• Published 10th Jan 2016
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Wizards of Everfree Valley - Dafaddah



A geeky young Pegasus decides that magic should be for everypony, and sets out to make his dream a reality.

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Chapter seven: Due North

Author's Note:

With this chapter we return to the OC Slamjam competition. Finding a scenario to integrate the remotely stationed Evergreen into Firefly's story was a bit of a challenge. Most authors in the contest had ponies either visiting Evergreen's forest, or had her investigating some crime elsewhere. I chose the former, and used the story to move the timeline of the personal caster revolution forward a few years, to a stage where Firefly was rich, famous, and to an extent feeling confused about what he should do next.

The only problem was that I couldn't see a computer caster geek like Firefly going to woods by himself, so the obvious solution (to me) was for him to invite Falcata along. This presented a bit of a problem, as Falcata tends to make space for herself in any story where she is involved. When I submitted this entry to the competition I (deservedly) was criticized for not giving the new OC (Evergreen) as much wordage as I should have. My only defence here is that I really did go quite deep into Evergreen's character and motivation in taking this lonely posting.

Several of my readers have commented to me that this was my strongest submission to the OC Slamjam. However, how my story would have fared against an actual opponent, I'll never know. Evergreen's author did not submit a story for the round and so I won by default, advancing me into the OC Slamjam Finals.

The wake: Evergreen

I had never been to Ponyville before, although I had long wanted to visit the Everfree Forest, so often the backdrop in the history, myths and legends of Equestria. Falcata’s letter and telegram, combined with months of accumulated unused vacation time, convinced me to go. I wore my parade uniform, the fiery Red Serge and a brand new campaign hat I’d bought in Whinnypeg, from where I took the train down to Canterlot and then Ponyville. The trip had provided ample time to shine my buttons, insignia, and spurs, polish my boots and all the straps, and make sure my uniform was perfect. I even had time to preen and shine my feathers to a glowing emerald green.

Eyes turned when I entered the castle. Of course the uniform is highly recognisable. Its fame is a both a matter of pride for us Mounties, and a heavy responsibility. But I must admit, it also gives me great comfort, especially on somber occasions such as this. As I approached the reception line I saw Falcata for the first time in her full Sergeant of the Royal Guard uniform. It was patterned after those of Princess Celestia's Solar Pegasus Guard, substituting royal purple barding for the Solar Guard's gold. She stood next to Princess Twilight Sparkle. I marched forward and saluted.

“Your majesty,” said Falcata. “Please allow me to present Sergeant Evergreen of the Royal Equestrian Rangers. She has been a good friend to Firefly and myself. She’s come all the way from the Northwest Territories to attend the funeral.”

The Princess nodded. “It’s a pleasure meeting you, Sergeant Evergreen.” She glanced to her right. “But maybe not as great a pleasure as it is for Rainbow Dash!” I turned my eyes to the lithe blue pegasus next to the princess, who was none other than that famous pegasus. I held my breath, trying hard not to issue a huge squeal at seeing the captain of the Wonderbolts, when my own ears were assaulted by a shout from the mare in question.

“Ohmigoshohmigoshohmigosh! A real, honest to Celestia Mountie! I never thought I’d meet one!” Rainbow Dash offered her hoof, which I took in mine and got one of the highest velocity hoof shakes I’ve ever had.

Falcata laughed heartily. “Sergeant Evergreen’s as real as they get, Captain Dash! She alone patrols an area fifteen times the size of the Everfree Forest!”

The famous mare's expression grew serious and she raised one eyebrow. “Say,” she rasped, “how did a low-key guy like Firefly get mixed up with a Mountie? Or are you another one of those PC gleek types?”

I was a bit taken aback, but I could tell from Falcata’s expression that she didn’t mean any disrespect.

“Assuming you meant geek, Rainbow Dash, then I admit to being somewhat interested in personal spell casters, but in truth it's mostly out of boredom, given the remoteness of my posting, eh!?” I looked to her left at a tweed jacketed unicorn that I recognized from a magazine photo. “And this must be Mr. Mild Manners.” I shook hooves with Firefly’s business partner.

