• Published 19th Feb 2017
  • 9,338 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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2 - Herds

As Andrew watched the ponies sleep the early morning away, the full reality of his entire situation came crashing down on him: he was far from home, without a single sign of civilization save for his clothes and his memories, and he had just slept with a herd of creatures he had previously believed to only exist in fiction and myth.

Needless to say, Andrew was just a little terrified.

If Andrew held a scale of how fearful he was of the situation, Andrew would put it at a six out of ten; terrified, but not mind-numbingly terrified. Before he could delve any deeper into understanding how he had reached this point in the teenage years of his lifetime, the azure mare awoke, blinking blearily.

“Early riser, huh?” Andrew asked quietly, as to not awaken the rest of nested pony herd. The azure unicorn did not even flinch as he approached with his hood full of berries. She greedily chowed down on the berries as soon as they were offered. Unlike the previous day, however, she instead ate for a few minutes, rather than her previous thirty. Andrew noticed that the unicorn did look a little thin, and after a brief look around, he found that the rest of the unicorns shared a similar state, save for the foals.

“Hm.” Andrew crouched back down to watch the unicorn eat. “You guys have been starving, haven’t you?” The azure mare looked up at him and licked the area around its messy mouth. Then, with surprising speed, she stretched her neck to allow her to tug gently on one of Andrew’s ears.

“Woah,” the teenager muttered, eyes widening. “That feels weird.” It didn’t hurt him, but the unicorn also seemed to show no signs of stopping any time soon. With a sigh, Andrew slowly brought a hand to the pony’s neck, dragging his hand through the light blue fur. The two stayed like that for a moment, sharing an intimate touch. Closing his eyes, Andrew took the time to re-evaluate the situation.

The ponies had been starving, but why? Searching his dim recollections of horse and pony anatomy, Andrew thought that there would be enough grass, herbs, and flowers in their plain to feed them. There certainly weren’t that many ponies in their herd, in his opinion, so there shouldn’t have been a lack of foodstuffs.

'Maybe they need more than just grass?' He opened his eyes again, watching the mare pick a bur out of her foreleg. 'They’re unicorns, after all.' Rubbing his forehead with a hand, Andrew groaned; he really had no clue about these creatures. The sound got the attention of the mare, who nickered softly and tugged on his sleeve, albeit less harshly this time. He waved a hand dismissively at the mare and stood, stretching.

“I’m good, you,” he chuckled. “Although—” he rubbed his chin in thought “—I should probably stop calling you by that, huh?” The mare snorted and stomped over to where a green stallion sat, kicking him with a hoof. He jolted awake with a snort, and was immediately chewed out by the mare for some inexplicable reason in a series of snorts and whinnys. Laughing, Andrew shook his head.

“How about Mint?” he smiled, watching the pair as those nearby awoke from the commotion. “'cause you’ve got some bite to you.”

After Mint had chewed out the stallion and finished with a nuzzle along his neck, the green stallion and most of the unicorns went about picking berries from the bushes. Much to the displeasure of Andrew, the white foal seemed to have great difficulty finding a berry to eat. Before Andrew could step in to help out, the white mare, who Andrew assumed was the foal’s mother, began to drop every berry she picked from the bush for her foal. The teenager only stepped in when the foal began to be buried in berries.

“That’s enough,” Andrew grinned, approaching the thicket. Immediately, all of the unicorns stopped eating, save for Mint, who had already finished her meal and instead sat quietly at the back, watching the group. Andrew was thoroughly confused at the reaction; were they afraid of him?

“Uh.” Pausing awkwardly, he shook his head and moved over to the foal, who continued to eat the berries with relish. Another foal had joined in feasting on the pile, but had stopped to watch Andrew with giant, curious eyes. Andrew hesitated, glancing back at the unicorns who all watched him, eerily quiet. He looked back at the pile of berries and snatched one up, and turned around to face the white mare. He held it out, bearing a toothless smile.

“Eat some, you know you need it.” The mare stared at his hand, then looked back up at the teenager’s face. “Come on now, I won’t bite.” The mother looked back at the group of unicorns, let loose a quiet nicker, and returned to Andrew. Slowly, she opened her mouth, teeth ready to grasp the blueberry carefully.

And in an eyeblink, the berry was gone, the mare greedily chewing. He watched the unicorn swallow, and he swore he saw her smile as she turned back to the thicket to eat more berries, some of the herd following. Andrew shook his head at the sudden event. He looked over at the rest of the herd, who still stood staring at both him and the feeding unicorns apprehensively.

“Come on guys!” He gestured wildly at the huge thicket surrounding them. “There’s more than enough for everyone!” When the ponies refused to move, Andrew reached for a berry from the bush and popped it into his mouth. “Oh, that’s good.” He swallowed. “See, wouldn’t you guys want to eat some?”

The four ponies shared looks with each other, and then carefully made their way over to the bushes. Sighing in relief, Andrew turned to his own part of the thicket and began refilling his hood with berries.

Just as he finished up, he felt a tug on the back of his black hoodie. He turned around to find Mint looking up at him from his waistline. Before he could do anything, the unicorn’s lips began twitching.

