• Published 6th Apr 2016
  • 2,820 Views, 126 Comments

Return to Gravity Falls: The Equestria Chronicles - Arkansandragon



SPOILERS for Gravity Falls' season 2 & finale + MLP:FiM season 6: "The Crystalling". One year after Weirdmageddon, the Pines reunite in Gravity Falls for another summer of adventure. A fall into Equestria as ponies wasn't what they had in mind.

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Chapter 6: In Which a Search Begins and Things Go from Bad to Worse

Author's Note:

Just a quick warning here. I've updated the tags to include the one for "gore" and there is some bloodletting in this chapter. If that makes you uncomfortable... It can't really be helped. I did try to describe it as vaguely as possible. Medical Disclaimer: if you ever find yourself or a friend/loved one in a similar situation to certain characters here (you'll know it when you see it) the best advice is to stay calm and seek the closest medical help ASAP. Do not try anything mentioned here, at home.

Castle of Friendship, Ponyville: That Morning

It had been Pinkie’s idea that they all sleep in Twilight’s room for it to be a “proper” sleepover. There wasn’t enough room for beds for all of them, but they used sleeping bags and made the best of it. Though a little crowded, they were having too much fun to try arguing with Pinkie.

The glow and vibration of their cutie marks were what woke six of the seven ponies. Starlight, Spike, and Discord woke at the commotion that followed as everypony rushed from Twilight’s bedroom, towards the throne room to see the map.

The tiny images of their cutie marks had finally converged on a location deep within the Everfree Forest.

“Pack your bags, girls! Looks like we’re heading to the Everfree Forest after all.” Twilight turned towards Spike and Discord. “Spike, I need you to come with us in case we need to contact the Princesses. Discord... I’m sorry, but I need you to stay here in case anything else happens with the map. You’re the only one who’ll be able to contact us quickly.”

Spike saluted, then rushed off to get his own bag. Discord seemed about to protest, then thought it over, and nodded in understanding.

“What about me?” asked Starlight, as the others rushed to pack supplies.

“You’re coming with us, Starlight.” Twilight levitated a set of spare saddlebags to her. “We’ve never been to that part of the forest before and it could get dangerous.”

Starlight nodded, taking the bags. “I won’t let you down.”

Within minutes, they were ready to leave. Twilight marked their destination on a more portable map to take with them, and teleported everypony to the forest’s edge on the outskirts of Ponyville.

It took them several hours to reach the place, but luckily their only problem was with a pack of timberwolves, which were quickly dispatched. The crudely built lean-to was the first thing they noticed, along with the large pit.

“Somepony was definitely here.”

“But where’d they go?”

“Let’s go find out!” Pinkie leapt high in excitement--

“--Hold it, Pinkie!” Rainbow caught the pink pony in mid-air, just as she was about to rush into the clearing. “Look at the grass and dirt. See how they’re all kicked up? There was fight here.”

“And it didn’t end well, by the look of things.” Applejack pointed to several blood spots.

“Oh dear. I hope nopony was too badly hurt...”

“Does one of you know how to track? Maybe we can catch up with them?”

Rarity suddenly gasped, a look of excitement on her face. “I just remembered, I think we have the perfect spell for this! It was featured in the latest Shadow Shade novel, as a tool to help analyze crime scenes. I found it to be so interesting that I simply had to look it up, and you know what? It was a real spell after all! Twilight, you remember it don’t you? I showed it to you just last week.”

Twilight’s face lit up at the memory. “Rarity, that’s brilliant! I went ahead and learned it after you showed me. I wanted to see if I could find another use for it besides studying crime scenes.” She focused for a few moments to remember the spell, and her horn began to glow. A purple light spread out from it to cover the entire clearing. Everywhere that something had been disturbed within the clearing--every footprint in the grass and dirt, every drop of blood, even the body prints where something had been lying inside the shelter, along with a length of rope and a grappling hook that had been hidden by the grass--was lit up as if by a blacklight under Twilight’s spell.

“Wow!”

“That’s amazing!”

“It really is! Could you please teach me that spell later?”

“Uh... I hate to spoil the mood, sugarcubes, but shouldn’t we be focusin’ on what the spell revealed?”

“Oh. Right...”

Twilight flew over to the lean-to, counting the outlines of the ponies who had lain there. “There were six of them. Looks like three adults, a teenager, and two foals.”

“I’m gettin’ the same impression from these tracks,” called Applejack as she carefully entered the clearing. “Though there’s somethin’ funny about one of the sets. Looks like one of the adults has cloven front hooves...”