“And these ponies,” Falcata pointed to a heavyset earth pony stallion accompanied by a much younger mare, “are Dr. Gross Product and his daughter Ripple, friends of Mr. Firefly as well.”

I shook hooves with the two ponies. “Good day!” I said.

Rainbow Dash chortled. “She even has the accent! Tell us ah-boot your boots, Sergeant!” she asked.

I looked down in chagrin. “What about my boots?”

Rainbow Dash grabbed her sides, laughing. “She said it! She said it!”

I raised an eyebrow. Falcata seemed to be taking in stride the rather indecorous proceedings, so I did as well. When in Ponyville...

“Now that the introductions are complete, maybe I can answer your question, Captain Dash,” I offered.

Her eyes widened. “Oh, yeah! So how did you and Firefly actually meet? What did he do? Jay-walk over the frozen tundra?”

Seven pairs of eyes focused all their attention on me.

“Nothing quite that trivial.” I said. “You see, he nearly died...”


Chapter Seven: Due North

Firefly, Falcata and Evergreen

– Firefly –

I lay on my belly in the dust, bleeding.

In the light of Luna’s full moon, the bloody splotches on my coat and bandages looked midnight black, as if chunks had been gouged from my body.

I snorted in amusement. I look like a changeling! Laughing hurt.

Evergreen and Falcata crouched protectively to either side of me as the timberwolves circled us in a slowly shrinking ring of dripping fangs and glowing eyes.

I wonder if they'll find enough left of us to bury.

The remote mountain lakeside had seemed like the ideal site for a few days’ rest.

I smiled. We’ll be resting all right. In pieces! And to think the day had started off so well...


– Firefly –

The lake was just as breathtaking as the brochure promised. Framed by the Caneighdian Rockies, its limpid surface flawlessly mirrored the pure cerulean sky and the thin wispy clouds of a perfect summer day.

“Ah, the air doth be full sweet in these northern climes!” said Falcata, stretching her golden-yellow wings.

My own orange wings were practically falling off after the long flight from Vanhoover. She looked askance as I knelt before a pile of twigs, and vigorously rubbed together two branches.

“Firefly! What in the name of Oatin’s fuzzy beard be thy purpose?”

“Starting a fire. Just like they taught us in Pegasus Scouts!”

She smirked and began unpacking. “Thou cans't ignite tinder so.”

“Well, I forgot the matches, there are no lightning clouds nearby, and you forbade me to use my Personal Spell Caster on vacation, so I’m stuck with doing this the old-fashioned way!”

She knelt beside me. “I ken a few old fashions m’self. E’en a thousand years afore, only a halfwit would fain quicken a fire by forced mating of two green boughs!”

Oh. Yeah.

I sighed and raised an eyebrow. “Then pray tell, how did the fullwits do it, milady?”

“A lady knows naught of such things!” She winked saucily, extracting a flint and steel out of her saddlebag. It took two strikes to produce a spark setting the tinder alight. She leered at me as smoke wafted up from the flame. “Lucky us, for I be no lady!”

Falcata always gets a laugh out of making me blush.

Ignoring my discomfort, she began assembling the tents. By far the stronger flyer, she had carried both shelters in the over-sized duffel she called a campaign kit. From it she produced an impressive quantity of goods while I emptied my much smaller bag.

She was extracting some paperback books from her kit when she abruptly turned her head towards the northern sky.

A winged shape approached above the treetops. Moments later, a green pegasus mare wearing a red uniform and a brown hat, landed close by.

She saluted, then held out her hoof. “Good day! I’m Sergeant Evergreen of the Royal Equestrian Rangers. Welcome to Saddleback Range National Park!”

Falcata looked down at the proffered limb, then back up into the mare’s face. “Sergeant Falcata of her Royal Highness Princess Twilight’s Palace Guard.” She grasped the hoof firmly. The ranger’s eyes widened slightly. Muscles corded along both mares’ forelegs. Neither broke eye contact.

Before things became awkward, I raised my own hoof. “Hi! I'm Firefly. We’ve received permission to camp here from the Park Authority.”

