• Published 7th Sep 2013
  • 16,621 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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Recovery

Applebloom was grounded.

It was not the first time, not even close. She'd been grounded for a great many things– playing with the farm machinery in the barn (that plow was sharp!), trying to get her knife-thrower cutie mark, not doing her chores, the list went on and on and on. It wasn't even the first time she'd been grounded for going into the Everfree, she'd been grounded for that at least three times before, but the lure of an exploration cutie mark, or wild animal taming cutie mark, or any of the other myriad possibilities had proved far too tempting.

She had always known in her mind that the Everfree was dangerous. Upon reflection, Applebloom realized that the proximity of the forest to the farm meant that the danger, while not diminished, was familiar. She knew it was dangerous, but she had thought she had known all the dangers and how to evade them, and had therefore believed that she was ‘safe’. Even these days, with her big brother and sister putting up new sections of fence and talking about ferocious, mad timberwolves with red-glowing eyes whenever they thought she couldn’t hear, she hadn’t really considered what they were doing to be too dangerous. After all, there were guards all over the place at the quarry, they would protect her, surely. And Zecora, she wouldn’t stay so deep in the forest if it was so dangerous, would she?

And so she hadn’t listened. Not like she should have. And she had nearly paid the price.

That was the worst part about all of this. Applebloom could have done so many things differently– she could have talked to Sweetie and Scoots and done something different, she could have listened to her sister and gotten her friends to listen too– but she hadn’t. The mistake was hers. And while she was grateful that she had managed to escape the chimera in one piece, such thoughts only brought her shame. Because by saving her and her friends, Link had paid the price for their mistake.

A price that had nearly proved fatal.

Looking at him through the window as Fluttershy had worked to save his life was all the punishment Applebloom had needed. The grounding, the yelling and lecturing by Rarity and her sister, all of that was merely a formality. The real punishment was watching the wolf's still form, his sides barely moving as he whimpered in pain, the long furrows left by the chimera’s claws welling with blood….

And it was all her fault. Her and her friends.

That thought bothered her through the night and into the following day. It bothered her when she should have been paying attention.

*whack*

“Applebloom! Y’ alright?” Applejack asked.

Applebloom picked herself up off the ground, massaging the back of her head with a sigh. Her mind was so far off in her own head that she hadn’t noticed the plank being handled by Applejack, nor heard the warning, and had therefore gotten smacked on the back of the head.

“M’okay,” she mumbled out, staring at the ground.

“No you ain’t.”

Applebloom looked up to see Applejack looking down at her, concern written on her muzzle.

“Ya barely ate dinner last night. Ya barely ate breakfast this mornin’. Granny had t’ ask ya three times ta pass the pepper. Ya ain’t said more than five words all mornin’. Normally I’d say yer upset with bein’ grounded, but this–” Applejack gestured to all of Applebloom “–don’t look upset. You look down. So c’mon, Bloom. You know you can tell me anythin’. What’s wrong?”

Applebloom kicked a stone with her hoof. “Ah wish I could help, with Link. Somehow,” she moped.

“Link’s in good hooves. The best. Fluttershy’s the best vet in town, so don’t you worry ‘bout him,” Applejack told her younger sister.

“Ah know that!” Applebloom shot back, her temper flaring. She forced it back down. She wasn’t angry with her big sister, she was angry with herself. “It’s just that he got injured real bad because of some stupid mistake ah made, and ah want to try to make it up to him in some way but ah cain’t!”

Applebloom paced, head focused on the ground as Applejack watched. “First ah wanted t’ try t’ bandage his wounds, help Fluttershy that way, but then ah remembered the last time we tried to be Cutie Mark Crusader Doctors.”

That had been a fiasco. They were fortunate the medicine they gave Mr. Gear only caused hallucinations instead of something more serious. And by the time they were finished with Ms. Skie’s small cut she looked more like a mummy than a pony. They weren’t allowed in the hospital anymore to try getting their cutie marks.