“We got timberwolf prints! All over the place!” Rainbow flew lower, following the trails of prints. “And here’s where the fighting was. Looks like they got surrounded, you can see where the ponies circled up and put the foals in the center.”

Fluttershy flew over to look as well. “There isn’t too much blood. That’s a good sign. But why were they out here in the first place, and with foals of all things?!”

“I think the bigger question, darlings, is how they got out here.” Rarity trotted over to them. “Has anypony noticed? None of their tracks lead into this clearing, but, there are tracks leading away from that hole, along with six impact prints. It almost looks as if they fell from the sky... Very unusual... Although, at least two of them are pegasi.” She pointed out several large red feathers, and several smaller pink ones.

While the others investigated, Spike diligently took notes of everything found. “I wonder why they were so interested in that big hole?” He pointed with his quill. “Some of their tracks head back towards it before the timberwolves attacked. How deep do you think that is anyway? I can’t even see the bottom from here.” He picked up a rock and tossed it in, listening closely and signalling for the others to be quiet.

Several minutes passed, but the rock never hit the bottom. Instead, a very confused jackalope with a bump on its head shot up out of the pit.

Spike yelped as the creature landed on him, knocking him flat.

It growled at him, shook itself, and then scampered away into the bushes.

The baby dragon slowly got up, staring after the jackalope. “You guys all saw that, right?”

They all nodded, looking just as astonished.

“Incredible...,” Twilight flew over, looking at the pit, then at the bush where the jackalope had disappeared. “A new portal! Right here in the Everfree Forest! But where does it lead to?”

“We can ask our new friends when we catch up to them,” Starlight gestured to the trail of broken branches and galloping hoofprints which lead away from the clearing. “Judging from those impact prints and the tracks, I think it’s a safe bet that they fell through it. Do you think they’ll want their rope back? Or this--What kind of grappling hook is this?” She held it up for Twilight to see.

“I’m not sure... I’ve never seen one with a barrel like that before, or that small of a trigger. Most of them are mounted on crossbows, if anything. But, yes, they’ll probably want those back.”

Starlight put the items into her saddlebags, then deferred to Twilight to lead the way.

Twilight smiled and shook her head. “You found this clue, Starlight. Go ahead.”

“And I found hats!” Pinkie suddenly popped out of the bushes, carrying a tattered baseball cap by its bill, with an equally torn fez and lumberjack hat inside it, along with the shredded remains of something made from red wool. The real mystery was how she had gotten over there when no one had seen her leave the clearing.

Rarity levitated the hats from Pinkie for a closer inspection. “Oh dear. The timberwolves certainly had a go at them... But, I’m more than sure I can repair them! After we find their owners, of course.” She put the hats into her own saddlebags, and Starlight lead the way down the new trail.

“Spike, send a letter to the Princesses. Let them know everything that’s happened with the map, and that we’re on a search and rescue mission. I don’t know if the map acting up has any connection to these ponies, but if there’s even the slightest chance, than we might need more help.” Twilight landed so he could climb onto her back.

“Already done,” he said, burning the scroll and watching as the magic smoke trailed away.

All too soon they reached the site of another battle with the timberwolves. Under the light of Twilight’s spell, it looked as though one or both foals had been injured and carried to safety. Spike sent an update letter, and they continued onward. However, the trail was soon lost. Trees and bushes blocked any further progress and obliterated the remaining tracks.

Spike quickly sent a third letter, and belched out Princess Celestia’s reply minutes later. He read it aloud to the group:

“My Dearest Twilight,

“Although I am deeply grateful to you for attempting to rescue these ponies, I must strongly advise you to return to Ponyville if you fail to reach them before nightfall. It would do no good for you and your friends to become lost or hurt in the forest as well. However, rest assured that we are not giving up on them. Luna will be contacting them in their dreams tonight to determine their location more accurately. From there, we can determine how to best return them to safety.

“Yours Sincerely,

- Princess Celestia.”

Twilight considered the letter, then turned to the others. “Everypony, we’re splitting up into teams of two. We’ll cover more ground that way.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“No, but it’s the only one I’ve got right now. Time isn’t on our side here.” They all nodded in uneasy agreement.

Reaching into her saddlebags, Twilight gave each of them what looked like one of Pinkie’s party horns. “If you find them first or run into trouble, just point these at the sky and blow. I’ve enchanted them so that they make a loud whistle and shoot red sparks into the air.”

“So, how do we pick who’s pairing up?”

