• Published 5th Aug 2015
  • 585 Views, 35 Comments

The Hungry Eyes - Ammie Kindheart

A series of strange things begin to happen between Ponyville and The Everfree forest. Can someone unravel the clues before it is too late?

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Chapter 5 - The Magic Ring

Author's Note:

Will they find the colts before it's too late?

Thanks as always, to Emylia Hawke, whose editing skills are greatly appreciated.

Not far from the ruined castle, the watcher stood, his dark form unseen in the shadows of the underbrush. His muscles tense, ready to attack if needed, his frustration bordered on anger but was reined in tightly. For now. If the groups that searched knew how close they had come to him, they would be afraid. They were very lucky indeed that he wasn’t in the mood to shed blood, for the years he had spent traveling and fighting had forged him into a force equal to any other in this forest. He had traveled all the known world, but it seemed that, no matter where he roamed, he could never find a place where he could be alone. For only when he was alone could he be assured he would not be betrayed again.

For two nights in a row, these ponies had entered his domain. He watched the stallions, had sensed them before they ever reached the castle. He watched them search, noting how little tracking skills they really had. Now, as they carried their burden away, he followed, slipping silently, shadow to shadow until they neared the home of the healer. Turning, he retraced his steps and moved deeper into the night.

* * *

As Morgan examined Buddy’s belongings, she looked for hair, fibers, blood, and any unusual items clinging to the blanket and coat. Her years of training helped her click into detective mode, but she realized this was the first time she was investigating a case alone. Giving her all the more reason to be careful in her work. Wearing special magnifying glasses helped her to see small items that would otherwise be lost. She was glad that Zecora thought to set Buddy’s belonging’s aside. Logging her discoveries, she made the following notes:

List of items found on garments belonging to Buddy Grimes are as follows:

001 Several drops of blood, check to verify source re. Buddy or attacker

002 Several dark grey and black hairs, genus unknown

003 Bits of green moss

004 Small twigs

005 Spots on blanket, possibly juice from berries

Morgan bagged the garments for more examination later. Placing the bag, along with several vials containing the items on the list, she closed her case.

Entering the main room, she took notes on Buddy’s condition. Seeing Buddy’s parents, their stress and worry written on their tired faces, she suddenly felt overwhelmed. The old negativity began creeping in. She began to question that she could be of any help. From the time she was little, her father had made it perfectly clear that, because she was not a son, she would never be good enough. Morgan became angry, knowing that his rejection had led to her mother’s depression and death. Pushing the negative thoughts away, Morgan renewed her focus on being the best she could be.

Morgan was unaware that her emotions were observed by the wise healer across the room. Zecora called to Morgan and offered her a drink, which the young detective gladly accepted, their hooves brushing as the cup was passed. Zecora closed her eyes for a moment. Morgan noticed a look of pain cross the older mare’s features.

“Are you alright?” asked Morgan quietly. “Do you need some air?” At Zecora’s nod, Morgan walked with her outside.

“To my storehouse would you go? There’s something there I must you show,” said Zecora softly.

Entering the small building, Morgan closed the door as Zecora sank to a bench, looking sick. Zecora took a little jug, poured a small cupful, and drank it. After a few minutes, she began to look better. Then Zecora began to explain to Morgan that, when they had touched, it had triggered an awakening of the senses she had never felt before. She then asked Morgan to hold her hoof.

This time, Morgan felt a surge of great darkness—from hatred or evil, she wasn’t sure, coming from nearby in the forest. Looking into Zecora’s eyes, she asked, “Do you feel it, too?”

Zecora nodded. As waves of that force washed over them both, they fought the nausea. Zecora gave Morgan some of the medicine to help reduce the effects of the dark force. Gathering several vials of ingredients, Zecora mixed some ingredients and poured a small amount into a square of cloth, then wrapped the cloth around the mixture. Finally, she tied it into a small bundle. Repeating the procedure, she passed it then to Morgan, who tied it into a bundle. They continued this until they had filled a small basket. Placing her fore hooves on the basket gently, Zecora closed her eyes and began to chant words that Morgan had never heard. As she watched, to her amazement, the bundles began to softly glow pale yellow.

Opening her eyes, Zecora touched Morgan’s shoulder. “We now share a special tie. We’ll fight this darkness, you and I. Never before a link I’ve seen—quite a rare thing has come to be. Through our tie, we’ll help the others see. In danger now we all have come to be.”

