• Published 7th Sep 2013
  • 16,608 Views, 1,249 Comments

Courage - scion



Evil has come to the Everfree and Ponyville. The Elements must stand against it... but they will not be alone. The mysterious blue-eyed wolf will aid-or hamper- their efforts to bring harmony back to Equestria.

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The Call

There were few times of the day Celestia had to truly relax.

Her days were, for the most part, almost completely full. Day to day affairs of the government affairs took up most of the morning with various meetings. Afternoons were often spent listening to the affairs of the common pony during the Day Court, and afterwards, listening to the proposals and complaints of the nobility; a necessary evil to keep them placated and not attempting to actively sabotage her and her efforts, which she knew from unfortunate experience. Even after-dinner was filled, working from her private study to review and sign documents, or to keep herself abreast of events and new magic in Her Own School for Gifted Unicorns. What precious little time she had to herself was further reduced by spending much of it with Luna- not that Celestia wasn't glad to do so, it was just that, well, every so often, she needed a bit of time to herself. The pace of work had lessened recently, what with her personal student now out on her own, and with Luna now helping, but the government never slept, and there would always be work the next day.

But she tried, every evening, to find a little time to herself. Even if only for a few minutes.

Which was why she sat in front of a cozy fire on this clear but chilly spring evening, curled in her favorite comfy chair, with a good book. An entertaining book, not a tome of spells or a treatise on magic (though she did greatly enjoy her students' friendship reports). Something, she could enjoy in the little private time that she had to herself.

In this case, Daring Do. Daring Do and the Griffon's Goblet.

She'd been enjoying this particular book for two months now; it had been an exciting ride through the high mountains of the griffon airies, but now Ahuizotl had captured the artifact explorer and was holding her captive while he gloated over the Goblet's capture.

She was, no doubt, coming up quickly on the flash finish. There were not many pages of the book left now. Even so, it would likely take another few nights before the book was well and truly finished; speed reading was a useful skill in the government, but Celestia preferred to thoroughly enjoy the books she read on her own time.

A door slamming pricked her ears. Hoofsteps reached her senses.

Luna was back.

Celestia set a bookmark in the page; Ahuizotl's monologue could wait another night. She got up, and made her way to the door in the side of her bedchambers.

Many times over the last centuries, palace staff and visitors alike had wondered about the room next to hers. Sumptuously decorated in a theme of the starry night, much as hers was decorated in the theme of the radiant day, the room had, for many centuries, been something of a mystery, one that Celestia had always refused to elaborate on. Now, though, it was clear; the room was her sister's, the resting place of the Night, adjoining the chambers of the Day. Two sisters, forever together, both in the heavens and in pony.

Celestia opened the door adjoining the rooms in her golden magic to find Luna depositing her saddlebags upon her coffee table.

"Tia," she said without turning. She turned to the bathroom, shooting only a fleeting apologetic look at her sister "Apologies, I must get ready for the Night Court."

"Don't let me keep you," Celestia replied with a smile. She caught a glimpse of Luna's own smile before the door closed.

"Did you find what you were looking for?" Celestia asked through the door. On the other side, she could hear the servants brushing away, preparing the Diarch of the Night for her Court.

"Yes," Luna's voice floated through the door. "Your student was most helpful. With the notes We took of the wall, and comparing those to the Spring, she was able to ascertain that the magics were indeed related."

Celestia frowned.

"Whatever it was, it is no longer there; we detected no traces of what we believe to be the aberrant thaumatic signature today, at least, not in the Spring."

"What do you mean, 'not in the Spring'?"

"The Bearer of Loyalty found something. An artifact; tis in my bags. The signature is too weak to make out, but... it feels like the thaumatic signature of the wall. Slightly."

Celestia, curious, nosed the bag open. There were a number of scrolls, and writing utensils, but there was indeed something strange within. Celestia pulled the black stone piece out and examined it closely. Behind her, she heard the doors to the bathroom open.

"I have never seen anything like it, sister," Luna continued as she approached, silver-shod hooves clinking with every step. "I do not know why, but... it feels important."

Celestia nodded absently, eyes never leaving the fragmented stone. "I take it you intend to study it?"

"Yes."

Celestia reluctantly tore her eyes away from the fragment. "Be careful, Lulu."

Luna rolled her eyes at the nickname. "Yes, yes," she grumbled. "Now, I need to be going to Night Court. And you need to go to bed."

Celestia harrumphed good naturedly at her sister before giving her a quick nuzzle.

"I love you, sister."