Her face fell and she sat down, rubbing her chin in thought. “I don’t know yet...”

“Pick a card!” Pinkie called, pulling a deck of them from the depths of her mane. “Whoever picks the same cards gets paired up. Simple!”

The others stared at her for a moment, then all shrugged and picked their cards. Starlight was teamed up with Spike, Twilight with Pinkie, Fluttershy with Rarity, and Rainbow with Applejack.

“Remember, we have until nightfall to find them. If none of us have found them by then, blow your horn twice so we can find each other and regroup.”

With that in mind, the party split up, each going their separate way.

=====

“What do you mean we’re lost?!”

Ford stood his ground, not the least bit intimidated by his brother’s glare. “Exactly what I said, Stanley. We’re lost. I don’t know how, but we are.”

For a while, their trail had been easy to follow, but the trees and bushes soon became too thick to find it. For now, they had stopped in a smaller clearing to try and regain their bearings.

Wendy, meanwhile, was taking her frustration out on a nearby tree. “How the flip could this happen?!” She bucked the tree several times in rapid succession. “I know woods like the back of my hand!”

“Dunno, dudes. Like, maybe the trees moved or something? I could’ve sworn I saw a ring of dancing mushrooms back there. They looked pretty tasty now that I think about it...” Soos sat down to think it over, letting Mabel slide off his back.

“Dancing mushrooms? Cool! I wonder what kind of dance parties they throw?”

Stan stared at them both for a few seconds, then shook his head. “Don’t be ridiculous, Soos.”

Ford held up a hoof. “Actually--”

Don’t say it Ford. That’s the last thing we need!”

“...I was going to say, that was probably a fairy ring and to stay away from it.”

Stan sighed, carefully lying down so Dipper wouldn’t fall from his back. “Sorry... I’m a little irritated right now...”

“I’d say more than a little. But that’s understandable, given how today has gone,” Ford settled down beside him, then looked over at Dipper. “How is he?”

“Miserable...” Dipper’s voice was weak and laced with pain, his eyes still shut. “Please stop yelling...”

Stan winced. “Sorry kid... You just go back to sleep now, alright?” He looked at Ford with concern. “We gotta find a way out of here soon.”

His twin nodded, just as worried. “There’s no telling how big this forest is. Right now, I’d say food and water are our main concerns.”

“Food’s the easy part.” Wendy came up to them, having finished pummeling the tree. “We’re ponies, right? There’s grass all over the place. Water’s going to be a problem though.” She suddenly noticed something, and looked around in confusion. “Where did Soos and Mabel go?”

The twins shared a look, and by unspoken agreement, Ford got up to help Wendy find their missing group members. After they were gone, Stan noticed another oddity. The tree that Wendy had been bucking had been to the left side of a large fern. Now it was to the right side of the fern. He shook his head, blinked, and looked again.

Now the tree was several inches away from the fern.

Stan felt one of his eyes twitch. “Oh come on!”

Dipper thumped the back of his head with a forehoof, and he apologized for yelling again.

=====

It took Ford and Wendy a few minutes to find the others.

Soos and Mabel were both sitting within the ring of mushrooms Soos had mentioned. The fungi were indeed dancing, softly puffing out spore clouds as they did so, and wriggling out of the way with surprising speed as Soos kept attempting to eat them. Their roots never left the ground, so the mushrooms left furrows as they moved.

Mabel, meanwhile, was eating a cluster of bright blue flowers with dark streaks through their petals, while somehow managing to hold them with her hooves. More of the blue blossoms were twisted into her mane and tail as decoration.

The two bystanders stared for a few moments, taking in the scene.

“That’s new.”

“Meh, I’ve seen weirder.”

Wendy raised an eyebrow at that, but quickly turned her attention to Mabel. “Mabel, spit those out, right now. You can’t just go around eating plants like that.”

Mabel pouted. “But they’re so pretty! And delicious!”

“They could also be poisonous for all we know.”

Her face took on a look of alarm, and she instantly spat out the mouthful of flowers, scrapping the petals from her tongue with both hooves. “But I already ate a bunch!” Her voice rose in panic. “I’m not gonna die, am I?! I’m too cute to die!

“Mabel! Chill!” snapped Wendy, stomping a hoof to get the girl’s attention. “I said they could be. I’ve never seen these before, so I don’t know. How many did you eat? And Soos, stop trying to eat those mushrooms!”

Soos chuckled, having missed his pounce on another one. “Sorry, dude. I can’t help myself, I haven’t eaten all day.”

