• Published 7th Jan 2016
  • 896 Views, 66 Comments

Witchers Weed - Orcus

Just a few days before Hearth's Warming, an unnatural blizzard lays siege on Ponyville, bringing a strange character into town with it. Serendipity, Thoraxis and Petra's blind daughter, and her visiting friend, Charybdis, decide to investigate.

  • ...

Hearth's Warming Eve

As the morning of Hearth's Warming Eve went on around Serendipity's house, the half-changeling was busy giving her plants as much of her attention as possible, knowing well that she was going to be gone most of the day. As she worked, she couldn't help but feel weirded out by how... communicative Striga was now acting toward her.

"So... need any help with these plants?" he asked, pointing to another section of the greenhouse. Serendipity shook her horned head again.

"No, Mister Phobetor. I said I'll be good doing it myself, but thanks anyway," she responded once more as she tipped the watering can over some plants with her limited magic. Once Striga noticed the odd look that she was expressing, one he quickly attributed to annoyance at his current actions, he began to think of something that would make her feel happier.

"I'll just... go into the other room now," he spoke, tipping his hat and turning around to leave the greenhouse until another thought stopped him. "Say... are you... going anywhere today, Serendipity?"

"Well, yes," she replied. "I'm going down to Ponyville with my family for a little while, and then later on I plan on spending the rest of the day at Zecora's again."

"Want me to lead you to Ponyville?" he suggested as Augur flew back to his hat. "I have time to do it, if you want to get there quickly."

"Um... sure," she agreed uneasily. Happy with himself, Striga and his moth quietly left the room, allowing the half-changeling to work in peace. Sighing, Serendipity tried her best to look in Hesperus's direction as she began to focus on him.

"It might just be because of that moth that keeps trying to pollinate me, but does that Phobetor guy seem to be acting different to you?" the snapdragon rose inquired in an unsettled voice, as he felt the soil around him being watered. "The last time he came in here all he did was look at the other plants and me, but now he seems to be looking at you more. Did you say something to him?"

"Wait, he's looking at me?" she asked, stopping her work. "He said he wanted to observe some of the herbs I've been growing."

"Nope. All he's done is stare at you with those big eyes of his since the two of you came in here," the plant confirmed. "If I didn't know any better, which is likely considering how everyone doesn't like the fact that I want to rule the world, I'd say he's either suddenly infatuated with you, or is just trying to be creepy."

"Charybdis said she thought he was pretty weird, so... I'll go with weird," Serendipity commented as she began to work again.

The walk through the Everfree Forest with Striga was mostly quite for Serendipity, and she was deeply appreciative that he helped her get to Ponyville without having to tire herself out by constantly using her sight spell. For what seemed like the first time in a few days, the once-raging storm appeared to have been reduced to the occasional snowflake, or so the young half-changeling felt.

As she sensed that they were entering Ponyville; the delectable smell of cooking pastries and chimney smoke filling her nose, Serendipity soon heard the sound of multiple voices go out, most of them singing Hearth's Warming carols that conveyed messages of neighborly affection and good will. To her surprise, she soon noticed that Striga himself was starting to sing along with them in an unusually merry whisper, as if he was trying to hide it.

"Do you see my parents yet?" she decided to ask, interrupting her happy guest as her hooves began to trot over the freshly-shoveled ground.

"Your parents?" he inquired in return, as he narrowly passed by a pony in a hooded, haggard yellow robe that was busy hauling a cart full of what appeared to be strudel and books across the road. "No... not yet, but I'll keep looking..."

It wasn't too long that they ventured through the town before he spoke up again. "Ah, I think I see them," he remarked.

"Where?" she asked.

"This way!" he replied with a shout, as he suddenly took her hoof in his own, coarse-feeling one before she could react. Serendipity felt that there was gusto in his footsteps as he lead her in a quick fashion through the town, but soon he suddenly stopped, and another sound of smaller hooves approached the pair from just ahead.

