• Published 24th Oct 2015
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Survive the Everfree - DarkStarWolf53



A young bat pony must prove herself worthy of being a guard by surviving three days and nights in the deadly Everfree Forest.

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The Final Night

Noctis does not wake up til the next night.

What happened... how did I get here..?

Memories flood back, thoughts of being stalked, hunted, and savagely attacked.

Oh yeah, everything tried to kill me. But since it's the last night, I can make my way home. Home... such a wonderful thought! I can't wait to tell Nightshade all that happened to me, can't wait to finally wear the royal armor!

But when she makes her way out, she notices a problem.

I have no idea where I am, and the trees are too thick to see the moon... oh Luna, just when everything seemed to be going my way, I'm lost! And for some reason, this place feels... bad. Not the same bad as the rest of the woods, but a different kind. But why..?

Eerie laughter rings out nearby, answering the question.

That laugh... why's it seem almost familiar..?

A few more steps, staying to the shadows, then the one cackling appears: a huge serpentine dragon creature that looks like a patchwork of different species all together. Sharp teeth and claws gleam in the moonlight, and another eerie laugh...

That monster... Oh Luna, it's Discord!! I can't let him find me!

Sliding herself into the shadows, Noctis ducks low, keeping to the brush and praying to avoid detection. Unfortunately, she steps on and snaps a twig.

Discord turns and fixes his glowing eyes on the little bat pony.

"Why, what have we here? Are you lost, little pony?"

"Please go away Discord!"

"Now, now, I just want to 'help'. Perhaps I can put an end to your troubles." He licks his muzzle and flicks out his claws.

"No thank you!"

"Too bad."

Discord snaps his claws and enormous spikes appear out of the ground, completely trapping Noctis.

"AAH! W-what do you want?!"

"To kill you, of course."

"No! Please! Let me go!"

"Where would the fun be in that?"

"Please..."

"Begging won't help."

"W-will you at least make it quick..?"

"Oh come now, that would ruin it. The best part of this is making my prey suffer before I kill it."

That proves to be just too much for Noctis to handle. She runs blindly away, somehow managing to fit through a tiny space between two spikes, and hides inside a hollow log.

"Really, must you make this more difficult? Suppose I'll just have to set the log on fire with you in it."

"AAH!!"

Noctis races out of the log and flees in terror, only to get caught by vines wrapping around her.

"Any last words?" taunts Discord, hovering above the vines.

Instead of answering, Noctis shuts her eyes and cowers on the ground, whimpering and waiting for her fate. Sharp claws press against her neck, but then...

"YEEEOOWWW!!!"

The claw is abruptly withdrawn, followed by a half-snarling female voice:

"You done scarin' the bunnies, beastie?"

"Agh! Curse you, she-devil!"

"Flattery will get you nowhere. Wanna fight?"

"Why do you attack me so much? And why did you bite my tail?!"

"You do realize there's a pretty high price on your head, right? Lotta folk want you dead, and they are paying an awful lot to get the job done. As for the biting you, how else was I supposed to get your attention?"

"I know about the price on me, but you are the only one insane enough to try to get the bounty on me. By Tirek, with that level of madness, why aren't you dead yet?!"

"Hah, look who's talking! Anyway, we both know I'm no easy mark. Now then, I intend to collect that bounty. You gonna give up now, or you want to fight me?"

"It would be undignified to surrender to a pony-"

"I'm a horse, pony-bucker!"

Noctis finally peeks out from the vines, which loosened while Discord was distracted, and finds herself looking at a battle-scarred black and white pinto unicorn on the attack.

Wow, she's really pretty! And so big! She looks like a deer, but with a lion tail and curved horn! Is she one of the wild horses? But if she is, why would she be helping me? The ponies all say the wild horses sacrifice foals, that they kidnap you and force you to join their harem slaves, but this one, she isn't like that. Was it all a lie..? Never mind that now though! Look at her fight! Those taunts! Oh sweet Luna, she's the bravest equine I've ever seen!

A diving strike at Discord's leg from the pinto's hooves actually trips the demon up, and he roars in unbridled rage.

Forgetting about the bat pony completely, Discord leaps up and aims savage claws at the pinto mare's throat.

No! Is she going to die?! Oh Luna, I wish I was braver and stronger- I'd help her!

