• Published 19th Feb 2017
  • 9,358 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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5 - Grasslands

Andrew awoke in darkness. His eyes were open, and as his eyes adjusted to the light, he found himself still in the berry thicket. The canopy above swayed slowly in the cool night air. As Andrew blinked the blurriness of sleep away, he found that he was still holding Mint and sitting amongst the sleeping herd. His eyes flashed open in realization; he had slept through the afternoon.

“I wish I had my flip phone,” the human muttered, carefully setting Mint down amongst the ponies on his bed. Andrew stood, stretching his legs.

He went to start the campfire, but realized that there were two problems with that: one, the unicorns were sleeping and he did not wish to wake them, and two, he had no firewood. Sighing, Andrew went back over to his bed and pulled the now berryless hood from underneath the yellow unicorn’s rump. Before he could get away, the unicorns leg shot out and kicked him right in the shin. Suppressing the grunt of pain that threatened to slip out, Andrew instead opted to glare at the quietly snoring unicorn.

“Should call you Lemon just for the attitude,” he grumbled. Andrew filled up his hood with berries again and surveyed the darkness.

Small groups of fireflies had sprouted forth from the blackness while he had been storing food, and it reminded him that he still had yet to build another wall of logs on the southern side of the clearing. Another glance to the north told him that he probably wanted to put something up above the rocky outcrop covering his sleeping spot from the elements. Eventually, Andrew ran out of things to squint at in the darkness. The human stared up through the moonlit hole in the center of the clearing canopy, the white orb in the sky shining down on Andrew and the night’s denizens.

“That’s a big moon.” Andrew searched his mind for something to do besides sleep the rest of the night away. He almost slapped himself for forgetting one of the things that had held him together throughout the years; jogging. It was strange not staying close to the schedule for over a day, as even on trips out of town he would still go out jogging. After performing warm up stretches for a couple of minutes, Andrew slipped the hood into his hoodie pouch, turned west, and took off at a brisk pace.

There wasn’t much to think about, Andrew had to admit. He could think of home, but what was the point in that? Much of his business had been filled out before his hiking trip, and he was quite sure his weekly lawn mower visits would not affect the lives of his neighbors. Like they had to do, he would find a way. Quite unlike his neighbors, however, Andrew had to find a way safely past a potentially dangerous forest and a hazardous hydra.

'Or I could go east,' he mused, hopping over a fallen log. Brushing past a branch found Andrew back on the edge of the plains. He slowed to a walk as he entered the plains.

“Man, this place is even more pretty at night.” The flowing stream nearby reminded Andrew that he hadn’t had a drink for the last few hours. He knelt down near the water, inspecting it carefully. It was hard to tell, but Andrew was pretty sure it was just water. Cupping his hands in the liquid, Andrew brought a pool to his lips. It was cool and refreshing, nothing special. Drinking also reminded him that he had not eaten food recently, or more specifically, meat.

Spying a carrot’s top nearby, Andrew chose to figure out how to get meat later. Most likely fish. Filing away the thoughts of how to gut and fish without tools for later, Andrew focused on pulling the carrot out from ground. The foal had made it look easy, but the levitation trick that he had pulled must have helped him in that aspect. With a hard tug, the carrot popped out of the ground, earth flying everywhere.

As Andrew finished pulling away the roots of the carrots, there was thud from behind him. Standing quickly, Andrew turned on a whim. Amber eyes peered at him from the figure. As the wings of the creature spread forth, Andrew realized that it was the black pegasus colt from earlier. He pulled back, settling his shoulders.

“Don’t spook me like that.” The colt took a step forward, his eyes locked on Andrew’s carrot. Andrew looked between the carrot and the colt. He pulled it away, grinning. “This is my carrot.” He kicked at another spot nearby where another carrot sat rooted in the dirt. “But you can have the rest that you see.” Seeing that there was food by Andrew’s foot, the colt came over and began to tug at the stem.

With his visitor distracted, Andrew sat down by the stream again and gently began to wash his carrot. He was about halfway done clearing the vegetable of debris and roots when the pegasus plonked down next to him, holding a carrot in it’s mouth. Andrew looked up from his work for a moment, grinning at the pony as it watched him work. Refocusing, Andrew decided to spark a bit of conversation with the equine.

“Whatcha doing out so late, buddy?” The pegasus leant forward, watching Andrew’s carrot intently. The teenager gave a questioning glance as he pulled his carrot from the water. “You come to steal my food or what?” Nibbling a bit on the sweet carrot, Andrew watched as the pegasus pulled the carrot out of his mouth with his hoof and held it in the water. Curious, Andrew watched as the pegasus began to scrub away the remaining roots and flecks of dirt with his other hoof.

“I don’t even know,” Andrew muttered, staring at the hooves somehow capable of grasping the carrot. He pointed at the colt’s hooves. “How are you doing that?” In a much shorter period than Andrew, the carrot had been rubbed raw, and the colt raised it to his mouth, crunching on it loudly. It stared at him, simply flicking an ear in his direction as it lowered its hoof away.