Ford, meanwhile, was busy examining the dancing fungi, looking worriedly at the spores. “Have either of you felt any strange compulsions since your were in there? Say, a sleepy feeling, or an irresistible urge to dance?” He kept his breathing shallow, just in case.

“Besides really wanting to eat these ‘shrooms? Nope!”

“These just smelled really good, and we haven’t eaten anything all day, you know since everything else is trying to eat us, so Soos started trying to get one. I would’ve gotten one too, but then I got distracted by these flowers. I was still really hungry though, so I ate the flowers. I lost count of how many.”

Another mushroom darted out of Soos’ way, spraying a cloud towards Wendy and Ford.

Ford instinctively held his breath, waiting for the spores to clear, but Wendy got a face full of the stuff.

She sneezed, waving them away with a hoof. But then a change seemed to come over her. “Those do smell pretty good...” she stepped forward slowly, drooling a little and with an unfocused look in her eyes. “Maybe a bite wouldn’t hurt...”

Ford grabbed her mane in his teeth, yanking hard.

“OW! What was that for?!” She aimed a kick at him, but he dodged it, glad to have at least snapped her out of the daze.

“Keep away from those,” he ordered, “and don’t breath the spores. Something isn’t right here...” Why would the mushrooms lure animals to eat them, but then avoid being eaten? This doesn’t make any sense... Unless...

He called the warning just as Soos finally caught a mushroom. “Get out of there!”

Too late.

As Soos picked up the fungus and exposed its roots, the cluster of mushrooms in the center of the ring burst up from the soil, splitting horizontally into a mouth like that of a venus flytrap atop a long, thick neck. At the same time, the other mushrooms lunged out of the ground, revealing that underneath the ring of feelers that looked like roots, the “mushrooms” were actually the ends of long tendrils. These tendrils quickly ensnared the four ponies.

“Uh oh. Dudes, I’ve seen enough anime--”

“Finish that joke, and I’m feeding you to this thing.

“OK, OK, sheesh...”

=====

Meanwhile...

“They’ve been gone for a while now... But I can’t just leave you here by yourself.” Stan looked down at Dipper, who now lay sleeping beneath his wing, and sighed heavily. He took a mouthful of grass, lost in worried thought. What was taking so long? Soos and Mabel couldn’t have gotten that far...

Dipper sneezed in his sleep, making the old stallion chuckle softly. “You still sneeze like a kitten, too cute.”

“Is not!...” came the sleepy mumble, then the colt slowly opened his eyes, blinking around in confusion. “Grunkle Stan?... Where is everybody?...”

“Soos and Mabel wandered off. Wendy and Ford went to go find them. They’ll be back soon. Don’t worry, kid.” He pulled up another mouthful of grass, placing it in front of the boy. “Here, try to eat this. You need to keep your strength up.”

As Dipper slowly ate, a nearby rustle from the bushes caught Stan’s attention. He got to his feet, tense, but the sight of a chicken’s head popping out from the bush left him confused. Then the rest of the creature emerged: a snake’s body with bat-wings, though it still had the chicken’s feet.

At Dipper’s yell of alarm, he turned, only for the boy to wrap both forelegs around his head and hang on for dear life. Stan was forced to his knees as Dipper’s weight pulled him down.

“Dipper! Augh! Let go! What’s gotten into you?!”

“Don’t look!” His voice was verging on panic, and considering this warning coupled with him covering Stan’s eyes, Stan could easily guess that his eyes were also shut. “Whatever you do, don’t look at its eyes!

“Alright! Alright. My eyes are closed. But you need to let go of me.” He sighed with relief as he felt the death grip on his head lessen. “Thank you... Now, what is that thing?”

“It--it’s a cockatrice. If you look into its eyes, it’ll either kill you or turn you to stone. I can’t remember which, but I’m not taking any--”

He felt Dipper stiffen, then his ears picked up the sounds of clucking, and of scales sliding through grass. The cockatrice was coming towards them.

“Cockatrice, huh?” Stan kept his voice calm, even as he felt Dipper shaking. “So how do we deal with it?”

“Deal with it?! Grunkle Stan, we--we’re gonna...” His breathing had increased, and he was choking back a sob.

“Hey!” Stan hardened his tone. He could not afford to let Dipper panic now. It was time for some tough love. “We’re not dead yet. Focus, Dipper. Use that nerdy brain of yours. You’ve faced down everything from Bill Cipher to wrestling the freaking Multi-Bear!”

“You heard about that?”