It turns out Noctis needn't have worried. The pinto expertly dodges Discord's claws, then slashes his underside with her horn, making him fall. And she doesn't stop there. While he's in pain, the wild horse slams her hooves into the back of his neck.

"AGH!"

"Blasted dragon, that blow was supposed to snap your neck!" growls the pinto as she leaps out of range.

"One, I am not a dragon. Two, my bones are not easy to break."

"Suppose I'll have to try harder then!"

"You're insane!"

"You've said that before! And I'm sick of it!"

"Yeah? Well I'm sick of you always attacking me! Why can't you just surrender and make both our lives easier?"

"If I surrender, you claim you'll 'rip the flesh from my bones', beastie."

"Yes, and?"

"Pretty good reason not to give, wouldn't you say?"

"I promise it'll be quick. You won't feel a thing."

"Two problems with that. One, I trust you as far as I can throw you by the tail- I know how much you want to hurt me. Two, I'd really rather not die, thank you very much!"

"By Tirek, I hate you!"

"Feeling's mutual!"

"Grah, if you would just get in range of my claws, we could settle this!"

"Nope!"

"Are you scared?"

"Your trickery might work on those simple-minded pretty-fillies of Equestria, but not on me."

"What trickery?"

"Claiming I'm a coward. Those Equestria ponies would, if they have half the brains of a gnat, run off. And if not, they'd get all insulted and come close to prove you wrong, making them easy marks. Doesn't work well on wild horses though!"

Discord snarls and struggles to his feet.

"Time to end this, pinto."

"Oh come now, you're pretty beat up. Do you really want more punishment?"

"Who says I'll be the one punished?"

"You don't think you can win, do you? At best, we'll reach a stalemate."

"Maybe not!"

As he speaks, Discord lashes out impossibly fast with his sharp claws, aiming at the pinto's neck. She just barely dodges a death blow, and falls to the ground.

"Well, buck," is all she says.

Discord moves in for the kill, only to have the wounded mare grab a knife out of her saddlebag and stab him in the chest.

He instinctively runs away, presumably to hide somewhere.

Once sure the danger is gone, Noctis comes out of the shadows, hesitantly approaching the injured mare.

"Um... hello..?"

"Who are you, and what's a little filly doing out here?"

"My name is Noctis. I'm here to prove my worth as a guard so I'm not an apprentice any more."

"So does your master hate you or something?"

"Of course not! I'm like a daughter to her."

"Then why in Tartarus did she send you to a horrible death?"

"What do you mean?"

"If you are an equine and out here, you're dead meat."

"But you're equine too..."

"Yeah, but I don't have anywhere else to go. But enough about me. You better run, little filly."

"Run? But why?"

"I'm bleeding, and you know blood brings in all kinds of predators. They'd be even happier with two meals instead of one."

"But if I leave you, won't you, you know..."

"Die? Yeah, probably. Kinda comes with the territory though."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm a bounty hunter. A lot of folk don't like me. I was bound to get killed sooner or later."

"But not this time!"

"Huh?"

Instead of answering, the filly takes out her first aid kit.

"Hold still. Nightshade left me some healing herbs and bandages in here. I can help!"

"Are you crazy? There won't be enough time!"

"I'll make time. Let me help you!"

"Not sure if I like the idea of a foal courting death..."

"Shh. It won't take long, I swear by the moon!"

"Okay..."

The pinto mare holds still as the tiny filly binds her wounds.

"So what's your name, if I may be so bold?" asks Noctis as she finishes up.

"I go by Storm. Forget my original name."

"Original name..?"

"Ah, it's not important. We better leave before-"

Storm is cut off by a savage roaring, and a manticore comes out of the bushes, doubtless attracted to the pinto's blood.

"Well, we're bucked," says Storm. "You better run-"

"Not this time," replies Noctis. "I'm through running!"

"You hit your head or something? A filly doesn't stand much chance against a manticore. By Tirek, even a full grown wild horse or wild stag doesn't stand much chance!"

"Maybe not, but I'm not about to let you get killed!"

"Hm, brave girl I see. Do you know where to aim to chase that critter off?"

"Err, Nightshade never told me. She thought I'd be smart enough to run and hide."

"Then I better tell you. You have wing-claws I see, and you're small. I'd advise running under the critter and slashing its belly, then if you can get to its tail without getting stung, bite off the stinger."

"How do you know this?"

"Let's just say I have my ways. But you better be fast, before that critter gets its claws or stinger on you."

"Got it!"

