• 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.

  • ...

Old Stories

"Please can you take me to see Princess Luna?" Night Wish once again asked his older sister, Twilight Dusk. The teenage unicorn only gave her sibling a sharp look of annoyance.

"For the fourth time, no. I'm reading," she replied, shifting her rectangular-lensed glasses to a better position. "Also, Mom and Dad said we're not allowed to bug her; she's busy."

"Aww..." Night Wish whined, his expression lowering to a frown.

Both ponies were the children of Princess Twilight Sparkle and her husband Flash Sentry. Twilight Dusk bore a sharp resemblance to her mother, both in terms of appearance and intellectual habits, save for having a slightly darker coat, and a sapphire streak going through her purple mane. Night Wish, while also having a similar bodily color scheme, bore a completely blue mane and the wings of his pegasus father.

Both were dwelling in the middle of one of Canterlot's hallways, the sound of a great many ponies talking, dancing, and generally having a good, celebratory time in the room adjacent to them.

Night Wish desperately wanted to see Luna and give her a Hearth's Warming gift he made for her. It was a large cookie he had made himself not a day before, depicting a full moon and several stars on its surface, all written in frosting. He kept it in a red box by his side, a green bow holding its cover shut.

"Mom and Dad didn't tell me, so do you know why she's not coming out of her room?" he asked again.

"Who's not coming out of their room?" a familiar, female voice asked from behind the two before Twilight Dusk could answer. Night Wish's entire body spun around to see who it was while Twilight Dusk only lifted her head from her book.

"Princess Luna!" the foal suddenly shouted, pointing out who the dark-colored alicorn coming down the hall toward them was. He quickly dashed toward her and hugged her leg.

"It's good to see you again too, Night Wish," the princess welcomed in a chuckle, patting his back.

"What were you doing that was more important than having a fun Hearth's Warming with everyone?" he asked as he trotted back and grabbed the present he left behind.

"Something very important I assure you, but I decided to take a small break and greet you all," Luna said as she followed him to where his sister sat.

"I-I... brought you a gift," Night Wish spoke again, turning to show his box to her. The Princess of the Night couldn't help but smile, and accepted the present, using her magic to pull the bow off, followed by the cover, and then the object's content.

"Oh, Night Wish..." she swooned, levitating the treat up to her face. "You're so sweet."

"Not as sweet as the cookie, I hope," he laughed. Luna took a bite of it, and grinned warmly as she savored its delicious taste.

"Why exactly were you locked in your room, and not celebrating with everypony else?" Twilight Dusk spoke up, readjusting her glasses again.

"Mmmph?" she replied, swallowing what was in her mouth. "I apologize that I couldn't join up with any of you yet. For the last few days I've been looking for someone with little success."

"Who is it?" Night Wish inquired, curiously.

"A monster, known as the Black Witch, who makes dreams into nightmares," Luna said, her expression tensing up a slight bit as she placed the cookie back into the box. "He is a strange, demented creature that was once a pony, but used a dark, ancient magic many hundreds of years ago to enter the dream world and cause havoc with other pony's dreams. I thought him gone for the longest of times, but he came back a short while ago. Now, he's in the real world once more, and I must locate and catch him before he returns."

"Did you hear that? A monster. Maybe we could help..." Nightwish quietly suggested, poking Twilight Dusk with an elbow. His sister gave a roll of her eyes before mumbling in a way she knew she was going to regret.

"Do you think you need assistance in finding him, princess?" she asked, bookmarking her page and closing her book. Luna pursed her lips as she thought, before deciding her answer.

"Well, as a matter of fact..."

While Zecora the zebra was busily working on a potion, Zak, having just placed some more wood into the fireplace's still-going blaze, was staring out the window at the snowfall. It had gotten worse in a very short time, with the storm being so thick that he couldn't even see the surrounding trees anymore.

"Aunt, I do not think this blizzard is all that it seems," he started, turning his attention from the window and giving Zecora a serious look of worry. "And though this is a hunch, I would say something is actively driving it on, I ween."