"An' ah don't think Fluttershy would like it ah tried to help her anyway."

The last time they had tried to help Fluttershy, most of the animals ended up overfed and the three of them had ended up being chased around the cottage by a flock of very angry chickens and one ill-tempered bunny. Fluttershy had very nicely asked if they wouldn't do that again, if they wouldn't mind.

"Then ah thought 'bout tryin' to cook him a meal, but the last time we tried for our cooking cutie marks, Sweetie almost set the kitchen ceiling on fire and everything we made tasted like charcoal. Not even Winona would eat it, an’ if Winona wouldn’t eat our cookin’, why should ah give it ta Link."

Applebloom sat down with a thump.

"Ah really wanna make it up to him somehow, but ah cain't think of anything ah can do!"

Applebloom hung her head in shame. She just couldn't do anything right, could she?

A hoof tilted her head up. Applebloom, her eyes shimmering with held back tears, looked at her elder sister's smile.

"You helped him enough, Bloom. You an' your friends saved his life by takin' him t' Fluttershy in yer wagon. And he's in good hooves with Fluttershy lookin' after him. You done all you can, Bloom, an’ it was enough to save his life. Sure, he might be bed-ridden in Fluttershy’s for a week or two, an’ he won’t be doin’ any more heroics for another month, but he survived because of you, an’ that’s what’s important.”

Applebloom found some comfort in those words. But still…

“Ah just wish there was somethin’ more ah could do t’ help,” she said to nopony in particular.

“Ah know the feelin’,” Applejack sympethized. “Still, ain’t nothin’ that can be done now ‘cept let him heal in peace. That, an’ don’t get into any more trouble that would make him feel like he needs t’ save you,” she scolded slightly.

Applebloom snorted. The Everfree held no more allure to her, and she was fairly sure it didn’t to Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo either anymore. Heck, the only thing she could think of that was for sure good ‘bout the Everfree was a certain Zebra mare and her potions–

Shaman. Potions.

Applebloom sat bolt upright. Of course! Why hadn’t she thought of that before?! Zecora knew how to brew tons of potions, right? Well, maybe she knew some sorta healing potion! She had to try!

“Applejack! We have to go to Zecora’s!”

----

It took a good amount of cajoling, convincing, and pleading with the big filly eyes, but Applebloom managed to get Applejack to let her go to Zecora's hut in the Everfree. With an escort, of course. Applebloom knocked on the door of the tree that served as the zebra's home.

The door opened a sliver, showing the striped mowhawk of the zebra.

“Applebloom! Applejack! Come in, sit!” she greeted, gesturing inside with a hoof. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”

Applejack simply turned her attention to her younger sister, a move not missed by Zecora. She listened quietly and intently as Applebloom told her tale, about the wolf and how he had come to their aid, and what he had done before during the shadow as well. Zecora sat deep in thought after Appleblooms' tale finished, before speaking slowly.

"This Link is brave indeed, to rush to your aid in such a time of need. His body may be fearsome to behold, but inside is a hero bold. You wish to help this gentle canine? I have a potion… that may do just fine.”

“You do?!" Applebloom exclaimed. "Yes!"

Applejack was a little more suspicious. "A potion that can fix broken bones an' ribs?"

"That and so much more, my dear apple mare. It can heal wounds to the point that it is not even there."

"He won't need stitches anymore!" Applebloom was prancing with joy.

"Now why in the hay ain't this miracle potion in hospitals?" Applejack asked.

“It takes great effort to make; I may be the only one who has the skill it takes,” Zecora said as she began looking through a shelf filled with bottles. “The ingredients also come from only the forest here, a place of which most ponies steer well clear. Miracle potion you may see, but plentiful it will never be.”

She plucked a bottle from the shelf, as big as any normal jar, and contained a thick liquid. It was a soft golden color, and seemed to sparkle in the the light as Zecora held it up to examine it closer.

