• Published 6th Aug 2014
  • 1,788 Views, 136 Comments

The Royal Apples: Into the Land of Neverwere - Radical Gopher



Mac finds himself uncertain as to his role as the new Prince of Equestria.

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Chapter 11

Big Mac looked intensely into the cave that opened before him. The darkness that filled it felt neither foreboding nor inviting. It was just there, along with the insistent, but weak tug he felt on his amulet. Taking a calming breath, the stallion slowly crossed the threshold. After taking about ten steps it became necessary to focus a light spell through his horn. It was one of the simpler spells he’d been taught at magic kindergarten and within moments he found himself surrounded by a green aura that extended some fifteen paces ahead and around him.

Each hoof step echoed softly from the cave walls. This was because the floor was, strangely enough, composed of earth which deadened the sound. The others would have no trouble following him even in here.

Deeper and deeper into the cavern he went. There were no side tunnels, no abrupt turns to confuse the passageway, just a slow meandering path that eventually led to a back wall and one final opening. It was easily large enough to accommodate three ponies walking abreast, thou a little too low for his horn.

Dipping his head slightly, the alicorn prince passed through the portal and found himself in a gigantic cavern, the ceiling of which towered far above him. Jewels of every kind and descripting were imbedded in the walls. They picked up and reflected the light of his magic, giving the impression that they were stars in an eternal night sky. Ahead of him, he saw an immense, pale white tree from whose branches dangled an array of gemstones, like fruit from an apple tree. Oddly, he could see no leaves of any kind and except for the jewels, the tree appeared to be as bare as a winter maple.

As he approached, the tug on his amulet seemed to be getting stronger. He didn’t remember any stories Applejack had told him about a tree, but somehow he sensed it had something to do with the elements. One other thing he noticed as he approached was that the base of the tree was entangled by a strange, black, thorny vine, like a weed that was slowly strangling a flower. Where it touched the base of the tree the bark was an ashen-gray color. The farmer within him immediately took offense at the intruding vine. How dare it threaten a perfectly beautiful tree such as this?

Dropping his saddle bags on the ground, Big Mac quickly searched through one and pulled out a small hoof-axe. He’d brought it along in the event they needed to camp during their journey. Now, he had another purpose for it. Tracing the vine to a point away from the tree roots, he braced himself and swung. The axe, honed to razor sharpness and backed by the stallion’s enhanced strength, sliced effortlessly through the vine.

There was a sudden hiss of movement and the vine suddenly lashed out at Big Mac, wrapping itself around the hoof that held the axe. Startled, the farmer brought his free hoof down sharply on the offending plant. It shattered, then pulled buried tendrils out of the ground surrounding the stallion. Each one gripped him, ripping at his hide with its thorns. Within moments he found himself entangled from all sides. Pulling with all his might, he backed towards the white tree, physically yanking a number of tendrils apart like over-stretched rope. Still, they reached for him, determined to stop his efforts to save the tree. They grasped for his head, threatening his eyes. Big Mac twisted his neck and in the process brought his horn in contact with one of the lower tree limbs.

The world became a brilliant green. Energy flowed like water out of the stallion’s Element of Courage, through him, into his horn and onward to the tree. The vine suddenly began writing as if in pain. Green fire consumed it and raced back into the ground from which the black plant had sprung. Surprisingly, the fire only attacked the vine. Big Mac was left untouched by the inferno that flashed before him. He staggered slightly, trembling as the green energy continued to flow into the tree and out of him. The world around him went gray and he dropped dizzily to his knees.

When he opened his eyes a moment later, he could see the white tree standing tall before him. It glowed with a greenish aura that radiated off every gem on every branch. Slowly, the alicorn stood. He looked down at his element and found it was still glowing, though not as brilliantly as before. A soft, gentle voice whispered in his head.

“Thank-you.”

The alicorn didn’t look around. Somehow, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the tree was speaking to him.

“In all my lives, across all my realms, I have never before seen one of your kind assume the mantle of courage. You are the first.”

“Yer realms?”

“Yes... I am Arual. I am the Spirit of Harmony. I exist in this form across all eleven of my realms. What you would call parallel worlds. Parallel Equestrias. Yet in each I am one and the same. One Arual, eleven worlds. Aware and part of each world as each world is a part of me.”

“Ya destroyed that vine.”

