• Published 24th Jan 2017
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Stranger in the Forest - TrixterCat



When Fluttershy encounters a new creature in the Everfree forest, how will the ponies deal with its strange ways and its inability to speak?

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Chapter 13 - Lessons

As per Celestia’s request, the next day, Twilight found herself trying to figure out a way to get Scruffy to stay in Ponyville overnight. The language barrier was proving to be problematic yet again, since Twilight couldn’t simply ask Scruffy to stay. Well, she could, it was apparent that Scruffy understood imagery very well, but Twilight wasn’t sure if she could explain why she wanted him to stay.

On the other hoof, she also thought about simply trying to ask him if there were more beings like him in the Everfree, but the Princess hadn’t brought that up, and she must have thought about it. She must have her reasons why she doesn’t want to ask directly, Twilight reasoned. No, she had to come up with a way to get Scruffy to spend the night in Ponyville, even if she felt a bit bad about tricking him like this.

“But how do I do that?” Twilight said in exasperation and smacked her head against a table.

“Do what?” Spike asked from behind the comic book he was reading.

“The Princess asked me to find a way to keep Scruffy in Ponyville overnight.”

“Can’t you just ask him?”

“But what if he doesn’t want to? How do I persuade him?”

“Tell him it’s important or something.”

“Spike, he doesn’t speak our language.”

“Oh, right. Hmm…tie him up and throw him into the basement like Mane-iac?” Spike shrugged. Twilight gasped in shock.

“Spike! I can’t do that!” Spike lowered his comic and looked at Twilight, his face expressionless.

“Twilight. I was joking.” Twilight blinked a few times, before frowning.

“I think you read too many comics.”

“I don’t think I read enough of them,” he said and giggled as he found something funny in the comic.

“I think you have chores to do,” Twilight said, a smirk forming on her face.

“Oh come on Twilight, there’s only a few more pages left.”

“I don’t think so, mister! If you aren’t going to put it down willingly, then I’ll have to do it for you!” Twilight proclaimed.

“Wha-“ Spike was cut off when Twilight suddenly pounced. He only had enough time for one frightened yelp before Twilight snatched him in a loving embrace, and started to tickle.

“H-hey! T-that tickles!” Spike said and tried to squirm away. He put up a valiant effort to resist Twilight’s machinations, but soon they both were giggling on the floor. A bleary-eyed Trixie opened the guest bedroom door and looked at the pair, before simply shaking her head and going to the kitchen to make coffee.

********************

A little past noon, Fluttershy arrived at Twilight’s library with Scruffy in tow. Fluttershy had encountered him while on her way to town.

“Hi Fluttershy. Hi Scruffy,” Twilight greeted. “Good that you are actually here, I had something I wanted to do with Scruffy.”

“What is it, Twilight?” Fluttershy asked as they went inside the library.

“Princess Celestia asked me to get Scruffy to stay in Ponyville overnight. Princess Luna had tried to find him or others of his kind in the Everfree forest, but she was unable to do so. She wanted to test if she can sense him in the dream world when he’s not in the forest.”

“You mean like a sleepover?”

“Uh…sure.”

“Can I join?” Fluttershy asked excitedly.

“If you want to.”

“Wohoo!” Fluttershy cheered (quietly) as she flapped her wings and floated a meter off the ground, before smiling sheepishly and coming back down.

“I also wanted to test something else. Fluttershy, do you remember how we tried to teach him how to say his nickname at the party?” Twilight asked.

“Mmhm. I remember him having some trouble with it.”

“I wanted to try it again and see if we can teach him our language, so that we can actually have a conversation. Because he did try to say it at any rate, so he should be able to learn if we teach him.”

“That’s a wonderful idea Twilight.”

The three of them walked inside the library, where Spike was wearing an apron and dusting the shelves.

“Hi Fluttershy. Hi Scruffy,” he said and waved. Scruffy tried to hide his smile with his other hand as he waved back.

Twilight set out to gather some tools she could use to help with her language lesson, while Scruffy and Fluttershy headed to help Spike.

