• Published 23rd May 2012
  • 1,274 Views, 54 Comments

Quest for the Silver Crown - Lycan_01

Applejack and her friends journey into the Everfree Forest to find the cure for Winona's illness.

  • ...

Gather Your Party

Twilight Sparkle couldn't help but let out a contented sigh after taking a sip of coffee. Telekinetically setting the steaming mug on the table in front of her, she smiled as she surveyed the rest of the materials laid out before her. Several dusty old tomes, some tattered scrolls, some fresh parchment, some new quills and ink pots, and a few other battered books for reference had all been prepared and perfectly arranged. Finally, an opportunity to do some real research!

The last few days had been busy for the knowledge-hungry unicorn. It wasn't that she hadn't had the time to study. She'd just been studying other subjects, like griffin folks tales, the life cycle of the parasprite, and the fall of the diamond dog empire. They had absolutely nothing common; she'd just found herself constantly being side-tracked by one interesting topic after another, spending hours researching one subject before chasing after another random alluring fact or passing reference.

But now it was time to focus and get some real research work done. There was a scholarly conference on the history of magic scheduled to be hosted in Canterlot next month. Twilight's intentions were to not only attend, but to actually submit a research paper on Starswirl the Bearded and his contributions to Equestria, both in his own lifetime and in modern times. It was going to be a lot of work, but she was determined to avoid driving herself insane by getting an early start and making sure it got done as soon as possible.

And she intended to let nothing get in her way. So when she heard knocking at the front door of the library downstairs, she simply pawned it off on Spike. "Spike, can you get the door, please? I'm kinda busy."

The baby dragon in the corner looked up from the book he was reading, and closed it with a sigh. "Alright, alright..." he said, hopping up from his seat and starting to walk towards the stairs. He took his dear sweet time, though, and by the time he actually made it downstairs, there had been several more knocks at the door, each one louder and more forceful than the last.

Just as Spike neared the door, the pony on the other side finally lost their patience. "Twilight!" Applejack proclaimed as she threw the door wide open and barged on into the room. "Twilight, Ah need yer h-"

She didn't notice Spike until she tripped over him. "AH!!" the pony and dragon both yelped as they slammed to the floor and rolled across the room, before finally coming to rest as an entangled mass of limbs, fur, and scales.

"What in tarnation? Oh! Spike!" Applejack yelped in horror as she realized what, or rather who, she was laying on top of. "Ah'm so sorry! Ah didn't see ya there!"

Crawling out from under the Southern-accented mare, Spike groaned. "Oh, its okay. Sorry I didn't get to the door sooner..." he replied in a slightly-dazed tone, rubbing his forehead. "You alright?"

"Yes. Ah mean, no. Ah mean..." Applejack shook her head, worry appearing in her eyes. "Ah just need to see Twilight. Ah need her help, and its important."

"Well, she's upstairs, but I think she's busy. Ow..." Spike groaned, staggering to his feet.

"Applejack, go upstairs and see your friend," Zecora said as she stepped through the doorway. "I will ensure Spike has no wounds to mend."

"Alrighty, see ya in a sec," Applejack nodded, before quickly trotting upstairs.

Twilight was hovering two scrolls and a large book in front of her face when Applejack trotted up the stairs. The unicorn didn't even notice her presence until the earth pony was right beside her. "Twilight, Ah need yer help," Applejack blurted out as she reached her friend.

"Yah!" Twilight yelped, her telekinesis failing for a moment. Thankfully, she managed to magically catch the fragile scrolls and book before they hit the ground, and gently set them down on the table with a relieved sigh. "That was close..." she muttered, before turning to look at her friend. Arching an eyebrow, she asked, "Applejack? Where'd you come from? What's wrong?"

Applejack fixed Twilight with a quizzical stare. "Y'all didn't hear me knockin' or trippin' over...? Ah, nevermind. Look Twi, Ah need your expert assistance. Winona is sick, and Ah need someponies to help me go through the Everfree Forest to find the cure," the blonde pony sighed, lowering her head.

"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry to hear that," Twilight replied sincerely. She placed a comforting hoof on Applejack's shoulder, before looking over her own shoulder at the table covered in research material.

Twilight was conflicted. On one hoof, this project was very important to her, and if she didn't get started soon, it would probably become a nightmare further down the line. There was no telling how long a trip like this could take, or when she'd get another perfect chance to start on the project. On the other hoof... Applejack, one of her best friends, needed her help, and with something highly important.

There was no question about what she had to do. Looking back at her friend, Twilight smiled. "Alright, I'll help you. I can leave Spike here to watch the library while we're gone. Let me just grab a few books and maps, and we-" she was cut off by Applejack grabbing her in a bear-hug.

"Oh, thank ya Twilight!" Applejack exclaimed. "Ah knew Ah could count on ya!"

"Erk, ribs. They are breaking..." Twilight squeaked.

