• Published 6th Jun 2013
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The Witching Hour - Chaotic Ink



A new pony comes to Ponyville, but she's not all that she seems. Will the town accept Midnight Storm, or will Ponyville run her out like all the rest?

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Ch.7 - Poisoned Stripes

In the time since she’d first arrived, Midnight had rarely ventured into town. During those times she’d seen a good number of ponies going about their daily business of selling, buying, or transporting goods. Those trips into town had been mostly necessary, either for buying groceries, supplies, or the poker game she and her friends had. This trip into town today, however, was for pleasure. She had finally gotten tired of homemade celery-and-mayo sandwiches and the occasional piece of meat so she was heading into town to see if anything in the stalls or restaurants piqued her interest.

As she made her way to the market area however, she saw almost nopony in the streets, and those that were out quickly made their way back inside. Briefly, Midnight thought it was because of her and her pace slowed. Sure, Twilight and her friends, along with Derpy, Berry, and Lyra, all liked and trusted her, but it wasn’t like the whole town wanted to be her friend. She still got stares when she came to the market although they were more cautiously curious than fearful or resentful. Most stall keeps were nice to her but that was probably because she came bearing bits. Ponies also tended to give her a wide birth as well. It wasn’t her idea of an ideal situation, but it was better than ponies running away from her screaming or trying to drive her out of town.

When she finally reached the market area, she noticed Twilight and Spike jumping into Sugarcube Corner with the door slamming shut behind them. Now she knew something was up. For the first ponies (well, pony and dragon) who got to know her to be hiding from her like this… what if they had found out she ate meat? She began to move to the bakery when she heard somepony calling her.

“Midnight, are you crazy!? Get in here!” Turning her head, she saw Berry motioning her to come into her store. She changed direction and hustled inside, following Berry’s motions to move quickly. Once she was in, Berry slammed the door shut and locked it.

For a normal pony, it would have taken several minutes for their eyes to adjust to the darkness. Midnight, with her dragon eyes, had no such problem. Inside with her and Berry were Pinchy, Derpy, Dinky, Lyra, Derpy’s roommate and friend Carrot Top and, finally, Bon Bon, Lyra’s marefriend.

“Would somepony like to explain things?” Midnight asked the group. “Starting with why you all are in Berry’s shop in the dark?”

“We’re hiding from her!” Berry pointed out the window and Midnight went over to look. Outside was a pony in a cloak, one very much like what Midnight was wearing when she first came to town, who was pawing at the ground with her hoof. “Her name’s Zecora and she lives in the Everfree Forest!

Midnight raised an eyebrow. “And…?”

“And she’s a witch!” Lyra exclaimed.

“I think Lyra got into your good stuff Berry.”

HEY!” Lyra and Bon Bon yelled.

SHHH!” Everypony except Midnight said in reply.

“On the first hoof, Lyra can’t get into my good stuff; not anymore any way. On the second, this isn’t one of Lyra’s crazy conspiracy theories; it’s a fact!” Berry told her.

“I’m not crazy!”

“You can be sometimes,” Bon Bon told her.

“Anyway,” Berry spoke up again, trying to steer the conversation back to its original point. “Zecora comes into town once about every month or so, curses a stall or business, then heads back into the forest!”

“And, how does she curse them?” a still skeptical Midnight asked.

“She curses them by pawing at the ground in front of their shops and she probably says incantations too!” Derpy spoke up, her front hooves wrapped protectively around Dinky.

“And, have you heard her say anything?”

“Why in Equestria would we get that close!?” Carrot asked, some anger mixing into her answer. Neither Bon Bon or Carrot Top had really accepted Midnight. From the moment they’d been introduced both mares had been intimidated by the Kirin and weren’t pleased that their friends and loved ones were associating with her.

“Because then you’d see there’s nothing to worry about.” Midnight said coolly. “It’s impossible to cast a spell, curse, or hex without a horn.” The pony named Zecora had turned around and Midnight got a good look at her face. “And even so, a horn doesn’t instantly mean magical ability.”

“But she lives in the Everfree Forest, and that place isn’t natural, so it’s obvious she isn’t either!” Bon Bon pointed out.

“I live and work on the border of the Everfree!”

“That might explain a few things.” Bon Bon muttered.

“Will you stop that Bon!?” Lyra whispered angrily. “Midnight’s a great pony; I don’t see why you have to act this way!”

“Dragons are dangerous, and she’s half one! Next thing you know you’ll be inviting that Zecora over for a coffee!” As the two mares dissolved into arguing, Midnight looked over at Carrot Top.

“Anything to add?”

