• Published 6th Jul 2012
  • 6,019 Views, 307 Comments

Legacy of the Pegasi - secret89



An ancient pegasi myth has returned. It will take three special pegasi to turn back the storm.

  • ...
8
 307
 6,019

Ch. 7: Ailing Pegasi and Haunted Forests

Legacy of the Pegasi:

Chapter 7: Ailing Pegasi and Haunted Forests

A faint glow slowly radiated near the eastern horizon. It gradually began to build in size and intensity, pinpricks of faint rays peeking over the horizon. Soon these too began to grow in strength, all together heralding in the rising of the sun. Continuing on their approach, the bright rays dashed forth as the topmost crescent of the sun finally broke free from the confines of the horizon. Like a gentle tidal wave, the light spilled into the Equestrian land, filling open fields, piercing dense forests, and finally touching on the brick and mortar of the small community that lay nestled in the expansive valley. Like a beckoning call, the light crept through the windows, warming the slumbering inhabitants. Ponies began to rouse from their sleep, early risers relishing in the calm moments of the morn, while the various shop keepers and market vendors prepared their wares for morning rush. For most, it was the beginning of another typical day in the small village. The same could not be said for a certain hospital borne pegasus.

Soarin' groaned lightly, roughly turning his body away from the window as the hospital received its own greeting from the sun.

Archon's spit Celestia, the stallion mentally swore, would it kill ya to take a day off every once in a while?

Shuffling his bedsheets in a flurry to shield himself from the offensive light, the Wonderbolt had nearly fallen back asleep, but was wrenched awake once more by the loud bang of an opened door. Soarin' groaned more audibly this time, pulling the covers closer over his head. I swear it should be illegal to wake somepony up like this.

The Wonderbolt's ears perked up as an almost cheery sound of hoof steps approached his bed. Dread filled the pegasus. Oh, they better not be... the stallion grumbled, slowly pulling off the sheets to greet his morning visitor.

Standing before him in a white lab coat was a brown unicorn, a red cross on his flank and clip board in hoof. To top it all off, the doctor wore the most sickeningly chirpy smile that Soarin' had ever seen.

“Well good morning there Mr. Soarin'! My name is Doctor Remedy.” The brown unicorn merrily greeted, eliciting a flinch from the Wonderbolt. Archons, just kill me now! Soarin' pleaded, not at all receptive to the morning pony's chipper attitude. Still taking a moment to wake up, and half hoping the medical unicorn would leave if he stared long enough, Soarin' replied. “Hey doc. I uh, I guess I'm feeling better.”

“Haven't tried flexing those wing muscles yet?” The doctor inquired, glancing down at his clipboard.

“Um, no actually, I haven't.” Soarin' twisted around, glancing at his bandaged wings. “But, now that you mention it, they do feel different...”

The unicorn raised an eyebrow, slightly surprised at Soarin's remark. “Really now? Well, why don't you give them an easy stretch while I examine them.”

Wordlessly complying, Soarin' slowly outstretched his wings, tensely waiting for the inevitable bouts of soreness that would plague him. But it never came.

“Anything?” The doctor remarked casually, all the while using his magic to shift and probe around the Wonderbolt's wings.

“Um. No actually. Nothing.” Soarin' replied, surprised at the lack of pain along his back. Sleep suddenly seemed like an after thought as a mischievous grin spread across the Wonderbolt's face.

“What?” Doctor Remedy sputtered, nearly dropping his clipboard. “But, that can't be right, not after an acci-”

Soarin' suddenly jumped up on all fours on top the bed, brandishing his wings about every which way, flexing and stretching his muscles about. A mixture of shock and confidence surged through the Wonderbolt. There was no pain, not even a hint of stress or soreness. The pegasus grinned.

“Mr. Soarin' please!” The medical unicorn stammered, stumbling back from the abrupt flurry in front of him.

Tucking his bandaged wings in awkwardly, Soarin' jumped from the bed. “Sorry doc. But I had to try that. And I didn't feel a thing. In fact...” Soarin glanced down at his sides. “I haven't felt this good in a long time.”

“But that's...” The unicorn re-focused his magic, concentrating harder as the aura sunk into the pegasus' wings. His mouth was left agape a moment later. “Impossible?”

Soarin' smirked, relishing the inadvertent compliment. “I'm a pegasus doc, and a Wonderbolt to boot. Doing the impossible is in my blood.” Though he wasn't being entirely truthful, Soarin' wasn't going to miss an opportunity to boast.

