• Published 13th May 2012
  • 4,975 Views, 125 Comments

Tiger Bloom - Tundara

Applebloom finds herself in the Everfree with a guardian that may be more dangerous than the forest.

  • ...

Part One: The Filly with the Pink Ribbon

Tiger Bloom

Part One

They say cats have nine lives. I have six spares if that is the case. The end of my first was the most painful, but no, I can’t think of that; not right now at least. Instead I will tell of the story of my second life, and my death.

My first memory, or rather the first memory of my second life, was awakening in a small shallow crater. Around me were pieces of wooden boards, like the kind used to make old style crates for packing, the edges of the wood blackened from the kiss of a flame. The hollow itself was unnaturally smooth except for a series of spiral grooves that radiated away from where I had lain in a shallow puddle. Lifting my head out of the mud that had formed in the crater’s base I surveyed the area beyond.

Trees everywhere I looked, spreading away in a vast and brooding forest. Thin vines hung from mossy branches of a mix of pines and silver birches, creating a swirl of green and flashing white as a gentle cool breeze rustled past.

I smiled and stretched, bones creaking and muscles flexing away lingering stiffness.

My tail flicked, swishing through the air, and my ears turned towards the chorus of birds singing in the early morning.

And then I frowned, looking down at my large orange and black paws.

There was a hint of red matting the fur of my right paw. My insides twisted at the sight and I knew that it was blood without sniffing the substance. I also knew that something terrible had happened, but I wasn’t sure what, or to whom the blood belonged. I was fairly certain it wasn’t my own. Nothing felt wrong or hurt, just a little stiff, like I’d spent too long sleeping.

My frown deepened as I tried to remember what had happened to bring me to the odd crater, but everything was a haze of grey, like oil had been poured into my memories. I don’t know how long I sat trying to puzzle together who I was and how I came to be in that hole. No more than an hour or two from the movement of the sun. The crater held its clues jealously. Sure, I poked at the boards, noticed some markings on a couple and detected the last traces of some odd scents, but my mind remained strictly out of place. It was the insistent rumble of my stomach informing me of a need for food that finally prodded me out into the forest beyond. Sliding into the velvet shadows of the forest I decided that once I had discovered something to eat I’d go looking for answers again.

Finding food turned out to be harder than I had anticipated. With my befuddled memory I expected to have dinner just appear in front of my paws. When it didn’t in spite of my growling at the trees it dawned on me that I was going to have find food for myself. I was going to have to hunt.

Hunting; the idea filled me with giddy delight in spite of the uncertainty of my situation. There I was, alone, lost, with no memories, and I was practically bouncing down between the thick ancient trees. I fear I scared more than a few choice prospects of dinner away as I made a fool of myself. The sun was starting to slant between the trees in late afternoon before I began to settle down and take the idea of hunting seriously.

But first I tried to figure out what it is I wanted to eat. First I tried some flowers, beautiful golden blooms with wide sweeping petals that filled my mouth in a cloying bitter film. Next I tried bugs, but they were too small to fill a stomach of my size without taking hours upon hours to scavenge, plus they tasted like sour rancid balls that exploded and crunched between my teeth leaving an icky feeling behind.

Tongue hanging from my mouth, my ears turned to a slight rustle nearby. At that moment the wind shifted and my nose was filled with a new smell that excited my heart and made my stomach tumble in pleading knots. Guided by intuition and instinct I flattened myself to the soft packed ground of pine needles and grass. My mouth was dripping with anticipation as I slowly scooted forward making the barest rustle of the long grasses.

The forest seemed to grow dimmer, the light fading as the sun continued its lazy decent toward the horizon, as I shuffled forward, pulled by the mysterious scent filling my nose. Slowing down I could hear something only a few yards ahead, a gentle snuffling sound followed by a little hiccup. Parting a bush just enough that I could peek through I got my first sight of the creature making the noises.

She was small and young, an equine with butter yellow fur and a bright red mane and tail that stood out like fireworks against the drab greens and brown of the forest. She was facing a little to my left indicating I hadn’t been spotted in my approach. I felt a moment of pride that I had stalked so well on my first attempt, though on reflection my success had more to do with her obliviousness to the forest around her rather than any skill on my part. As she wiped her nose I got a good look at her beautiful pale eyes that looked like two gold rings so pure in lustre that Hephaestus would have beamed with pride to have forged them on his anvil.

