• 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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Mystery

Celestia knew the moment the wall dropped; the Sun was shining on Ponyville again.

She did not even take a door out of the castle, choosing instead to throw open the nearest window she could fit through and fly out, much to the surprise and consternation of her startled guards. She barely even took the time to shout out where she was going. Then she was falling through the air- Canterlot, being built precariously on the side of a mountain, had a more than two thousand foot drop right outside a fair few of the palace windows.

She took a moment to enjoy the sensation of free fall. It was something she and Luna used to do, when they were young and the world was an adventure just waiting to be discovered. Here, in this timeless moment of falling, the adrenaline rushing through her body, Celestia was a giddy young filly again.

Then the moment was over. Celestia spread her wings to their unmatchable full wingspan and caught herself, gliding gracefully out of the fall before turning and climbing. Behind her, the few pegasus guards that had managed to follow her fell further and further behind. There was only one thing in Canterlot that could rival the Solar Diarch’s wingspan or speed.

Luna joined her sister as the guards continued to fall further and further behind, now little more than dots in the distance. Flying over the countryside now, faster than the Ponyville Express, the two princesses made for the now re-appeared town.

___

Twilight packed her saddlebags as quickly as she possibly could, without even a checklist. Such a thing made her cringe, but time was of the essence; she promised herself she would make a checklist later.

Satisfied, she telekinetically seated them on her back. It was nice being able to do magic again; one never really knew what they had until after they lost it. She had read that same statement many times before, but she had never really appreciated it as deeply as she did now.

"Sppppiiikkke! I'm headed out to get the girls," she called as she descended the stairs. "Spike?" When no immediate answer came, she began to look for her number one assistant.

The library was a mess right now, even more so than when she went on one of her studying binges. She didn't usually move all the furniture around and knock shelves full of books to the ground. Usually.

"Can I come?"

Twilight gave a startled scream and jumped a good three feet into the air as a pile of books right next to her suddenly moved to reveal the little dragon.

"Don't do that Spike!" she admonished him, trying to calm her racing heart. "And not right now. I need to gather the girls. What YOU need to do, my number one assistant, is try to find any mention of that phenomenon we were in."

Spike drooped. "Aw, I never get to do the fun stuff."

Twilight opened the door as she smiled. “You’re still just a baby dragon, Spike. I’m sure there will be plenty of excitement and adventu-”

Twilight vanished in a prismatic rainbow and a puff of feathers.

“Wow, I guess you’re right, Twilight, that was pretty exciting!” Spike told empty air.

At the bottom of a freshly made pile of books, a rainbow tail and cyan limbs were mixed in with a purple horn and various purple limbs. A moment of struggle, culminating in a bookslide, revealed Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash, eyes still slightly unfocused.

“Rainbow Dash!” Twilight Sparkle shouted at the pegasus. “What was that for?!”

The cyan mare gave a shake of her head. When she was done, her eyes were focused again.

“TWILIGHT!”

“Yes, Rainbow Dash, I’m right here!” Twilight said testily, crossing her hooves. “And how many times have you crashed into my library now? Spike?”

“Five… Ten… four… fourteen times,” Spike counted the tick marks on the scroll on the wall.

“At least it was through the door this time. I think that’s a first for you, Rainbow.”

Rainbow ignored it all and grabbed Twilights head in her hooves.

“Not important! We need to get the girls, stat!”

Rainbow grabbed her in her hooves and headed for the door, her wings a blur.

"I was about to do that before you crashed into meeeee!" Twilight protested into the distance.

Alone now, the little purple and green dragon looked around at the mess that was the library.

"Right. You head off on another exciting adventure to save the day while I clean up the library. Again. Sounds great to me," he grumbled to himself.

Setting aside his thoughts, Spike picked a book up off the floor and began searching for the proper shelf to place it on.

---

The last member of the group to be rounded up was Fluttershy. Twilight and Rainbow had split up to gather the girls, Rainbow heading for Fluttershy as she dropped Twilight off in the center of town. From there, Twilight found a confused yet active apple farmer, an irrepressible pink pony already planning a 'We Survived the Twilight Realm!' party, and a distraught fashionista. However, a brash cyan Pegasus accompanied by a demure yellow Pegasus never materialized. As the four friends closed on the house, they saw the reason why.

Rainbow Dash flew around the house at top speed, attempting vainly to find a way into the small cottage. She appeared to be having little success, mainly due to the fact that the windows had been barricaded and were being viciously defended by various small critters. Her front door, the top half ajar, was guarded by Angel Bunny, who was waving a carrot around as he directed the defenses, and by an irate manticore. Fluttershy was nowhere to be seen.