Evergreen looked at me. Reluctantly disengaging Falcata’s hoof, she shook mine perfunctorily. “So, what does a nice couple such as yourselves have planned for the week?”

Falcata snorted. “The lad an’ I be comrades, but no special someponies we, as ye modern lot call it. And our plans need concern nopony save our own selves!”

Evergreen raised an eyebrow. “My apologies for intruding. The note I received from the Park Authority was somewhat short on details.”

I stepped between the mares and smiled. “We have nothing specific planned. We just want to relax, go swimming, hiking, sunbath on nice fluffy clouds, you know, healthy stuff like that!”

“Aye,” added Falcata over my shoulder sarcastically. “It be a layabout’s dream here, far from worldly concerns. I do envy thee thy carefree posting in this isolated pasture, Sergeant!”

Road Apples!

Evergreen’s eyes narrowed to slits. “I wouldn’t call it carefree,” she said in a businesslike monotone. “I came here as soon as I spotted the smoke from your fire. A pack of timberwolves was seen in the area. I urge you to exercise caution. Always stay together, and above all take to the air the moment you spot anything unusual.”

Falcata’s frown deepened. “Sergeant Evergreen, these woods pose no threat to such a seasoned veteran as m’self.”

The ranger pursed her lips. “Of course, Sergeant. Well then, good day to you both.” Evergreen saluted and took off.

I waited until she was out of earshot. “Celestia, but that was awkward! Falcata, what’s gotten into you?”

She harrumphed. “Didst thou espy the fresh-pressed seams of that spotless uniform? That parade-ground poser had better keep her muzzle out of my business!” She trotted off towards the woods.

“Where are you going?” I called out. “The ranger said to stay together!”

“If there be timberwolves hereabouts, I needs must know the lay of the land. I will survey the area and return afore our mid-day meal.”

I felt uneasy as she flew off.


– Evergreen –

I was fuming when I landed on the balcony of my treetop cabin. Words came to mind, words I refuse to ever say when I’m wearing the uniform.

I placed my hat on its peg next to the door. Hanging my red serge next to it, I picked a few specks of dust off the symbol of my duty and authority. Only then did I allow myself to vent.

“Layabout!? Pasture!? Of all the arrogant, holier-than-thou, keep-your-muzzle-out-of-my-business, I-can-handle-myself-in-your-quaint-little-woods, military jar-heads!”

I stamped a hoof. And then another.

Catharsis achieved. Keep calm and carry-on!

Whenever I get frustrated I clean house. It clears my head.

I looked around my cabin for a target on which to focus my energies. My magazines were starting to pile up, so I decided to sort through them and go over the mail. I also went to the icebox, took out a sandwich I had prepared earlier, and made tea.

I finally relaxed as I sipped from the steaming cup. The letters and magazines lay fanned out on the table in front of me.

The mail was the RER Service Newsletter and a postcard from my uncle. I turned to the periodicals. One of my favorites – to my perpetual embarrassment – was Herd Weekly, trashy celebrity gossip at its insipid finest. I enjoyed the glossy pictures of celebrities and news of the endless juicy scandals in which the Canterlot elite engaged. Often, the magazine’s photos were the only pony faces I saw all week.

I was selecting back issues to trash when I spied the words Ponyville Confidential! in lurid pink. The issue was three months old. I didn’t recall reading it. At the time I had been investigating a group of crazy cultists in the woods. The magazine had several articles on the Friendship Rainbow Kingdom. When I finished reading my half-empty tea cup sat cold on the table.

Wow! Falcata isn’t some hoser, she’s a living relic! A photo showed Firefly and a cream coloured unicorn in a tweed jacket accepting an award from Princess Celestia. Firefly is one of the co-inventors of the Personal Spell Caster! The widely popular devices let anypony do spell magic.

Wow! That guy is filthy rich!

Another photo showed Firefly next to a despondent looking light brown earth pony in a starched collar and tie.

Heh! He’s richer than Filthy Rich!

I sighed.

We finally have some actual celebs in the Park! Too bad one of them is so... uncool.

I finished tidying up and prepared for my afternoon patrol. My route would take me over the visitors’ campsite, so I could check in on them again. I understood their need for privacy, but I hadn’t been kidding about the timberwolves. Donning my uniform, I opened the door, spread my wings, and vaulted the balcony.