Licking my lips I began to gather my hind legs beneath me for the pounce. The filly slowly stood, but quickly sat back down again as her legs wobbled unsteadily beneath her. With a little huff she laid her head down sniffling again. Just as I was about to pounce and get my first meal my entire body tensed as my eyes locked onto a tattered pink ribbon adorning the filly’s mane.

Drums pounded in my ears so loud the gentle noise of the forest was washed aside as my heart performed a complicated series of acrobatics before taking off in a race. Not to be out done, my stomach convulsed before embedding itself somewhere close to where my tail joined my body. Every muscle was a taut iron rope threatening to tear itself in two. And all I could see was a pink ribbon.

Lifting her head up and squinting the filly stared straight at the bush I was hiding within.

“Is anypony there? Ah can hear yah breathing. Oh, please be some pony, please oh please.”

That was when I realised I had started to hyperventilate, my breaths coming in rapid wheezing gasps. Any chance of surprise had been lost, not that it mattered. The filly tried to stand again but once more her legs gave out underneath her and she fell with a soft flump.

The shaking in my legs had finally started to subside when they came slinking out of the forest.

I’d never seen creatures like them before; constructs of living bark and moss with jagged splinters for teeth, all formed in a crude mockery of a wolf, long and sleek with powerful neck, wide paws, and long muzzles. Except they had none of the savage nobility of a real wolf, these things were nothing more than slavering monstrosities. Individually they were nothing to me I quickly suspected, probably half my weight, and without my claws and their fangs were smaller. But there were five of them and only one of me.

My eyes became locked onto the scene. I couldn’t turn away as those filthy creatures began to pace around and encircle the filly. For some reason they were being extremely cautious. From the hunch of their shoulders or the gleam in their glowing yellow eyes gave me a sense that they were waiting for something to happen.

“No, p-please, Ah don’ want to die.”

Her words were so soft and desperate I wasn’t certain I heard them despite my exceptional hearing. It was such a pitiful plea. One may as well demand the Fates to move back the sands of time. Hearing the sadness and despair lacing her words, looking at the mossy tongues licking bark lips, the force locking my body in place was banished and replaced by a new sensation.

It was a feeling of fear mingled with rage. Not fear for myself, nor the paralysis that had moments before gripped me, but fear for that small filly. My heart was still beating a mile a minute through my ears, but my muscles were now filled with a restless screaming energy that demanded intervention. I was angry about what those wooden abominations were going to do to her. Never mind minutes before I’d been entertaining the exact same thoughts.

I would like to tell you that my intentions were noble and pure. That the rage I was feeling was for a young life about to be taken, but that’d be a bold faced lie. The blood boiling in my veins and curling my lips up as a soft growl rumbled from my throat was elicited by greed and competition not any sense of philanthropy or self righteous protectionism. The idea of those unnatural abominations stealing something from me raised my hackles.

Flexing my back paws I burst through the brush roaring. Six heads snapped towards me as I flew through the air, a ball of black and orange anger. The five Timberwolves all reacted quickly, jumping back and setting up a wide circle around me and the filly. All except the one closest to me that is.

My claws dug into the wolf’s face tearing away bark skin and moss fur, the yellow glow in the right eye extinguishing in a spray of green ichor. Howling the wooden wolf fell to the forest floor, rolling and spraying more of its unnatural blood in its agony.

There was no time to slow down. I couldn’t stand my ground and fight still out-numbered four to one, and there was nothing that said the wounded wolf wouldn’t join any attack on me.

Snapping my head down I grabbed the filly by the neck, being as careful of my inch long fangs as I could given the need for haste. I fear that I may have hurt her as I tasted blood, the warm sweet liquid tickling my tongue and sending a shiver of anticipation and pleasure spiking into my brain. But I had no time to savour the taste nor slow down. The four remaining wolves saw me stealing what they thought was their dinner and reacted as only practiced hunters would; they pounced.

Wooden fangs bit into my shoulder and haunches as I spun, the filly dangling from my mouth and screaming in abject terror. The air was filled with the shrill scream, growling, and the howls of the wounded wolf. Legs coiling underneath me I exploded from the ring of snarling wood.

