple random words.

“What are you doing?” Scootaloo asked.

“It doesn’t work,” Rainbow added unhappily.

“Just humor me,” he replied, folding the scrap of paper until it was small enough to fit in the bottle. He lifted it in his teeth and dropped it in the middle bottle. It sank down to the bottom and began to dissolve until, at last, the whole thing was gone.

A moment of silence filled the room.

POOF: the folded parchment appeared in a puff of cobalt blue feathers and landed between Apple Bloom’s hooves.

What!?”

Twilight flew from her spot at the table, knocking Nye off his hooves in her excitement, and was holding the bottle in front of her face with wide eyes. “But we tried that one and it didn’t work!”

“Maybe because we didn’t have it sink like Nye’s,” Applejack suggested as she helped him up. “Try it, Rainbow.”

The pegasus nodded, took a piece of parchment and folded it just as he did before dropping it into the potion, held before her by Twilight’s magic. The paper sank to the bottom… and stayed there.

“But.. but this doesn’t make any sense!” Twilight cried, shaking the bottle to no effect.

“Maybe it only works for Nye,” Apple Bloom offered.

They all shared surprised looks, then turned to him. He blushed under the scrutiny; he wasn’t sure he’d ever had three attractive mares watching him so closely. But he did what he knew they were waiting for, this time ripping off a small piece of parchment and just scribbling on it before dropping it into the bottle. The piece of paper floated on top… then began to disappear where the liquid touched it.

A second after the paper was completely gone it POOFed into existence again, once more between Apple Bloom’s hooves and joined by those dark feathers.

“Huh,” the purple unicorn peered at the bottle. “I had no idea this stuff was designed to only work for you. This is even more complicated than I imagined.”

“Hey, I didn’t know it either,” he confessed. He secretly felt honored: Luna had gone through the trouble to make something unique for him! He’d have to say something about it in his next letter.

“Well that settles it,” Rainbow declared, floating over and poking him in the head playfully, “you’re coming with us.”

“Whawhowait, me?” She nodded. “Oh, er… I dunno…”

She smirked. “What, you’re not scared of a little camping trip, are you Nye?”

“Well… no,” he answered. “I just… well… I’ve got to watch my shop and… umm…”

“I still don’t think I want ya’ll to go,” Apple Bloom said nervously.

“Don’t worry,” Scootaloo reassured her with a comforting nudge of her muzzle, “we’ll be able to contact you, and then you’ll know everything’s fine.”

Nye wanted to say something, but the miserable look on the yellow filly’s face made him hold his tongue. “Come on, Nye,” Rainbow whispered, “help me out, here.”

He glanced at her and was surprised to see her usual confidence replaced with genuine worry. He glanced at everypony in the room, felt his resolve shaking. “Fine,” he muttered with a sigh, “I’ll go.”

“Really?” Scootaloo asked, hopping to her feet.

He smiled weakly, “Yeah, really.”

Applejack went to her sister and gave her a light nudge with her hoof. The filly looked up at her encouraging face, then glanced at Scootaloo, who nodded. She stood up, trotted to Nye, reared up so she had her front hooves on his chest and could look him in the eye. “You have to promise to write every hour.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Every hour? Really?”

She nodded, big eyes full of worry. “Every. Hour.”

Well, what was he supposed to say? “Alright Apple Bloom, every hour. I promise.”

She didn’t appear satisfied, not at all, but she accepted his promise anyway.


“Sorry you got dragged into this,” Rainbow told him as they slipped under the forest canopy, waving to Twilight, Applejack and a very worried-looking Apple Bloom. “I know you weren’t exactly thrilled at the idea.”

“No no,” Nye replied nervously, stepping carefully through the tall grasses and roots, “it’s no problem. I did spend a year traveling on my own, after all. Well, I wasn’t in wild country, but…”

“No worries,” Scootaloo told him cheerily, carrying her scooter over the rough terrain, “we’ll find a place to hunker down for a couple nights, come right back. Nothing to it.”

Nye tripped on a tall root, fell on his face. “And why are we going through the thick part when there’s a perfectly functional path to Zecora’s?”

“Because,” Rainbow replied as she helped him up, “Apple Bloom didn’t encounter her ‘ghost town’ on the path to Zecora’s. According to her it was deep in the untamed wilds.”

“I think the path crosses ahead of us anyway,” Scootaloo told him from up ahead. “We just entered there to make Apple Bloom think we were gonna rough it all the way.”

“Ah, I see.”

“Here, I’ll fly up high and spot the path,” the pegasus declared, and proceeded to disappear through the canopy.

“Man she’s awesome,” Scootaloo announced to nopony in particular. “Thanks for coming, Nye. Really. Apple Bloom’s been having a lot of trouble lately; Sweetie Belle and me were starting to get really worried.”

