• Published 19th Feb 2017
  • 9,354 Views, 612 Comments

Bushkeeper - Odd_Shot



A hiker strays a little too far from the trail. Consequently, he's just discovered the hike of a lifetime.

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9 - Berries

Andrew rubbed the sands of sleep from his eyes and checked his watch. The seiko spring clockwork read that it was seven in the morning, and a quick glance in the direction of the beaming celestial object confirmed it. Wishing to give his sore leg some breathing room, Andrew gently removed Mint’s head from his groin and stood. Hissing in pain, Andrew bent down to massage his right leg’s calf. Satisfied that the soreness would not sprout up for a little while, Andrew picked up his walking stick and made his way over to the somehow existent orb and fang.

Andrew picked up the baseball sized orb of amethyst, giving it a quick once over. It definitely had not come along with the other, smaller pieces of amethyst brought from the geode a day prior, but there it was. He kicked the other mysteriously apparent object over, frowning at the white keratin that was the size of his upper arm. Andrew still wasn’t sure how he’d managed to kick the tooth off of the spider in such a hurried movement, but what really mattered was that he had gotten the ponies safely away. He returned his attentions to the orb, this time slowing down to inspect it thoroughly.

The mass of quartz amethyst was strangely smooth, lacking any impurities upon its surface. Another unnatural quality of the sphere was its reflectivity; he could see his own face in the meticulously polished surface. Further curious, the orb seemed to project a passive warmth. Holding it up to his cheek, Andrew grinned at the prickling sensation that played over his skin. Hoofsteps behind him forced him to look at Mint.

“Andrew?”

“Morning, Mint.” Andrew knelt down to rub one of Mint’s ears, dropping the orb temporarily. Mint hummed in contentment, a hind leg thumping rhythmically against the ground. In the midst of adjusting her stance, a stray hoof struck the orb, sending her reeling back in surprise. Andrew blinked at the mare growling at the amethyst orb. Tapping the orb once, Andrew felt a spike of electricity surge from the orb to his finger. Hissing, Andrew sucked on the stinging finger, eyes trained on the gently pulsating amethyst. The faint glow of purple faded away as the sun passed the clouds blocking its rays.

“Weird.” He knelt down, cautiously reaching for the orb. The pulsing flashes of color disappeared, and the orb suddenly felt cool to the touch. Andrew spotted the earth ponies approaching the unicorns, so he pocketed the orb in his pants pocket. Patting Mint on the head, Andrew stood from his crouch. “Cmon, let’s go see what these guys want.”

As the two made their way over to the still awakening herds, Andrew couldn’t help but eye the hollow that the earth ponies had created the night before. He could still see where the ponies had lain down to sleep away, their herd’s forms printed into the earth. Why exactly had they created a hollow to sleep in? The unicorns did not do that, and the pegasi…

Andrew glanced up at the clouds above, scanning fruitlessly for a pegasus.

The pegasi were just pegasi.

Andrew turned back to Mint, the mare stopped in order to pluck a carrot from the earth. Rolling his eyes, Andrew walked over to the nearby herds of unicorns and pegasi, just in time to find himself within hearing range of an intense debate.

Lemon, as Andrew had taken to calling the angry yellow unicorn, was currently in the process of throwing all of his hatred into moving hooves. The brown mare was standing stalwart before him, chest puffed outwards. Her ears flicked idly as Lemon ended his rant with the stomp of his hooves.

Tossing her mane, she turned away, snorting. "No."

Growling, Lemon took a step forward, but a few smart unicorns held him back with their forelegs. Like a child chastised for straying too close to the road, Lemon sauntered off, tail swishing back and forth angrily.

“What’s up, guys?” The earth ponies turned to him, bowing low to the ground. The unicorns followed after a moment. Sighing, Andrew stomped his stick into the ground twice. “Enough of that.” The herds stood. “I don’t even want to know what happened.” Reaching into his hoodie pocket, Andrew pulled an empty hood. Emptying out the dust that had taken its home within the sack, Andrew sighed.

“Looks like I’ve got no berries right now.” The brown mare came down from her high, her attitude skittish once more. Nosing the bag in Andrew’s hand, she took a deep whiff of the cloth. The mare pulled back to look up at Andrew, nickering softly. Food?

“‘Fraid not.” The mare blinked, then brought herself to the ground. Sniffing like a hound dog, Andrew watched as the mare began to make her way to the woods, following some sort of scent trail.

“Uh?”

“Wrrh!” Mint sounded through the carrot in her mouth. As she caught up with a gallop to the disappearing earth pony, both herds began to follow, plucking vegetables and flowers as they went. Shrugging, Andrew put the bag away and began to follow, ignoring the warmth that had suddenly grown back to life in his pocket.


As expected, the mare had led Andrew and his friends back to the berry thicket. The earth ponies bowed once more to Andrew, but were soon picking berries and dropping them in a single pile near the campfire. The unicorns, despite efforts to pluck berries of their own, were ultimately thwarted by the speed and enthusiasm of the earth ponies. Grinning, Andrew messed Mint’s mane, the mare watching the harvest from by his side.

