• Published 6th Aug 2014
  • 1,787 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 09

Without thinking Big Mac grabbed a fallen tree branch with his telekinesis and brought it down as hard as he could on the part of Fluttershy’s mane that was frozen to the ice bear. The hair shattered, allowing the pegasus pony to stagger away from the frozen creature before falling to her knees. This however did not stop the process and her mane continued to slowly turn white.

Reacting with equal swiftness, Rarity retrieved a pair of scissors from her saddlebag. Using her own spell she quickly snipped off a part of the pink mane above where the ice crystals were spreading. These dropped off and froze to the ground like so many shattered pine needles.

Fluttershy climbed back to her hooves and stared, wide-eyed at the close call she had just experienced. “That... that.... that could.... could have.... been... been me!” she panted, her voice almost inaudible with its softness. She looked over at her friends, then her eyes rolled back into her head and she collapsed like a sack of flour.

Trixie and Rainbow Dash were at her side instantly checking the pegasus for any possible injury. They both looked up in relief.

“She’s alright,” the blue-furred unicorn assured them. “It looks like she just hyperventilated and passed out.”

“Is she going to be out long?” asked Spike.

“Can’t tell.” Rainbow said. “The last time she had a panic attack like this she was asleep for almost three hours.”

“Well, we can’t wait around here.” Babs looked up at her cousin. “Think youse could carry her.”

“Eeeyup.”

They loaded the unconscious pony on Big Mac’s broad back, setteling her in so she would not easily fall off. The stallion couldn’t help but notice her mane looked decidedly lopsided and was only about half its former length. Still, a mane could grow out. He wasn’t sure a frozen pony could be thawed.

The party marched on through the day, finally emerging from the Frost Swamp as the sun gently settled towards the horizon.

Fluttershy came to as they left the swamp. Her cheeks blushed when she discovered she’d been riding on Big Mac. The stallion thought it made her look cute, in an innocent, foalish sort of way.

She quickly scrambled down and took refuge next to Rainbow Dash who teasingly ruffled her mane.

“Looks like we’re going to have a normal sunset tonight,” observed Rarity. “YOU KNOW WHO isn’t mucking with it today. That’s surprisingly considerate of HIM.”

“That isn’t a good thing.” Said Pinkie.

“It isn’t? Why?”

“Well... I like to play pranks. I know if a pony who likes to have fun and prank other ponies isn’t having fun and pranking other ponies, then that means something else has to be keeping him busy.”

“You think that something else could be us?” asked Rainbow Dash

“Could be,” Trixie speculated. “But that means HE would have to know what we’re looking for and maybe even where we’re going.”

“That’s not good,” muttered Spike

“Nnnope.”

Babs looked at the others. “So what do we do?”

“We keep goin’ an hope we beat HIM ta the castle.” Big Mac looked at their guide. “Y’all said if we cut through the swamp we’d reach the castle by morning. How close is it?”

“It’s only a couple of miles,” Spike replied. “I was assuming we’d camp and arrive fresh at daylight.”

“Can we reach it tonight?” asked Rarity.

The dragon nodded. “Sure, if you want to risk reaching an ancient, haunted castle at night. There’s no telling what kind of monsters might be lurking around in the dark.”

The ponies all went silent for several moments considering the possibilities. Babs was the first to speak.

“Ay don’t know about any monsters, but I do know we won’t have a chance of finding anything if HE reaches the castle before we do.”

“As close as we are, wouldn’t we have seen some sign of HIS minions by now if HE was at the castle?” asked Fluttershy.

“OH! I know! Maybe they’re all having dinner. If they are it would be a good chance for us to sneak in, wouldn’t it? Especially if they’re having dessert.”

“Ay kind of doubt they’d all be eating at the same time,” Babs said.

“So... I get the idea you want to push on, even after the sun goes down,” observed Spike.

“Eeeyup.”

“Alright then... Those of you with horns, light the way for every pony else, but keep it as low as possible. The Everfree thins out the closer we get to the castle. You don’t want to alert anypony who might be on guard.”

They formed a column of twos. Spike and Rarity led the way. They were followed by Big Mac and Babs. Then came Fluttershy and Rainbow with Pinkie and Trixie close behind.