“Scruffy,” Twilight called when she had her items on a table, and when she looked up from her setup, she had to jam a hoof in her mouth to prevent herself from laughing. Scruffy was holding Spike up with his hands as he dusted the upper shelves. The being turned towards her with a smile, before depositing Spike on the ground and walking over to her.

Twilight conjured an image in the air with her magic, depicting Scruffy and herself. They were both speaking, but different symbols were coming out of their mouths. Twilight crossed them out with her magic, before making the pony in the picture speak a symbol, and Scruffy’s image repeating the symbol. Eventually, they both had the same symbols coming out of their mouths.

Scruffy was nodding excitedly once he figured out what she was trying to say. It seemed like the ponies weren’t the only ones who were eager to have a talk. They started with something simple and easy. Twilight levitated an apple onto the middle of the table and clearly enunciated: “Apple.”

“Ah-...A-ah-ahkle.”

Twilight and Fluttershy glanced at each other.

“Apple,” Twilight repeated.

“Ah-ahble,” Scruffy tried again.

“Ap-ple,” Fluttershy offered.

“Ahb-ble.”

“Hmm,” Twilight mumbled as she brought a hoof to her chin. “Perhaps we should try something else?” She said and pointed at a chair. “Chair.”

“S-seeir.”

“Chair.”

“S-s-tseir?”

“Let’s try another one,” Twilight said.

Twilight and Fluttershy tried several different items, including books, a candle, different fruits, but Scruffy was unable to say any of the words correctly, no matter how much he tried.

“What are you doing?” Spike asked as he walked over.

“We are trying to teach Scruffy to speak our language…but it seems that it’s going to be more problematic than I thought. He seems to have considerable trouble enunciating any of our words correctly. I had hoped that last time it was just because the party was loud…” Twilight said. Spike turned towards Scruffy, who was rubbing his beard and had his eyes closed.

“Hmm. Well, maybe you should try a different language then? Like griffonese.”

“Spike, that’s an excellent idea!” Twilight picked up the apple again, and tapped the table to get Scruffy’s attention. “Apple.” She said in fluent griffonese.

Scruffy raised one eyebrow, but tried to say the word anyway. What came out was a mangled mess that made no sense.

“It was worth the try,” Fluttershy said.

“Why can’t he say the words properly? It shouldn’t be that hard,” Spike asked.

“It might be due to his biology,” Fluttershy said. “Some creatures are unable to make certain sounds because their vocal cords are not suited for it. Maybe, um, Scruffy can’t either?”

“I…I hadn’t even thought of that…” Twilight said contemplatively as she looked at Scruffy. Scruffy also seemed a bit crestfallen that they had hit a snag so quickly. “I remember reading that minotaurs had hard time speaking some griffonese dialects because of that. Their voices are too deep.”

Scruffy was intently staring at the apple, like it would give him a solution to their problem. Eventually, he picked it up from the table and held it in his hands, before looking at the rest of them.

“-Apple,-” he said.

“Did he…what language was that?” Spike asked.

“I didn’t recognize the language he used. Sounded almost like something from the Saddle Arabian region.” Twilight tried to mimic what Scruffy had said, but unfortunately, she had the same trouble as Scruffy has with their language, and Scruffy shook his head. They tried a few more times with different words, but none of the them were able to say any of the words correctly.

“Hrmh.” Twilight grinded her teeth as she paced across the library. “This is so frustrating! I can’t even think of any spells that would help in this matter!” she steamed. She walked back to the table and let out a frustrated sigh as she lowered her head on it, her ears splayed back. Scruffy reached out and gently ran his fingers through her mane.

“Uhm, maybe the princesses would know?” Fluttershy asked.

“Possibly. I’ll make sure to send her a letter, but maybe we should take a break for now,” Twilight suggested.

“Oh man, I’m starving! Let’s get something to eat,” Spike said as his stomach grumbled loudly.

“I need to check on my animal friends at the cottage. I can also get a few things for the sleepover while I’m there. Ooo, I’m so excited!” Fluttershy said and smiled brightly.