“And why isn’t she along for the fun?” he asked, pulling a tangle of branches from his mane.

“Sweetie Belle? I asked her to stay behind and keep Apple Bloom occupied while we were gone.”

“Oooh.”

“Come on, guys,” Rainbow called, suddenly appearing through the leaves above, “I found the path this way.”

It took nearly an hour to cross the thick forest and get to the path proper, but once they did the going was much smoother. Scootaloo switched to her scooter and rode ahead, every now and then coming back to report on what she’d found, which was usually nothing of interest. Nye was sure to keep track of the time, dutifully writing letters to Apple Bloom every hour as promised. He made sure to write a lot of complaints about the thick underbrush they were supposed to be in, just to keep up the illusion. Once they were about halfway to Zecora’s place, however, they turned back off the path. Why there?

“Dunno,” Rainbow confessed, “this place is as good as any other.”

“But why are we going back into that mess?” Nye asked seriously, hesitating at the path’s edge.

“We’ve got to do this right,” Rainbow declared. “It’s the principal of the thing. Just pretend I’m Daring Do guiding you on a jungle adventure.”

“That sounds awesome,” Scootaloo announced. “Then I get to be Daring Do’s resourceful sidekick!”

“Never read ‘em,” Nye noted sourly, at last following.

“Guess that means you get to be the bumbling hanger-on,” Rainbow countered wryly.

He jerked his tail from a thicket in annoyance. “Is he the one she falls for because of his persistence?”

She blinked, hovered in midair, gave him a surprised look.

“What?”

She blushed, laughing weakly and scratching the back of her head. “Oh, nothing. I just… don’t remember that part.”

“That’s because it never happens,” Scootaloo declared with a roll of her eyes.

“It would in my version,” Nye announced dully, trudging along after the filly. “Even Daring Do has to have a stallion in her life, right?”

“No way,” Scootaloo countered as if he were speaking blasphemy. “Daring Do wouldn’t be Daring Do if she were crushing on some guy!”

“Okay,” he ventured with a joking grin, “how about a mare?”

“Eeeewwww…”

Rainbow laughed hysterically, though he didn’t know if it was because of his words or Scootaloo’s reaction.

“While we’re on fiction,” he added after they were silent for a few minutes, “what’s the deal with this ‘ghost town’ or whatever it is Apple Bloom’s so afraid of?”

“Well,” Scootaloo answered, “she seems to think that she came upon a cursed village in the woods.”

“Cursed how?”

“I dunno,” she admitted, accepting his help up a large incline. “She won’t go into detail. Something about the cutie pox and zombies.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Zombie ponies? Seriously?”

“That’s what I said,” Rainbow threw in from just below the canopy.

“She probably just had a nightmare or something,” Scootaloo admitted. “Still, what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t try to help her get over it?”

“It’s good of you to try,” he told her sincerely, “but do you really think spending a couple days in the woods is going to help?”

“What else can I do?” the filly asked. “Besides, this way I get to spend some time with Rainbow Dash!”

“And that makes it all worth it,” the blue pegasus declared confidently. “Right Scoots?”

“You bet!”

“You could have just come to me,” he noted as they passed into a less densely-wooded area.

“You?” Rainbow landed next to him with a critical expression. “What could you do, Nye?”

He returned her challenging expression with a raised head. “I can contact Princess Luna.”

“So?”

But Scootaloo blushed, clearly recognizing his meaning. “Oh, well, yeah… I guess you could have asked her to visit Apple Bloom in her dreams…”

“Eggs. Act. Ly.”

He smirked at Rainbow Dash, who facehoofed. “That might have been easier,” she admitted.

“But not better,” Scootaloo insisted with a grin. “Your answer doesn’t involve me spending time with Rainbow Dash!”

“Yeah,” the mare told him with a playful shove, “get with the program, Nye!”

He rolled his eyes but grinned. “Ah well. You two dragged me into this; guess I might as well enjoy it. Hold up, I need to write to Apple Bloom.”

“Already?” Scootaloo asked in frustration.

Rainbow seemed just as annoyed. “Man, we’ll never get anywhere at this rate!”

“I made a promise,” he told them both, settling down to write. “You don’t want her to worry because I missed an appointment, would you?”

Rainbow sighed and jumped into the air. “Oh, alright. I’m gonna go scout ahead. Back in a sec!”


The house was huge, filling almost the entire clearing in which it was sitting. Three stories tall, four in some places, it was like a great slumbering giant amongst the trees. The three ponies sat at the edge of the clearing, staring at the thing in complete disbelief.

“There’s a house out here,” Nye noted obviously.

“Uhh… yeah,” Rainbow agreed.

“That’s not normal, is it?”

“Don’t think so,” Scootaloo said.

“Ah. Okay then.”

They stared for a little more, encased in the house’s long twilight shadow.