Pinkie had stopped bouncing, but if any pony listened closely enough, they could have heard her softly humming a tune through her smile. Trixie remembered it from one of the shows at the theatre, something called “Giggle at the Ghosties.” The song buoyed her up a bit. She didn’t want to admit it to the others but her withered leg was throbbing painfully. Most ponies assumed that the nerves in it were dead, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The mage tried pushing it out of her mind and focused on several quick spell formula she could call on if needed. The satchel loaned her by Zecora had components in it she could mix and cast with only a few seconds of effort. They’d be useful as catalysts for some of her simpler stage magic, enhancing and prolonging the effects.

It happened between one step and the next. Without warning a shock of searing pain raced up Trixie’s leg, causing the withered muscles to lock in place. Her metal brace prevented her leg from folding beneath her, but she staggered for an instant and let out a loud gasp. It brought the whole party to a halt.

Pinkie was at the unicorn’s side in a flash. “Cramp?” she asked, reaching across and running a hoof up and down Trixie’s left rear leg. The muscles had tightened so they now felt like rocks. The blue unicorn nodded, gritting her teeth even as tears formed along the bottom of her tightly closed eyes.

“I... think I might have pushed a little too far,” she grimaced.

Babs and Big Mac were by the unicorn’s side as well. “Youse still able to walk?”

Trixie shook her head. “Not for a while at least.”

By now Pinkie had removed the leg brace and was trying to massage the muscles so they’d unclench. Her efforts didn’t seem to be having much effect. She looked over at Rarity. “You wouldn’t happen to know any healing magic, would you?”

“Sorry, darling. My talents lie in fine manipulation and locating gems. I’ve never really studied anything more than basic first aid.”

“What about you?” Pinkie asked turning towards Big Mac.

“Mmmaybe.” He lowered his head, touching his horn to Trixie’s leg and closed his eyes. The horn shimmered with a pale, green translucence that spread across to the unicorn’s leg enveloping it completely. Trixie sighed in relief as the pain faded, along with the glow of alicorn magic.

“Thank-you. That is such a relief,” she said with an appreciative smile.

“Hey... I thought you didn’t know any big magic spells,” Rainbow Dash remarked.

“Nnnope... Nothin’ big. Just some small ones fer fixin’ up bumps and bruises.”

“Magic Kindergarten type spells?” asked Fluttershy.

“Eeeyup.”

“No wonder unicorns are so soft,” Rainbow chided with a grin. When I was a foal in Flight School we didn’t have any kind of magic for our bumps and bruises. All we did was slap a band-aid on it take a lap.”

“So tell me darling, how exactly does one get bruised bumping into clouds?” Rarity countered.

“The band-aid was probably for the cloud,” Pinkie observed. Every pony chuckled and Rainbow grinned back at them.

“Touché.”

“Not to break up the party... but we still have a castle to get to,” Spike reminded them.

Trixie replaced the brace, but when she stood her leg was stiffer than before. She tried taking a small step but staggered and almost fell. “Well, it doesn’t hurt anymore,” the unicorn observed, “but I really did push it too far.”

Without a word, Big Mac reached down, clamped his teeth on Trixie’s cape, and hoisted her onto his back before anypony realized what he was doing. As soon as the mage was settled comfortably he nodded to the others. “Let’s get.”

They all fell into a column of twos except for Pinkie who now walked on Big Mac’s right while Babs paralleled his left flank.

The sun set and the world settled into twilight. The forest closed around the ponies. Fortunately, the trail they followed was well enough defined that all could follow it in the dark. Spike raised his muzzle into the air and flicked his tongue in and out several times.

“Smell that?” he asked. The other ponies just shook their heads.

“It’s thistle root,” the dragon explained. The castle’s very close now.” Several more minutes of walking and the forest opened up, revealing a chasm some twenty paces ahead of them. The full moon illuminated the whole area. Looking across the gap they could all see the tumbled down ruins of an ancient castle.

Mac had never seen the Castle of the Two Pony Sisters before, but Applejacks descriptions had been accurate enough that he knew precisely what he was looking at. He looked around and quickly found the collapsed rope bridge that hung over the edge of the chasm.

“Rainbow?” the alicorn asked, half turning.

“Already on it,” she replied, diving over the edge and disappearing into a thick mist. As the other’s watched the rope bridge began to lift, its wooden slats brushing noisily against each other.