After a moment, Twilight managed to convey to Scruffy that they were going to take a break and buy some groceries for lunch. He decided to follow Twilight and Spike to the market, while Fluttershy headed back to her home.

They were greeted by the ponies that were out and about, many of whom were happy to see Scruffy again. They also came upon Pinkie Pie, who was talking to somepony else as they walked closer.

“Hey Pinkie Pie,” Twilight greeted her as they got next to her.

“Oh, hey Twilight. Hey Scruuuuuffy…” Pinkie’s voice went quiet as her eyes came upon Scruffy. A huge blush lit up on her face, and with nervous giggle, she quickly turned around and pranced away before anypony could stop her.

“What’s up with her?” Twilight asked.

“I don’t know,” the mare who Pinkie had been talking to said back. “I guess it’s just Pinkie being Pinkie Pie.” Scruffy could only scratch his head in confusion at the fleeting pink mare.

********************

No other distractions presented themselves as the trio gathered all the necessary ingredients for their lunch. Twilight had decided to make omelets with different fillings for each of them. Spike would get an assortment of gems in his, she would have vegetables, and Scruffy, after a bit of persuading that it was no problem at all to make him lunch too, agreed on mushrooms.

With the shopping done, they returned to the library. Twilight and Spike got to work on their lunch, and while Scruffy offered to help, there wasn’t enough room in the small kitchen for all three of them. He went back to the main area of the library and busied himself with exploring the many books that were present. However, in the middle of their cooking, a frightened scream rang through the building.

“What? What’s wrong?” Twilight asked as she galloped out of the kitchen. Trixie had come back from her errand.

“Wh-wh-wh-why is that thing here?” Trixie stuttered. She and Scruffy had locked eyes, the latter of whom had a light frown on his face. Twilight let out a small sigh.

“Trixie, calm down. Scruffy is not going to do anything to you. He is here because we were trying to teach him to speak our language, and because Princess Luna wanted him to stay in Ponyville for the night.”

“He’s going to stay here?” Trixie asked fearfully.

“Yes.”

“Overnight?”

“Yes.”

“…Twilight Sparkle. The great and humble Trixie thanks you for letting her stay in your library, but Trixie thinks she is going to find an inn for tonight,” Trixie said and slowly backed away towards the door.

“All your belongings are in the guest bedroom,” Twilight rolled her eyes.

“Trixie can get them later.”

“That includes your bits.”

“…Oh.”

“Trixie, I promise that there’s nothing to fear. I’m sure if you both get to know each other, you’ll be great friends.”

“Friends…? Trixie is uncertain if this is a good idea…”

“Trust me, Trixie.”

Trixie looked from Twilight to Scruffy, whose frown had been replaced with curiosity, before reluctantly following Twilight to where Scruffy was sitting.

“Trixie, this is Scruffy, Ponyville’s resident...umm…something. We don’t know what he is. We encountered him in Everfree one day, and now he visits Ponyville almost daily. He also doesn’t speak any language I know of. Scruffy, this is Trixie.” Twilight pointed at Trixie when she said her name. Scruffy kept a neutral look as he nodded slightly. “Maybe you should shake hooves…erm, and hands, as a sign of friendship?” Twilight suggested.

Trixie slowly offered her hoof to Scruffy, who equally hesitantly shook it.

“Great! Now, we were just in the middle of making omelets for lunch. What type do you like, Trixie?” Twilight asked as she made her way back in to the kitchen.

“T-Trixie is grateful that you have given her a place to stay, but Trixie has to ask, why?” Trixie hurried after her. Twilight stopped and turned around to look at her with surprise.

“Trixie…we might have started off a bit on the wrong hoof, but I don’t want to hold a grudge against you. You already apologized to me and the rest of the town yesterday. As far as I’m concerned, you are free to stay here until you get yourself a new wagon. How did it go, by the way?”

“Trixie talked to the carpenter. He said Trixie would get her new and amazing wagon in a few weeks.”