“He told me himself. Now, are you gonna let some mutant chicken-lizard beat you? Am I gonna have to tell my brother that his apprentice died a coward?!

He would have continued, but a hoof against his mouth stopped him. He felt Dipper’s other forehoof tap at the side of his face until it found his jaw. He braced himself, knowing what was coming even as that searching hoof pulled back. He could easily dodge it by moving his head, but that was beside the point. Besides, if the boy missed, he might injure himself further.

Crack!

The blow to the side of his jaw was to be expected, but he was still sent reeling at the power behind it. The kid had gotten stronger over the past months.

“You know I never took Ford’s apprenticeship, right?”

Stan chuckled painfully, stretching his jaw to ensure Dipper hadn’t dislocated it. “Yeah, I know. But he still thinks of you as an unofficial one. So, about that cockatrice...” He opened his eyes just enough to see his great-nephew’s face. The look, though the colt’s eyes were still closed, was one of concentration, and his breathing had steadied. That was a good sign.

“If we had a mirror, this would be easy. If it sees it’s own reflection, the power of its gaze turns back on itself.”

“We don’t have any mirrors. Anything else?” He was only half listening to Dipper. The rest of his attention was on tracking the sound of the creature’s movements. It seemed to be circling them. He moved with it, keeping himself between it and Dipper as best he could.

“Uh... Give me a minute... There was something else...”

It was sense more than sound that warned him when the cockatrice lunged, Stan threw himself down in front of Dipper as the beast tried to slip underneath him. He grunted in pain as needle-sharp teeth pierced the base of his neck.

“Grunkle Stan?!”

“Agh... It’s--It’s alright, Dipper... Stupid thing tried to get at you. I caught it...”

“Are you hurt?!”

“I’m fine. How do we beat it? Come on, kid!” The thing seemed to have gotten its teeth stuck, it was trying to chew on him. He let himself fall to the side, trying to pin it, but the cockatrice let go and rolled out from under him at the last moment.

There was a rush of air across his wings as the creature jumped over him, and he grabbed out on instinct, his teeth catching it by the tail.

It hissed in anger as he threw his head back, slamming it to the ground.

Stan lost his grip on it, but heard it hissing and circling again. He quickly got up to stay with it, but even as he did, he could feel a strange tingling from the bite wound...

“Roosters!” yelled Dipper. “Rooster crows will kill it!”

“...You’re serious? I hate to break it to you, but we don’t have any roosters either.”

“No, no! We just have to sound like roosters, that should scare it off. Like this: Cock-a-doodle-doo!

The cockatrice squawked in confusion, and Stan had to agree with it. “You gotta do better than that, kid!”

“You try it then!”

Stan took a deep breath, and let out his best rooster crow. This time the sound from the cockatrice was more one of alarm.

So Dipper and Stan both began to crow. Within moments the beast was switching between hisses of anger and frantic clucking. Finally, it let out a frustrated squawk, and they heard rustling through the bushes as it hurried away from them.

Slowly, the two opened their eyes, and looked around.

“It-it worked! I can’t believe it, that actually worked!” Dipper beamed at Stan, then the look instantly left his face as he sniffed the air. “Wait... Why do I smell blood?...”

“Ah... yeah, about that... cockatrice aren’t... venomous, are they?...” Stan slowly sank to his knees, then rolled onto his side. He slowed his breathing, trying to keep as calm and still as possible.

The colt’s face drained of color under the fur as he saw the bite in his grunkle’s neck. “No... No. No! No! Grunkle Stan!” He dragged himself closer, heedless of his own injury. “W-We need to get you to a hospital quick!”

Stan grimaced. “Kid, we’re in the middle of nowhere. I don’t think that’s an option...”

Dipper looked even more upset at this. “I’m not just gonna let you die out here! W-what do I do?!”

Don’t. Panic.” growled Stan, “Now listen, this venom’s gonna set in any minute now. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but it’ll be painful and I might go into shock. You know CPR, right?”

“Yes, why?!”

“In case I stop breathing, or my heart stops.”

“Has this happened to you before?”

“Dipper, I live out in the woods. We have snakes. What do you think?”

Dipper’s expression changed to one of annoyance.

Stan couldn’t help but smirk, but the look quickly vanished as he felt the first throbs of pain from the bite beginning to swell. “Yep... There it goes... OK... Do you see any tobacco plants around here?”

“What? I don’t even know what one looks like. And you don’t smoke! Or chew!”