“Yes, with your help. Here, and on other realms, I have been struggling against it for centuries, able to do little more than hold it at bay without all my elements. I had nearly drained the last of my power doing so, but then you arrived, bringing an element from another realm, one untainted by Discord’s evil plant.”

“Yer elements?”

“Yes... my Elements of Harmony. I loaned them long ago to Celestia and Luna so they might be used to keep the world safe from chaos. Unfortunately, on five of the realms, they failed to return them to me after defeating Discord. I fear they can no longer hear me because they are not one with the elements. Not that they ever did really hear me. They are not good listeners. You... are different. You listen, and do not let words drown out what the world whispers to you.”

“Uh... thanks.” The chamber became silent for several long moments. Big Mac felt as if there were a presence within his mind, examining him silently, gently. In other places and under other circumstances he might have been afraid, but not here, not now.

“Interesting. I knew not that within your home realm Chaos has not only been tamed, but is now counted as a friend. Truly, your world has achieved harmony... after a fashion.”

“Ya didn’t know? Ah thought ya knew everything within all yer realms?”

“Where I am of full potency, my knowledge is deep and abiding. Such is not the case upon some worlds, nor on this one.”

“Ah take it ya need the elements returned here as well.”

“Yes... but do not swear any oath to restore them to me, at least not until there is need. You will know the time, just as all who hold the elements discover.”

“As ya wish.”

“I understand your need and will help you in your quest, but be warned, Chaos was mistaken when he told you to put this world back in parallel with your own. That is not possible. Not now, after so much change. The best you can hope for is to restore the balance between Chaos and Harmony. When that is accomplished, I can open a pathway for you between this world and your own. Fail, and you will spend the rest of your life here, without those who love you.”

“Ah thought the worlds had to be in alignment.”

“None of them truly are. Each has its nuances, its differences, and in the balance of Chaos and Harmony, such must always be true as measured against the Prime. If they were all, exactly the same, there would be no hope, no individuality. It is how Chaos best serves Harmony.”

Big Mac thought about it. Each realm had to be different, unique, yet with shared elements that united them. Elements such as Arual, and Discord. His mind suddenly grasped an essential truth. Discord or Chaos was as much a shared element between the worlds as the Tree of Harmony. Which means each Lord of Chaos was aware of the others. He wondered if the Discord of this world knew what the Discord of his world had been telling him. It would explain why he had not heard from the draconequus for several days.

”Yes...” the tree whispered. ”He does know. You have very little time left with which to accomplish your task, so I will grant you what you need most, though the price will be heavy. After that, it will be up to you and your friends. Do you accept my gift?”

The stallion pondered what he’d been told. Arual’s tone, more than anything gave away just how high the price might be. Still, there were ponies who needed him, both here, and at home. Prince Macintosh took a deep breath and turned to look directly at the tree.

“Eeeyup!”

The world burned green.

**********

Dash was the first to step into the chamber with the Tree of Harmony. What she saw brought her up short, her mouth hanging open in shock. The others crowded through the passage and joined her. They too froze where they were, unable to fathom what they saw.

Before them was Prince Macintosh, his body levitated several feet off the cavern floor. He was surrounded by a brilliant aura of green energy, emanating from something on his plow collar. Next to him, sheathed in a purifying white light was a bejeweled tree. Arcs of energy passed back and forth the two figures casting insane shadows across the cavern.

“What the buck’s happening?” yelled the cyan pegasus.

Trixie shook her head, clambering off of Babs’ back and standing shakily on her own hooves. “I don’t know. This isn’t like any kind of magic I’ve ever used, or seen for that matter.”

“What can we do?” asked Rarity, looking at the white maned magician.

“It doesn’t look like he’s in any pain. We don’t know what’s happening so we don’t know whether it’s better to interrupt the spell or ride it out.”

“Well, I for one am not going to sit by and see a friend get zapped,” yelled Dash. The pegasus leapt from the ground, intending to somehow tackle the alicorn and knock him away from the tree. The next thing she knew, someone was holding her back by her tail. She turned to see that Fluttershy had clamped her teeth on her multi-hued tail, and that both Rarity and Pinkie were anchoring the yellow pegasus, keeping her from going to Macintosh’s rescue.

“Let go you guys. LET GO! LET GO! LET GGGGGG.... “ There was a sudden explosion of light and every pony was blasted back several feet. When they recovered several moments later the light had vanished and the room thrown into near darkness, save for the soft, white glow from the tree.