“The root of the gysula tree, which only grows in certain parts of the Everfree. Mixed with Alicorn's Mane and a healing draft of traditional design, it becomes a healing potion with powers divine," Zecora spoke. She held the bottle out to Applebloom, who took it reverently.

"Wait, that’s it? Jus’ like that?” Applejack asked. “Ah mean, it’s awful nice of you, but you don’t even know ‘im…”

“A friend of Applebloom’s is a friend of mine, no matter if he is pony or canine. It is the least I could do for such a hero true. It is also repayment of kind, to save him from his fate; his aid against an insect most foul I do appreciate.”

Applejack nodded in understanding. So she’d had to deal with an insect too and Link had helped her out.

“Well, it’s mighty fine of ya t’ help Bloom out. She’s been tearin’ herself t’ pieces tryin’ to make things right.”

“Thank you Miss Zecora!” Applebloom chipped in, a big smile on her face.

“The pleasure was mine; but you have taken enough time, I think. Go, run along, and help Link!”

---

“Sweetie, could you bring me those pins?”

Rarity kept her concentration on the correct spot while her younger sister brought the pincushion over. A few deft pins had the fabric properly held in place. She smiled in satisfaction, then went back to work.

It wasn’t her normal fitting room in her boutique. She hadn’t the heart to try to move her client there, and she would no doubt have refused anyways. There were, of course, good and bad things about this. Space was severely limited. She had to be extremely careful where she put things, and Sweetie Belle was very busy running back and forth between rooms, bringing strips of fabric in when she needed them, there simply wasn’t room to store the roll in the room where she currently was.

On the other hoof, she was able to discretely size up Link, and the fact that she had already done this dress once meant that her creative muse was free to imagine the possibilities…

“ow,” came a small voice from Fluttershy. Rarity refocused to find a pin rather uncomfortably poking Fluttershy. She quickly took it away.

“I’m so sorry, my dear, my mind was somewhere else,” Rarity apologized.

They were in Fluttershy’s cottage, the living room to be precise. They had cleared out all the furniture to let Rarity re-make Fluttershy’s Gala dress, something that Rarity insisted was absolutely necessary over Fluttershy’s token resistance. On the couch, the lounging, bandaged form of the wolf known as Link alternated between mild interest and sleep.

The most interesting fixture, however, was the large head that was coming in from the living room window. Epona, upon hearing from Applejack about Link's injuries, had become frantic. She had run off the farm, only to come back when she had realized that she didn't know where Fluttershy's cottage was. She then demanded that Applejack take her to Fluttershy's; Applejack had discovered that an angry horse was very scary indeed, especially when one took into account that Epona was three times her weight and more than twice her height. Once there, having stuck her head through Fluttershy's open window, she had been reassured of Link's alive but convalescent condition and had finally calmed down. She now watched Rarity's work with interest, her brown eyes following the needle held in Rarity's magical grip.

The audience was unusual, but not bothersome to the fashion mare. She knew she was among friends. No, the bothersome part of all of this was that she had yet to think of something she could make for Link.

Oh he could certainly do with a good washing and a manecut, but under the treatment of the spa sisters his coat would be positively lustrous. The problem was what to do after that. Rarity was of the opinion that most everypony needed clothes or accessories of some sort to bring out the best in them; even Princess Celestia's natural radiance was enhanced by her peytral, crown and shoes of gold, complementing her pure white fur.

Still, she had never designed for something so foreign as a wolf. Cats, certainly, Opal had given her plenty of practice there. Dogs, sometimes, though for the most part dogs were ungrateful beasts who fidgeted and scratched and ruined her designs. She had hopes that, what with Link being far better mannered, that whatever she designed would survive longer than a few uses. She hoped.

Though perhaps she should go the Applejack route and design something more practical. Practicality was sometimes a variable that had to be considered, and she was forced to admit that Link had so far proved as rambunctious as the Crusaders. Lowering her artistic sights and designing something sturdier than normal may well be the only way he would wear such things longer than a few days.