"Seren!" the voice of Charybdis greeted in a cheerful voice. "You got here earlier than I thought. Hi, Mister Phobetor."

"Um... hi, Chary," Serendipity welcomed in return, brushing her pink, webbed mane back. "Striga helped me get here."

"Well, that sounded like a nice thing to do," she said, before an excited expression crossed her face. "Guess what? My half-sister Luna's here right now! Wanna say hi to her before she leaves?"

"Wait, did you say Luna?" Striga asked, his tone shifting from a joyful one, to a much lower volume in the blink of an eye. "Where?"

"Oh, she's talking with our parents right now," Charybdis answered, pointing in the direction she spoke of before expressing a warm, innocent smile on her freckled face as she looked back to the two. "They're talking about a dream-monster she's trying to find."

"A dream-monster? How odd," Serendipity spoke in an interested tone, rubbing her chin with a hoof. "What did she say it was like?"

"Something about being made of wood was all I caught. Sorry," the filly apologized with a shrug. "You can ask her right now if you want."

"Hmm... I might just do that..." she smirked, taking several, quick steps forward before Striga could stop her. Using her sight spell a single time, she saw the shapes she quickly recognized belonged to her mother and father, and stepped into the space that lied between them as they watched what went on in front of them.

"Hi Mom. Hi Dad," she spoke with a loving smile to both of her parents. They both turned their heads to her and grinned.

"Hello dear," Petra began. "How are you?"

"Can't complain," she said back, before hearing two voices discuss something ahead of her. It didn't take her a second to know who they belonged to.

"I understand what you spoke of his deeds, but what is this character like?" the sound of Longinus's voice asked.

"His appearance is as unnatural and perverted as what I feel lies inside," the female voice that Serendipity attributed to Luna replied. "He bears the visage of a giant wooden insect, contorted into the form of a moth. I'm sorry father, but I must leave now and look over my findings before the night ends."

"Very well," Longinus said, before leaning in and giving her a small hug. "Stay safe, my daughter. I do not wish to lose you to what you hunt for."

She smirked. "Do not worry about me. I've tangled with him multiple times. I know how he fights."

"What's going on? Is she leaving?" Striga, who now stood directly behind Serendipity, whispered into her ear. Slightly startled, she turned to him.

"I think so," she spoke, before a questioning, intuitive spark gleamed in her blind eyes. "Is... something wrong?"

"Oh, no. Just curious," he chuckled quietly. With a mighty sweep of her wings, both heard as Luna took off into the sky above, scattering flakes of snow below her as she left the ground. Striga slowly backed off as Serendipity's parents turned their full attention to her, wishing not to get in their way.

"So, Serendipity... what's your plan for tonight?" Thoraxis inquired. Serendipity smiled.

"Let's just say that I've got the perfect surprise for Charybdis," she said in an enthusiastic tone. "I've just got to find the right presents for everyone else now. What are you two planning, I wonder?"

"Well... your dad keeps telling me he doesn't want anything," Petra smirked, glancing at her husband.

"That's only because I have everything I need," Thoraxis chuckled back. "You still haven't told me what you want."

"Whatever you two get, you'd better figure it out soon..." Serendipity sang in a playful voice to her parents, who each gave a wry look back as they watched her leave to finish her own business.

As the first rays of moonlight shined through the rapidly-gathering clouds over the snow-harrowed land and the first flakes of a new storm began to fall from them, everyone had gathered inside of Zecora's hut. Serendipity, with a palpable, rare feeling of suspense jolting through her body, tore through the final ribbon that was wrapped around the box in front of her. Once that was done, she lifted the lid carefully and stuck her hole-filled hooves in.

Feeling something smooth, she pulled out what she noticed almost immediately was a small plastic bag. Shaking it, she felt multiple objects inside shake about.

"These are the rare ghost orchid seeds," Zak smiled from nearby. "In the spring they bloom most beautifully, if one can attend to its needs."