The stallion rolled his eyes. “Not for me... It’s an old trick I learned for bug stings... Draws out the venom... But nevermind... It would take too long... Do you know how to make a tourniquet?”

Dipper scowled. “Even if I did, I’m not putting one on your neck!”

“Oh. Right... Augh...” He winced, gritting his teeth as the pain grew steadily worse. “Alright kid... I know one more trick... but you’re not gonna like it...” His eyes moved to Dipper’s horn for a moment, but then he thought better of it. The colt’s horn was rounded and dull at the tip, and sharpening it would take too long. “Check your splint... there should be one of those wooden wolf teeth tucked into the vines...”

Dipper checked, quickly finding the large wooden fang and carefully pulling it out. He balanced it on a forehoof, confused. “Where did you even-?”

“It was stuck in your leg...”

The colt winced, then noticed the dried blood on it. He looked at the tooth, then back to Stan, then back at the tooth. Then his eyes widen as realization dawned. “Oh man. Please tell me you’re not thinking what I think you’re thinking.”

His grunkle’s face was solemn, despite his pain. “You’ll need to cut along the bite...”

“You could bleed to death!”

Not... if you cut shallow...”

“Grunkle Stan- I- I can’t! I...” His breathing increased again, ears flat to his head and eyes brimming with tears. The tooth fell from his hoof.

Dipper!” Stan’s voice was a bark, weak though it was. Then he sighed, meeting the boy’s gaze. “I know kid... I know I’m asking a lot from you... But look at what you’ve already done... Remember?... All that crazy stuff last summer, and just now with that cockatrice... How many other kids could do that?... This?... Heh... This is nothing...”

“This is different!”

“How?”

“You’re putting your life in my hands-- hooves-- whatever!”

Stan rolled his eyes again. “Don’t even get me started... Seriously, don’t. I won’t live long enough to finish...”

Dipper flinched, and Stan closed his eyes, sighing again in exasperation. Then he opened them again, and looked the boy straight in the eyes.

“Look around, Dipper... There’s no telling when the others’ll be back, and I’ve got a few hours left at most... You’re the only one who can help me... I know that scares you... Heck, it scares me too... But it’s OK... I trust you.”

He closed his eyes again, forcing himself to relax and return to as a calm a state as possible. There was nothing more he could say. It was up to Dipper now.

“Grunkle Stan?...”

He didn’t answer.

“Grunkle Stan?!” There was a frantic note to the boy’s voice.

It was heart wrenching, but still, the old man didn’t answer. He couldn’t. The boy had to do this on his own, or not at all.

He felt the colt’s head rest against his chest, listening for a heartbeat. There was a sigh of relief, then Dipper took several deep breaths, muttering to himself.

“OK... OK... He’s either unconscious, or playing possum... The swelling hasn’t spread too far yet so... Probably playing possum. Not cool, Grunkle Stan. You nearly gave me a heartattack! Not. Cool.

This last remark was said into his ear, and it took all of Stan’s will to stay limp and not react.

There was another sigh. “So you’re gonna be like that, than? ...Fine.” His voice was calmer now. Still clearly upset, but more annoyed than panicked. There was more muttering, though Stan couldn’t make out what was said, followed by several deep breaths and groans.

A stab of pain suddenly shot through Stan’s neck, and he couldn’t help but scream. He tried to jerk away, but Dipper’s weight on his neck held him still. For a few seconds he lay panting as his vision went grey, and there was the boy’s voice whimpering apologizes in his ear.

“Gah!... Warn me next time!...” he groaned, trying to calm down again.

“You-you would’ve tensed up if I had.” Dipper choked back a sob, then bent to pick up the wooden tooth again in his mouth. He’d dropped it when Stan had thrashed. Setting it off to the side and out of the way, he shifted so as not to choke Stan, and to better see the wound. The bite was swollen and discolored, and the fur around the cut was quickly turning a darker red. “That’s... That’s a lot of blood... Is there supposed to be that much blood?...” His eyes were wide, and his voice faint.

“Dipper, don’t you dare pass out on me... Focus... You still need to extract the venom...”

“But the blood-!?”

“Is it squirting out? Or does it have a weird blue color?”

Dipper took a closer look. It wasn’t spreading as fast as he had first thought. “No...”

“Than its fine... Now, you need to either squeeze the venom out, or suck it out...”

The expression on Dipper’s face said more than any words could for his feelings about that idea. He looked at one of his forehooves, then at the injury. Using both forehooves would be the most efficient, considering their lack of hands, but with one hind leg unable to support his weight, that was not an option. Grimacing and trying hard not to think about what he was doing, he lowered his muzzle to the incision.

