• Published 7th Sep 2013
  • 16,650 Views, 1,250 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 Missing Link

Epona slept soundly that night. Her dreams of running through green fields and gentle forests were calming and restful, and she knew neither fear nor worry. Nothing disturbed her sleep until the crow of the rooster woke her just as the sun rose.

She opened her eyes and righted herself on the bed of straw Applejack had laid out for her. Epona was relaxed, more relaxed than she had been in days.

Epona snorted, then breathed deeply, taking in the scents of the barn— the smell of painted wood, of well-kept metal, of hay and straw, and a little bit of a forest smell, something she thought she would smell back home...

Link.

She looked around, trying to find the source of the familiar scent.

There.

To her side, behind where her back had lain, was a black-furred mass.

Epona smiled as the rooster crowed again, eliciting an ear twitch and a whuf from the wolf that was her friend before shifting slightly and falling into a deeper sleep. He always had been a little bit slow in the mornings.

Epona nickered as she shifted her bulk around. Time to get him up!

She nosed Link's exposed belly gently, feeling the soft, warm fur. The ears pricked and the head came up to look at who was disturbing his rest. After a second, he laid his head back down, nosing his way deeper into the straw.

"Oh no you don't. It's time to get up, Link!"

Link whined plantively before batting gently at Epona's head as she brought it around to bump him again. Rolling over, he stood and stretched before giving a great big yawn, showing off his sharp canines.

Epona was not afraid. This was Link. She knew he would never hurt her.

Rising to her hooves, Epona stamped around and shook to get the straw from her mane before heading towards the door, Link padding along beside her. It took a few moments for her to manipulate the pony-sized bar on the barn doors, but she managed it all by herself this time!

Applejack would be happy for her.

The dawn was beautiful over the apple trees, the light blues and oranges of the rising sun playing off the few clouds that were in the sky and among the blossoming branches of the trees themselves.

The soft clink of metal brought her attention back to Link. He was in front of her now, looking up at her plaintively. A small whine escaped his throat as his eyes grew big and sad.

"What is it?" she asked, lowering her head.

Link responded by touching her nose and giving her a small lick on her forehead.

"I'll be safe here. The ponies who farm here are very nice." She paused, before bumping him. "I'm more worried about you. You don't belong like this. Get back to your normal self soon..."

Link and Epona both started as a crash was heard.

Applejack was on the porch, frozen with one hoof in the air, a platter with a large upturned bowl on the ground as she stared, slack jawed, at the two of them.

The clinking of metal brought Epona's attention back to Link as he warily began to leave.

"Link!" she called out. A few trots found Epona giving him one last nuzzle. "Please be careful..."

Link nodded, then resumed his light jog away from them. Epona watched him leave, then turned back to Applejack on the porch.

The mare was still open-mouthed as she stared at where Link had disappeared to. She hadn't even noticed that her hat had fallen off. Epona looked to the ground where the platter had fallen.

"Ohh, oatmeal!"

---

“Hey Sweetie, hey Scoots,” Applebloom greeted her fellow Crusaders. They chorused their own back, then promptly strapped on their helmets as Applebloom strapped on her own.

Applejack had been quiet all morning, muttering to herself and barely noticing Big Mac or Applebloom. When she finally had noticed her little sister, it had been to kick her out of the house a bit earlier than normal before telling her to be careful. Applebloom just shrugged and went to the clubhouse early. Her fellow Crusaders were there soon enough.

It was Saturday. That meant it was time for some serious crusadin’. They’d been planning all week for this weekend, just like they did every week. Weekdays were the small stuff after school. Weekends… weekends were the ones she looked forward to. That’s when they tried to get their campin’ cutie marks, or their bungee jumping cutie marks, or their catapult building cutie marks…. the list went on and on.

This week, inspired by the troubles of the town and the newest occupant of Sweet Apple Acres, they were trying for some new cutie marks.

First on the list: hurdle jumping, with high jumping, distance jumping, and maybe even some pole jumping in there. If they could find a pole.