"A force behind this storm, I sense as well. It does not feel evil, but what it truly is, I cannot tell..." she replied. "Only time will let us know. For now, all we can do is let it flow."

Nodding at her words, the two found themselves interrupted by a loud knocking at the door. Without a word, Zecora walked up to it and opened it, revealing the cold shapes of who the two zebras realized were Thoraxis and his companions.

"Sorry we had to stop in..." Thoraxis's coated form apologized through chattering teeth, walking in. "In just the last five minutes the storm seemed to pick up tenfold. We each needed to find somewhere to warm up."

""Warm up" is an understatement..." Skia muttered as she limped behind him and pulled down three of her hoods, exposing her changeling head. At this point, she was very happy with herself that she had put on so many items of warmth, fully prepared for when the precipitation would get this bad.

"Even I can't see through this weather!" Petra said in a surprised tone, shaking the snow from her already pale, white face. "I've lived up in the frozen north for most of my life, and the storms there weren't usually as bad as this. Despereaux's having a fun time out there, though..."

The cryophoenix let out a crow of agreement as he landed on her shoulder, right before Longinus and Carol entered.

"Aye. That's the thickest an' coldest storm Ah've seen in a while," the kelpie sighed. "It's almost nightfall too. Ah hope we get to Serendipity's house afair 'en. Charybdis is expecting us."

"Don't worry. I'm sure we can make it there before the sun fully sets," Longinus replied to his wife, reassuringly. "And even if we can't, she's in good hooves."

"To make it to Serendipity's house tonight, I think you cannot," Zak said in a partially somber tone, unhappy to give them the news. "You'll get lost in the forest from what this snow and wind has wrought."

"What? Oh, no... oh dear, oh no..." Carol said in an anxious voice, tapping one of her gold earrings with a hoof in a worried manner. Longinus, seeing her in distress, quickly wrapped a leg around her and hugged her close.

"Easy there, Carol," he whispered, soothingly. "She's safe, she's warm... she'll be alright until tomorrow."

"Well... as long as ye think so," the kelpie responded, flashing an uneasy smile back at him.

"Please, you all may stay as long as you want, need, or like. Until this storm became stronger, Zak and I were also about to see if those two were alright," Zecora replied. "This time of cold is like in the days of yore, don't you think? Neighbors and friends, all huddled together around a fire, our bonds as thick as ink..."

"Seeing's how it appears we're here for a while... what should we do?" the changeling asked after sitting down and coughing into his hoof, looking for suggestions.

"I know a few stories," Skia and Petra both spoke at the same time. After looking at one another and chuckling at the coincidence, Petra continued. "We can all share one with each other, or something. Ya'know... go in circles."

"That sounds like a good idea," Longinus concurred with a positive expression, as both he and Carol relaxed themselves by the fireplace. "I know some old tales and legends of mirth and merriment myself, actually. Have any of you heard of the legend of Snow, the winter ibex?"

"Go ahead and tell us! And take your time," Zak smiled, watching as he and the others settled down in a circle around the room. "We have all night, so it's not a crime."

"It's getting late..." Charybdis sighed as she stared out the window, an activity she had been doing for the last dozen minutes, her view pointed toward the falling snow and the now slightly darker sky. "Where are they? What's taking them so long?"

"By the sound of it, the weather's gotten worse. That could be a possibility," Serendipity replied with a shrug, approaching her. "If they can't make it tonight, and need to find a place to stay, at least you get to spend another night with me without your parents telling you what to do, right?"

"Yeah, I guess so..." the young unicorn mumbled. "But still... I hope they did find a place to stay."

"It certainly is a pity..." Striga's voice suddenly sighed from just over a foot behind the two, causing them to jump in a startled reaction. "I need to leave town by the end of the week, and if this snow clogs up the roads for too long... oh dear, we would most certainly be in trouble, wouldn't we? Hehehe..."

Charybdis remained silent as she heard his somehow mocking laugh, while Serendipity greeted him with a smile.