“You guys really are fast learners.” Wishing to see if the pegasus would show off his ability again, Andrew held out his carrot whilst the pegasus was still chewing. Its eyes stared at the carrot, momentarily halted in its feeding. Much to Andrew’s amazement, the pegasus grabbed the carrot with one of his hooves and held it up as he finished eating his first carrot.

“Dude, that is weird!” Andrew stood, looking around for another item for the pegasus to grab. He returned after a moment with a large turnip. After dusting it off, Andrew extended it to the pegasus. Immediately, the pegasus had grabbed it with a hoof. “Wow!” Chuckling, Andrew tousled the pegasus’ silver mane.

The pegasus snorted pulling him away. "Don’t touch me."

“Yeah yeah, I got you.” Still grinning, Andrew laid back in the cool grass, staring up at the clear night sky. His eyes went wide.

“This place just never ceases to show how beautiful it is…” Andrew stared up into the sky, the blue, red, yellow, and white orbs littering the purple sky, emphasized by the glow of the moon. “There has to be no light pollution here at all.” He spun, taking in the breathtaking view of the night above him. He laughed, pointing at one group of stars. “That looks like a stick figure!” He crouched down to reach the colt’s shoulder, clasping it loudly. “And that one’s a flower!”

Huffing loudly, the colt leaned away, but Andrew pulled him right back. Andrew smiled down at the colt. “You guys are lucky to be able to fly in that sky.” The pegasus swatted him in the face with a wing, and as if given a silent cue, took off into the night sky. Chuckling, Andrew went to stand, only to be clocked in the head by a large object. Suppressing a swear, he picked up the turnip that the pegasus had bombarded him with. Staring wistfully at the pegasus, its form disappearing behind a cloud, Andrew stared down at the turnip in his hand.

“Never had turnip before.” He shrugged his shoulders and bent down near the stream to wash the vegetable. After consuming the leafy greens and the bulb, Andrew looked around.

“Now where to next…” His eyes landed on the close mountain. A glance at the moon told him that time had barely passed since he had last checked in the clearing, so he decided to take off jogging towards the chain.

Just as Andrew was about to stop at the foot of the mountain, the sound of galloping behind him interrupted the choir of crickets. He turned, squinting into the dark to spot the creature. As the pony pulled up to him, Andrew took notice of who it was.

“Mint?”

“Woah?” The pony trotted up to him, a look of concern on her face. Andrew knelt down, running a hand through her mane.

"Are you alright?"

“Yeah, I’m fine.” He stood back up. “Did you follow me out here?” The pony stared at him blankly. “Right, right, I keep forgetting.” He scratched his head, looking around worriedly. “You should be back with the herd, though. I don’t know what’s out here, but there could be danger.”

The mare took notice of his expression and nuzzled his hand. She let out a comforting nicker. "I’m here for you."

Andrew sighed, smiling softly.

“I know.” He turned back to the short mountain chain, taking notice of a large waterfall nearby. Shrugging, he figured that it would be as good a place as any to find any new creatures.

“And a nice view,” he muttered, eyes landing on a plateau surrounding the waterfall’s top. Andrew stepped forward a couple of steps, before turning back to regard the mare. “You coming?” The mare looked back at the forest behind them, but gave a whinny in reply, following after him.

The sounds of the waterfall soon approached their ears. It was not of crashing volume, which surprised Andrew greatly. The falling water formed a smooth surface, and Andrew felt that if he touched it, there would not even be much spray. Near the lake that had formed from the waterfall, a large group of ducks lay asleep in the grass. A bright red creature flew overhead, and as Andrew squinted to see what it was, he realized that it was some sort of flying strawberry.

He stared slack jawed as the creature alighted along the banks of the lake. “Is that a literal fruitbat?” Sure enough, the creature sported a pair of bright red batwings. Before he could do so much as shake his head at the sight, Andrew spotted a flash of movement amongst a nearby grove of apple trees. As he approached the grove, he felt a tug on the leg of his jeans.

“You alright?” He looked back at the frightened Mint. His eyes widened. “What’s wrong?” Whimpering, the mare, took a step backwards.

'Something here is spooking her,' Andrew thought, aggressively scanning the area. There was the small forest nearby, the bright blue lake, and the quietly churning end of the waterfall, but there seemed to be nothing else in sight. Thinking back to the movement, Andrew brought a hand protectively over Mint and backed up.

There was a whinny from the woods, and out erupted a pony, a pony without wings or a horn. It was brown-coated creature, with a jet black mane.

And it was coming right for them.

But that wasn’t what scared him, no, because the creature itself showed the true definition of fear. It was what the pony was running from; a giant, black figure that Andrew had seen just moments before.

A spider sporting massive white fangs.