Then Rainbow was in the air and flying slowly to the building.

“W-where are you going?” Scootaloo called after her without moving.

“To get a better look,” the pegasus called back, “what’s it look like?” Nye and Scootaloo exchanged uncertain looks and followed.

“Maybe it’s just some old, abandoned… I dunno,” Scootaloo said.

They reached the door, big and ornate and made of a light oak. “Don’t think it’s old, Scoots. This place looks brand new.”

“I think it is,” Rainbow told them from where she was peering through a window, hooves on either side of her face. “There’s nothing in there. No furniture, nothing. Not dusty, either.”

Nye went to a ground-floor window to follow her example. “It looks like they haven’t finished the walls and whatnot on the inside,” he claimed.

“So… somepony’s still building it?” Scootaloo suggested.

“But why build something like this all the way out here?” Rainbow asked, landing between her companions.

Nye stepped back to look up at the thing seriously. “But they can’t be building something! Where are the raw materials? Where are the work crews?”

“Maybe they quit before sundown,” Scootaloo offered.

But Nye shook his head. “I studied engineering for four years, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that this building is brand new. We should have seen work crews moving through Ponyville with materials and construction equipment, or at least somewhere nearby. This doesn’t make any sense!”

Rainbow went to the front door and tried opening it. “Locked.”

Now Scootaloo looked scared, ducking her head glancing around worriedly. “M-maybe it’s… a ghost town?”

Rainbow Dash face-faulted and turned to her protégé. “First, it’s just one house. You have to have a bunch of houses for it to qualify as a ‘town.’ And I don’t see any ghosts, either.”

“Or zombies,” Nye added helpfully.

“Oh, heheh, right.” Scootaloo breathed a sigh of relief, then took on a confident pose. “I knew better. Just wanted to see if I could get Nye worked up!”

Rainbow sighed and cast a knowing glance at Nye, who shrugged with a bemused smile. “It’s getting dark,” she noted, “why don’t we make camp behind this place. Maybe in the morning somepony will show up to explain this.”

“Works for me,” Nye agreed, and Scootaloo nodded her acceptance.

He chose not to mention the house in his note to Apple Bloom, though. Just in case.


He was woken from a peaceful sleep by something pushing gently against his shoulder.

“Nye. Nye…”

He grumbled, shifted, rubbed his eyes.

“Nye, get up, please.”

He sat up slowly, glumly noting Scootaloo standing on his belly. “Wha…? That time already…?” She shushed him, eyes worried, and hopped off to let him stretch. It was still night – really late by the looks of things. “What’s the big deal, Scoots?” he grumbled.

She gestured with her head towards the woods beyond the house. “Do you see that?”

“See what?” he mumbled, standing and following her gaze into the woods. “I don’t see anything…”

“Are you sure?” she asked fretfully. “Really, really sure?”

He took a moment to rub the sleep from his eyes, shook his head. His vision cleared some, he looked out again, and this time he did see something.

It was a pony. A young mare, barely old enough to be called an adult. She had a light-grey coat and a golden, curled mane. Only her head and shoulders where visible; the rest was hidden behind underbrush.

“You see her, don’t you?” He nodded, slowly waking up. “She’s been watching us for nearly an hour. Won’t talk or anything.” The filly looked not just a little frightened. “I… wanted to wake you up first, just in case I was imagining her.”

Nye glanced at Rainbow Dash, who was snoring loudly a few feet away. It was probably a good thing she hadn’t been woken up; why bother her over such a simple thing? He left the edge of the house and gestured to the mare in a friendly manner. She didn’t respond at all.

“Where are you going?” Scootaloo whispered fearfully as he walked closer to the strange mare. “What if she’s a ghost or… or a zombie…?”

Nye shook his head and leveled an annoyed look at the filly. “Come on, Scoots, you don’t really believe in those things, do you? She’s probably just lost… and if she’s this far out that’s pretty lost.” She didn’t seem convinced, but he approached the mare anyway.

It was when he was just before the bushes that he got a good look at her golden eyes. He couldn’t help staring; the pony’s eyes were glowing in the night. How was she doing that? “Hey,” he called, waving. “What are you doing way out here?”

She didn’t answer, but turned and disappeared into the woods, a giggle following in her wake. The sound echoed eerily through the forest… or was it just in his head?

“Nye,” Scootaloo called as he started to follow, “don’t go!”

He gave her a sour look, took a step…

And the entire world transformed.

Suddenly they weren’t in the Everfree Forest anymore, but standing at the entrance to a town. Nye stared in complete awe at the change, glanced back to see that the house was gone. But Scootaloo was still there, frantically trying to wake Rainbow Dash.

“What the heck?” he muttered, turning back to the town before him. It was still night – that was a strange relief – but the entire place appeared to be ready for some sort of festival. Except there were no ponies.