"... I love you too, Tia."

---

Epona wandered around the barn in the morning sun, waiting for Applejack to come out of the house. Applejack had said there was a lot of work that needed doing around the farm, and Epona was more than willing to help out in return for her hospitality.

Her thoughts wandered to the night before, and the 'party', as she idly waited. There had been so many little ponies! Just thinking about it made her head spin. And there had been food, more like the raspberry cros-sonts- it was all she could do not to eat them all. And the drinks- the pink one, Pinkie... Pie! that was it!- the pink one had brought something called 'punch', a red color that tasted sweet on her tongue. And she had brought games too, which Epona had tried to play- she wasn't certain why pinning the tail on the pony was so popular, but it had been fun once she had tried it. Even the nice winged-horned pony- Luna!- came.

But Link wasn't there.

Epona nickered and shook her head. She was worried for him. He wasn't... himself these days. Not quite. But there was nothing she could do except find and help him.

The sound of a wooden door shutting brought her attention to the house, where Applejack beckoned to her. Together, the two set off at a brisk trot- a fast walk for Epona- in the direction of the Everfree.

"After all the ruckus goin' on in th' Everfree, we decided we needed t' replace the fence along the forest. Now, me an' my brother got that under control, don't you worry. An' Big Mac cut all the boards 'afore we began, so we don't need help with that either. That said, we could use some help haulin' things 'round. We got all the boards in a pile over here, an' ah think we could get you hooked up t' the big wagon. Then ya can go back an' forth between mah brother an ah gettin us the stuff fer the fence. Sound good?"

It took Epona a few seconds to wrap her head around that.

"Okay." I can do that.

Applejack chuckled as she trotted up to a pile of wood and boards.

"Alright, let me see if I can get these straps a little looser..."

Epona had stopped listening. Something very different sounded in her ears.

A tune. Played on a blade of grass. A very familiar tune.

Link needs me.

"I have to go!" she whinnied out, rearing into the air.

"Wha... whoa, settle down! Wait up!"

Epona was already galloping, and gaining speed with every stride. Heading towards the sound. Heading towards the great forest she had found herself in when she had first come here. She didn't know why, or how, but she knew that was the way to go.

"Where you going!" she heard Applejack shout over the wind.

"I have to help Link!"

Applejack's response was lost as Epona launched herself into the air and cleared the fence with room to spare. Her stride never broke as she ran, full tilt, into the yawning depths of the forest.

She knew that was where the wooden wolves were. She had heard how dangerous it was. She didn't care. All that mattered was getting to where Link was.

---

The Guardian felt the call, echoing through the forest it guarded.

It was the Hero. He was in need of his most faithful companion, and she, she had heard his call and answered it.

It would take time for her to get to the spring. Perhaps too much time. The Hero had called upon her for a reason; she was needed now.

The Spirit contemplated the problem for a moment.

Then, the Spirit poured its magic into the surrounding forest, reaching out towards the galloping horse...

A white glow began as Epona galloped, shining in a corona around her. For every stride she took, it grew brighter... and brighter...

There was a flash of blinding light. And Epona was no longer there.

---

Epona nearly stumbled as she was blinded for a moment, but recovered quickly. She felt the familiar weight of a saddle and blanket on her back- when had that come back? She thought she had lost it when she had gone through that cave after Link's smell...

Epona's eyes widened. There he was.

Epona slowed to a walk as she approached her friend and master. Preparing herself.

He had called her for a reason, after all.

---

Applejack had an uncharacteristic frown upon her muzzle as she put up a new section of fence.

It wasn't that Epona wasn't helping her; she would have been helpful, sure, but in truth Applejack had just latched on to the first thing that had come to her mind. She didn't want that mare to feel left out. And they hadn't even started yet when she had run off.

No, it was why she had left that was bothering her.

Applejack understood family. It was in her blood as an Apple. You didn't abandon your family for nothin'. She didn't understand how the mare had known something was wrong, but Applejack wasn't one to question instinct and magic, not where family was concerned. Nor her reaction. Applejack would do anything for her family, she wasn't about to judge another for doin' the same.

But.... this 'Link' character....

Now, maybe he was family. Maybe he wasn't. Whoever this stallion was, though, he had the undying loyalty of Epona, a rather... eh, simple-minded mare. And she viewed him as her 'master', in her own words. Now, it could be that he was just doin' the same thing Applejack was doin' an' giving her shelter whenever she wanted it and food whenever she needed it, but... there was always that other possibility. The one where Epona was a slave without even knowing it,and this 'Link' feller was taking advantage of her.