Stan hissed through gritted teeth, but forced himself to keep still as Dipper began the unconventional treatment.

=====

Meanwhile, back at the “fairy ring”...

“--And that’s why this is weirder than that time I got eaten by the Summerween Trickster.”

As the other three struggled to escape the tendrils holding them, the plant monster had decided to eat Soos first-- only for him to get stuck just inside its throat when it tried to swallow him whole. That had been several minutes ago, and he was still stuck.

That he could stay so calm about the whole thing, while telling jokes and keeping up a running comparison of this event to weird things from his time working at the Mystery Shack, was a wonder in and of itself.

Unfortunately, his bad jokes, which he claimed to have gotten from Stan’s (infamous) favorite joke book, and constant storytelling were having an adverse effect on his friends. Wendy had actually fallen asleep, hanging limply in the tendrils’ coils. Mabel’s ears were plastered as flat as they could go to the sides of her head, and she was desperately struggling to reach them with her bound forehooves. All the flowers had fallen out of her mane and tail during the capture.

“Make it stop...” she whimpered, although Soos couldn’t hear her.

Ford seemed to be the only one immune to Soos’ chatter, but he was also immobilized. All four legs were bound, and he was in no position to use his horn or teeth with another tendril wrapped firmly around his neck. His eyes were closed, and there was a calm expression on his face. Mabel would have thought him asleep, except for the lack of snoring.

“How is this not bothering you?!”

“Meditation,” he answered, voice as calm as his expression. “Remind me to teach you, after we get out of this.”

Mabel gave him a skeptical look. “How are we supposed to do that?”

“Well, I do know a fire spell that might work...”

“Perfect!”

“...with a chance of causing death by spontaneous combustion.”

“Wait, what?!”

“That’s why I avoid using it.”

Eventually, even the monster seemed to grow tired of the noise, as it wrapped a tendril around Soos’ muzzle, before finally managing to get another one around his barrel and pull him loose.

Ford was pulled towards the thing’s mouth next, and despite his struggles, he was unable to free himself. Rolling his eyes with a sigh of annoyance, he closed them and began to chant. “Invoco in antiqua elementa. Ego vocabo ignem! Da mihi virtutem ignis!” His eyes snapped open, glowing blue, as was his horn. As the monster threw him into its mouth, his horn and hooves suddenly caught fire.

The creature closed its mouth on him for an instant, then spat him back out with a shriek of pain. Ford lashed out at every tendril he could reach with horn and hooves as he fell, causing the creature to drop the others. One of the tendrils swiped at him, knocking him hard into a tree. As he fell to the ground, unconscious, the flames vanished from him, leaving burnt fur, but no serious damage.

“Grunkle Ford!” Mabel ran to him, dodging the monster’s attempts to grab her again. Soos and Wendy, who had woken up on hitting the ground, quickly followed her.

Reaching him, the filly started shaking him roughly with her forehooves. “Grunkle Ford, wake up! Please! You have to get up!” When he didn’t respond, she turned to Wendy and Soos, her eyes filling with tears. “Is--is he--?”

Wendy put an ear to the old stallion’s chest. “He’s still alive, but we’ve got a bigger problem right now.” She pointed to the angry monster looming over them. A tendril slammed down towards them, and Wendy bucked at it, knocking it back with a strength that surprised even her. She dodged a second tendril, but a third one caught her off guard in mid-dodge. They began to squeeze as they coiled around her again, lifting her off the ground.

“Wendy!” Mabel started to rush forward, only to be blocked by Soos.

“Stay with Ford, hambone,” he ordered, glaring up at the monster. “I got this.” He charged, yelling at the top of his lungs, while dodging any tendril in his way. “You messed with the wrong family, dude!” Reaching the base of the thing’s long neck, he sank his teeth into it.

The thing shrieked again, this time striking at him with its mouth.

Letting go of the neck, Soos whirled and bucked as hard as he could at the mouth rushing towards him.

CRACK!

The mouth flew back into the air, arcing on its neck before falling back to the ground with enough force to leave a hole where it landed. Its tendrils went limp, dropping Wendy, and it didn’t move again.

Wendy stared at him in shock, as she lay recovering her breath. She knew he was strong, but what he had just done bordered on superhuman, or -pony, as the case may be.

“Soos! That was amazing!” squealed Mabel, tackling him in a hug.

He smiled at her, blushing. “You guys are my family, Mabel. What else could I do?”