“Just don’t come around the house.” Midnight snorted and turned back to the window. After a minute Berry joined her.

“I know their favorite drinks; I’ll spike the prices on them.”

“Don’t bother Berry; I’ve had worse reactions, and besides… is that Applejack’s younger sister sneaking out of Sugarcube Corner?” Berry followed where she was looking, and sure enough a little yellow filly was out the front door of the bakery and following Zecora down the street.

“Has that filly gone insane!?” Berry’s outcry stopped the argument, which had sucked Derpy and the fillies in as well, and the rest ran to the window.

“Sweet Celestia, that filly’s going to get hurt!” Carrot Top wailed as Midnight brushed past her.

“I’ll get her, and hopefully stop this stupidity.” With that Midnight slipped out the door, slamming it behind her. Bon Bon let out a sigh.

“Finally. I honestly don’t understand how you tolerate such a thing; and around foals, too!”

“Bon Bon?”

“Hm?”

“That wine you like is thirty bits now.” There was a pause.

WHAT!?

-------------------------

Apple Bloom ducked behind another bush. She’d followed Zecora all the way from Sugarcube Corner to prove to her sister and everypony else that she was brave enough to do things on her own and that Zecora wasn’t a bad pony. Just like that Midnight her older siblings had told her about; supposedly she was even bigger than Big Mac. She’d never seen Midnight since she hardly came into town but AJ told her she lived near the school. So, maybe, she’d get to see the large pony for herself once school started.

Before the filly knew it they were at the edge of the Everfree and Zecora was walking right in. Once she was far enough down the path, Apple Bloom came out and readied herself. ‘I can do this, I can do this, I can-’ “Hey, your name’s Apple Bloom, right?”

“YIPE!” If Big Mac had been there the filly could have easily jumped over him. Spinning around, she came face-to-face with a black mare with dragon eyes who looked about as tall as her brother. “Who’re you!?”

“I’m Midnight Storm and your sister has told me about you.” Midnight smiled, making sure her fangs weren’t showing.

“YOU’RE the mare mah sister was talkn’ about!?” Midnight nodded, then her gaze went over the filly and down the path.

“Right now might not be the best time for getting to know one another. I figure we’re trying to talk to the same mare?”

“Oh, that’s right!” Apple Bloom hit herself on the head. “We gotta catch up to her!” Apple Bloom made to start running, but Midnight stopped her with a hoof on her tail.

“We’ll catch up to her together.” Midnight told her as she let go. “I won’t have a filly running around unsupervised in this forest if I can help it. There are a lot of dangers in here.”

Apple Bloom, now trotting beside the larger mare, looked up at her. “Yeah… um… we don’t need to talk about them.”

A small smirk formed on Midnight’s lips. It was nice that a filly was willing to go into the forest to help somepony, but she also needed to weigh the dangers a bit better. “Surely you’ve heard about Timber Wolves, and Manticores, and-”

“I know, I know! The forest is a dangerous place! But if Zecora can live in it and if you can work in it,” the filly gave her a smile, “then sure as apples it must be safe sometimes.” Midnight sighed. Yes, she worked in it, but she could handle herself against such dangers. Timber wolves at least were afraid of fire, being made up of wood and all, but manticores were harder to intimidate, and with a filly around they would just need to distract her long enough…

Thankfully the path seemed safe enough for now, and soon they were, slowly, catching up to the shadowy mare. Further in they began passing by clumps and patches of bright blue plants, and Midnight picked one for a better look. ‘Looks kind of like a sapphire.’ She gave it a few sniffs, then, deciding it smelled alright, she went to bite off a leaf. Thankfully, fate had other plans.

“APPLE BLOOM!” All three ponies jumped and spun around. Behind them were AJ, Rainbow, Pinkie, Twilight, Rarity, and Fluttershy. “YOU GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW!” Before anypony could say or do anything, an unfamiliar voice spoke up.

“Beware! Beware you pony folk! Those leaves of blue are not a joke!”

“Y-You keep your creepy mumbo-jumbo to yerself, ya’ hear!?” AJ called back, sliding Apple Bloom onto her back. The other ponies also called back to Zecora but talking all at once made what they were saying indiscernible. “ And YOU TWO!” AJ began again. “Midnight, how could you just let my sis follow you in here!? It’s dangerous!” Before Midnight could say anything AJ turned on her sister. “And why couldn’t YOU listen to your big sister! Who knows what kind of nasty curse Zecora just put on you!?”

“Seriously? You guys too?” Midnight was finally able to talk, although Pinkie singing something forced her to be louder than necessary. “She can’t perform magic of any kind unless she has a horn, which she doesn’t!