“Whoa, where did all this come from?” Rainbow asked, suddenly hovering next to him.

“You guys, come back,” Scootaloo called from the edge of the clearing, her voice shaky. “Don’t go in there!”

The stallion and mare exchanged uncertain looks.

“Maybe we should actually listen to her this time…” Nye suggested tentatively.

Rainbow considered, glancing back at Scootaloo. Then her expression hardened.

“Maybe this is a ghost town,” she admitted, turning back to the buildings, “but there has to be more to this. We came out here for Apple Bloom, and I’m gonna find some way to explain this to her!” She started walking towards the big, doorless gate.

“Rainbow Dash, please!” Scootaloo sounded terrified.

Nye gestured to the filly to have patience and followed the pegasus. “Are you sure that’s wise?” he asked her, “If this is what Apple Bloom saw, it might be dangerous.”

“Don’t worry,” she told him with a confident grin, “if anything happens I’ll just fly back to the entrance. Why don’t you stick with Scootaloo?”

He cast around warily at the place. “I can’t let you go through this alone!”

“But Scootaloo needs someone to…” she began, but they were interrupted by the sound of the filly’s approach.

They both looked down at her as she leaned against the handles of her scooter, breathing heavily. “You... you… can’t leave me… alone back there…” she huffed. It was clear her lack of breath had nothing to do with the sprint.

“Stick with her,” Rainbow ordered, taking a few steps forward. Just when her hoof went past the gate, however, the entire town erupted with noise; ponies began to appear all over the place! Ponies chatting, dancing, laughing.

Rainbow took an alarmed step back. “Whoa, what the…?”

“Hey!” A big green earth pony stallion spotted them and approached, waving a friendly hoof. “Visitors!”

The trio moved close in alarm, which made the stallion laugh. “What’s the matter? We don’t bite.”

“What’s going on?” Nye asked fearfully, shoving Scootaloo behind himself protectively.

The stallion grinned. “It’s called a festival. You know, drinks, dancing, music?”

“His flank,” Scootaloo noted in surprise. Nye blinked, took a closer look. Then he saw what she had; the stallion had no cutie mark.

“Hey!” Rainbow darted forward to examine the stallion a bit closer, “where’s your cutie mark?”

“Cutie mark?” The stallion asked, noticing where she was looking. “I don’t know what you’re…” His words faded as he took a look at her more closely. Suddenly his eyes went wide; he fell back with a shout, pointing his hoof at her in terror. “Curse, curse! This one’s cursed!”

The noise of the festival died. For a moment nopony said anything as the stallion fled into the crowds. Then a pony cried out, and another.

“Curse!”

“She’s got the mark.”

“It’s come, it’s come to find us.”

“What are we going to do?”

“She’s got a curse!”

“He’s got one too!”

Suddenly the three found themselves surrounded by ponies.

“G-g-guys…” Scootaloo whimpered from beneath Rainbow’s legs.

“Hey, what are you talking about?” Nye demanded, feeling not just a little worried himself.

“A foal, they’re holding a foal hostage!”

“What are we going to do!?”

“Let her go you monsters!”

“I think we’ve outlasted our welcome,” Rainbow noted worriedly, trying to push Nye and Scootaloo back.

“Stop them!”

“Protect the foal!”

“Let’s go!” Rainbow shouted, turning from the crowd and getting ready to fly.

Too late: Nye didn’t have time to shout before one of the ponies cracked the pegasus over the back of the head with his hoof. Rainbow let out a cry of pain, stumbled forward and spread her wings, but before she could get off the ground a half-dozen ponies were on her.

“Rainbow!” Nye took a step forward to help and was rewarded with a hoof cracking against his chin. As he fell he saw Scootaloo getting snatched up by the crowd, screaming in terror.

“Protect the foal!”

“Get them, take them!”

“Don’t let them curse the town!”

“Nye… Nye, help!”

Rainbow was unconscious, and Scootaloo was nowhere to be seen. Nye scrambled to his feet, just barely escaping as a pair of hooves smashed the ground where his head at been. He dodged left, then right, leapt backwards as a small army of ponies fought to catch him!

He’d never be able to help them at this rate. He had to run, recoup, figure things out. Terror filling him, he turned and fled the scene.

“No, Nye! Nye don’t go!”

“Stop him, don’t let him escape!”

He ran, ran for all he was worth, heart hammering in his chest. He wouldn’t be caught, not here, not…

Suddenly he was back in the forest. Back at the house. Too close to the house: he crashed right into it. Head aching, he jumped back to his feet as fast as he could and turned to face his followers…

…nothing. The ponies were gone. No sounds filled the air, no cries for help. He was totally alone.