Ignoring the remark, Dr. Remedy squinted his eyes as he continued his examination. A second later, the magic aura fell from Soarin's wings. “Incredible. Simply astonishing.” The doctor announced, discarding his now unnecessary clipboard on a nearby table. “I've never seen anything like it.” Doctor Remedy turned to meet his patient's gaze.

Soarin' looked confused. “Doc?”

The medical unicorn met the pegasus evenly, replying in a business like tone. “It's as if your wings were never injured. The torn muscle has completely healed; not even the most advanced magic can do that, and most certainly not overnight. In fact, the tissue looks far more robust now than should be normal for a pegasus, even a Wonderbolt.”

Soarin's thoughts drifted back to recent, more supernatural encounters. While the pegasi physiology was more apt in recovering from injuries involving muscles and cardio, it obviously couldn't have done what the Wonderbolt's body had just done. Soarin' frowned. No, it had to be connected to what Commander Hurricane had told him.

“What can I say doc?” Soarin' replied lightly to the wary unicorn, trying not to betray his thoughts. “I'm a one of a kind.”

“Indeed.” The doctor eyed the pegasus suspiciously, like Soarin' had become some medical curiosity. “In fact, perhaps you wouldn't mind if we were to take a sample of your blood?” The medical pony levitated his clip board in front him, absently making a few marks.

The Wonderbolt bristled, replying in a steely voice. “No.”

“It will-”

“Nope.”

“But-”

“What part of 'no you're not sticking me with any of your blood sucking needles' don't you understand?” Soarin' took a step forward, annoyed with the unicorn's questioning.

Shirking slightly Doctor Remedy inched his clipboard in front of him like a shield. “Alright, alright! No reason to get testy!” Composing himself, the unicorn grumbled. “You pegasi are all alike, stubborn as a mule. Same as that rainbow filly...” He added off hoof.

Soarin' grinned inwardly. Can't say I'm surprised. Rainbow would go stir crazy in here. “So, do I get the clean bill of health or what doc?” The Wonderbolt asked quickly, itching to get out of the hospital.

“Yes, yes.” Doctor Remedy replied absently glancing down at his checklist. “Everything looks good. You can check out...”

Soarin' was nearly out the door before the doctor finished, grinning smugly. “After your wings have been unwrapped.”

The pegasus stallion nearly tripped over, plopping down in the doorway.

Tartarus I hate this place. He groaned aloud, rolling his eyes.


An hour of paper work and unwrapping of bandages later, Soarin' finally exited from the Ponyville hospital. Pausing for a moment, he took in a deep breath, savoring the mid morning air that permeated about. “Ah, the sweet smell of freedom.”

“Oh please. You were only in there one night.”

Soarin' turned to see Spitfire leaning against a tree in front of the hospital, casually smirking at him.

Soarin' feigned a horrified face. “But Captain! You don't know what it was like! Trapped in a dark room with nothing but the four walls around me!” The stallion rushed over to his friend, grabbing a hold of her in his mock frenzy. “The boredom was torture! Torture I say!”

“Alright, alright!” Spitfire grinned, shoving the laughing stallion off of her. “So you didn't have anything to do for one night. You survived.”

Both Wonderbolts started down the road, walking side by side.

“So.” Spitfire started, glancing at her friend. “How long are you going to be on the disabled list for?”

Soarin' simply smiled knowingly at his fellow Wonderbolt. “I don't think we'll have to worry about that. According to the doc, I'm in top physical condition. It's like I was never injured in the first place!”

“What!” Spitfire exclaimed, clearly astonished. “After an accident like that?!”

Soarin' simply gave a sheepish grin, trying to deflect the yellow mare's disbelieving gaze. However, while he was able to shrug off the prods and pokes from the medical staff back at the hospital, he had a much harder time avoiding the rejection in Spitfire's eyes.

“I don't believe it.” The Wonderbolt Captain said flatly, holding a steely glare.

Soarin' chuckled lightly, trying to hide the building anxiety that suddenly manifested under Spitfire's stare. She's not buying it. The blue pegasus thought, starting to panic inwardly.

“Aw, com'on Spitfire! I'm a pretty tough stallion.” He flashed another cheesy grin. “Didn't think I could shake it off?”

