• Published 19th Feb 2017
  • 9,351 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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7 - Questions

Andrew juggled the multiple questions bubbling around in his mind as the three herds walked and flew around him. That was one of the most curious questions, just behind knowing why that fall hadn’t left remnants of damage on him; what were these ponies? Frowning, he looked around at the herds. Spotting the earth pony mare that had been running from the spiders the night prior, he realized that the earth ponies were a new variable to the situation.

'The unicorns and pegasi aren’t really on good terms.' Andrew tightened his grip on his stick, head angled towards the earth ponies. 'But those ponies…' Rushing forward, Mint managed to catch Andrew as his feet lost purchase among a sea of stones. He sighed, smiling as he ran a hand across Mint’s back.


The mare looked up at him and snorted. "Be careful. "

Waving her off, much to her chagrin, Andrew looked around the new terrain. Stone outcrops formed natural walls around the area, and the dirt beneath him more akin to a quarry’s floor than the grasslands. Then, as the group was passing around a large pillar of stone, Andrew stepped out ahead of the herd to spot a giant, glinting rock.

“Is that…?” Stepping forward, Andrew stared at the shining stone. Spotting a moderate amount of circular stones littering the area, he realized that they were geodes. Andrew walked over to the stones and found a geode that was nearly the size of his head. He took his stick in two hands, reaffirmed his grip, and brought the end down hard on the stone. The thick tree branch, with surprising ease, broke the geode open. Andrew dropped the stick and carefully lowered himself to his knees, ignoring the approaching ponies.

Instead of finding a white quartz deposit of minerals within, he found a mass of amethyst, and a large one at that. Each crystal jutted outwards, small sparkles displaying the luster of the gems.


“Woah,” Mint said, stealing away one of the halves with a hoof.

Shrugging, Andrew stood and turned to inspect the larger stone. Various sounds of the strange pony language behind him tore Andrew from his inspection. The pegasi and earth ponies were staring quietly at the unicorns, who had all circled around the amethyst geode. Before Andrew could ask a single question, the horns of the unicorns lit up, all surrounded by bright colors. Then, with multiple flashes of varying intensities, the amethyst halve began to shatter.

Whinnying, Mint powered down her horn, and the other unicorns soon followed. The glowing horns reminded Andrew of the small unicorn foal’s levitation trick, and as Mint raised a shining piece of amethyst with her hoof, he realized that there were no tricks.

Mouth open, Andrew limped over, kneeling down to pick up one of the light-emitting amethyst shards. “How?” he breathed, turning the crystal over.

Mint nickered, nudging another one of the strange amethysts near him. "Touch."

“Touch?” Cautiously, Andrew picked up the amethyst in his other hand.

Mint nodded approvingly, giving another nicker. "Touch them."

Trusting that nothing would happen to him, Andrew brought the two amethysts together, their tips touching. The light immediately brightened, and when Andrew pulled them away, they softened again. He suddenly picked up on just why the unicorns had done this.

“A light source?” He dropped the purple-emitting crystals. Mint’s ear pitched forward suddenly.

She let out a neigh, staring down at the gems. "Light?"

Curious at the statement made in her language, Andrew nodded. “Yeah, it emits light.” She paused again.

“Light.” She sounded the word out carefully. Mint pointed a hoof at the crystals. “Light?”

“Yeah, that’s light.”

She blinked slowly at that. “Woah.”

Snickering, Andrew pat her on the head.

“I’ll figure out how you’re learning all of this so quickly, and then I’ll teach you how to speak properly.”

“Woah?” she asked, pointing a hoof at Andrew. He held a finger against his chest, surprised.

“Me? I’m Andrew.”

She shook her head, pointing again. “Woah?”

He quickly picked up on what she wanted; one word.


“Andrew,” she sounded out. Seeing that he was on a roll, Andrew waved a hand.

“Hello.” She watched his hand moving in front of her, and after a moment of hesitation, she lifted her own hoof and repeated the movements, staring at Andrew.

“Hello… bushkeeper.” He shook his head in disbelief and stood.

“If you want to look like a pony, you need to work on your acting skills.” He couldn’t believe that a pony was able to quickly learn how to pronounce words not meant for its mouth. Eyeing the unicorns placing shards of amethyst in ponies’ manes, he thought that maybe the words were meant for them. They were just too intelligent. The ingenuity of it all was quite apparent as Andrew watched the ground around the ponies lit up in the purple glow; they were using the crystals as lights.

“Where did you guys learn this?” Andrew knew the answer, ignoring the fact that none of them had responded to him; they had learned how to do it themselves.

Andrew didn’t feel like the being with the most advanced intelligence anymore. In fact, he felt like the one behind. Just because the ponies lacked the technology, they certainly did not lack the technique. Watching an earth pony holding a shaking colt that was staring at Andrew, Andrew realized that he hadn’t been brought to the forest without reason.

He’d been brought here to help them progress.