For a few seconds he stood there, eyes wide. Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo…

His mind working frantically, he sat down and pulled out his potion. He’d send a letter to Apple Bloom, tell her to get help. He wrote the note shakily, fear fueling his words as he thought about what might be happening to his best friend and the filly. He jerked out his potion and pulled the cork out with his teeth.

And then he paused, staring at the letter on the ground. He read it, realized how panicked it was, how panicked he was. And then he thought of Apple Bloom getting that letter, and how she might react. When he envisioned her inevitable terror he felt a deep pang within him.

What was wrong with him? He was going to call for help? It would take all night for anypony to get there. He was there, right now, and there might not be time.

But he wasn't a hero. He was just lazy, tail-chasing Nye. What could he do? Rainbow was the hero of this group, and she was gone. What was he? The incident with the Crystal Empire was enough to make it clear that he was no pony for heroics. He wasn’t brave, or resourceful, or capable.

He shook his head, silently furious at himself. Maybe he wasn’t any of those things. Maybe he wouldn’t stand a chance. But his mother would never forgive him if he sat in a corner waiting for the cavalry, nor would he forgive himself. Maybe he was a coward, but even cowards had limits: he was not going to abandon his friend!

He crumbled the letter, tosses it aside, wrote a new one. Something about the forest noises keeping him awake, and how annoyed it made him. He folded the note up and dropped it into the potion, watching it dissolve away into nothingness. Let Apple Bloom sleep in comfort: he had work to do.


He found Scootaloo at the corner of the largest building in town, crying with her head under her hooves.

“Scoots. Hey, Scoots!” he called in a hushed whisper from his hiding spot just within the trees.

She shifted, raised her head, caught sight of him. Her eyes went wide as he gestured to her cautiously. She glanced around to make sure nopony was watching before going over to him.

“You came back,” she whispered, tears in her eyes as she jumped up to hug his neck.

“Of course I did,” he answered with a charming grin. “You didn’t think I’d ran all the way back to Ponyville with my tail between my legs, did you?”

She let go and blushed guiltily. “Umm… yeah, I kinda did.”

Ouch. Well, he didn’t blame her; it was close to the same as what he’d almost done.

“Where’s Rainbow Dash?”

Scootaloo pointed to the big building. “They took her inside, said something about a pony called The Matriarch deciding her fate.”

“And they just let you go?” he asked, bewildered.

“Yeah,” she nodded, looking a little confused herself. “I think it’s because I don’t have a cutie mark. Nye, none of the ponies in this town have cutie marks! They seemed to think you and Rainbow were threatening me.”

He rubbed his chin in thought for a few moments before nodding. “Don’t worry, Scootaloo. We’ll get your hero out of there.”

“But how?”

“I dunno,” he admitted, “but it’ll come to me.”


“Hello?” Rainbow called for the thousandth time, squirming against the shackles that held her front hooves up, “anypony out there? Come on, somepony talk to me!”

She had no idea how long she’d been stuck in the cell. An hour, maybe. She knew there was a pony right beside her cell, even if she couldn’t see him, and she was determined to keep making a racket until he responded. “You wanna tell me why I’m here? No? Don’t matter, you’re gonna tell me anyway!” Silence. “Hey, rockhead, stop sleeping on the job and talk to me. I know you’re there. Hellloooooo?”

There was the sound of a door unlocking, and she heaved a deep sigh. “Finally, somepony to talk to! Now what’s the big…”

But her heart sank as a big brown mare appeared, Scootaloo walking along behind her. So the filly hadn’t been able to escape after all…

“Five minutes,” the mare noted, unlocking Rainbow’s cell. The pegasus gazed in amazement as Scootaloo nodded to the mare and entered the cell, which was closed behind her. The mare gestured to the guard just beyond Rainbow’s sight, and she heard them both leave.

As soon as the unseen door closed Scootaloo was hugging her hero around the waist. “You’re alive! Oh thank Luna, I was so worried…” The filly was on the verge of tears.

“Oh come on, Scoots,” Rainbow told her reassuringly, “you should know a bump on the head’s not enough to do me in.” The filly grinned happily and nodded, rubbing her muzzle against Rainbow’s stomach. “But what are you doing here? Why’d they just let you in?”

Scootaloo didn’t answer for a moment, but finally recovered enough to step back and speak. “They all think I’m the victim and you and Nye are the bad guys.”

Rainbow stared in astonishment. “Where did they get an idea like that?”

“There’s no time to explain,” the filly said quickly. “I told them I wanted to see you, ‘make you feel guilty for what you’ve done’ or something like that, but I’m here to get you out.”

“How?”

Right at that moment the sound of the door opening came to them once more. They watched, and Rainbow sagged when she saw Nye being guided forward by a pair of stallions. He paused by the cell, giving her a hard look. That made her think; it was a very un-Nye-like expression.

“Keep moving,” one of the guards snapped, nudging Nye in the back with a hoof. “We’re not giving you two a chance to work together on an escape plan.”