"Twilight! Thank Celestia you guys are-OW!"

A well-aimed acorn from the Upper-Story Squirrel Defense Force pinged off of Rainbow's skull, distracting her enough that she couldn't finish her maneuver and ended up crashing into the ground, right in front of the rest of her friends. She was back on her hooves in an instant, none the worse for wear for crashing into the ground, though an angry welt was forming on her head from the acorn.

"Buckin' squirrels!" she cursed, shooting an angry glare at the window she had been hit from. "They won't let me even SEE Fluttershy! I've tried everything!"

Before them, the manticore hissed, teeth bared and stinger tail waving threateningly. The mares all took an involuntary step backwards at the display.

"I never seen a critter so riled up 'afore!" Applejack said, wide-eyed.

"How are we going to get to Fluttershy now?" mused Rarity.

"I go in and get her," Twilight replied. Her voice held resolve in its tone.

"You can't just walk in there! They won't let you, believe me I've tried!" Rainbow snorted.

"Teleport."

"Oh. Right."

Putting words to action, Twilight's horn glowed brightly, and with a faint *pop*, she was gone.

Twilight re-appeared in Fluttershy's bedroom. Fortunately, before the animal defenders could act, Twilight had found her objective. A pink tail stuck out from under the bed. Twilight managed to duck under just as the first acorns were thrown. Under the bed, she found herself nose to nose with the Pegasus.

"Twilight?"

"Yes, Fluttershy?"

"Um, why are you under my bed?"

"We need to get the Elements together."

"S-so that means that weird darkness is gone?"

"Yep! Didn't you notice?"

"It's kind of dark under here. That way I didn't have to see any of the monsters."

"Well, the monsters are gone and we need all the girls together."

"O-oh. Um, couldn't you have knocked?"

"Nope. Angel Bunny organized a defense of your house and wouldn't let anypony in."

"Oh no! I have to stop him!"

Fluttershy bolted out from under the bed. Twilight, glad her friend was no longer hiding from the world and could come help the rest of her friends, scooted out from under the sumptuous bed herself.

"Well, that's done, now to- uh oh." Twilight's pupils constricted to pinpricks- she knew she had forgotten something.

The Bedroom Defense Force moved to defend the yellow caregiver's house from the intruder. As one, the cute and fuzzy creatures of death leapt at their target.

"AUGH!"

---

"Alright girls, we need to find out what happened, and what to do next."

Twilight led the group from a sitting position. The Squirrel Brigade had been aggressive, severely mussing her mane and tail to and giving her many small scratches and even some bites before Fluttershy had managed to get them to cease their attack. Assurances from Fluttershy that her little friends were only trying to protect her, and yes, she was sure none of them had rabies or any other diseases, equine or otherwise (she made a mental note to double check this with the list she had at home), had staved off retaliation. For now, Twilight was content to begin puzzling out the mystery of what had happened while Rarity fussed over her with a brush.

"Dunno 'bout you girls, but me an' Rainbow didn't see it happen. All we know is some sorta' explosion happened jus' before that darn twilight lifted, right over the Everfree," Applejack supplied. Rainbow nodded in agreement.

"I was baking a cake! Maybe taking the cake out of the oven caused all this? GASP! But that would mean I can't bake triple chocolate cakes anymore, and there's no way anything with triple chocolate in it is bad! Except for maybe ponies who hate chocolate, but who hates chocolate? Besides somepony who's lactose, but even then you don't really hate chocolate, you just hate that you can't eat it and project your hatred onto the cake itself. Anyways-"

"Sugarcube, you actually see anythin' happen?"

"Nope!"

"Right. Rarity?"

"I'm sorry darling, I was in the zone and didn't notice a thing. There, now you look... well, almost presentable," Rarity told Twilight. Her fur still looked mussed, but her mane and tail were back to normal at least. She turned to the last pony.

"Fluttershy?"

"Oh, um, I never actually saw anything... but Mr. Manticore told me something... something evil was happening in the Everfree... and that it would go to Ponyville."

And she had hidden under her bed. Well, Twilight couldn't blame her friend for acting like herself.

"Did he say anything else?" she asked. Fluttershy shook her head.

"No. He didn't even like to talk about it, whenever I tried to ask him he would start shaking. I don't think he knows exactly what it is, all he knows is that its very, very bad."

Twilight thought for a moment, her friends waiting anxiously for her decision.