“They certainly are depleting the thicket, aren’t they?” Snorting, Mint plucked a stray berry that an earth pony had accidentally knocked from the pile. The earth pony sent a glare in Mint’s direction, but upon seeing Andrew watching him with half lidded eyes, the stallion simply bowed again and resumed plucking berries from the bushes.

“So what’s up with that anyway?” He moved down to Mint’s neck, the mare cooing at the attention. Greeny looked up, but the tired look in his eyes gave a hint for the lack of interruption in Andrew’s efforts. “The whole universal bowing, I mean.” As usual, the mare did not reply.

'Still have to fix that.'

“Light?”

“Huh?” Mint pointed her hoof towards the northern part of the clearing. As Andrew followed her gaze, he felt his heart sink. From the darkness of a tree hollow, two piercing red eyes peeked out. As the creature began to slink towards the camp, Andrew drew himself straight and approached, stick held in two hands. Sweat began to run down Andrew’s face in a downpour as the creature began to reveal the entirety of its body.

“Oh gods...”

The mutant drew itself upwards, the incredibly snakelike creature hissing all the while. Green scales lined a thick and meaty tail that extended for quite a length, yellow legs sprouting from the top of the tail. Two bat-like wings extruded from the creature, flapping in tandem to hold the creature up. The head of the creature, which came as a cruel joke and pure disgust to Andrew, was that of a chicken.

Swallowing thickly, Andrew advanced, feeling the crowd of ponies herding behind him. He locked eyes with the creature, immediately feeling a shiver run down his spine. Something behind those red eyes burnt with power, and Andrew couldn’t help but readjust his posture as that same feeling ran across his heels. The cockatrice approached, riding low across the ground, eyes still trained on Andrew. Determined to hold his position against the threat, Andrew brought his stick upwards.

“Back!” He shoved the branch towards the creature, the feeling of power momentarily interrupted as the cockatrice swerved to avoid the weapon. Suddenly, the creature lunged forward, eyes stopping inches from Andrew’s own. Andrew froze, breath taken away.

Below him, he could feel something flaking around his boots, but he also felt a warmth in his pocket. He could not move to investigate either of them, locked into the eyes of the cockatrice. After a moment, the creature let up, flapping backwards with a worried squawk. Andrew recovered efficiently, just quick enough to jab the branch into the creature’s chest and push it into the stone behind his log. Eyes full of fear, the cockatrice writhed in an effort to escape its place between the rock and stick.

“I don’t want to see you around here again, capiche?” The chicken squawked again, staring him in the eyes. “I said, you got it?” It nodded. Grunting, Andrew shoved the cockatrice away, stick still held firmly in his two hands as the creature scrambled away. The cockatrice stopped by the bushes, snatching a clawful of berries.

“Get out of here!” The roar of Andrew finally sent the bird away, nothing but feathers and berries in place of the snake. Groaning, Andrew’s hand went to his side, feeling pain swell up once again. Mint came by, reaching up to press her snout to his side. Andrew smiled, ready to thank the unicorn for the comfort, but paused upon seeing the blue light that surrounded her horn. He said nothing as she placed the horn to his side, simply letting out a breath that he hadn’t known he’d been holding.

The cool sensation was a stark contrast to the still burning orb in his pocket. Andrew ignored the heat, instead choosing to focus on the light that was now surrounding his side. He saw Mint’s teeth bared in concentration, watching in awe as his shirt was lifted up to reveal the large purple bruise on his side. This time, the cold came from the air around him, and Andrew was unprepared to hold back the shiver he felt. Mint murmured quietly as she traced the outline of the bruise. Then, with an almost surreal appearance, Andrew watched as the bruise began to levitate off of him.

The purple mass sat in the air, encompassed by Mint’s blue aura. It did not stay still, however, as it wiggled about in a revolting manner. Andrew could feel the mix of horror and fascination of watching his own bruise literally peeled from him, but it did nothing to dissuade him from looking. The disposal of the bruise was also quite terrifying, as Mint simply dropped it to the ground.

“Why would you do that?” Andrew yelped, jumping backwards from the blob as it rose.

Mint whinnied abashedly. "Oops!"

“Oops is right!” Andrew recalled his earlier phrase as he watched the purple blob rise to the size of the campfire; the unicorn was not being cool anymore. The ponies around had also begun to panic as they watched the ordeal.

Until Lemon and the brown earth pony ran onto the scene.

Snorting loudly, Lemon brought both his front hooves down on the blob, splitting it in two. The brown mare stomped down on one half, and Lemon on the other. This caused the now two blobs to further split, and as the size shrunk and quantity grew, the crowd found themselves increasingly amused, rather than worried.

It was minutes later when Lemon finally let out a whinny of victory after having stamped out the final bit of the purple mass. The brown mare slammed hard into his side with her shoulder, sending the unicorn stumbling. While the two entertained the crowd with the ensuing argument, Andrew pulled Mint aside.

“Thanks, Mint.” The mare smiled up at the human, eyes closed as she enjoyed the petting that she was being given. “Unfortunately, you’ve only made things a little better for you right now.” As Andrew took away his hand, Mint pouted up at the teenager. Andrew simply grinned back, scooping her up in his arms as he made his way to his log bed.

“You, and I—” he set the mare down beside his log, taking a seat “—are going to have a little chat.”