The white stallion glanced back at the guards and smiled. “Too late for that.”

And suddenly he bucked, cracking one of the guards in the face and the other in the chest. The two stallion cried out, tried to fight back; one cracked a hoof against Nye’s jaw, the other tried to press him against Rainbow’s cell.

And that’s when she noticed Scootaloo. She had darted to the bars and, tucking her hoof through, managed to snatch the keys from the guard holding Nye down. She was back just as fast, climbing up Rainbow to start freeing her hooves.

With nothing better to do Rainbow cheered Nye on. He glanced at her, made a grunting sound and shoved the stallion on his back off. He bucked once more, knocking the guard against the back wall, then turned to crack his hoof against the side of the other guard’s muzzle as he was rising.

And the guard’s head spun backwards on his neck with a snap.

Nye stared.

Rainbow stared.

Scootaloo stared.

Rainbow felt real fear this time. The entire world seemed to go ten shades darker, as if some ominous shadow had come upon her eyes. The ugly yellow paint on the cell walls started to shrivel upwards like burning paper, revealing rotten wood that oozed with some hideous, black fungus. The guard’s fur and mane began to shrivel, clumps began to drop off of him. His hairless skin slowly rotted, some of it sloughing off onto the floor in a nauseating slop.

“Scoots, get me free,” Rainbow whispered. The filly only stared in horror.

The stallion twitched, leaned sideways as one of its legs twisted back on itself. Its head slowly began to turn forward again in a jerky, snapping motion.

“Scoots, now.”

The head locked into place, shook, tried to reposition. She watched through bars growing blood-red with rust as he reached up with a lone hoof and pushed against a muzzle that was now little more than loose flesh and muscle hanging off of bone.

“Scoots…”

A sharp jerk, a hideous cracking sound, and the guard’s head was facing forward again, though tilted at an odd angle. And then what was left of its rotten, flimsy mouth grinned at Nye horribly. The mouth opened, and a whisper came out, barely audible over Rainbow’s thundering heartbeat.

“Ssssecret’sss ouuuuutttt…..”

“SCOOTALOO!”

The filly snapped back into motion, frantically struggling with the shackles, tears streaming down her face. “Oh Luna oh Luna oh Luna oh Luna…”

The hideous undead thing reared back on its hind legs at Nye, who shook off his own horror just in time to smash his head against its chest. The zombie stallion fell onto its back with a hiss and clatter, one of its front legs snapping off and sliding away.

Come on, Scoots,” Rainbow whispered as she watched Nye get tackled from behind by the other guard, now a hideous mass of flesh and muscle. But Nye fought him off with a grunt and smashed the ugly thing’s skull against the cell; it left a gooey, sickening mess against the bars that made the stallion vomit. And then he jumped back; the corpse was getting up again!

At last one of Rainbow’s hooves came loose. With her new freedom of movement she snatched the keys from Scootaloo and worked on the shackles herself. Scootaloo was holding on to her hero’s neck in mortal terror. “IswearI’llneverdoubtmyfriendsagainandI’llneverentertheEverfreeForestohpleasedon’tletthemeatmeohpleaseohpleaseoplease…”

“Come on!” Nye cried to them as he kicked the corpse back to the ground and began bucking the cell bars. They snapped and bent, too rotten to handle the hit. Encouraged, he kept on.

Rainbow’s other hoof was free! A little extra work and soon she was completely loose. She tossed the keys aside, spitting out the nasty rust that had been all over them, and swung the paralytic Scootaloo onto her back. Just as she was about to rush the gate, however, she saw Nye get tackled by not one but four guards!

“Nye!” She opened her wings and flew, slamming into the ancient bars at full speed and smashing right through to the other side. She turned to see her friend struggling to escape the hideous creatures.

“Go,” he shouted over the zombie’s heads, “take Scootaloo and go! Don’t worry about me!”

Rainbow wanted to help, but the way to the stairs was wide open thanks to him. She couldn’t fight with Scootaloo on her back, and wasn’t about to leave the terrified filly alone.

“I’ll be right back,” she shouted, jumping into the air and flying up the stairs. “I promise Nye, I’ll be back!”


He had never, ever been so terrified in all his life! Zombie ponies, for fuck’s sake, real live zombie ponies!

Even in his terror his mind made the correction: real not live zombie ponies. He stepped back fearfully as the four things approached, shambling on broken legs and decaying bodies.

“Thee cuurrsse…”

“Ssaavve tthhee toowwnn…”

“Kiill…”

Damn him for choosing today to not be a coward! He let out a vicious snarl and charged, shoving against the things with everything he had. They fought back, but their decomposed bodies were no match even for his feeble strength; he broke through and was up the stairs, his hooves slipping and sliding on moist fungus. Grinding his teeth, thanking Luna he’d not been hurt or bitten or any of a thousand other possibilities, he made his way for the exit, trying to remember the path they’d brought him along to get him there.