He turned back to the pillaring rock, the last remnants of the hiking trip slipping from his mind. This was much more than a chance of fate. These ponies lacked the ability to protect themselves, the ability to utilize the simplest technologies, and a safe place to lay their heads down at night. This world was a dangerous place, full of hydras, wolves, giant spiders, and who knew what else. Searching his hoodie pocket, he found the hood of berries and tossed a handful into his mouth, savoring the taste. Andrew turned around and found his stick again; It was time to take charge. Stamping the ground loudly with the stick, he found the attentions of the beings around him refocus.

“We’ve got a long way to walk, still,” he began. “I know there’s a lot of you, but I’m going to help you all feed and grow for as long as I’m here.” He spied the earth ponies, their stomachs showing bone beneath. It was a nasty sight to see through the fur. Suddenly, the brown mare’s foray into the spider-infested apple grove the night before made a lot more sense. “Nothing will hurt you all for as long as I’m here.” He emphasized his point by bringing his stick down once more into the earth. Smiling at the tool for a moment, Andrew finished his short speech. “I’ll show you just what humans are capable of… and I’ll find the limits of your own potential.”

The distance between the valley and the berry thicket was further than it seemed. By the time the herd was just passing the lake and waterfall, which Andrew was careful to steer the herd away from, the sun was just beginning to dip down below the horizon. The amethyst lights showed their true colors as the herd was plunged in a purple hue. Andrew had attempted to teach Mint a few more words along the way, with little success in that department; walking and charades was harder to pull off than he thought. When they reached the plains outside the unicorn’s forest, the three herds split off, scavenging the plains for turnips and carrots.

Andrew settled down beside Mint, the mare in the process of uprooting a large turnip.

“I need your help, Mint.” The mare hummed, chewing on her successfully harvested vegetable. “I have no idea about what this place is, but you seem to be my best bet.”

Mint looked up at him, nickering softly. "You want some?"

“I’m a little thirsty, but I have my berries. Thanks for offering.” The mare returned to her meal. “How old are you, anyway?” The mare snorted, pulling back to allow Andrew’s hand to rest on her neck. Grinning, Andrew began to scratch the mare. “Right, suppose that’s a bit forward of me.” Greeny came trotting over, a carrot in his mouth. He settled down in front of Andrew, pushing aside the teenager’s arm to scoot up right beside Mint. Andrew raised an eyebrow and leant back.

“And that’s a little forward of you.” Mint finished her turnip and rested her head on Greeny’s back, allowing Andrew to continue his scratching from where he had left off. “But I really do need your help, Mint. So that’s why I’m asking you…” He popped another berry in his mouth, looking down at the sleepy mare. “Are you hiding anything from me, Mint?” Her ears flicked up at her name, but she didn’t move. Sighing, Andrew stood, surveying the plains.

Most of the herds appeared to have settled, just as he and the two ponies by his feet had. The moon had finally made its appearance, but the sun was still shooting beams over the horizon in the dusk. The pegasi were leaving in pairs, disappearing into the clouds. Andrew watched as a pegasus pushed a cloud to the side a bit, then landed on it. His disbelief was quickly extended, for when he looked to the earth ponies, he found them digging out a hole in the side of a hill. They had already dug quite deep, and soon stopped to fill the den with their fourteen bodies, all pressed tightly together for warmth. The unicorns stayed close together, the other seven adults and three foals content to lie in the middle of the field.

Andrew looked down at the pair of unicorns near him, feeling a shiver run up his spine. The night was colder than before, the wind enough to push the air straight through his hoodie. He had planned on sleeping on his makeshift bed that night, but he could settle down with the herds in the plains.

Swiftly, the night was broken by an inescapable flash of white from the forest.

Andrew squinted hard, watching the white figure passing between the trees. It appeared the day had not yet finished giving Andrew new sights. Grabbing his newly dubbed walking stick, Andrew stalked over to the forest.

The figure had disappeared from the treeline, moving further into the forest. Suspecting a trap, Andrew slowed his movements. The sun had descended quickly, and the moon now shone its brilliance independently through the treetops. He followed the light for a long time, passing through the thicket, by the stream, where he did not stop to drink despite his needs, and even past a cave entrance. Andrew felt his limbs tiring, a sign that he had been walking for longer than he remembered. Andrew squinted up through the canopy, spying the moon.

It was midnight.

Eyes widening, Andrew looked around him. The white figure still bounced along a hidden path ahead, waiting for him to follow. Andrew felt that something was off about the woods, but still, he followed the figure. The curious teenager did not know what was possessing him to continue, even after knowing that his perception of time was being disturbed, but he knew that there was something about the figure… something familiar.

Andrew emerged out of the forest, stepping backwards in surprise as the edge of a cliff suddenly came up to greet him. Peering over the edge, Andrew found himself staring into a deep gorge, large holes littering one of the walls below. He spotted the white figure to his right. His head flicked towards the apparition, hoping to catch a glimpse of what it was. All he saw was the figure disappearing down a natural ramp that led down into the gorge. Swallowing thickly, Andrew followed steadily with renewed vigor.

Reaching the bottom of the path, Andrew felt the last of his strength beginning to leave him. Ahead of him was a cave entrance, white light pouring out in large waves. Limping forward, Andrew was desperate to follow the white figure. As the white figure lapsed into the light, Andrew too, felt himself slipping away.

And that’s when he saw the creature standing before him in the darkness beneath his lids.

A pony.