"We don't know what caused this, or why it stopped. At the moment, all we know is that our best guess is that it originated somewhere in the Everfree, that it brought terrible things to Ponyville, and that something in the Everfree appeared to be the reason it went away."

Twilight sighed.

"We need more information, and I just brought bestiary and magical phenomenon books. We need to research the Everfree, see if there's any precedents for this or if there's anything about the Everfree that can help explain this. We need... a research project!"

A loud groan came from Rainbow.

Twilight ignored her friend. She was beginning to feel excited, the mere prospect of a research project buoying her spirits. Oh, this was going to be so much fun!

"To the Library!"

---

Fluttershy lived at the edge of the Everfree, but Ponyville was still small enough that it was only a few minutes to her library at full gallop. Twilight was excited, even she had not read every single book in her library, and now she had an excuse to read some new ones. Most of the others ranged from weary resignation to silent contemplation, though Pinkie remained unflappably happy as always. Rainbow was the only one who seemed truly unhappy at their destination- or rather, what she would have to do once they got there. She wasn't keeping it quiet either.

"C'mon Twi, can't we just, ya know, go into the Everfree and check it out? It wouldn't take too long, especially if it was just me! I bet I could figure out this whole mess in under an hour!"

"Too dangerous, Rainbow. We don't know what we'd face. It's already bad enough that it’s in the Everfree, but throwing those monsters on top of it? Not good."

"Rainbow, one of those bugs took mah sledgehammer and broke it like it was a twig. What makes ya think you'd fare any better?"

"I'm awesome, duh! Nothing can stop Rainbow Danger Dash!"

"Too late, we're here." Twilight grinned wryly. A groan came from the pegasus. Using her magic, Twilight opened the door.

"Everypony in! We need to start looking for books on the Everfree. I'm sorry the library's in such bad shape, but- Princess Celestia!"

Twilight had been so focused on giving her friends instructions she hadn't even noticed them bowing... or the great big white pony in gold regalia in the room... or the slightly smaller blue pony wearing silver regalia also in the room. Twilight froze.

Celestia smiled at the six mares. "Rise, my little ponies. There is no need to stand on ceremony here," she told them, walking forwards. She smiled gently down at her student for a moment as said student attempted to stammer out a reason why the library was such a mess. Celestia gently cut her off.

"I am glad to see you are alright, my faithful student. Your life, and the lives of your friends, mean more to me than all the books in this world," she said, embracing her student with a wing. Twilight blushed at the contact, but did appear to be less stressed. Celestia gave her a motherly smile.

"When we found the library in such a state, I must confess I thought my student had had another one of her 'episodes'," she told them. Twilight's cheeks burned again, this time from shame more than embarrassment. "Still, Spike told us what had happened, and mentioned that you would likely be coming back, so we decided to wait here for you and start tidying up." She smiled conspiritorially at her student.

"Luna has been spending so much time in the Royal Library, I would not be surprised if she could set all these books back on their proper shelves in her sleep," she whispered to Twilight. A small giggle escaped from both ponies.

"We heard that, Tia," Luna said flatly. Luna ignored the stifled snicker from her sister and turned towards the other mares.

"We are glad to see the Elements," Luna greeted, her formal speech still not fully gone yet. "We feared for the worst when Ponyville was attacked."

That drew a gasp from the six mares. A tiny frown found its way to Celestia's muzzle.

"That was actually an attack, yer Highness?" Applejack asked.

"We cannot be certain yet," Celestia replied diplomatically. "Whatever forces did this have taken our ponies, but it does not appear to have damaged the town nor its inhabitants."

"Sure tried," Rainbow muttered under her breath. Celestia appeared to have heard though, and fixed the mare with an inscrutable gaze.

"My sister and I were blocked by whatever magic covered Ponyville and the forest. We know nothing of what happened here. Perhaps it would be best if we heard it straight from the source. Rainbow, could you tell us what happened to you when the wall was raised?"

---

Celestia maintained silence for many long seconds after her student, the last of the six ponies, finished relating her tale.

It was worse than she had thought, better than she had feared. Whatever force had taken Ponyville, and she could not deny now that some faction had clearly done so, had clearly been intent on subjugation, perhaps even murder. That the town had not lost a single pony - her guards had finally caught up with her, and she had asked them to take a census- was nothing short of a miracle. The guards had even found Wind Waker, disgruntled and alone but unharmed, on the road in to the town.

The descriptions of the monsters, and of the giant insects, gave pause. Never in her long, long life had she heard of such things, even from the times when Discord had ruled the world... or when her sister, twisted in her darkness, had made her own creations. The description of their capabilities had her concerned as well. What if they were to come back? From what she now knew, ponies would be hard-pressed to defeat the creatures, even in numbers.