He skidded to a halt on the rotten wood floor; his path was being blocked by more of the monstrosities! He darted down a hall and up some stairs, knowing that it was a mistake.

“Nnoo eesscaaaaaapppe…”

“Nnoowwheerre tooo rrruunn…”

He threw himself into the first door he could find and slammed it shut behind him. There was a big rotting bookshelf nearby; he shoved it against the door just in time for the rusted knob to start turning.

The younger Stone brother stepped back and gave himself a moment to recover his breathing. How had all of this happened? He was scared almost out of his wits! But no… he would find a way out of this. He’d finally found a home, some real friends. He’d finally escaped his father’s shadow. He was finally happy. He refused to die now!

“Wwhoo iiss thiiss?”

He jerked about, ready for a fight. He could see he was in a big room, but it was pitch black within. There were four large windows nearby, but outside the dim light they offered he could see nopony else in the room.

“Wwhoo iiss thiiss?” the feminine voice repeated.

"I am Nye,” he answered fiercely, “who are you!?”

“Ffoorrgootteenn mmyy nnaammee…”

He took a step back, noted that the doorknob behind him had stopped rattling. He didn’t like how that voice sounded. “Are you… are you one of them…?”

A dim red light shined in the darkness, a light in the shape of a unicorn’s horn. “Yyoouu aarre oonne ooff thhee cuurrssed oonnesssss?”

“We aren’t cursed!” he snapped defensively. “What do you want from us!?”

And then the thing stepped forward, and Nye’s jaw dropped. It was an alicorn, tall and grim and rotting, her wings nothing but sinew and muscle over bone, horn glistening with that red glow. She stared at him through eyeless sockets, grinned at him through a lipless mouth.

“Wwee mmuusstt prrooteect thhee vviillaaggee…”

He shook his head, pressed his back against the bookshelf in horror as she approached, her cracked hooves clopping loud against the mildewed and fungus-covered floor. “W-w-we are n-no threat to y-your village… J-just let u-u-us leave…”

The muscles of her formerly-massive wings creaked as they spread out to their full span. That hideous grin leered at him from the darkness, teeth red from the glow of the horn. Her hollow eyes glimmered from that same glow, like the eyes of hell itself.

“Diiiiiiiiieeeee...”

He cried out in terror and flung himself sideways just as a thin red beam sliced through the air and cut a charred line through the bookshelf behind him. He fled to one of the windows, sliding to the ground just in time to avoid a swinging swipe of laser aimed at his neck! As he fought to get back up he saw the undead alicorn Matriarch approaching, her hideous wings reshaping themselves into dangerously sharp-looking spikes, almost like a pair of scorpions’ tails.

“Doooonnnnn’tttt ffffllllleeeeee…”

He let out another terrified shout and leapt for all he was worth, front hooves smashing through the tall window. He landed on his belly on the second-floor roof. He started to rise and let out a terrible scream as searing pain tore through one of his hind legs. He looked back to see one of those sharp wings had gone through the window and into his leg just above the knee.

He clawed against the roof tiles, struggled to find something to hold on to. He had tears in his eyes as the pain intensified, the wing slowly dragging him back to the window. “Help me… save me! Rainbow, Jimmy, Luna, anypony, help me!”

He tried to jerk his leg free, was rewarded with more agony. He bucked at the wing with his good back leg, but couldn’t land a proper hit. He scrambled for some sort of purchase but was dragged back even more. “No no, nononono…” He lifted himself up, looked back.

The only thing he could see in the window was hollow eye sockets and grinning teeth, masked in a blood red light by that terrible horn.

HELP ME!”

Something blue filled his vision. There was a loud snap, a hollow screech of fury and agony, and he was in the air!

“I’ve got ya Nye!”

“Rainbow!” He gripped her in a tight hug and wept. “Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!”


He clung to her even after they landed next to the house in the woods. He was still weeping, too. Rainbow rubbed his mane tenderly. “You’re okay, Nye. You’re okay…”

“Is he alright?” Scootaloo asked, approaching slowly and gesturing to his bleeding leg. “That doesn’t look too good…”

“He’ll be fine,” Rainbow insisted. “You’ll be fine, Nye.”

Finally recovering his senses, he leaned back and gave her a menacing glare through his tears. “Don’t ever make me have to come and save you like that again!”He rubbed his eyes and sobbed some more. “I’m gonna have nightmares for months!”

“Me too,” Scootaloo noted miserably.

Rainbow smiled weakly. “If you do, come talk to me, okay?” The filly looked up at her mentor and smiled weakly. “That goes for you too, Nye.” He sniffed and nodded dejectedly, anger washed away in his relief at being alive.