Two hours later, the three foals staggered away from a number of boards, slightly bruised and disappointed, with no cutie marks upon their flanks. Together, the three of them got their helmets on, shook off their aches and pains, and headed off to their next adventure;

“Cutie Mark Crusader Ancient Artifact Finders YAY!”

---

The intervention Pinkie had held cleared Twilight's head.

A good thing, too. There was so much that needed to be done! She had to go over the notes she had taken of, she had research to do about magic and wolves and diamond dogs, experiments to run!

At the moment, she was perusing a book she had found on the subject of extinct species, which was the first real mention of wolves outside the realm of myth and legend. Her first real lead on the subject, and so far, it was telling her that wolves shouldn't exist...

Twilight set aside the book as the door to the Library opened. "Welcome to the Books and Branches Library, can I help– Applejack!"

"Twilight," she drawled in greeting. Her eyes darted left, then right, and she shut the door carefully behind her and flipped the sign to 'Closed'.

"Applejack?"

"Sorry, Twi, ah...."

She took a deep breath to compose herself. Twilight noticed her ears were flicking and one hind hoof tapped gently against the wood floor. She was nervous. Twilight waited for her friend to calm herself.

"Wheeww.... sorry, it's jus... it's kinda unbelievable," she began.

"Ah got up this mornin' and did the normal chores, as usual. When it came time fer breakfast... well, Epona's too big t' fit in the house, so ah usually take breakfast to her outside or in the barn. Well, this morning, ah got a big ol' bowl ah oatmeal an ah was takin' it out t' her, and ah found her standin' outside the barn... with the wolf."

"Wait, what?"

"You heard me. Epona was jus' sittin' there, talkin' t' the wolf, that big black one that we chased out of the barn. Same one that rescued Rarity an' helped Spike out. She was jus' standin' there, nose to nose with it, talkin' to it like Fluttershy does with her animals, an' it looked like it understood her!"

Twilight’s eyes widened comically. "Wha... where? We need–"

"Hold up now, sugarcube, ah ain't done yet. Ya see, when they were talkin’, Epona called out t’ him. She called the wolf ‘Link’.”

Twilight’s eyes bugged out and her mouth opened in shock.

"Yea, that was about my reaction."

"Why didn't you come get us?!" Twilight demanded. A stack of scrolls unrolled themselves in front of her and, after examining them, she furiously wrote something on one. She looked around the floating scroll to eye the mare accusingly. "This just proves that is all the more important to get Fluttershy to talk with him!"

Applejack blushed.

“Ah know… Ah’m sorry, Twi,” she apologized, pawing at the ground with a hoof. “It’s just… after the wolf— Link, after he left, ah… had a drink.”

“Hmm?” Twilight asked, furiously scanning the scrolls in front of her.

“Ya know… a drink… or three…” Applejack admitted nervously.

Twilight peeked around the scroll at that, eying her friend who suddenly couldn’t meet her eyes. A few careful steps forward, a slight sniff of her friends breath…

“It’s not even ten in the morning yet, Applejack,” Twilight stated.

Applejack stamped her hoof indignantly, fire in her eyes. “Ah know that Twi!”

Twilight shushed her friend. “I’m not judging you, Applejack. It must have been quite a shock, for you to need a drink some of your family's hard liquer to cope with it at eight in the morning.”

“Seven-thirty,” Applejack admitted. “It just…. seein’ those two together felt lahk the most natural thing in the world, a real wolf and an honest to Celestia horse…. ah jus’ couldn’t think of it that way. Mah nerves were so bad ah needed a few drinks t’ settle down.”

Twilight lay a hoof on her friend’s withers. “It’s okay, Applejack. We may not have gotten to talk to the wolf, but discovering his name and his relation to Epona is just as valuable.”

Applejack relaxed. “Thank you kindly, sugarcube. You goin’ t’ be…”

Applejack stopped when she saw Twilight’s eyes furiously jumping between the scrolls levitated in her magic. A quill darted back and forth between the two, and as she watched a fresh scroll took it’s place among the floating parchment and was promptly written on at a furious pace.