“Better make it ursa proof,” Spike teased as he removed one omelet from the frying pan and began to make the next.

“Hmph,” Trixie harrumphed.

After all the omelets were done, the four of them gathered around the table to eat. Fluttershy came back from her cottage just as they were finishing up. She had her saddlebags with her.

“Hello Trixie,” she said a bit meekly.

“Hello.”

“Are you going to join us too?”

“Join what?”

“We are going to have a sleepover.”

“We are?” Spike asked.

“Yes. We need to keep Scruffy here overnight, remember?” Twilight said.

“Oh, right.”

“Twilight Sparkle is allowing Trixie to stay in the library for now, so Trixie is here regardless.”

“That’s wonderful then,” Fluttershy said and clopped her hooves together happily. “I haven’t had a sleepover since I was a filly.”

“Where is he going to stay?” Spike asked.

“We have extra mattresses. Spike, could you wash the dishes? You can have the rest of the day off after that,” Twilight said.

“Sure thing, Twilight.”

“Now, let’s focus back on the matter at hoof. Even if Scruffy can’t speak our language, we could still teach him to write it, which would allow us to communicate.”

“Why can’t he speak?” Trixie asked.

“We think that he might not be able to produce the necessary sounds to speak our language properly. We tried previously, but everything he said sounded like gibberish,” Twilight answered. “He could also have something wrong with his throat, maybe an injury or something else, that prevents him from speaking normally. It doesn’t seem like he’s in any pain when he speaks though.”

“We tried Equestrian Common and griffonese, but Scruffy couldn’t replicate either language. We also couldn’t speak his language, whatever it was,” Fluttershy said.

“Have you tried a voice transmogrification spell?” Trixie asked.

“What’s that?” Twilight questioned.

“You don’t know what a voice transmogrification spell is?”

“I don’t remember reading about a spell with that name.”

“Hah, then let the great and knowledgeable Trixie teach you,” Trixie said pridefully. “The voice transmogrification spell is used by some stage magicians, whose performance might need it. For example, a ventriloquist might change their voice to sound different, or a puppet performer for the different characters. Trixie has seen such a spell be used many times when she was training.”

“How would that help?” Fluttershy asked.

“Trixie thinks you could cast it on your friend there, and it might allow him to produce the necessary sounds to speak our language.”

“That…that could work!” Twilight said excitedly, but quickly became thoughtful. “It would need some modifications. It sounds like that on its own it would only cause his tone and pitch to change. What we need is something more complex.”

“Unfortunately, Trixie herself does not know the spell, so she can’t help with that. Trixie never needed that spell in her own performance.”

“I could ask Princess Celestia for the spell! I’m sure she knows it, or at least has a spell book for it somewhere in the Canterlot Archives.”

“Then we could finally have a conversation with Scruffy,” Fluttershy said and flied up to give him a hug. Scruffy looked a bit unsure as he petted her mane.

“It’s going to take some time to get the spell to work as we want it to,” Twilight mused. “In the meantime, we can teach him to write.”

********************

The rest of the day was spent in teaching Scruffy the basics of writing Equestrian Common. It was rather easy in theory: write down a word, then point at what the word means. Twilight concluded that it would be more beneficial to teach him some basic words first, like yes and no, instead of starting from the very beginning with the alphabets.

To Twilight’s pleasure, soon after they started, Scruffy had asked for a quill to write with, and had scribbled the same type of symbols that were on his device under every word they wrote on a scroll. Twilight still didn’t recognize the language Scruffy was using but just as he was learning from her, she could also learn from him.

His device also proved to be very useful, as Scruffy could take pictures of the scrolls that they were using. He wouldn’t need to carry the scrolls around, or commit all of them into memory immediately. Once they could properly converse, Twilight vowed to find out how the device worked.

As they were taking a break, Scruffy happened to look outside and grimaced. It was raining rather heavily, and none of them had noticed it. The library was good at muffling outside sounds, not in small part due to an enchantment Twilight had put on the tree. In Twilight’s opinion, a library needed to be quiet and serene. Twilight, of course, knew that it was going to rain today. She had asked Rainbow earlier to have an unscheduled rain in the evening, so that they could dissuade Scruffy from leaving Ponyville for the night.