"Wha- these are ghost orchid seeds?!" the half-changeling gasped in amazement, trying her hardest to look in his direction; a giant, open-mouthed grin of delight lining her face, fully exposing the long fangs that were her canines. "I've always wanted to grow these! H-how did you know?"

"I might have heard you speak about them to my aunt..." the zebra blushed, pawing the wooden ground in a nervous manner. "If I didn't get them for you, it felt like it would be a most horrible taunt."

Zak suddenly found himself at the end of a large, and utterly unexpected hug, prompting smiles and laughter of joy from the onlookers. After letting go and allowing a brief few seconds of awkward silence to come between them, Thoraxis spoke up.

"Alright... whose turn is it now? I know there's still one left..." he said, eyeing everyone sitting in the room. Charybdis was quick to raise her hoof.

"Me! Me!" cheered the filly before setting her sights to the box that sat before her, which was covered heavily in red-and-blue wrapping paper, sealing it in more ways than Serendipity intended when she did it. "Serendipity got me this one."

As she started to tear off the excess decorative material to get at the actual present, Striga, who stood next to Serendipity as the night's event went on, whispered into her ear. "Serendipity, I... have a gift for you too," he said.

"You do?" asked she in an equally quiet voice. "That's very thoughtful of you."

"It's not with me right now, but I'll... go get it," he spoke again, drifting to the door behind him. "I will see you soon... my Thysania..."

"What was that?" Serendipity asked again, not catching the last part of his sentence.

"Nothing," he replied, exiting the abode with a click of the door and silently slipping into the night. When the popping sound that indicated Charybdis had finally gotten to the box and removed its cover went out ahead of her, Serendipity returned her attention to her cousin. Unseen by her, the filly was wearing a surprised expression and her jaw hung agape when she carefully placed her hooves into the package.

"Surprise!" Hesperus's voice went out as he was raised from the box, showing the red bow tied around his top like a hat. "It's me!"

"You didn't..." Charybdis sighed, lifting him up closer by his pot and shooting a speedy glance at Serendipity, before looking back. "You're... you're giving your snapdragon rose to... me?"

"Yes. He's yours now," the half-changeling grinned, very pleased at her reaction. "I put a list of directions on how to take care of him inside the box. It's not actually all that complicated."

"Seren... I... I can't say it enough, but thank you!" the crooked-horned unicorn shouted, placing Hesperus down, running up to her friend, and tackling her in a tremendous hug, not unlike what this embrace's current victim had done not a few minutes prior. "You're the best cousin ever!"

"Not as best as you!" Serendipity replied, hugging back. When they cut it off Charybdis trotted back to Hesperus; picking him up with her magic and bringing him to show to her family as Serendipity's own appeared from behind her.

"That was sweet," Skia said. "Didn't it take you a really long time to breed that snapdragon rose?"

"Yep," her albino sister replied, before lifting the bag of ghost orchid seeds she now had. "But just imagine what kind of plant I can try to make with these. They don't bloom long, but still..."

Just as she finished her sentence, a sudden, bright shape caught her blind eyes. All she could see now through the infinite void was that small, wisp-like shape. Before the half-changeling could properly react to the fact that she was actually seeing something, her eyes widened instead; caught under its spell the second she saw it.

The wisp just... floated there, right in front of her, seen by no one else. The moment her eyes looked into its glowing form, it was as if they were ensnared by its alluring appearance. Before she could even think of something else, she suddenly, and uncontrollably spoke a few words.

"If none of you mind, I... I think I... want to go for a walk, to... get some fresh air. By myself."

"Um... are you sure?" Petra asked, surprised by her sudden decision.

She closed her eyes and gave an assuring smile. "I'm sure."

"Alright, but... be back soon, and don't get lost," Thoraxis implored. Serendipity nodded her head as she made her way to the door and then left through it, keeping her blind eyes focused on the light the entire time. Further and further from the hut and into the woods she went, the storm picking up all around her all the while, but still she followed it without pause, as though her will was not her own.

Like a moth to a flame.

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