– Firefly –

I got nervous when, two hours past noon, Falcata still hadn’t returned. An hour later I decided to fly off in search of her. Just as I was about to take off, the ranger reappeared above the treeline. She landed, touching the brim of her hat in greeting.

“Hello, Mister Firefly.” Her smile faded the moment she saw my face. “Is there a problem?”

I nodded. “Falcata left to check out the area just before noon and she hasn’t returned since.”

The ranger’s eyes widened. “I believe I recommended that you stay together at all times.”

My ears folded back. “You did, it’s just that... Falcata’s kind of set in her ways.”

Evergreen hesitated a moment. “She’s the Pegasus Legionnaire that was turned stone by a cockatrice a thousand years ago, isn’t she?”

“You know about that?”

“We’re not as isolated here as you might think.” For some reason the ranger blushed. “But right now we need to focus on priorities, like finding Sergeant Falcata. Do you recall in which direction she went?”

I pondered a moment, then pointed towards some low hills. “I’m pretty sure it was that way.”

“Good. Give me an hour. If I’m not back by then I recommend you fly north by north-east. After about five miles out you’ll see a lone pine taller than all the others with a cabin near its summit. Go there and wait for rescue.”

I pawed the ground. “The only reason Falcata came here is because I asked her to. Am I supposed to just sit here on my flank when she could be hurt?”

The Sergeant flashed me a reassuring smile. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather not have two lost campers to locate before nightfall! Please just stay here until my return within an hour and, failing that, fly straight to my cabin. In the meantime you could collect nearby wood and feed your fire. If Sergeant Falcata’s gotten lost the smoke column might guide her back to the campsite. Do you understand my instructions, Mister Firefly?”

“Yes, Sergeant.”

“Good! I’ll be back soon with Sergeant Falcata. Don’t you worry!”

I waved as she took off in the direction in which Falcata had disappeared.

“It seems like all I can do is worry,” I complained to nopony.




She was back within thirty minutes, alone. My stomach was churning as she landed.

“So? Where is she?” I demanded.

“Mister Firefly, I’m afraid there’s been trouble.” She opened her saddlebag and extracted a bunch of golden-yellow pegasus flight feathers. The blood drained from my face.

“There were timberwolf tracks all over the area where I found these, but no blood. I doubt Sergeant Falcata could have flown with such wing damage. There were pony tracks leading away from the scene, but I lost the trail when it went into a stream. My guess is that your friend made it to the water and then followed the stream to throw the wolves off of her scent. She’s a smart mare, Mister Firefly.”

Evergreen hesitated. “Her tracks - her left foreleg is a prosthesis if I’m not mistaken.”

I swallowed. “Yes it is. Even with only three good legs, she’s still more dangerous than a manticore when she’s angry, but her attitude will only carry her so far against a pack of timberwolves. We have to find her before it’s too late!”

“We?” said Evergreen.

I nodded. “We already know she’s hurt. Can you fight off timberwolves while dragging around a wounded pony? You’ll need help.”

Evergreen chewed her lip.

“Okay.” She placed a hoof on my chest. “You can come along if you swear on your honour to obey without hesitation every single instruction I give you!” Our gazes locked.

“I do,” I said, swallowing.

She smiled crookedly. “Then welcome to the Royal Equestrian Rangers auxiliary, deputy Firefly!”

I looked at her, nonplussed. “Do I have to salute?”

“No. Just obey. You’ve got one minute to get ready. Then we go find your friend before the wolves do.”

“Yes, Sergeant Evergreen!” I saluted anyway, and galloped off to get my saddlebag.


– Evergreen –

I eyed the civilian I had reluctantly deputized.

He was right, I really didn’t have a choice. Nevertheless, the added responsibility left me feeling uneasy.

We flew a course that followed the stream. After a few minutes I swooped down to the water’s edge. “This is where she entered the stream. I’ve followed its course down to the lake already. Now we go upstream.”

Firefly touched ground. “Why aren’t we following the stream from the air?”