Now, I don’t like to boast, but I am fast in a sprint. The forest flew past in a blur as I leapt over logs and under branches. Blood pounded in my ears and the little form of the filly I’d ‘rescued’ swung from my jaws. Behind me, closer than I liked, sounded the grunts and pounding paws of the wolves. I could practically feel their breath on my legs.

Looking to the left and right I saw a pair of the wolves easily keeping pace with me. And I was beginning to slow down. I am a sprinter, not a marathon runner. That honour belongs to the spindly bipeds that sometimes fill my dreams like oily ghosts.

It was a race I could not have won even if I wasn’t carrying a small screaming bundle. Wolves are far more adept at running down prey. Me, I’m an ambush hunter, leaping from concealment to kill in a quick stroke. The odds were stacked in the wolves favour in every single way. I needed to escape them somehow, a way to put something between us that they could not cross.

My eyes darted left and right as I ducked beneath the trunk of a fallen tree looking for something, anything, to help turn the chase. The wolves were closing in and I could tell they had started forcing and herding me, keeping me on a slow turn to the west.

The Fates smiled on me.

Out of the dark shelter of the forest loomed a gorge, wide and yawning beneath slate clouds. I was growing tired, muscles burning with fatigue and each beat of my heart pounding like a hammer on a smith’s anvil. I had to make this leap. I put everything into that jump, legs tucking against my belly before thrusting out against the soft earth on the lip of the divide. Time slowed, the ground under my hind paws crumbling, my fore limbs stretching across the empty air, the filly in my jaws silent for the first time.

I am sure she thought I had just killed us both. I know I had that thought.

Through the clouds a single slender finger of light poked down illuminating the far side of the gorge. In that light I saw I wasn’t going to reach the edge. Not by a long shot. Closing my eyes I let my mind go blank, just feeling the moment, the warm air ruffling my fur, the gentle caress of the sun on the side of my face. Then my belly struck the edge of the gorge, my jaws snapping open as I blew out a gust of breath, the little filly tumbling across the grass.

My eyes snapped open as my claws, fore and back, scrambled to find purchase so I could pull myself up. Slowly I slid backwards, my back legs finding nothing but hard smooth stone, my weight dragging me down. I hardly had any strength left in me. Growling and huffing I tried to pull myself up but my aching muscles were finally giving in one by one to the inevitable. I was just too tired and spent too much energy in the run and jump. There was nothing left in me.

And then she was there, her big bright eyes inches from my own. Grabbing me by the ear with her mouth she pulled, her hooves digging into the ground. I don’t know how but she managed to stop my slow slide over the gorge’s edge. And then, working together, I was pulled up and over onto solid ground.

We laid there side by side for some time panting both exhausted. On the other side of the gorge the wolves prowled occasionally stopping to howl or growl at us.

“Ah can’t believe we made it,” the filly said rolling onto her side so her head rested on one of my huge paws. “We have made it, right? You’re not just gonna eat me, right?”

One large golden eye rotated up to stare at me. Rolling my own eyes I let out a little exasperated huff. I honestly have no idea what came over me as I then licked her face. Laughing she pushed my head away.

“S-stop tha’, it, ha-ha, tickles!”

Smiling I climbed to my paws, motioning with my head for the filly to follow. The sky was growing dark. It wasn’t going to be long until the sun set. We’d needed to find a shelter of some sort before nightfall. Weary hooves trudged alongside the silent padding of paws as we left the angry wolves behind.

Back under the dense forest canopy I quickly spotted a nice old tree with thick ancient roots. With the roots forming short walls against a gentle twisting wind hissing through the leaves I plopped down on my side. A moment later the slight weight of the filly presented itself against my chest.

“Thank yah. Ah’d be gone and dead if it ain’t for yah,” the filly muttered sleepily.

She gave me another look with those expressive eyes before she fell asleep.

Blinking I looked down at the filly.

What was I doing? It hadn’t been a half hour before that I had been ready to kill and eat her. So why was I letting her sleep nestled beside me? Opening my jaws I began to slide my mouth towards the filly’s exposed neck. After only a moment the pink bow again filled my sight, my stomach went to visit my colon, and my heart did a credible imitation of a humming bird. Snapping my jaw closed I looked away from the filly and instead fell asleep.

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!