"Oops, sorry," Applejack blushed, releasing her friend from the hug of doom. "Anyhoo, Rarity and Pinkie Pie are out of town, and Fluttershy's takin' care of Winona. Zecora is taggin' along, too. That just leaves Rainbow Dash."

"I don't think she'll be too hard to convince," Twilight smirked.

"Sure!" Rainbow Dash replied with an excited grin.

"Well that was even easier than I expected," Twilight arched an eyebrow.

Rainbow Dash laughed happily, idly hovering in circles just above Twilight, Applejack, and Zecora in the center of Ponyville. "Oh come on Twilight! How could I say no? Seriously... One, I'm the embodiment of Loyalty, remember? There's no way I could even think of saying no to helping Applack! Two, I have nothing else to do. Three-"

"Y'all wanna be just like Daring Do," Applejack smirked.

"Heh, exactly!" Rainbow proclaimed. "Seriously, we're going on an adventure! A real life quest for a rare item hidden in a dangerous location, just like Daring Do! How is that not awesome!?" she asked excitedly, flailing her forehooves in vehement gesticulation.

"Methinks those books have caused her confusion," Zecora observed, her tone wary. "Does she know our danger is no fiction?"

"Pffft, danger smanger," Rainbow Dash gave a dismissive wave of her hooves. "We're some of the smartest, strongest, fastest ponies in Equestria. We know how stay out of danger, and deal with it when it does show up. I'm sure we'll be fine!"

"Beware of overconfidence, my friend. Quite easily can it lead to your end," Zecora warned darkly.

"Its not overconfidence if its the tru-uuuuuth..." Dash sing-songed with a playful smirked.

"Y'all both have good points," Applejack interrupted. "Zecora is right; this'll be dangerous, and we need to be careful. No being reckless, nobody plays hero. Dash is also right, though. We're all pretty capable ponies... er, and zebra... and if we work together and be smart 'bout this, we shouldn't run inta much trouble. And if we do, we should be able to figure out a way out of it, so long as we work together," she explained.

"Sounds like a plan!" Twilight smiled. Zecora and Rainbow Dash nodded in agreement.

"Alrighty then! Next stop..." Applejack grinned, before turning to look at the dense, dark wilderness in the distance. "The Everfree Forest..."

"Y'know..." Rainbow Dash suddenly spoke up, "I always forget about just how creepy this place actually is." The four equines had just entered the Everfree Forest, and hadn't taken more than a few hoof-steps in before darkness began to fall. It was as though the wilderness fed on light, trying to devour illumination and leave nothing but darkness and fear in its stead. Thankfully, there was still enough diffused sunlight to see, though nothing direct except for the occasional shaft of light piercing down through the foliage. Some ambient lighting was also available, in the form of the occasional plant or fungi which naturally glowed with eerie bioluminescence.

"This is my home you speak of, recall please," Zecora shot her a look of slight annoyance.

"Hey, I said the place was creepy, not the Zebra living in it. Seriously, how can you find the atmosphere here not creepy?" Dash asked in response.

Zecora smiled. "It is nothing more than forest and trees."

Something howled in the distance. Zecora blinked a few times, before smiling sheepishly. "Perhaps there is a point to what you say. Oh, I have an idea - lets go this way!" she suddenly exclaimed, pointing in the opposite direction of where the howl came from.

"Why, because that's where the flowers will be, or because the creepy howlin' thing ain't thatta way?" Applejack asked with a knowing smile.

Zecora looked at her with a stern, serious expression. Her eyes looked as though they held the wisdom of the ancients. It seemed that whatever she was about to say was the deepest, most enlightening statement any of the ponies present would ever hear. Instead... "Both," the zebra stated, before flashing a playful smile.

"I don't know what you're all so scared of," Twilight said with a smile. She was levitating a compass to her left, and a small guidebook to her right. She was also wearing an explorer's pith helmet, and had a pair of bulky, canvas saddle-bags strapped to her flanks... no doubt full of books and adventuring gear. The hovering guidebook, which appeared to be a reference text for local flora and fauna, was open to a section about animal calls. "Its just a fox."

Another howl, slightly different in pitch and harshness, suddenly echoed in the distance, near where the original howl came from.

Twilight looked closer at the guidebook, and flipped a page with her telekinesis. Her eyes darted back and forth across the page for a moment, before they suddenly widened in shock. "Uh... Oh, hey, look at the time! We should really be moving on. Lets go that way-" she pointed in the opposite direction of where the howls had come from, "Just like Zecora said!"

Rainbow Dash hopped up, flapped her wings a few times, and hovered over to Twilight. "Mind sharing what that second howl was, Miss Zoology?" she asked, craning her neck to sneak a peek at the guidebook.

"Nope, time is of the essence. Lets get moving!" Twilight grinned nervously, before trotting off through the foliage. With a shrug, Dash flew off after her, followed by Zecora. Applejack brought up the rear, looking slightly concerned.

"Well, tha's ominous..." she muttered, before disappearing into the bushes after her friends.