With her magic, Twilight did her best to tell Scruffy that he was free to stay at her library overnight and that they could have a slumber party. He looked unsure at first, indicating that he should go, despite the rain. However, one pleading, teary eyed look from Fluttershy made his resolve shatter. He took one more look at the rain outside, before coming back to continue their lesson.

********************

Luna drifted in the dream world. She lazily floated around, from one dreamer to the next, making sure that everypony was peaceful in their slumber. Her own mind was restless, however, as she waited to see if their plan worked. For several days now, she had tried to sense the elusive creature that Twilight and the other bearers had encountered in the Everfree forest, hoping to find something to tell them where it came from, or if there were more of its kind living in the Everfree forest. But despite her best efforts, she had been unable to do so.

Luna frowned angrily as her spirit flew in the currents of magic to explore the Everfree once more. It vexed her greatly that there was something hiding in the forest from her, and she was certain that there was something, because she could feel it in the back of her mind. A presence, or perhaps multiple presences, lurking in the shadows. Every time she tried to focus on it, it slipped away. It was like a dream that you could barely remember after waking up. The harder you tried, the more it faded away.

But what could cause this? she wondered. There were, of course, several spells that could hide the sleeper from her, but this didn’t feel anything like that. For one thing, she shouldn’t have been able to sense anything at all if those spells were used. No, this was something different. To her, it almost felt like whatever she was sensing was far away. Luna turned her gaze upwards, towards the moon. It almost feels like when I was-…

She could feel it. A new presence in Ponyville. She smiled and giddily hopped into flight. It seemed like Twilight had managed to convince the creature to stay in Ponyville, and whatever magic was preventing her from sensing it in the forest wasn’t blocking her now.

Luna examined the glowing star that represented the creature’s being. To Luna, or any experienced dream walker, a dreamer was a shining star in the dream world, and you could learn a lot from simply observing it. The shape, its color or colors, whether or not it was warm or cold, all of it could tell you something about the dreamer. This star was very conflicting, however. It seemed dull, yet the colors were warm and happy. The star seemed old and weathered, but there was certain spryness to it. Luna felt a sense of dread from looking at it, even if she couldn’t find anything that would indicate a nightmare. No dark colors, no sharpness. It didn’t even feel cold.

“No use in thinking about it,” she said to herself and dived in.

Luna found herself in a calm, dark space. A dreamless sleep. The creature wasn’t currently dreaming of anything, undoubtedly because he had just fallen asleep. Luna concentrated her magic and with a spell, stimulated the creatures thought to cause a dream to manifest. The world around her changed, as the town of Ponyville emerged around her. A sun climbed into the sky to bring light, and a gentle breeze blew past her.

Now where is the dreamer? Luna walked along the maze like alleys in an effort to find something. Everything was so quiet and calm, and she couldn’t see any ponies around. How strange that he would dream of Ponyville. Then again, I suppose he visits regularly. Luna’s ears perked as she heard something. Voices coming from somewhere. Sounds like a crowd.

Luna increased her pace slightly as she begun to search for the source. All the alleys and streets went in impossible directions and looped around in on themselves in a way that would have made Discord jump in joy. He is still unfamiliar with the town, he can’t remember where everything is yet. My magic might also be messing with his thoughts. Luna charged her horn and a beam of moonlight shone her a path.

Eventually she found herself in front of the Ponyville town hall, with a crowd of ponies gathered around her. Most of them were featureless, but Luna could see a few that were more sharp and in focus, the ones that Scruffy had had more interaction with. She also noticed that Twilight was standing next to her, and she almost laughed when she noticed the ridiculous glasses she was wearing. She also looked incredibly fluffy for some reason.