“Wuh.”

Andrew blinked. “What?”

“Wuuuh.” The mare snorted, stomping her hoof. Andrew chuckled at her expense.

"This is harder than you think!" the mare groaned.

Once more, Andrew was taken aback at his sudden understanding of animal speak; the mare flicked her cyan tail and let out a puff of air through her nostrils as he stared in contemplation. Without another sound, she walked to the edge of the clearing and disappeared into the brush. A whinny from behind Andrew brought him back to the herd. His eyes widened as he beheld the sight before him.

“Woah…” He took a step back from the unicorns, each holding a blueberry gently in their teeth. They began dropping them at his feet, one by one. With their modest pile of berries safely deposited at his feet, Andrew eyed the white mare who had started the pile.

And this time, Andrew knew he saw a smile.


Mint nudged Andrew as the herd moved through the pasture.

“Wo,” she growled.

“I’m just admiring the view, Mint.” He rolled his eyes as he caught himself from tripping over a stray branch. “Jeez.”

The herd had moved back out to the plains shortly after Mint had returned from doing her business. Andrew wasn’t sure what they were scared of, as he noticed the many paranoid snorts and nickers that came from the ponies while they glanced around the plains. Filing the thought away for later, Andrew decided to stray a little ways from the herd to inspect the grassland. Much to his dismay, they followed him quite closely. Mint attempted to drag him once more away, but this time he resisted.

“For the love of… would you please just hold still, Mint!”

“Wo!” the mare yipped, pushing against his legs with her muzzle. Growling, Andrew picked up the mare and tucked her under his arm.

“Wow!” he laughed, looking down at the mare under his arm as she squirmed. “You’re real light!” Shaking his head with a grin, he went back to inspecting the flowers and herbs in the area.

The grass was the greenest he had ever seen in the wilderness, the colors so bright that they seemed almost artificial. The flowers shared the same fare, even populated with a couple yellow honey bees. There seemed to be no lack of turnips in the area, their bulbs hidden beneath turnt sprouts. A few carrots also lay buried around. As Andrew reached down to inspect one of the carrots, the white foal from earlier ran in front of him and attempted to tug the vegetable from the earth to no avail.

“Here,” Andrew said, reaching down once more. Suddenly, the unicorn’s horn began to glow a soft yellow as a frustrated look overtook the foal’s features. With one last heave, the carrot popped out of the ground, earth still clinging to its roots, surrounded by the same hazy yellow.

“What…?” Andrew stared at the levitating carrot, the foal clapping his hooves gleefully. He swapped between the odd sight of the foal clapping and the odder sight of the levitating carrot with growing amazement.

Mint took his moment of awe to finally wiggle free of his grasp, snorting as she brought a hoof down on his hiking boot. Unfortunately for her, the steel toe made her pull back with a wince of pain. Her whimper brought the foal and the herd out of their reverie as they all crowded around her. She let loose a nicker, nuzzling the green stallion from earlier. Andrew shoved his hands into his pockets, looking apologetically at the mare as she turned to him.

“Sorry,” Andrew mumbled. The mare stood and came over, nuzzling the part of his hand sticking out of his pants pocket.

“Wu… oh,” the mare murmured, looking into the surprised human’s eyes. “Woah!” she shouted in a shaky tone.

“Did…” Andrew’s eyes went wide as he placed his hands on his knees and bent down to look the mare in the eye. “Did you just…?”

“Woah!” The mare smiled, prancing happily in place. “Woah, woah, woah!” It came out in a thick, throaty tone, but it was clear; she was speaking English.

“Of course you learn the first word I yelled when you rammed into me and stole my berries.” Andrew shook his head slowly, a grin growing. “I knew you guys were smart… but this?”

“Woah.”

Andrew laughed. “Woah, indeed.”

A loud whinny from nearby brought Andrew back to the herd. The foal and the white mare looked up from chewing the carrot and its roots to watch as a flock of figures descended down from the clouds above. Andrew stared slack jawed as a black figure landed; it was a pegasus. The other pegasi soon followed, and after a moment of recuperation, the figures began to approach Andrew’s herd. The unicorns’ anxious shivering seemed to increase tenfold as the same black figure tossed its silver mane to the side and let loose a loud whinny.

“Woah!” Mint shouted, stepping up to the front of the unicorns, all of which moved back for her. She let loose a series of snorts, nickers, and many whinnys. Most of the pegasi, of which there were ten, shrank back from the mare’s yelling, but the black pegasus took it in stride.

With an uncharacteristic growl for a pony, the pegasus took a threatening step forwards, emitting a single snort.

Before things could escalate further, Andrew stepped between the two herds, hands outstretched. “Hey! No fighting!” This time, all of the pegasi pulled away, no doubt in thanks to the sudden appearance of an unnaturally existent creature, but the black pegasus simply took a step back and shifted to growling at Andrew. Pawing at the ground eagerly, the pegasus began to flap his wings in preparation of flight. There was one last whinny from the pegasus as he took to the air; his proud cry of war.

"This is our land!"

“Then you’ll just have to learn how to share,” Andrew spat back as he raised his fists in reply.