Applejack backed out the door as quietly as she could, making a mental note to check up on Twi in a few hours to make sure she wasn’t going off the deep end again.

---

“Are you sure this is the way?” Sweetie Belle asked.

“Of course,” Scootaloo replied immediately. The oversized pith helmet on her head wobbled as she swung her head left and right, betraying that statement.

In the wagon, Applebloom sighed. The stories from Twilight and Luna at Epona’s party had captured all three of their imaginations, though strangely enough, Rainbow Dash had barely mentioned it. Nevertheless, all three were already familiar with Daring Do, and the lure of a treasure-finding or exploration cutie mark was too much to resist.

The wagon lurched as Scootaloo made her decision. “This way!”

Behind, sitting in the wagon, Sweetie Belle and Applebloom held on as the scooter-propelled wagon bumped along on the uneven path through the Everfree. After five minutes of hair-raising speed, the foals found themselves at the edge of the rock quarry where the Diamond Dogs lived. They weren’t as worried as they normally would have been— in fact, they wouldn’t have done this at all if it wasn’t for the fact that the Royal Guard had set up a headquarters here to keep an eye on the Diamond Dog clan after what had happened to Ponyville. White stallions in golden armor were everywhere in the rocky quarry.

“Aw shoot we missed it again,” Sweetie complained.

“Ah didn’t see anythin’. We were goin’ too fast,” Applebloom said accusingly. Scootaloo snorted.

“Fine, I’ll go slower this time,” she said, turning around and heading back into the forest.

They didn’t know where that pool or stuff was, but Twilight had mentioned they had found some sort of other artifact just off some path between Ponyville and the quarry that had pointed them in the right direction. The three had reasoned that if they could find that, they could find their way to the spring whatever, and then they would get their Ancient Artifact Finder cutie marks!

It wasn’t going well so far.

And to be honest, Applebloom was having second thoughts. Scootaloo had insisted it was safe— they weren’t too far from Ponyville, and the guard had a serious encampment at the other end of the trail. They were just goin’ a little ways into the Everfree, after all. Not even as far as Zecora’s hut. But the little voice in the back of her head nagged at her about the promise she had made to her older sister. But this wasn’t any more dangerous than normal… was it?

Applebloom shook the thought from her head and focused on trying to find something that looked old and valuable as they bounced down the road. She didn’t really see anything through the dark underbrush of the Everfree; no pathway, no mystical glowing artifact, not even—

Applebloom suddenly found herself airborne as she was flung from the cart.

She screamed before she landed, rolling across the dirt and rocks of the pathway before hitting her helmet on a tree and coming to a stop.

“Wha… what happened?” she asked as her eyes spun. She heard bleating nearby.

Why is there a goat out here?

Applebloom vigorously shook her head and took a good look around, searching for her friends.

Instead, she found a great lion, a goat’s head emerging from its back, and a snake instead of a tail. All three had glowing eyes as red as blood. All three heads were fixed on her as the lion opened its mouth, showing sharp fangs.

Applebloom screamed.

---

Three simultaneous, extremely high-pitched screams brought Link up short. He lifted his head from the hole he had been digging and listened, ears cocked, listening for something, anything.

A roar echoed through the forest. Three more screams echoed after it.

Link barrelled through the underbrush towards the sounds.

---

A small part of Applebloom's mind recognized the creature as a chimera. Cheerilee had assigned homework on wild creatures before and while she wasn't perfect, she knew a fair few of the creatures of the Everfree. From what she could remember, they were a competitor for the manticore, and–

Braying gave her warning and she ducked behind a tree. A heartbeat later flames licked around the tree. Applebloom breathed a sigh of relief, before noticing that her tail was smoldering. A roar from the creature stopped her furious attempts to blow it out as she galloped as fast as her little hooves could carry her.

"Sweetie! Watch out!" came Scootaloo's voice.

Applebloom turned her head back just in time to see Sweetie Belle dodge the snapping snake that was the chimera's tail. The lion roared again and swatted at Scootaloo, who only barely managed to get behind a fallen tree in time.