And Applejack had no real idea as to which it was.

"There we go, Applejack!" came a voice.

Applejack forced the frown from her face.

"Thanks, 'Bloom," she told the three little ponies behind her. "Ah'm just about t' finish up this section of fence, you girls want t' help?"

"CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS CARPENTERS! YAY!"

crash

"Ooops."

Applejack turned around to find the three fillies looking distinctly nervous, with the boards they had gotten from the pile in a heap behind the cart the three of them had, together, managed to pull.

"Now, girls, you need to be more careful, specially 'round hammers and nails an' such," she scolded lightly. "Now, 'Bloom, you get the hammer, Sweetie gets the nails, an' Scootaloo, you can help me set the board right. Okay?"

"Okay!"

The three girls were real hellions on their own. The adventures (or, more appropriately, misadventures) the three had gotten up to trying to find their cutie marks on their own were well-known, and usually ended up with Applejack having to help her little sister scrub tree sap, or oil, or cotton candy, or peanut butter milkshake out of her coat and mane.

Applejack didn't mind though. She knew the frustration and desire to gain a cutie mark. And as long as they came home in one piece, she was fine with letting her little sister run around with her two best friends. The may have started their little club just to find their cutie marks, but Applejack knew those three would be friends the rest of their lives.

Heck, as long as they were supervised (very closely!) they made three very good little helpers- even if their cutie mark, much to their dismay, wasn't in carpentry.

The sound of galloping hooves broke her from the routine the adult and three fillies had gotten into. Ears cocked, she listened for the sound- it was heavy hoofsteps. Either Big Mac was rushin' around fer some reason, or Epona was comin' back. The fact that it was coming from the Everfree ruled out Big Mac.

Epona burst from the treeline at a sedate gallop and jumped the newly put up fence as though it was a hurdle at a rodeo.

"I'm sorry I had to leave like that,” Epona said, bowing her head in shame.

A severe frown Applejack didn’t even know she had lessened. Before she could get a word in, though, Applebloom spoke up in her place.

“Hi Miss Epona!” she waved. “You sure can jump high! Did you get yer cutie mark in hurdle jumpin’?”

“Cutie mark?” Epona asked plaintively.

“Yeah! You know, your special talent!” Scootaloo said, wings flaring.

“I wonder what a hurdle jumping cutie mark looks like,” Sweetie Belle mused.

Before Applejack could rein in the three fillies, they were scrambling around, trying to get a good look at Epona’s mark, much to her confusion.

“Ah cain’t see it from here,” Applebloom complained, craning her neck upwards. Compared to the three little pony fillies, Epona was absolutely gigantic.

“We’re too close,” Sweetie replied.

“Here!" Scootaloo jumped on Applebloom's back.

"Hey!"

"Now, you three take it easy..."

"C'mon, Sweetie!"

The little white unicorn wasted no time in jumping up the little filly ladder. Epona craned her neck back, confused, as Sweetie stared in open mouthed shock at what was before her.

"Well? What is it?" Scootaloo wanted to know.

It took a few seconds before Sweetie could answer. "She.... she doesn't have one!"

All three fillies let out shocked gasps. Then gravity took over and all three fell in a heap on the ground. Applejack rolled her eyes.

"Girls, Epona ain't got no cutie mark cuz she's a horse. Don't you worry, she ain't lost nothin'."

"But... but Saddle Arabians can get cutie marks!" Sweetie protested as she untangled herself.

"That's cuz they're more closely related t' ponies," Applejack told them. Thanks to Discord. "Horses don't get cutie marks, just like buffalo and griffons don't get cutie marks."

All three girls adopted thoughtful expressions at that. For a few moments anyways.

"How could you not notice she didn't have a cutie mark!" Scootaloo demanded, poking Applebloom.

"Hay! You were at th' party last night too an' you didn't notice!"

"Yea, but that was the first time I've seen her! You've been around her for days..."

"Now girls," Applejack cut off. "No fightin'. Now, me an’ Epona need t’ talk about some grown-up stuff- why don’t you girls head on over to yer clubhouse?"

Applejack barely noticed as the three fillies trotted off. She was eyeing Epona, trying to find some mark or any other sign of just what had happened to her with Link.

Her fur showed signs of sweat, showing she had worked hard, wherever she had been for most of the day. There were signs of a saddle, or some other harness, had been strapped around her midsection. Her hooves were dirty, and the fetlocks tinged slightly green, wherever she had gone she had run through dirt or mud, and a grassy field. But to be honest, she looked no worse than Applejack after a hard days' work.