“Soarin'.” Spitfire stopped walking, taking an step toward the shirking stallion. “Pegasi are tough. The Wonderbolts are tough. We're tough. But nopony can recover overnight.” She paused for a moment, letting her words sink in. “What's going on Soarin'?”

Soarin' sighed. He knew this issue wouldn't go away on its own. Yet, he had tried to ignore it, fight it, and had brushed off any help to confront it. I need to tell her. The blue Wonderbolt admitted mentally. I owe her that much. But not now, not yet.

Dragging his hoof against the dirt absently, Soarin' sighed. “It's... it's hard to explain...” The blue pegasus trailed off.

Spitfire scrunched up her face. She wasn't going to let her friend stall. But before she could reiterate her query, Soarin' continued.

“But I promise that this time, I'm going to let you know. Everything. But only if its later today.” Soarin finally looked his friend in the eye, sincerity and hope in his words.

Spitfire smiled, resuming her trot along the path with her teammate. “Good.” However, a moment later her own grin faded. “Maybe now I'll be the friend I should have been from the start.” She tried to whisper to herself, ears pinning back.

Soarin' jerked toward Spitfire, catching her mumble. “Don't do that Spitfire.” The pegasus spoke up, a slight chide in his voice. “Don't do this to yourself.”

Spitfire simply nodded mutely as she stared down at the rhythmic trot of her hooves. Despite her silent agreement, a pained mask still fell upon her.

Soarin' was all too aware of how his friend could beat herself up. Spitfire was Captain of the Wonderbolts for a reason. She led from the front, and always put the team before herself; all of which was wrapped up in a confident personality and slightly cocky swagger. But it was a double edged sword. If she made a mistake, especially at the expense of others, she berated herself for it. Soarin' wasn't about to let thoughts like that fester in the yellow mare, not when it was something this important.

Extending a wing in front to stop the moping pegasus, Soarin' strode in front of Spitfire, making sure that she saw him at eye level.

“Spitfire.” He said calmly, but firmly, making sure he had the mare's attention. “I forgave you. And while I still don't believe you did anything wrong, I still forgave you.”

Spitfire looked up at the taller stallion, uncertainty and remorse splayed across her face. She had gone back to the hospital the previous night, and explained herself to Soarin'. Explained why she had to apologize, why she had handled it all so poorly, why it had taken a younger pegasus to show her that she had forgotten the real meaning of friends and teammates bound together. Though it had somewhat surprised Soarin', he had assured her that all was forgiven. Yet even now she still felt the lingering guilt from how she had acted the day prior.

Soarin' noticed Spitfire still seemed unsure. She seemed very fragile in this moment, averting her eyes and shifting awkwardly at the resolute pegasus in front of her. Not at all like the stalwart Wonderbolt Captain that the blue pegasus called his friend. “But Soarin', I-”

Soarin' snorted, cutting the yellow pegasus off. “No buts Spitfire.” The blue Wonderbolt matched evenly. “We all make mistakes. But its how we decide to deal with them that makes the difference.” He paused, brow furrowed, as he tried to make the best a rare occasion to offer advice. “You're my best friend Spitfire. I'll always have your back, no matter what.” He finished lightly, patting the mare lightly on the side with his wing.

Spitfire smiled wryly. “When did you become so wise?”

Soarin' chuckled, once again falling into step along the dirt road into Ponyville. “I don't know about wise. I think it's more of a certain Wonderbolt Captain rubbing off on me.”

“Hmm.” Spitfire silently replied.

“Of course, you know if that little speech hadn't worked, I'd have to remove you from duty for the welfare of the team.” Soarin' spoke in feigned smugness. “Ya know, being the second in command and all.”

Spitfire arched a brow. “Is that so?” She replied, some of her fiery personality coming back through.

“Yep.”

“I don't know about that Soar.” The Wonderbolt Captain mused playfully. “I don't think the rest of the team would take to kindly to a coup.”

“Ah, they'd get over it.” The blue Wonderbolt dismissed, gesturing with his hoof.

Spitfire simply laughed. The two continued to walk in silence, but now the air around them seemed lighter, no longer filled with the tension of troubled friends. Soarin' smiled to himself slightly. It was good to have Spitfire back to her old self, and strangely it felt good to know that he was going to finally let out all the strange and unbelievable things that had preying on his mind.

Suddenly, another thought came to the stallion's mind. “So, speaking of the team...”