"Sorry Mr. Phobetor, we didn't see you there," she said. "Is there something you need?"

"Mmmmyes. I was just wondering if you wouldn't mind if I took a peek at your plants," he replied. "A small curiosity as to what your flowers and greens look like has befallen me, and to sate it I must appease to it."

"I don't mind at all," she responded. "Just keep your hooves away from the talking one. His name's Hesperus, and he might try to bite you if he doesn't like you."

"I shall keep it in mind. Much obliged for the warning," he thanked, bowing his head before turning around and trotting about the greenhouse like a tourist observing an attraction. Charybdis watched him leave with a lowered, untrusting brow.

"That Striga guy... he's weird..." the filly whispered into Serendipity's ear, once he was gone. "I think there's something wrong with him. Just standing near him... I can't really explain it, but I don't like it. That moth of his is creepy too. The way it looks at me... it's not natural. Brr!"

"I don't feel it," Serendipity spoke back. "Striga's a bit odd, I'll admit that, but he keeps to himself. Just don't worry about him."

"Whatever. I'm going to go try and build an igloo outside, if that's alright with you," Charybdis said again, before shooting a much more serious look to her cousin. "Please, just be careful around that guy. My gut's telling me that he's trouble. The only time its ever been wrong was that one time I decided to try out an asparagus burger. Bleck!"

"This, coming from you? Little miss troublemaker-pants?" the half-changeling chuckled, rubbing her cousin's maned head with a hole-filled hoof in a playful, sisterly fashion. A grin spread across Charybdis's freckled face, and she let loose a laugh as she pushed the limb away.

"It's just as a heads-up," her cousin said again. "Do you think you want to come out with me?"

"Sure! Just give me a few minutes to water my plants and vegetables again and I'll be right out," she replied, cheerfully. Charybdis gave another smile and turned about, going off to put her winter cloths on. Serendipity made her way to the greenhouse, passing through the same door her guest used. As she entered, she suddenly heard her plant shouting at something.

"Get away from me you nectar-sucking buzzard! Shoo! Skedaddle!" Hesperus growled in a pestered voice. Using her sight spell, Serendipity saw him using his leaves in a futile attempt to ward off Augur, who flew overhead. The oversized insect only continued in his efforts, adamant to drink the peculiar plant's nectar. His long, thin proboscis extended, but as it got close to the snapdragon rose, Hesperus snapped at it, causing the moth to retract it, only to make another attempt a moment later.

Smirking in amusement, Serendipity located her watering can, and after filling it up with the nearby hose, sprinkled some drops over her cherry tomatoes, lettuce, peas, and radishes. As she finished watering them, she moved on to her flowers and began on them, until Striga, who was standing just a few feet away from her, spoke.

"Do you grow any witchwood trees, Miss Serendipity?"

"I'm sorry, what?" the half-changeling inquired upon hearing his abrupt question as she finished, placing the watering can down and turning to him.

"Witchwood trees," Striga repeated. "They're among my favorite plants, but I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't. The only few I've ever see were grown in the wild."

"What, dare I ask, is a witchwood tree?" Serendipity said again. Striga chuckled in a way that told her he was about to relay a long explanation.

"A unique plant," he began. "Tall and thick-trunked, covered in dark, green-black, mossy leaves and gnarled, tough, aged bark. Gangling branches possessing a ghostly thinness and an aura of venerability. Despite my fondness of them, most ponies grow to dislike them for their... "supernatural qualities...""

"Supernatural qualities?" the half-changeling questioned, now fully intrigued by what he was saying.

"Yep. Imbued inside every witchwood tree, in its very bark, is pure, raw, unrefined magic of incalculable power," he began to answer. "And with the fact that there was nothing to control this power, strange, eerie, things were known to happen without warning. Some ponies that stand near a witchwood tree for too long claim to hear voices calling out to them. Others see things they aren't sure are real. Ones that unwittingly sleep beside them tend to gain lucid, horrendously realistic nightmares that last for weeks on end. Because of these reasons and more, ponies would usually destroy or uproot and remove such a tree from their property or premises. Not even insects would dare approach them, save for one species that commonly nests in them with no ill effects... the black witch moth, hence the name."