“I feel it, too,” said Morgan with a shiver. “We will have to keep watch to keep the others safe.” Zecora nodded in agreement.

As Morgan and Zecora left the storeroom, they were met by Coal, who, being so in-tune with Zecora, must have sensed her unease. Reaching out, Zecora ran her hoof gently across the dragon’s head, and Morgan smiled when she heard a deep purr rumbling softly from his throat. It was obvious that the pair shared a deep affection for each other.

Zecora set the basket before Coal and, looking into his eyes, she motioned in a circle. Nodding, the dragon then grasped the basket handle with his talons and took to the sky. As Morgan watched, he dropped a bundle, it’s soft glow shining in the darkness as it fell. He continued flying in a large ring just outside the clearing, dropping bundles every few yards. Each pouch contained magic and, once the circle was completed, their forces combined. Morgan saw a golden glimmer of the magic ring that created a safety zone inside the yard.

Morgan felt a renewed surge of the darkness. She looked at Zecora, who nodded—she felt it as well. Hearing a cry and a growl from the sky, Morgan watched the dragon circle the forest overhead. “Coal feels it, too, doesn’t he?” she asked.

Zecora nodded.

Then Morgan saw torches approaching. As she watched the dragon fly lower and follow the searchers back to the clearing, Morgan realized he was searching for the danger she and Zecora felt but could not see.

* * *

Big Mac placed Troy on Zecora’s bed and backed away so the healer could begin her work. As her hooves felt for injuries, she removed the colt’s jacket and the blanket he was wrapped in. She handed them to Morgan, who bagged them until she could examine them further. Next, Zecora removed the bandage. Seeing the green paste on the wounds, her eyes rose to look into Big Mac’s.

“We found him that way, ma’am. I don’t know what that gunk is, but it shor does smell,” said Big Mac. “If ya need anythin’, ya let me know. I’ll be outside,” he finished, his voice gruff with emotion, as he turned to go.

Zecora placed a hoof on his broad shoulder. “Your heart will lead you, as it did this night. It will also guide you when it’s time to fight. Make sure nopony leaves this glen, or lose more ponies we will again.”

Big Mac’s eyes grew large as he realized what Zecora meant. “I’ll make shor ev’rypony stays ’til ya say otherwise,” he said, stepping through the door.

Watching him go, Morgan said, “That stallion is big, but I get the idea he’s as tender-hearted as he is strong.”

Zecora smiled and nodded.

In the next hour, the two mares worked together to help the colt and discover clues to aid in their search for the attacker. Sharing her findings from earlier, Morgan learned that the green salve on the colt’s wound was made from a green moss. When asked, Zecora confirmed the moss from Buddy’s garments was the same as in the ointment. Most of the other specimens found on Troy were identical to those from Buddy. The only exceptions were several small, light grey hairs around the wound, which Morgan collected and added to her case to analyze later.

* * *

By morning, Troy’s fever was lower. Zecora had cleaned the gashes before stitching them closed. Troy awoke and was weak, but he talked to his parents. When asked what had happened, he began to shake and cry. Any attempts to discuss the time he was missing would trigger a panic so severe, Zecora forbid them from asking again. Little Buddy finally awoke as well and clung to his mother, but he refused to say even one word.

Fearing for the safety of everypony, Zecora packed a large crate of her medicines, which Big Mac loaded in a wagon. Zecora told Coal to gather the magic bundles, and then they loaded the colts into a wagon. The whole group headed for Ponyville, Zecora and Morgan riding with Troy as Mrs. Grimes rode with little Buddy in the other. The stallions broke into two groups, one leading and the other following the mares and wagons, keeping watch for trouble on the ground as Coal flew overhead, scanning the forest for trouble. Although attack in the daytime was less likely, they were careful as the moved along. Coal was watchful, still sensing the darkness that seemed to follow their movement as they moved toward town.

* * *

On the river that flowed from Horseshoe Bay inland toward Canterlot, passing through the Everfree and Ponyville, there was a small boat piloted by a lone zebra. His middle-aged body was weary from long travels from his Mother Country, Zebrica. He was on a mission that he had been given as a young adult, just after the coming-of-age ritual his tribe performed when a colt became a stallion. It had taken him so many years before he had been able to leave his homeland and make his start, but he vowed he would not stop until his debt was paid. He could feel the growing darkness, and so he adjusted the sail to better catch the wind. He needed to hurry.