“The canopy thickens considerably upstream and I don’t want to risk missing the signs of Sergeant Falcata’s exit from the water. So we’re going to slog up the stream on hoof, at least for a while.”

I entered the water and moved forward at a steady pace, carefully scanning the banks to each side.

Firefly splashed close behind. “You know, something’s been bothering me. Why would Falcata go upstream? She should know going downstream would lead her back to the lake and to the campsite.”

I plodded onwards.

Splish, splosh, splish, splosh.

“She would if she was trying to lead the pack away from your campsite.”

Firefly stumbled and caught himself. “Yeah,” he said shakily. “That sounds like something she would do.”

Splish, splosh, splish, splosh.

“So tell me, Mister Firefly, do you have any idea why Sergeant Falcata reacted so negatively towards me earlier?”

“Oh. Yeah.” He took a deep breath. “She kind-of considers modern guardponies to be pushovers.”

I had no response to that. It explained things, but I still felt a bit miffed.

Splish, splosh, splish, splosh.

“Sergeant. Why did you take this post? I mean, these woods are really very pretty, but it certainly is remote here.”

I chuckled. “The beauty is part of it, certainly, but it’s not the only reason. And the remoteness doesn’t bother me in the least!”

“Why not? You’re as much a creature of the herd as the rest of us.”

Have you been talking to my mother? I sighed. “Sometimes I do miss having other ponies around. But on most days...” I wondered if he would understand.

Splish, splosh, splish, splosh.

“On most days what?”

“On most days I’m not alone, I’m living North.”

North? Sounds like a direction, not a lifestyle.”

I laughed. “Trust me. It’s not about which way a compass needle points.”

“Then what is it?”

Splish, splosh, splish, splosh.

I chewed my lip. “North is... waking up with the sun. North is walking through the woods and hearing every leaf that falls, and every blade of grass that whispers in the breeze. Knowing every bird, and squirrel, and beaver and bear. Living a whole day without having said a word but having had a thousand conversations. North is getting to know the silence and what it has to tell you.”

Splish, splosh, splish, splosh.

“What about you, Mister Firefly? Why did you and Sergeant Falcata come here?”

“I can’t rightly speak for Falcata. She never told me why she agreed to come. Maybe she thought an egghead like me wouldn’t last ten minutes in the wilderness without her.” He chuckled. “As to me...”

Splish, splosh, splish, splosh.

“I came to escape, I guess.”

“And what’s chasing a wealthy, eminently eligible bachelor such as yourself?”

He sighed loudly. “All of it! I used to be just an odd pegasus with strange notions about magical devices. Now I'm the co-inventor of the Personal Spell Caster and everypony and her sister wants a chunk of my time, a portion of my fortune, or a piece of my hide.” He snorted. “Everything and everypony has changed, and it seems like all my silent moments have moved out of town!”

“Still, you’ve invented a device that’s changing the face of Equestria, though I admit I don’t use one - no local unicorn around to recharge it!”

Splish, splosh, splish, splosh.

“Hmm. Falcata isn’t interested either. Although she admits to using my PC once in a while.”

Falcata uses a PC? That stiff... Ahem. In uniform.

“She does? What for?”

“She says she uses it to remotely cut up onions and then fry them in a skillet. She gets really embarrassed if anypony thinks she’s been crying!”

Splish...

I froze. Behind me, Firefly splashed to a stop.

I pointed out claw marks on a stump fallen next to the stream and raised a hoof to my lips.

“Timberwolves!” I whispered.


– Firefly –

Evergreen motioned for me to follow her out of the stream-bed, moving through the underbrush along the bank quiet as a shadow. I tried my best to match her step for step, but still ended up making as much noise as a marching band. We had progressed like this for half an hour when she crouched down and motioned for me to do the same. Peering through the bushes, we saw that we had reached the lee of the forest, where it gave way to gently rolling fields. Multiple trails of bent grass showed where several individuals had emerged.

We took to the air and flew several ponylengths above the fields, covering ground much more quickly. I appreciated the faster progress. Every minute we hadn’t found Falcata added to my dread. We finally saw figures ahead, just before the scrub gave way to trees again. A lone yellow-coloured speck stood surrounded by three menacing forms.