“And there’s no such thing as curses!” Twilight yelled, siding with Midnight. “It’s all smoke and mirrors, meant to scare!” Midnight snorted and moved forward.

“I’m also not happy with you guys about how you’re treating her either!” The other mares looked at her with confusion.

“Midnight, she’s evil!” Rainbow yelled.

WHY!?” Midnight roared, her temper suddenly flaring. “Because she lives away from ponies!? Because she’s rarely in town!? Because she looks different!? Oh wait, maybe I’m talking about somepony else!” Midnight pushed past them as she walked back down the path. Realizing they said something wrong, they followed after her.

“Midnight, we weren’t saying anything about you.” Fluttershy said quietly. The recent encounter with the dragon had left her somewhat less afraid of the large mare.

“Yes darling, we’re not saying you two are the same at all!” Rarity told her but Midnight wouldn’t hear any of it.

“Then tell me,” Midnight snarled, “one time that Zecora has actually done something evil. Just once and I’ll believe you.”

“She curses the stores and stalls!” AJ yelled.

“And what proof do you have?” Midnight countered.

“Nopony goes near them afterwards!”

“Because you think she cursed them which makes you stay away! No curse there, just superstitious nonsense!”

“She lives in the Everfree Forest!” Fluttershy eeped.

“I live and work on the edge of it!” Midnight had a feeling of déjà vu.

“Well, what is she hiding under that cloak? We can already see those dreadful stripes!” Rarity moaned.

I wore a cloak into town and you didn’t bother me about it!” Rainbow was about to say something, but Midnight slammed her tail into the ground. “Tell me ONE THING that is different between me and Zecora! ONE THING that makes you trust ME but fear HER!” She looked at each and every one of them daring them to say anything.

“Well, you just seem so much more friendly than she does!” Pinkie said, a smile returning to her face. Any argument Midnight was about to make died in her throat.

“But… but how could you possibly think I was friendlier? I yelled at you and threw you out of my house the first day I got here!” Pinkie nodded.

“Yes, but you just seemed so down in the dumps that I knew you didn’t mean it!” Midnight could’ve argued that, but she let Pinkie continue. “And after we all apologized you got happy and became our friend, like I knew you would!” Pinkie’s smile fell. “That Zecora, on the other hoof, never smiles and just has this mean look all the time! Who would want to hang out with a pony like that!? And how else can she defend herself in the forest without evil, enchantress-y magic?” Pinkie waved her hooves in front of her face to emphasize her point.

“Ah gotta agree with Pinkie on this one,” AJ spoke up. “Ya just seem really approachable compared with… her!” Applejack shivered, shaking Apple Bloom. “And y’all are part dragon! The forest shouldn’t be a problem fur ya.” The four others agreed.

“Midnight, darling, we’re sorry that what we said offended you, but we really don’t find you scary. Her on the other hoof…” Rarity shivered and another round of agreements went up. Midnight sighed. She wasn’t angry anymore, not after what they just said, but she still knew the whole situation was wrong.

“Thank you for that… I really mean it but this is still all wrong. You all know me because Twilight decided to get to know me. If she didn’t, can any of you honestly say that you would have tried after that?” One by one, each of them dropped their heads, ashamed that the truth was they wouldn’t have. “And that’s why the first thing I’m doing tomorrow morning is coming back out here and try to talk with her again, pony to pony. She at least deserves that much.”

“Actually she’s a zebra.” Twilight corrected.

The others looked at each other. “Alright Midnight, but Ah’m warning you: some things that seem like pony tales really are true.” With that the group began heading back to town.

-------------------------

Midnight awoke the next morning from a restless sleep. She’d been having nightmares again, most likely brought on from the previous day’s events. Her wings felt weird as if she’d slept on them wrong, and her fur felt different and hung down over her eyes. “Ugh, this is going to be a fun day.” She’d long since learned to power through her morning sleepiness and slid out of bed with few bodily complaints. However, before she could get to her bathroom, built further into the mountain and attached to her room, she heard the muffled pounding of somepony at the side door. She turned around and left her room yelling, “I’m coming!” hoping they’d quit hitting the door. When she opened it, Berry and Derpy were standing there.

“Hey Midnight, we just wanted to apologize…?” Berry stared at her friend in the door way, her apology dying in her throat.

Midnight tilted her head. “Are you alright there, Berry?” Berry continued to stare at her, but Derpy had a grin spreading across her face.

“SHE’S SO FLUFFY!”