Noctis partly opens her uninjured wing so the claws are exposed and slides under the beast's swiping claws.

Need to be fast- have to hurt it before it stings me!

She races beneath the huge manticore, wing claws extended, and slashes into its underside. She's not strong enough to cut very deep, but at least the monster is distracted, giving her a chance to strike.

According to Miss Storm, I need to break off the stinger, so...

A quick, hard bite at the base of the manticore's stinger, a snap, and a cry of pain.

"I...I did it..?" asks Noctis as the manticore flees, whimpering, into the inky shadows.

"Apparently," replies Storm.

She looks at Noctis oddly, then speaks again.

"Why in the name of the Great Hawk are your flanks glowing?!"

"Wait, what?!"

"Your flanks are glowing. Better get your tail over here before the light brings in more hungry predators."

Noctis obeys, still confused, and Storm gently grabs the bat pony and pulls her close, then wraps her lion-like tail around her, effectively blocking the glow from showing.

"Glowing..? I think that means..."

The glow fades and Storm moves her tail.

"SWEET LUNA, I GOT MY CUTIE MARK!!!" yells Noctis, noticing the crescent moon now on her flanks.

Storm gently raps her on the head.

"You also need to quiet down. I really would rather not go deaf today."

"Oh, sorry about that. It's just, cutie marks are so important-did fighting that manticore do it?"

"No idea."

"How can you not know- wait, how come you don't have a cutie mark?"

"I'm a wild horse, little foal, not a pony. We wild critters don't get such things."

"Oh... Anyway, changing the subject, do you think the manticore is gone for good?"

"Critter will be out of our fur for a while, that I know. Hopefully long enough to get you back to civilization."

"But I like it here..." With you...

"Pardon my bluntness, but you will flippin' die out here. You're lucky to have survived this long. Maybe you can come back to the wild when you are older and stronger, but right now, we need to get you home."

"Maybe just one more day..?"

"Fine, but we better get to a safe shelter."

"Are you strong enough to travel? Discord tore you up pretty bad..."

"Eh, I've had much worse."

"What do you mean?"

"Maybe I can explain it if we ever meet again. But for now, there's a hidden cave over in those cliffs. No predators, and shelter from weather. Follow me."

"Okay!"

After a surprisingly short walk, the mare and filly stop by a large stone.

"Uhh, there's no cave here..."

"Wait and watch."

Storm raps on the stone, and it sounds hollow.

"Password?" comes a voice from within.

"Below, in dark and night. Above, in sun and light. Within, power. Without, danger."

"You may enter."

The rock creaks aside, revealing a tunnel and a large golden she-griffin.

"What have you brought home, milady?" asks the griffin, looking at Noctis.

"Little lost filly. I'm going to take her back to Equestria tomorrow night, but can we stay here?"

"Of course. Any friend of my lady is a friend of mine," replies the griffin, again glancing down at the bat pony.

"Your lady?" asks Noctis curiously.

"Mhm. If we ever get peace for more than five minutes, we plan to marry up."

"Ooh can I come to the wedding?"

"Depends on if we live long enough to get hitched. Anyway, you both look tired, so you better get some rest."

"Okay..."

Storm lays down in a pile of straw and signals Noctis to come close.

As soon as she does, the pinto mare nudges the smaller filly between her forelegs.

"It's safe here, Noctis. We'll protect you."

"Thanks..."

Noctis lays her head across the unicorn's foreleg, and as she drifts off to sleep, she feels Storm's chin resting against her.

So... wonderful...

Author's Note:

The pinto unicorn is a thief/bounty hunter named Storm. She is a major player in both Kingdom of Avia and Thieves' Gala, and also appears in Dr. Bobtail, and I am working on her full backstory in the AviaVerse Origins series. Noctis has a major fangirl-crush on her.

Goldfeather is the golden griffin and Storm's fiancee. She appears in the same stories as Storm, but is only a major player in Kingdom of Avia, though I'm working on her full backstory in the AviaVerse Origins series.

In this universe, Discord is extremely powerful against magical attacks, but the cost is that he's weaker against physical attacks. Also, he is not used to physical pain, so if a lot of physical violence is involved, he tends to flee rather than fight.

Also: in this universe, a manticore's stinger is its main weapon- paralyzes its prey so it can kill them without harm- so when a manticore gets its stinger bitten off, it's greatly weakened and flees/hides til the stinger regrows.

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