Most disturbing of all was the dissolution of magic when the wall had been up. The loss of ability alone had clearly rattled her student and most of the girls. What they did not know, what they could not know, was just how serious such an event was. A pony was a magical creature by nature; every part of their body was infused with magic. To be without magic meant that Twilight, and all of Ponyville, had somehow 'lost' their bodies for a time, and had become nothing more than spirits.

Celestia pushed such thoughts aside and offered a smile to her student and her friends. They did not need to know her troubles, though she would be enlisting her faithful student to attempt to get to the bottom of this mess.

"Thank you, my little ponies. It may not feel like it, but you have helped me and my sister a great deal by telling us such things."

Beside her, Luna nodded gravely.

Getting to her hooves, Celestia stretched her wings-even a god was prone to the aches and pains of sitting for too long. She looked right at her faithful student, anticipating the reaction to come.

"Twilight. The phenomenon was not a natural event, of that much I am certain. That being said, I can tell you that events such as these have never been seen before in Equestrian history. If we are to counter this, we must first understand it."

Twilight's eyes lit up in understanding. Celestia smiled, and said the words her student was waiting to hear.

"My student, you have a new assignment. Find out as much as you can about this phenomenon, and compile your conclusions into a report for me."

It was a rare pony that relished being told to write a report, but to her student, Celestia knew that every report was an excuse to bury her nose in a good book. It was a passion Celestia both encouraged and hoped would never dim with age; such passions brought forth the greatest magical and cultural advancements to grace the world, and she had high hopes for her student.

"You can count on me, Princess!" Twilight told her. Celestia gave her a mischevious grin.

"And you girls? Can can I count on you to make certain my student doesn't lock herself in the library?" Celestia asked.

"Of course!"
"Yeppers-peppers!"
"Can do, Princess!"
"Certainly, Princess!"
"Um, if she's alright with it..."

Celestia chuckled. Twilight glared.

"Your friends are most loyal," Luna said with a smile. "Treasure them. Trust them, each and every one of you. Together, you can overcome anything."

"I could not have said it better myself. Come, my sister. Duty calls. We should leave my student to her studies. My thanks for your hospitality, Twilight, and to all of you for help. If anything should happen, let us know," Celestia said, turning for the door. Luna followed at her side, and Celestia let them both out, closing the door behind her.

Outside, a Royal Chariot awaited- no doubt at her guard's beckoning. Celestia was thankful for the thought though, as it meant time with Luna, time they could discuss this in private. The sisters boarded the carriage and the hitched pegusi began to pull, lifting the carriage off the ground in a matter of moments and heading towards Canterlot. With a few quick spells, Celestia ensured they would not be overheard, and that they could hear each other.

"Most disturbing, sister," Luna said with a deep frown. "I do not like leaving Ponyville alone. This could happen again at any time."

"Yet we have no way to combat it, sister. Leaving yourself, or myself, or even Cadence in Ponyville would likely only make another event even more devastating, especially since we have no hard evidence as to what caused it, or even how it was restored back to normal."

"I feel another party has made itself known, sister. One who takes issue with the evil in the Everfree."

Celestia's eyes narrowed. "Pinkie's invisible wolf?"

Luna nodded."I am not convinced that it was a hallucination on the part of Laughter. She may be a trickster, but I do not believe she would exaggerate something like this. And what of Rarity's phantom predator? A wolf would fit nicely, would you not agree? And if there, then why not at Applejack's farm, or in Twilight's house as well?"

Celestia frowned. There were too many unknowns here. The wolf, the event, the unknown monsters, the lingering, faint sense of evil around the forest and town; it all was a deadly mystery, one she wished she did not have to solve.

Still, she had faith in her student. Twilight, with the help of her friends, would be able to figure this out.

She hoped.

---

The wolf padded around the area in silence, sniffing carefully as he attempted to find the entrance to the lair. His nose led him in circles, a myriad of scent trails criss-crossing back and forth, before coming across a hole in the soft dirt.

The Guardian had told him where to find the location of the evil, and find it he had. Now, he needed to retrieve the Fused Shadow and lift the taint from the land once and for all.

The wolf leapt fearlessly down into the black depths.

Author's Note:

I have forty favorites and thirty-five thumbs up. 40>35. ???

EDIT:
No one noticed that I called 'Twilight' 'Tight'? Well, it's fixed now, so you don't have to worry about it anymore.