-------------------------

“I don’t believe this,” Midnight moaned as she, Berry, and Derpy made their way into town towards Twilight’s library. Berry was convinced of two things: Zecora had indeed placed a curse on Midnight and Twilight Sparkle was the only one who could figure out a cure. Derpy, on the other hoof, was preoccupied with…something else.

“SHE’S SO FLUFFY!” she yelled again from where she was locked to Midnight’s side. Apparently the ‘curse’ had caused Midnight’s fur to grow so much that she now resembled a large puff ball with an equally poufy tail and her wings had shrunk to the point you could barely see them under the fur.

“That’s what you get for ignoring us.” Berry told her, a bit of smug in her voice.

“Berry, for the last time, she didn’t curse me!”

“Then how do you explain… this!?”

“I. Don’t. Know! But I can tell you that all she said was a warning, not a curse! Right now I’m just happy that it’s still early enough that nopony else is likely to see me like this.” The group continued along and soon they were outside the library. Oddly enough the door was already open and there were several signs of impact around the door. Looking nervously at each other, they stepped up to the door and looked inside.

I-I don’t want to talk about it.” In that short moment Midnight forgot about her own problems and did her best to suppress a laugh. Fluttershy, the meek, soft-spoken pegasus, had just talked with a deep, husky voice. Given what had happened with the dragon, Midnight had made a mental note to not do anything that would upset her, but what just happened was just too funny. Both she and Spike dissolved into fits of laughter, alerting the rest of the group, all of which had different things wrong with them.

“This is hilarious! We’ve got: Hairity, Rainbow Crash, Spitie Pie, Appletinie, Flutterguy, Twilight Flopple, and… eh… I got nothin’. Midnight Storm? Seriously, I can’t even work with that!” That got Midnight to stop laughing. While Twilight reprimanded Spike, Berry leaned over to Midnight.

“Zecora’s pretty powerful to do all this…” Midnight chose to ignore her.

“Ah see Zecora got you too, Midnight.” After a second of searching Midnight found the tiny Applejack that had spoken to her on the center table. “Ah warned ya, but Ah’ve gotta admit ya look a lot more friendly as a ball of fluff.”

“SHE’S SO FLUFFY!”

“Alright, that’s it! Derpy, would you PLEASE get off of me!? It’s embarrassing and what if Dinky saw you!?” Sheepishly the grey pegasus let go of the Kirin.

“Sorry,” she said with an equally sheepish grin.

“I think we’ll find the cure to this curse at Zecora’s place!” Rainbow had finally freed herself from the ladder she’d been stuck in and was ready for action, despite the fact that she was still flailing with her upside down wings.

“Ah agree with Dash.” AJ said, walking as close to the group as the table she was on would allow. “We’ll go to Zecora’s and make her remove this hex!”

“It’s not a curse or a hex!” Twilight yelled. As the group descended into arguing, Berry leaned over to Midnight.

“Well, if you guys are all heading back into the forest, I’m heading back to the store.” With that Berry left, leaving behind Derpy who had a guilty smile on. Realizing what she wanted, Midnight took a bracing sigh.

“Yes Derpy, you can hug me one more time.” The grey pegasus instantly impacted her.

“YOU’RE SO FLUFFY!”

“Yes, I’m a regular puff ball. Now get back to your mail route.” Derpy nodded and happily flew away. Unseen to both of them, Apple Bloom had snuck out past them during the hug. As Midnight turned back to the group she was immediately assaulted by Pinkie Pie. “Pinkie, what are you DOING!?” she yelled at the pink mare as she searched her fur.

“Applejack’s missing!” Rainbow told her. “You didn’t step or sit on her, did you!?”

“No, I think I would have felt that, or if she was in my fur!” Midnight finally succeeded in pushing Pinkie away.

“Apple Bloom is gone too!” Twilight noted.

“I bet they went after Zecora!” Rainbow said darkly. With that, the six ponies headed out the door to chase after their friends. Only Spike stayed behind, supposedly to try and find a cure.

“Fluffy Storm… Midnight Puff…?”

“You’re hilarious.”

Spike jumped and spun around, a guilty look on his face. “M-Midnight! I thought you were going with the others!”

“Somehow I get the feeling they won’t need me to make fools of themselves. Besides, you’re telling me Twilight read all these books and not one had a cure?”

“Well,” Spike shuffled his feet, “there is one she kinda refused to read.” Taking said book off the podium, he held it up for Midnight to read.

Super Naturals: Natural Remedies and Cure-alls That Are Simply Super.”

“Yeah, she couldn’t make it past the first part.”