“Ugh... What happened?...” Ford slowly raised his head, rubbing at it with a forehoof.

Mabel filled him in while the other two helped him to stand, all the while hugging him as best she could and praising his use of magical pyrotechnics. After checking that none of them were seriously hurt, aside from bruising, they decided it was well past time to reunite with the rest of the family.

=====

Finally returning to where they had left Stan and Dipper, the four were stunned by the sight before them.

Stan lay stretched on his side on the ground, with Dipper bending over him. The colt turned his head at their approach, revealing his muzzle, stained dark with blood, along with a gash in the old stallion’s neck. The large wooden timberwolf fang lay on the ground next to them, also blood-stained.

Mabel was the first to react--loudly. “AAAH! That wolf bite turned Dipper into a vampire!”

“And he killed Mr. Pines! Whyyyyy?!” added Soos, falling to his knees with tears streaming down his face. His posture was something that a human would instinctively assume, but of which a pony should have been incapable. The others, however, were too distracted to notice this oddity.

Wendy just stared in shock, speechless.

Ford tensed, resisting the urge to pull Dipper away until he knew what was going on.

“I’m not dead!” Stan yelled over the noise, turning his head just enough to glare at them with one eye. “And Dipper’s not a vampire. That’s not even how it works, Mabel.”

“Oh, I have no problem if he’s a vampire now. But why is he sucking your blood?”

Stan rolled his eyes, in no condition to argue with her. “He’s saving my life, kid.”

Dipper spat out a mouthful of blood, then bent over Stan’s neck again.

“What happened?” Ford moved to examine the wound, nudging Dipper’s head aside.

“Cockatrice bit me,” said Stan, keeping as still as he could. “It was after Dipper. Apparently they’re venomous...”

Dipper spat out a final mouthful. “I really hate this,” he groaned in disgust, attempting to wipe his muzzle clean with a foreleg. “Did I get it all?”

“You did great, kid...” Stan gave him a weak, but proud smile.

“I did? Great...” His eyes glazed over, and although he was lying down, his head swayed. “Now... if you’ll excuse me... My leg is killing me... Think I’m gonna pass out now...” He fell unconscious instantly, muzzle planting into the ground as his head dropped.

Ford grabbed his mane, pulling the colt’s nose from the dirt and setting his head at a more comfortable angle. Then he went back to checking on Stan’s injury. Thankfully, Dipper had not lanced it too deeply with that wooden fang, but they would still need to keep a close eye on it. Unfortunately, there was no way to be sure at the moment if all of the venom had been extracted. With nothing else to be done, Ford set a foreleg over it and began applying pressure to stop the bleeding.

“Why do I smell burning hair?” Stan eyed his brother and the others closely. “And what happened to you guys? Did Mabel find new sparring partners after all?” He tried to laugh, but quickly stopped from the pain in his neck.

“Long story.” Mabel laid down next to Dipper, spreading a wing over his back.

“Basically, we nearly got eaten by a giant plant monster.” Wendy looked around their location, noting the cockatrice tracks. “We should find a better spot to rest.”

“Stan can’t be moved yet,” said Ford. “Besides, we’re actually safer here.”

“Safer? But he just said a cockatrice came through here!”

“Which is exactly why we’ll be safe. No sane creature would dare cross paths with one--”

“Gee, thanks,” grumbled Stan.

“--and from the looks of things it was all over the place when my brother fought it. One whiff of that monster’s scent and everything else will turn tail and run.”

She nodded slowly in understanding, though the look on her face was still an uneasy one. As she started gathering wood for another lean-to, she said, “I’m taking first watch tonight.”

Ford started to protest. “I could--”

She shook her head, cutting him off. “You took a tree to the head, and set yourself on fire. You’ve done enough for today. Soos and I can manage.”

“She’s right, Mr. Pines. You just get some rest. We got this.” Soos patted Ford’s shoulder with a forehoof, then moved to help Wendy gather more wood.

“Set yourself on fire again? Why am I not surprised?” But Stan was grinning even as he made the remark.

“Says the guy who wrestled a cockatrice,” Ford joked back, returning the smile. He laid down next to his twin, still keeping pressure on his wound. “We’ll move out at first light. Hopefully we can pick up the trail again, or maybe a path out of here.”

“That might be harder than you think, bro...”

“Hm?”

“Soos was right. The trees move.”

Soos sighed, “Such is the blessing and curse of my wisdom... Aw well, maybe tomorrow will be better!”

“Don’t jinx it!” the brothers cried in unison.

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