Twilight was intently watching something past her, and Luna turned around to see another unicorn, this one looking far more menacing. Dark clouds were gathering in the sky, but Twilight stood her ground defiantly. Red lightning sparked from the other unicorn’s horn, and she opened to her mouth to speak, but only unintelligible sounds came from it.

Ah. Twilight had mentioned that the creature didn’t speak our language. I wonder if this is how he hears us. Luna pondered. The two unicorns took a few steps closer to each other, magic sparking from their horns, ready for battle. Just as they were about to attack, bombastic music started to play.

Luna had to do a double take at the sight before her. An incredibly muscular being rode in between the two unicorns, riding on the back of a reddish green earth pony with yoke and a ferocious grin. The being itself had more muscle than most minotaurs she had seen, and it was brandishing a sword of some kind. The ‘evil’ unicorn let out a few garbled words as it backed away. The creature jumped off from the pony’s back in an incredible feat of acrobatics, and landed next to the unicorn. Luna was afraid that the creature was going to strike the mare with its sword, but instead, it just hoisted her up, and carried her to a chair.

Luna looked in utter bewilderment as the creature proceeded to ‘punish’ the evil mare. His sword had turned into a bundle of birch tree branches that it used to mercilessly whip the mare’s backside. The evil sorceress tried to buck him several times, but nothing worked, and soon she burst into tears. Twilight appeared next her and said something, which caused the mare to throw away a necklace of some kind. As soon as she did that, she turned equally fluffy looking as Twilight, and a pointy hat was now adorning her head. Oddly enough, she also had a long beard. The creature let the poor mare go, who immediately ran away to safety.

As the ponies started to cheer, Luna looked around. Ever since the dream began, she had a nagging sense that something wasn’t quite right. Not just the scenes playing in front of her, she knew that those were mostly likely just a product of an imaginative mind. As she had used her magic to start the dream, it was probably even weirder than normal.

Luna walked closer to the creature, who was still sitting, unmoving. She looked him deep in the eyes. She was still just observing, and wasn’t a part of the dream, so the creature didn’t see her. Luna turned around, and noticed that all the ponies had disappeared. Everything was silent. All the buildings were gone, and she couldn’t spot anything at all as far as she could see. She turned to face the creature again, only to notice that he too was gone.

Luna blinked as the colors started to fade away. An empty feeling grew in Luna’s heart as she started to walk. She didn’t have any destination, for there was nowhere where she could go. Slowly all the colors drained away, and only a gray landscape was left. Luna couldn’t see anything, feel anything, or even hear anything. Not even her own hoofsteps. Everything was dull, motionless, featureless.

Lifeless.

The empty feeling in her heart grew into an ache, an ache she was all too familiar with. She shook her head and steeled her resolve. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, before slowly letting it out. She repeated this several times, before opening her eyes again. Luna charged her horn, and soft moonlight illuminated the area around her. She kept walking forward, searching.

After a walk that felt like eternity, Luna stopped. In front of her was the creature, sitting on a chair, unmoving, with its gaze down. He was as lifeless and gray as everything else. The oppressive feeling threatened to come back, but Luna ignored it and kneeled. The creature didn’t react to her in any way. She leaned closer, and gently pressed her horn against the creature’s forehead. Slowly, color started to flow down from the point her horn touched. The creature stirred, and raised its eyes to look at her.

“You are not alone,” Luna whispered.

The creature’s eyes slowly opened as the colors returned. He focused on her, and Luna could see a spark of life return to his gaze.

Luna blinked as she spun around in the dream world, having been ejected from the dream as the creature woke up. She used her wings to steady herself and brought her momentum to halt. She gazed at all the dreaming stars in Ponyville, lost in her own thoughts.

Author's Note:

Hurray for long chapters. :pinkiehappy:

Hopefully my explanation why Scruffy can't speak the ponies language makes sense. :derpytongue2: I mean it makes sense to me, have you ever tried to make animal sounds? Some of them are pretty hard to replicate, but some people are able to do it very well. Now try to imagine a birds song as a language. It would be way more complex, with small changes in pitch having a huge effect on the meaning of the word. Or something like that. :rainbowwild:

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