"Your pet moth, Augur, is he a black witch moth?" Serendipity wondered aloud. "I wouldn't be able to tell."

"Yes! Well, he's part of a... giant subspecies of them..." he responded in a hasty tone, turning and looked at some nearby tulips. "But the little ditty about the moths isn't my favorite thing about the trees. It's a certain legend that goes with them, dating back a few thousand centuries. Ever heard of black magic?"

"You mean dark magic? Yeah," she replied. "I heard about it back when I was in school as a nymph. It's a form of magic that relies on one's negative emotions to power its spells, with hate, fear, despair, greed and so on being the prime candidates."

"Despite popular belief, black magic has nothing to do with dark magic," Striga corrected with a shake of his head, his words practically oozing with anticipation to explain what he meant. "Black magic goes by many names. Black magic, witchcraft, parasite magic, and thaumaturgy are to name just a few. It doesn't rely on emotion, or one's own power either. It's actually powered by the user's ability to manipulate and utilize the magic and life essence of surrounding objects to perform various feats and incantations."

He suddenly shook his head and sighed. "It would take me forever to explain what I've read and heard about that stuff, but the thing is, the practitioners of it were called "black witches." And they could be anyone, not just unicorns, I mean anyone. Earth ponies, pegasi, and I even remember hearing about a few griffons as well were among them."

"What did they do, exactly?"

"From what I've read, lots of things," he responded, as he began to watch Augur still stubbornly attempting to pollinate the snapdragon rose, despite the latter's snapping jaws of objection. "Despite their insidious name, many were simple miracle workers, magicians, and healers or hermits looking to make a common, if not at times lonesome living. There weren't very many of them to begin with, and the last of them were thought to have been killed off around two millennia ago after a knightly order grew fearful of them."

"That sounds terrible," Serendipity commented. Striga nodded in agreement.

"...But where it connects from there is the real reason I like the trees, and ends on a much happier note. It's an old story I've known since I was young," Striga began to finish. "An ancient legend goes on explaining how two black witches, a husband and a wife, managed to escape persecution by transferring their minds and souls into a pair of witchwood trees, and molded physical forms from them afterword. From there they used their newfound power to escape into the dream world, and to this day it is said that they both still reside there, creating dreams, both good and bad, for the ponies of the land."

"Well... that's lighthearted," the half-changeling said again. "I've never heard of any of this before. How do you know so much about it?"

"Let's just say I'm a bit of a history nut when it comes to the sort of things relating to dreams. I'd love to tell you more later, but now I've got to get ready to head into town, once night falls," he sighed in a somewhat awkward tone. "I need to deliver those tapestries. A few of the ponies there need them, and I'm trying to meet up with somepony else."

"Wait, you're heading out? At night? In this storm?" Serendipity exclaimed, puzzled surprised and concern in her words upon hearing his decision. "You'll freeze before you get thirty meters from the house!"

"Ooh... is that a challenge I hear?" he cackled. "No need to fret for my sake. I've wandered the globe long enough to know how to move through scorching heat and blistering storms. You can expect me to get back here by morning."

Humming to himself, Striga turned and trotted to the door as Serendipity checked over the last of her plants, thinking to herself about what he said. "I must say, these discussions of ours are fairly pleasant," he commented once he was halfway to the exit, his moth flying down and landing on top of his hat as he spoke. "Not very many take the time to listen. When I return, I simply have to tell you more about how black magic works."

"Just keep you mind focused on what's outside for now, Mr. Phobetor," Serendipity chuckled. "I may not know you very well, but I don't want you to have an accident."

Author's Note:

I disapprove of the Twilight/Flash Sentry ship as much as the next guy, but like I said before, this future is a guess I made out of the best, and most predictable outcomes the writers would make for the show. Only time will tell if I'm right or not...

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