Sure didn’t look like she’d run off into the Everfree on her own. Or that this ‘Link’ was working her too hard…

“I’m sorry I had to leave,” Epona said, hanging her head.

Applejack blinked. Then she smiled.

"S' alright. Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do. C'mon, y' can help me finish up this section. Grab one of them boards, would ya?"

It took a minute for Epona to work out the best way to put a board into place, but she managed to get her mouth around a board and get it into position. Applejack adjusted it slightly with a hoof before pounding a nail in, anchoring it in place.

"Where 'xactly did ya go?" AJ asked as they finished up the board.

"Link," she answered. "I had to help Link."

She grabbed another piece, and when it was in place, she continued.

"There was a wagon. With... Link's mate. And a foal. A very sick foal."

Applejack cocked her head. "An' you were pullin' it?"

"I was helping Link defend it from the monsters."

Applejack nearly dropped her hammer at that. "The what?"

"There were... great birds that would try to swoop down on the wagon... and boars, with creatures on them that shot fire at the wagon."

"Wha.... who? Why were they attacking!?"

"I don't know. But... I helped Link fight them. And the wagon made it to safety."

Ever since Epona had called Link her 'Master', Applejack had been suspicious. She'd wanted, so badly, to hate him, to punish him, because that one word was, to her seasoned ear, absolutely true. And if that one word was true... it implied certain, ugly things. Ugly things about Epona's past, ugly things about Link, and her relationship with Link. But so far... he was proving extremely hard to hate. Rescuing foals... taking care of Epona... maybe he wasn't so bad.

Maybe. Applejack wanted a good hard look at this stallion before she made final judgement.

But, back to the other matter at hoof…

“So yer a guardsmare?”

“Guardsmare?”

“Ya know, a soldier. Somepony who protects other ponies."

"Oh. No."

"So... you fought monsters because... Link asked you to?"

"I herd sheep because he asks me to too."

Applejack sighed. Talking with Epona was giving her a headache. Trying to figure out just what was going on with her, and Link, not to mention the whole matter of that infernal wolf and the disappearing shadow magic, was a real humdinger. Applejack didn’t like guessing games; so much better to get things out in the open where ponies could DO something about it than prance around the issue in the first place. Which made this situation all the more frustrating to Applejack, because nopony knew the answers to give them to her in the first place.

Maybe it was time to give up and let Twilight try and figure this all out. That mare liked puzzles.

She looked up; the sun was low in the sky now, dusk coloring the sky. Epona had been gone for most of the day, and had come back just in time for the sunset.

With a final few swings of the hammer, Applejack finished the section in front of her just as Celestia's Sun set beyond the horizon, making way to Luna's starry night.

Perfect timing.

"Well, thanks fer helpin out. C'mon, time fer dinner ah suspect. We'll keep goin' tomorrow."

"Okay."

Applejack set her hammer down on the pile of wood and piled up all the nails into a bucket (wouldn't do to step on a nail) before turning to head to the house- what was that?

Applejack whipped her head around just fast enough to see it before it went behind a tree. It was startlingly blue, a glowing pale cerulean lantern that floated above the ground. Then she blinked, and it was gone.

She rushed over to the tree, intent on finding the mysterious lantern, but it had disappeared. Not a trace of it remained.

Applejack stared for a second. Then she shook her head.

"Must be seein' things," she muttered to herself as she trotted off after Epona.

---

Deep in the Everfree Forest, a flesh-and-blood wolf padded softly along a seldom-used path.

He had come back here, following the scent of his good friend, trying to find where she had gone. She had seemingly disappeared when he wasn't looking, and while he knew she could take care of herself, with all the dangerous creatures running around these days, he would sleep easier knowing she was safe.

With that thought driving him forward, the wolf lifted his head and continued to follow the scent trail to his good friend.

Author's Note:

First off, warning you guys right now, next chapter might take a bit longer. I need to focus on my other fic for a few days before I start writing the next chapter for this one.

I know it's more filler, but I had to write this. Why, you ask?

Hmmmmm.... You know, I wonder how Epona always manages to appear behind Link when he blows the grass to call her....


Magic!

What, like horse magic?

Yep, like pony magic!

.... And we never see her except when she's called... Does that mean she goes to Equestria whenever Link leaves her somewhere?

Yep!

... I have to write this now, don't i?

Yep!

So.... Yea. The reason you are reading this story right now all started with the question "how does Epona always immediately appear behind Link?"