Midnight rolled her eyes. “For somepony who’s Celestia’s personal student she sure doesn’t act like the sharpest tool in the shed.” At that she began leafing through the pages. After a few minutes she let out a cry of triumph.

“What is it!?”

“I just found an illustration of those blue plants we ran into yesterday! Let’s see here;

Poison Joke:

A distant relative of Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac, this plant infects ponies, not with an itchy rash, but odd magic that seems to have effects specific to individuals. Normal bathing and flushing of oneself has no affect as it is magic, not oils, that causes the ailments. Only soaking in a special blend of ingredients will alleviate oneself of the effects of this plant. Ingredients are listed below.”

“Wait, so there really is a cure for all this?” Spike asked hopefully.

“Yep, and from the looks of it most, if not all the ingredients can be found in town.” Midnight put the book down. “Come on Spike; we’re going shopping!”

-------------------------

“You know Daisy, I’m actually kind of surprised you let us in so quick.” Twilight noted as she paid her. “I figured the moment you saw us you’d run inside and lock the door.”

“Well,” the dark pink earth pony started nervously, “we kind of still wanted to when we saw you with… her,” she indicated Zecora, “but that new pony in town, Midnight Storm, she came in with Spike and explained what had happened to all of you. They showed me a book to prove it, as well as what they needed to fix it.”

“Wait, Spike and Midnight were already here!?” Twilight yelled.

“Yeah, they said they were heading to the spa with everything since they have such a large bath there.”

They thanked Daisy and quickly exited the store.

-----------------------------

*Bang*

“Velcome to die Spa-”

“Lotus!” Twilight interrupted, “are Midnight and Spike still here!?”

“Does Midnight look normal!?” Rarity added.

“Oh, ja! Zey are still here. Und ja, Midnight looks yust like her alt self. Ve must simply get zie recipe from her; it’s simply lucjurious!”
Lotus led them around the back to the large soaking tub. In it was Spike with happy and calm look on his face. Aloe was there as well, adding ingredients every once and a while.

“This is the life,” he said.

“Spike!”

“Oh, hey Twilight! You’re just in time; the cure’s all ready!”

“That’s great, but where’s-?” In answer to her interrupted question Midnight erupted out of the bath and clung to the side; her cured wings opening and closing lazily.

“Oh babies did I miss you.” They all stared at her. “Oh, hey Twilight; it’s about time you got here.”

“Why didn’t you come after us when you found out the cure!?” the unicorn demanded.

“I figured that either you’d come to your senses and ask Zecora for help, or she’d get fed up with how you were acting and kick you out. Either way, I get to laugh at a bookworm for judging the cover of a book.” Midnight pointed a wing at her. “Ha ha.”

“Oh, shut up and move over!”

-------------------------

The group of afflicted ponies spent a good half hour soaking in the large bath, enjoying their bodies returning to normal. More than once, Midnight flapped her once again large wings and even let Lotus comb her mane, now that it wasn’t a thick mess.

They all said their goodbyes after the treatment was over, wanting to get back to a normal routine after the day they had. On the way home Midnight stopped back at the flower shop and picked up a large glass case. When she got home with it, she immediately went into the living room and over to the window above the couch.

“Hehe… turns out you were the cause of all this ruckus.” On the sill was the bright blue plant she’d picked, and almost eaten, the day before, replanted in a bowl. Carefully, she slid the bowl onto the bottom of the case, then placed the lid over it, trapping the Poison Joke inside. Balancing the case with her wing claws, she brought the plant into her room and placed it on a shelf over her bed that had been carved out of the rock wall. She made sure to place it all the way in the back of the shelf so that it wouldn’t accidently tip over and out of the shelf. “In any case, next time Rainbow and Pinkie decide to plant a few fake trees, I’ll make sure they’re repaid in kind.”

Author's Note:

I have to start by saying this was the most difficult chapter to write so far, and that’s due mainly to the point in the chapter where Pinkie is explaining why Midnight is treated like a friend and Zecora is feared. I went over that conversation so many times to make sure it was explained well I almost got sick of looking at it.

I also thought it should be Pinkie who explains why because, well, she’s Pinkie! She’ll throw a party at the drop of a hat, so why would she be afraid of Zecora? It was her reason for fearing Zecora that I felt would carry the conversation, and I think I got it.

Originally poison joke was only supposed to shrink Midnight's wings, but shirotora offered the idea of making her a fluffy pony. So, I simply used both.

EDIT: You can also thank him for the idea for the rewrite. Midnight may not get to laugh at Fluttershy singing, but I agree this goes better.

Regardless, I hope you guys like this chapter. Next is the Celestia one. *insert Discord evil laugh here*