“FALCATA!” I shouted, surging forward.

“Stay in the air!” ordered the ranger as she dove to assist Falcata. I hesitated, and then began circling the scene.

A great weight lift from my heart. Falcata was alive!


– Evergreen –

It took me a moment to make out her words. Her angry expression made her feelings abundantly clear.

“Fie and fie again! Thou unmuzzled, addle-pated jolt-head! Wherefore didst thou bring the scholar hither?”

She balanced on her forelegs and bucked back an attacking timberwolf behind her.

“Halfwit! Fumblehoof!”

She spun to repel another wolf who had lunged at her.

“Flee!” she shouted. “Arise! Get thee hence, whilst thee still can!”

Even a ranger has limits to her patience. I glided in to snatch the ungrateful mare from behind and lift her away.

“Get ready for a pick up, Sergeant!” I shouted.

“Neigh, you foal!” I saw her anger turn to fear just as I glided in. There was the smell of wolf, then both my wings were engulfed in blazing agony. I fell, somehow managing to end up on all fours.

Turning my head over my back I saw huge gaps in my wing feathers.

I suppose any pegasus in that situation has a right to scream her loss and feel no shame in doing so. Instead, a feeling of calm and crystal clarity descended upon me. There would be time to be a pegasus, later. But now? Now, I had a duty. Now, I was in uniform. Now, there was justice to be done. And justice would not be denied. Not on my watch!

I turned to face opposite Falcata. Folding back my wings was torture, but necessary to make full use of ground fighting techniques.

“Sergeant Falcata, it appears we’re going to have to fight our way out of this mess,” I said.

Falcata pawed the ground. “Aye. Sergeant, thou hast more spleen that I had account'd in thee, if even less wit!”

Touché!

“I’ve never heard of timberwolves attacking pegasi’ wings before,” I remarked. “However, that does not excuse my ignoring your sound advice. My apologies, Sergeant.”

Falcata glanced in my direction, first looking surprised then barking a laugh. “I blithely preceded thee into the trap! I would be a knave to besmirch thee overmuch for doing the same!” Her expression relaxed. “I have much experience with timberwolves. Usually one dispatches the alpha and the pack disperses. However, this pack be more than passing strange, for I have yet to spy its alpha.”

A strange voice called from the lee of the forest. “Hello little ponies. Gordo is alpha now.”

A dark shape rose on two legs and approached through the grasses. Ragged ears, ragged clothing, and ragged tail. A diamond dog!

“Old timberwolf die and Gordo take his place. Gordo teach timberwolf new trick. Gordo has many tricks!” He smiled and raised a loaded crossbow, pointing the business end at Falcata.

“Pony can also tell pony in the sky come down, or pony on ground become pincushion. Yes?”


– Firefly –

As I circled I saw the diamond dog emerge from the woods, followed by some twenty timberwolves.

“Flee, Firefly! We two will teach this flea-bitten cur some manners!” shouted Falcata.

“She’s right, Firefly,” called Evergreen. “Go to my cabin!”

The dog growled. “Gordo count to three. If pony in sky not on ground before finished, pony on ground finished!” He laughed as if this was a particularly clever joke.

“One!”

“Heed me, Firefly! Or I shall bat thy ears bloody when I catch thee!” Falcata took one step towards the dog.

“Gordo not like pony attitude. Pack eats this one first for supper... Two!”

Belatedly, I let myself drop towards the ground. Too high! You won’t make it in time to save her!

“Three!” called the diamond dog.

Everything happened in slow motion.

Falcata rushed the diamond dog, with Evergreen close behind.

I hit the ground hard enough to knock the wind out of my lungs, legs and wings splayed wide.

Falcata raised her prosthetic left foreleg just as the crossbow bucked in the dog’s arms. The bolt skewered her leg, with half of its shaft protruding on either side.

Evergreen reached the diamond dog as he was reloading. Rearing, she dealt the crossbow a massive strike with both forehooves. Pieces of the weapon flew in every direction.

Falcata tripped as the mechanism in her prosthetic leg seized. Looking up, she screamed my name.