"C'mon, we gotta run!" Applebloom cried out.

"Easier said than done!" Scootaloo shot back from her hiding spot under the tree. Sweetie Belle screamed as the snake snapped at her again.

The goat head, eyes glowing red as blood, turned to face Sweetie Belle and bleated. Applebloom's eyes shrank to pinpricks— she knew what was about to happen. The goat opened its mouth... Sweetie looked at it with terror on her face, there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide....

A snarl echoed through the little path. The wolf, canines bared and fire in its blue eyes, slammed into the goat's neck. The two tumbled into the underbrush.

Applebloom rushed over to the frozen Sweetie Belle as growls, snorts, hisses, roars and fire came from the bushes.

---

Link dodged a blast of fire from the goat head with a snarl as he rounded and leapt at the lion head. He latched on to the lion's throat, but was batted into a tree before any real damage could be done. He landed with a pained yelp, before scrambling out of the way of the irate, red-eyed beast.

He was not quite fast enough. The snake tail lashed out, coiling around Link in the blink of an eye, trapping him. Link thrashed, trying to get free, as the snake hissed at him, preparing to sink venom-laden fangs into its prey even as it continued to tighten around him like a vise. He could feel his ribs groaning under the pressure.

Giving up attempts to get free, Link instead thrashed his head around enough to get his teeth in range of the snake, and bit down on what he could reach, hard. The snake tail hissed in pain and went limp, the red in its eyes dimming before finally going dark. Link scrambled free of the now limp coils as the goat bleated, and managed to just barely dodge another blast of fire.

He was limping now. Something about that tree hadn't done him any favors, and the pain in his side as he circled the chimera indicated the snake had done some damage as well. The chimera was hurt as well, the snake tail dragging limply behind it and blood leaking down its front.

Voices filtered through the underbrush– the little ponies! The chimera growled deep in its throat, turning to face its intended prey as the goat head kept watch on the wolf in front of it. It was a mistake.

Ignoring his injuries, Link sprang forward with a snarl. He leapt, canines bared, just as the lion turned to face him. Link sank his fangs into the lion’s neck and his claws into its shoulders and held on.

The chimera let out an awful screech and thrashed wildly. Claws unsheathed from its forepaws batted and tore at Link, trying to get him to let go, but Link stubbornly held on to his death grip even as the claws raked his sides. He clenched his mouth and focused entirely on keeping the animal in his teeth, no matter what.

Desperate, the red-eyed chimera slammed into a tree. The impact was enough to knock the lion head out, but it was also enough to cause Link to black out for a few moments. He came to lying on the ground, with his ribs aching and his hind right leg hurting and his sides screaming at him in pain. But the chimera was down.

The goat head bleated.

Link staggered to his paws as quickly as he could, but overstretched himself and fell back to the ground. He watched and tried desperately to rise as the goat head peered over the body of the chimera. Red eyes zeroed in on him, and the head opened its mouth to unleash a storm of fire—

An orange bolt of energy slammed into the prone form of the chimera. The goat head instantly went limp. Link managed to lift his head enough to see his shadowy imp companion lowering one of her arms, orange energy crackling around it. She turned to him.

She said some words in her strange language, concern evident in her voice and face. An arm reached out for his muzzle—

The clop of little hooves stopped her. She gave a quick gasp, then retreated back into the shadow from whence she came.

Link collapsed back on to his side, whimpering in pain, as three little ponies parted the underbrush in front of him.

Author's Note:

I hope this is the first time I've used Link's name in connection with 'the wolf'. If not, It's going to be so much nicer now that I can refer to him as such.

Sorry for the cliffhanger, peoples. I'm going to be out of town on business for the next two weeks, which means that I either have a lot of time to write, or that I am so busy I'm not going to have any time to write. That, and I have been putting off writing the next chapter to my other story for three months now... soooo... don't expect a resolution to poor Link's situation soon.

But I will continue writing. You can be sure of that.