“OOOHHH! What just happened?” muttered Babs, picking herself off the cavern floor. She looked up and saw every pony else was lying on the ground. All, that is, save Big Mac. Pulling herself back to her hooves she staggered over to her cousin. He was sitting on his haunches, staring straight ahead at the tree. His eyes were solid green in color.

“Hey... Cousin... Are youse okay?”

As she watched, the stallion’s eyes slowly reverted to normal. He shook his head then blinked several times before looking down at the smaller police pony. She noticed that the front locks of his mane were streaked with white.

“Babs? Are ya still here? Are y’all still here?” He shook his head again and looked at the others. “It’s been so long... so long since Ah last saw ya. Ah was afraid y’all had gone on without me.”

“We waited... Isn’t that what ya wanted us to do?”

“Eeeyup... but Ah didn’t think y’all would wait this long for me ta get back?”

“What’re youse talkin’ about, Mac? Youse didn’t go anywhere. Neither did we.”
“But ya did... Ah did... Ah’ve been gone a very long time.”

Worried, the mare looked at her cousin. “How long?” she whispered. “How long do you think youse were gone?”

“A lifetime... maybe two, or three. A hundred years at least.”

A cold sliver of ice raced down Babs’ spine. It wasn’t the expression on his face, a combination of confusion and cold certainty that frightened her. No, it was her own internal sense of truth, of honesty, that scared her. The mare looked at her cousin. He was telling the truth. But the truth was impossible.
“How?” asked a voice behind her. Babs turned to see Rarity was back up on her hooves once more. The others were also awake and recovering quickly. “How could you have been gone a hundred years?”

Big Mac looked at her. A firmness came into his voice, one that banished the confusion and uncertainty that had existed moments before when he had ‘returned.’

“We don’t have time ta figure out how Arual did it. All Ah know is she took me some... someplace where Ah was able ta learn how ta use ma alicorn powers properly.”

“Who’s Arual?” asked Pinkie Pie.

The stallion nodded towards the tree, using his horn as a pointer. “She is. The Tree o’ Harmony.”

“Wait a moment,” said Trixie. “You weren’t out of our sight for more than about forty minutes. It’s not possible to learn more than a single spell in that amount of time, let alone the hundreds that even an apprentice mage would know.”

Mac looked at her quietly. “Ah’m beginning ta understand that where there’s magic involved, impossible’s a word used as an excuse.” To demonstrate, he spread his wings for all to see. Just as Rainbow Dash had described they were festooned with splinters of wood. The prince closed his eyes and focused, wincing briefly as green magic surrounded his wings. He flicked them once, gently, and the splinters fell free. The holes left behind quickly filled themselves in. Big Mac sighed in relief as the pain vanished.

“Whoa... that is really cool,” muttered Rainbow Dash. “Can you show me that trick?”

The stallion smiled ruefully. “Only if ya’ve got a decade or two ta spare... and a horn.” He looked at the others. We’ve got ta go now. Before... You-Know-Who gets here himself. His Lieutenants are already in the castle above us.”

“How are we going to find these elements of yours and figure out how to use them with the castle under guard?” asked Spike.

“We can still get by ‘em and recover the Elements. Arual showed me how.” Big Mac turned and to everypony’s amazement easily scooped up his saddle bags and placed them on his back telekinetically. He paused for a moment, looking at Trixie. Pacing over to the blue furred unicorn mare, he closed his eyes and focused his magic. There was a brief moment when she suddenly felt a tingling sensation through her back legs, then her braces fell apart. To her astonishment, she found that her withered limbs could now support her weight.

“The spell is only temporary,” Big Mac explained, “and should last a day or two. But once we have access to the Elements, Ah’m certain it can be made permanent.”

“Wait... everything we’ve seen you do down here in the last few minutes had to take a lot of magic just now,” observed Rarity. “Wouldn’t, You-Know-Who have detected it?”

The alicorn turned and smiled slyly. “This chamber’s shielded from detection... and our foe believes the tree ta be incapacitated, at the very least. He doesn’t know we found it, so he’s not even trying to find us in here, and that gives us an advantage.”

“What advantage?” asked Spike.

“Surprise!”

To Be Continued.....

Author's Note:

And here is why the worlds are so different, yet so alike. What do you think of my canon? (Don't fear. It's only a little one.)