I felt both my wings and part of my soul rip as timberwolves tore at my feathers with tooth and claw. When they bit down on my other limbs I screamed.


– Evergreen –

Seeing Falcata struggling to rise, I abandoned the dog, rushing to defend Firefly.

I caught one of the timberwolves by surprise, bucking wildly. It would take it a while to reassemble itself. Another backed into Falcata, who similarly dispatched it. The third was nowhere to be seen, along with all the others. Falcata and I exchanged glances.

“Help Firefly. I’ll keep watch.” She sank to her haunches and began extricating the crossbow bolt from her leg.

The setting sun cast long shadows all around us.

“Firefly, can you hear me?”

He nodded.

I got out the first aid kits from both our saddlebags. “I’ll patch you up as well as I can.”

“I… I really screwed up, didn’t I?” he asked.

“Actually, you may have saved our lives! Your distraction enabled us to disarm the diamond dog. If he hadn’t been concerned about getting you to land he could just have shot us both from a safe distance.”

“Listen to the sergeant,” said Falcata as she trotted up, her prosthetic functioning. “This sly melting away of the pack disturbs me greatly. What thinkest thou be their intent?”

Good question. “They followed the alpha. And I don’t think that diamond dog will risk returning without his crossbow.”

Firefly snorted. “Let’s hope he had just the one!”

“Indeed!” agreed Falcata.

As the sun was setting, the third of our attackers reemerged from the woods, the pack slinking behind him. It was easy to read what had happened in his swagger, an alpha’s swagger. The blood on his muzzle confirmed it.

Poor Gordo ran out of tricks!

As the moon rose, the wolves formed a circle around us. Teeth and claws flashed silver in the pale moonlight.

Falcata and I assumed guard positions around Firefly, and waited for the attack.


– Firefly –

We’ll be resting all right. In pieces. And to think the day had started off so well...

The pack closed in on us with huffing breaths and clacking jaws. The mares had been incredible, but they were on their last legs. It was just a matter of time now.

Tremors ran up and down my spine as I pulled open my saddlebag with bleeding lips. I extracted the large medallion that was my Personal Spell Caster. Even this small effort nearly made me black out.

The alpha timberwolf pushed through the ring.

I activated the PC, hoping it had enough charge. I only had it in me to try this once. Focusing on the amulet, I envisioned the spell that would turn my will into reality, an act of spellcasting that I, though a pegasus born, believed was my destiny.

Light poured from my eyes. The alpha timberwolf’s muzzle lit up... and then flared out, leaving it with a beard of smoking embers.

Oh, yeah. Green boughs don’t burn easily.

That’s when Evergreen moved. In a blur of motion, she stepped up to the timberwolf while pulling a bottle from her saddlebag. She splashed its contents onto the still smouldering beast. It howled in indignation, and then burst into bright blue flame.

Alcohol!

The alpha collapsed into a burning pile of tinder. The remaining timberwolves pulled back in confusion. Leaderless, they fled howling into the woods.

At that point, I passed out.


– Evergreen –

Falcata and I did a lot of talking on the walk home, sharing the burden of carrying Firefly. The walk up those stairs to my cabin had never felt so long before. Probably because I always just flew up.

Falcata was turning into a real friend. She even liked the extra-hard local cider.

Firefly awoke the next evening. His first words were: “I guess it worked. Good thinking!”

Falcata snorted. “Aye! Else we’d be stinking piles of timberwolf dung ‘ere now!”

“Uh, you two getting along?”

Our gazes locked.

“As thick as thieves, begging your pardon, Sergeant!” replied Falcata, nodding in my direction.

I smiled. “Mister Firefly, would you like a sip of cider?”

He nodded.

“Careful though, it’s a bit stronger than what you’re used to down south.”

Falcata’s eye twinkled. “Indeed. This Caneighdian cider be akin to that quaffed by ponies in mine own younger days.” She chuckled. “Compared to it, the standard Equestrian brew be like... fighting in a canoe.”

“Really? How so?” asked Firefly.

“Because,” I replied smoothly, “it’s bucking close to water!”

Falcata was right. Making Firefly blush was fun!