Scootaloo, head low, glanced towards the woods beyond the house. “I guess I owe Apple Bloom an apology…”

Rainbow nodded, following her gaze with obvious fear. “We can’t let anypony else fall into that place. It’s way too dangerous.”

But Nye shook his head. “No, no we can’t tell anypony what we just saw.”

The two pegasi gave him an alarmed look. Nye took a moment to wipe his face one more time before explaining. “Nopony’s going to believe this. We didn’t, that’s why we came out here! If we tell other ponies they might do the same thing we did.”

Rainbow considered this for a few seconds, then nodded slowly. “Yeah… that makes sense. Maybe we shouldn’t tell anypony, after all.”

“But how do we explain that?” Scootaloo asked, gesturing to Nye’s leg again.

“Umm…” The blue Pegasus shrugged.

“I’m the bumbling hanger-on,” he reminded them with a weak smile. “I tripped and fell on something sharp. A snapped tree or something. That’s why we’re coming back early.”

The other two considered this, gestured their acceptance. “And Apple Bloom?” Scootaloo asked tentatively.

Nye dropped to his stomach slowly, cringing at the pain in his leg. “I… I think we should at least tell her the truth.”

“Yeah,” Rainbow agreed. “And now we know where the ‘ghost town,’ or whatever it is, can be found, so we know how to avoid it.”

Scootaloo nodded, hiding her face under her purple mane. “Can we go home, now? I really don’t want to stay here any longer.”

“Me either,” Nye said, slowly trying to get up. He let out a pained sound, blood dripping from his wound.

“Yeah, come on,” Rainbow said, helping him up. She stayed close, letting him lean on her for support as they began to make their way back. They didn't even bother to pick up their sleeping bags.

“This is gonna take forever,” he noted sourly as he limped along.

“I don’t mind,” she whispered kindly. “And thanks, Nye. Thanks for coming back for me.”

He stared at her, saw the sincerity in her expression and sighed in resignation.

“Any time.”


Fine Crime watched the trio leave from one of the fourth-floor windows solemnly. At his side was an exceptionally tall, slender unicorn with a near white coat with just a shade of pink.

“I don’t know about you,” he announced solemnly, “but I’d say that was a very successful test-run. You’re truly a master at illusions, Fleur.”

Fleur Dis Lee frowned sadly, shook her head. “I pray to Celestia you never ask me to do something like this again.”

“I know,” he told her sincerely, “and I’m sorry. But until the illusion is set to function on its own I need you here to keep it going. We can’t risk anypony finding the real cursed village.”

“You are right, of course,” she admitted with regret, “but was it really necessary for me to hurt the stallion?”

“He’ll recover,” Fine noted without remorse. “It had to seem real, Fleur. They had to really think their lives were in jeopardy. You know better than I that the illusions can’t really harm anypony.” She pursed her lips unpleasantly but said nothing. “How long will it be before you’re done putting the finishing touches on the distraction town?”

“Another week,” she confessed tartly, “give or take a day or two.”

He nodded and gave her a deeply apologetic look. “I’m sorry, Fleur. I really am. I promise, after this is done I’ll never assign you a job like this again.”

But she flicked her mane and raised her head snobbishly. “Don’t make a promise you might not be able to keep, Mane Archon. Even if I don’t like this kind of mission, I knew what I was agreeing to when I signed up. Don’t suggest otherwise; it’s insulting.”

“Fair enough,” he answered with a smile. Then, abruptly, he grimaced and turned away from her, rubbing his head with both hooves.

“The headaches?” she asked ominously. He nodded. “How long has it been?”

“Four weeks.”

She considered him darkly. “You should do something about it before the time comes.”

“No,” he whispered, “…no. I must test myself. If I am to live here, I must be able to control myself when necessary.”

“That’s too dangerous,” she declared firmly. “What if you lose it, go after somepony important?”

“I won’t,” he answered.

“Are you certain?”

He didn’t turn to face her. His expression was locked in an angry sneer.

“I won’t.”

Author's Note:

And now I can scratch off 'horror' from my list of genres in this story.

For those of you not in the know, the concept of this Episode comes directly from 'The Story of the Blanks,' which I highly recommend to those who like frightening material (as I do). It originated as a fan-made RPG, and was later adapted into both a comic and a fanfiction. Simply put, in my MLP continuity The Story of the Blanks is canon.

In a way this is the big Nye Episode as it shows how far he's really willing to go for those he cares about. Then again I suppose we might call this the big Nye Series as it seems to be focused heavily on him, no? There's going to be one more Nye-centric chapter in this series, but it won't be the next one; I feel it's time to put the spotlight on somepony else.

I went ahead and added new tags to this story: 'dark' and 'gore.' I still don't think it really qualifies as 'mature,' but my rating standards might be a little off. If people start calling for an upgrade then I'll make the switch.