Still, one could design something practical and fashionable.

She continued to muse as her hoof and magic went through the motions of fitting the Gala dress she had already made on Fluttershy. It was not hard, she had forced herself to re-make the dress to be identical to before; her improvements could wait until the next Gala. She simply had to make sure her mind did not wander too far off the dress and into what she could make for Link.

Her thoughts were derailed by a fast knocking on Fluttershy's door.

The manticore yowled in protest at the noise, causing Epona to pin her ears back, but a bark and a whine from Link seemed to calm her down.

Rarity scowled at the interruption. "Sweetie, could you see who's at the door?"

She did not pay it much heed until she heard excited muffled shouts that were distinctly filly-sized coming from the front door. Then the rushing of small hooves.

Followed by a bellow with a distinct southern twang. "Darn it you two! Watch where ya'lls goin'! No runnin' in the house!"

It was all the warning she got before two excited fillies barrelled into the room and promptly skidded to a halt, thankfully before they managed to make a complete mess out of everything.

Rarity let out a breath she hadn't known she was holding.

"What did Applejack just tell you! No running in the house!" she scolded. "You'll scare poor Fluttershy half to death!"

She had indeed already frozen up.

The girls had the sense to look abashed, but Applebloom was unapologetic.

"We came as soon as we could! We got this potion from Zecora an' she says it'll cure him and mend his bones and make it so he don't need stitches an' everything! We gotta give it to him as soon as we can so he can–"

"That's enough, Bloom. Yer talkin' like Pinkie Pie. Take a deep breath an' calm down," Applejack told her younger sister. Applebloom complied, taking deep breaths like her sister said.

"What exactly is this all about, Applejack?" she asked, setting her glasses down. "I believe I heard something about a potion that could mend bones?"

Fluttershy perked up at that.

Applejack waved her hoof. "Bloom had the idea t' ask Zecora if she had any healing potions o' some sort, and Zecora said she had just the thing. Claims it can heal anythin'. Gave Bloom a bottle."

"Can it?" Fluttershy asked hopefully.

"Ah dunno..."

"Don't you believe Zecora?" Applebloom asked, disbelieving. Applejack looked at her younger sister.

"It ain't that I don't believe Zecora. Guess it jus' seems too good to be true t' me," Applejack said softly. She shook her head. "Don't matter. Fluttershy, would it be alright if we gave Link this potion?"

She took her hat off, revealing the glass bottle, which she took and held out to Fluttershy. Rarity thought it a most interesting color, like liquid gold. It even sparkled in the light.

"It certainly won't harm him. I trust Zecora," Fluttershy said quietly as she examined the bottle. "Uhm..."

Fluttershy fidgeted around, and Rarity instantly saw her dilemma. If she moved to give Link the potion, it would throw off the incomplete dress and Rarity would have to start over. Still, the look on Applebloom's muzzle gave her an idea.

"I can have you out in a jiffy, darling, just give me a few moments. But maybe Applebloom should be the one to give it to Link in the meantime?" she threw out.

"You sure?" Applejack asked. Recieving no denial from Fluttershy, she sighed. "Well, alright then. Here ya go Bloom, fer goodness sakes be careful!"

Rarity hurridly undid the delicate pins holding the unfinished dress in place, enough to let Fluttershy slip out of it as Applebloom carefully approached Link, making her way through the mess that was Rarity's workspace without dropping the bottle.

Rarity watched out of the corner of her eye as Applebloom went from excited to somber. The poor filly must have blamed herself for Link's injuries. She knew Sweetie Belle did, she saw it every time her younger sister came into the room. Scootaloo was likely doing the same thing.

"Ah'm real sorry you got hurt," Applebloom mumbled to him, opening the jar. "But Zecora said this should heal everything."