“How’re youse doing?” called Babs.

“Doing fine,” came a disembodied voice. “It isn’t heavy, just clunky and awkward to lift. I’ll have it up in two shakes of a pegasi’s... URK!” There was a sudden rustle of feathers and the kicking of hooves against stone. The bridge slapped hard against the chasm wall as the pegasus let go of it. Above the others could hear Rainbow struggling against something or somepony.

“Get OFFA ME! GIT OFF... OFF... NOW! GAH!!! Hey! Some help here... NOW!”

Mac was the first to react, lifting Trixie off his back then spreading and locking his wings into a glide position before leaping over the edge of the cliff. As he kicked off with his back hooves, it dawned on him he didn’t have any idea of what he was going to do, except possibly ram whatever was causing Rainbow problems.

The mist closed around him instantly. The chasm walls became nothing but dark shapes drifting in and out of sight. He heard the sound of struggling low and to his left. Dropping his wing slightly, he found himself side-slipping much faster than he intended. He flared and tried back flapping his wings, relying more on a vague instinct than any firm understanding of what it would do.

His frantic, uncoordinated flapping caused the mist ahead of him to part for a moment. He suddenly saw Rainbow, entangled in a web of what looked like prehensile tree limbs. Most were thin tendrils which were growing before his eyes, pulling the pegasus into a thicker series of branches. The more she struggled, the tighter they wound themselves around her legs, wings and barrel. One was even slowly encircling her throat.

Mac tried to fly over to Rainbow, but having lost most of his forward momentum he began to sink rapidly into the chasm. Gritting his teeth, he locked his wings out straight and dove away, hoping to get enough speed to circle back up to his companion.

The cliff walls were narrow and he nearly collided with one as he banked upward at the end of his dive. He could feel his primaries brush against the rock as he circled back. Fortunately, there was a slight breeze rising from the base of the chasm. It lifted him enough to come in above the struggling pegasus. Shifting his wings he did a barely controlled half roll and smashed into the thicker tree limbs. Both his momentum and weight helped shatter them, knocking Rainbow free. Broken splinters of wood pierced his skin and wings in dozens of places. For an instant, Big Mac thought he heard a grinding of wood that sounded like an angry growl, then he tumbled free and plummeted into the chasm.

The world spun around the alicorn prince and he flayed frantically with his wings trying to right himself. The mist faded and he had a twisting, spinning glimpse of the chasm floor below him, strewn with thick, sharp outcroppings of obsidian rock. This was going to hurt... a lot! However, mere moments before he smashed into them there was a prismatic streak and something grabbed him by the tail, abruptly pulling him out of his uncontrolled dive.

“Come on big guy! Spread your wings and fly right.”

Soarin’s lessons kicked in and Macintosh did spread his wings, even though doing so hurt. He quickly slowed, though not enough for a controlled landing. As his front hooves slammed into the ground, he tucked and rolled, summersaulting twice before coming to a complete stop with Rainbow dash on top of him. She was still holding onto his tail with her teeth.

“You okay?” the pegasus asked.

“Eeeyup! How ‘bout you?”

“Good enough, though that landing could have been a lot better. Definitely wasn’t up to Wonderbolt standards.”

“Nnnope.”

The two ponies looked around for a moment. “Looks like the only way out is up,” muttered Rainbow, spreading her wings. “You ready for a real flying lesson?”

Big Mac spread his wings, then winced in pain. “Nnnope.”

The pegasus walked over to him and gave his wings a quick once over. “Whoa... hold it big guy. You’ve got more splinters in you than feathers in your wings.” She shook her head. “This is going to take time and a couple pairs of tweezers. Look, you wait here and I’ll go back up and let everypony know we’re okay.”

With that, Rainbow Dash crouched then exploded upward, disappearing into the mist, leaving the stallion behind, wondering how he was going to get out of the chasm himself.

Author's Note:

Well, here it is at last, Chapter 9 (aka Chapter 29 in the old story format). Would appreciate lots of votes and comments. I plan on making this about a 12 chapter story arc, unless I need to stretch the story out for consistency and good plot. Keep it flexible, I say. Would definitely like to hear from you readers on how I could improve/enhance the story. What you enjoy and what you'd like to see is important.