She held the jar out to Link with the biggest eyes she could muster. Rarity could feel her heart melting, and she wasn't even the target. It worked, too, she saw the hard lines of his muzzle slacken into something a bit more friendly.

Link took the edge of the jar, and with a little cajoling and help from Applebloom, managed to drink every last drop. He licked his lips as everypony waited with baited breath for what would happen next.

Nothing happened.

"Did it work?" Sweetie Belle asked hopefully.

Link sucked in a deep breath, then let it all out at once. He seemed satisfied with something, and began to struggle to his feet on the soft couch.

"Wait!"

Fluttershy was next to him in an instant, pushing his shoulders gently back down, which he accepted. It was absolutely amazing how quick she could be when she put her mind to it, Rarity hadn't quite finished undoing the dress yet suddenly she was out of it and over by her couch.

"Let me check first," she told him.

The first to come off were the bandages around his trunk, and they yielded absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. The stitches simply fell out of the bandages, like they hadn't even been in in the first place. Even so, Fluttershy was careful and thorough– she prodded his ribs with a gentle muzzle, then parted the fur on his back to examine where the stitches had been in minute detail. The splint was the last checked, but it too was now in perfect condition, as good as new. Fluttershy smiled.

“Well, it looks like it did everything Zecora said it would. So I guess you can, uhm… go back to… whatever you were doing before?” she told him uncertainly.

Link responded by jumping to his paws and dismounting from the couch before giving a great big stretch- Rarity could hear the pops.

“Uhm, you can stop by anytime, uhm, if you want…” Fluttershy trailed off as Link looked at her. There was no mistaking the nod.

“Indeed. We all owe you a great deal. If you ever need anything, anything at all, just stop by my boutique,” Rarity threw in.

“Me an’ Epona will be down on the farm, ain’t that right Epona?” Applejack said.

Epona let out a nicker of agreement.

“Jus’.. try not t’ scare the cows, alright?” she pleaded.

Another nod.

He was then accosted by two missiles, one white and one yellow, that latched onto whatever they could reach and hugged.

“Thank you, Link!” Applebloom and Sweetie Belle chorused together.

A minute of hard breathing later, they let go. Link took a few deep breaths, gave a small lick on the cheek to each of them, then padded towards the front door. The crowd silently followed, though he gave them no mind.

Outside, Epona stood waiting for him, having galloped around while the rest were saying their goodbyes. A few words were spoken, none of them overheard by Rarity, before Link gave a bark, then padded off into the forest that was so near the cottage, disappearing quickly into the underbrush.

“There he goes. Off again into that darn forest,” Applejack muttered.

“Oh, I think we’ll be seeing him again,” Rarity opined. “After all, I highly doubt Epona would approve of him simply leaving.”

“I hope he doesn’t get hurt anymore,” Fluttershy said softly.

“I’m certain he will be fine, darling. He can take care of himself,” Rarity reassured.

“Yea. It's the Crusaders he can't handle. Whelp, back t’ the farm fer me. C’mon, Bloom, we still got chores t’ do,” Applejack gestured to her younger sister.

“I will come with you,” Epona trotted up. The three left together, heading off towards Sweet Apple Acres. Rarity turned to Fluttershy.

“Would you mind terribly if we continued, dear? I am so very close to being done…”

“Oh, of course, Rarity.”

---

Link padded through the woods alone, occasionally sniffing at something, but generally heading for the portal that would take him back to his land.

There were things he had to do there. It would keep him away from his village, his friends and family, just as it would keep him from coming here more often. Still, he promised himself he would visit occasionally. He liked it here. It was rather relaxing, once you were in town at least.

Yes, he would have to stop by from time to time.

Author's Note:

Shaman's Potion

Made by the zebra Zecora of Everfree Forest, this potion heals all hearts and temporarily triples damage dealt while in Beast Form.

Zecora's dialogue took me four days to write. I'm just not a poetry person.

Poor, poor Spike is getting all the hate! What did he ever do to you guys? Poor Spike.