Gesturing with her hoof to the left, Spitfire led the duo toward the outskirts of Ponyville. “We're on our way to meet them now.”

“We are? But I thought...”

“Oh, that's right, I forgot to tell you!” Spitfire turned to the confused stallion, the slightest hint of excitement in her eyes. “Rainbow Dash and I, oh and that other little pegasus, what was her name? Scootaloo? Anyway, we managed to get the mayor to let us go through with the show.”

“Rainbow Dash?” Soarin' said aloud to himself. The prismatic mare seemed to be more than just a regular occurrence, never mind the odd connection between the two.

“Yes, Rainbow Dash.” Spitfire replied, slightly confused as to why the stallion had picked out the prismatic colored mare. However, her wonder was quickly replaced by a mischievous grin. “Why? Is Soarin' 'interested?'” Spitfire spoke with particular emphasis on the last word, leaning in toward the blue stallion.

“What?” Soarin' shot back, genuinely surprised. “O-of c-course not!” He involuntarily stuttered, more than just attractive images of the the cyan mare coming to mind, like a traitor inside his brain. In truth, he was more concerned about the connection that seemed to link the two. But now that Spitfire had mentioned Rainbow in a much more... alluring way, Soarin' couldn't help but take note of the cyan pegasus beyond her Wonderbolt fandom and flying ability.

“Uh-huh.” Spitfire returned, not at all believing the blue pegasus. Looking to the sky for a moment, Spitfire glanced back to her confused friend. “You know I mentioned to Rainbow that we'd have an audition for her.” She smiled knowingly at the stallion. “What a great way for Soarin' the Wonderbolt to finally get to know somepony and land a mare.”

Soarin's jaw dropped, suddenly feeling much more flushed. “An audition? With Rainbow Dash? Marefriend?” It took the Wonderbolt a few seconds to process what Spitfire had revealed to him, his thoughts still cluttered with images of the rainbow mare. He abruptly turned to Spitfire, disbelief on his face. “You planned this?”

Spitfire laughed. “The audition? No, you have the Scootaloo kid to thank for that. As far as the marefriend thing, well...” Spitfire took a moment to regard the blushing pegasus, “you look like you're doing a good job of that yourself.”

Soarin' groaned audibly, seating himself in the middle of the road. Things just couldn't be simple. It was bad enough that there was some looming apocalypse, now he had to worry about blubbering about like an idiot in front of Rainbow. Thanks a lot Spitfire. The stallion thought sourly, glaring at the Wonderbolt Captain.

“Ah, there they are.” Spitfire announced, hoof to her brow as she looked to the southern sky.

Soarin' turned around, his own eyes scanning the horizon. Though they appeared to be just dots in the distance, the pair of Wonderbolts could easily make out the group that was rapidly approaching them, thanks in part to the hawk like vision bestowed upon the winged ponies. The group, numbering upwards of ten, continued to fly rapidly across the sky, expertly maintaining a delta V formation. Several seconds later, the newly arrived pegasi circled over head, one by one landing around Soarin' and Spitfire.

“Ah, there they are! Just the pegasi we were looking for!” Spoke up one of the stallion Wonderbolts, stepping forward to greet Soarin' and Spitfire.

“Glad you were all able to make it Fleetfoot.” The Wonderbolt Captain replied.

Fleetfoot grinned. An ice blue pegasus with a snow white mane, he was a veteran of the Wonderbolts, and also one of the ace pegasi that flew aside Spitfire and Soarin'. Though not as close as to the top two Wonderbolts as Spitfire and Soarin' were to each other, Fleetfoot was still a good friend. And to many of the other Wonderbolt's chagrin, a bit of a joker, a duty that he took pride in.

“Of course we were gonna make it Cap!” The stallion turned to Soarin' flashing a devilish smile. “I know I couldn't pass up the opportunity to prod Soarin' about his little 'escapade'.” Several other Wonderbolts chuckled, grinning along with the teasing pegasus.

Soarin' stared dumbly back at Fleetfoot. “What? How do you know about that?”

“Word travels fast Soarin' ol' buddy.” Fleetfoot trotted over to the blue stallion, lazily swinging a foreleg over his back, pulling him into an awkward hug. “It's quite the story back in Cloudsdale.” He snickered, mockingly rubbing the stallion's mane like he was a little colt.

“Yeah, its all over the front page news!” A pure white mare with a golden mane suddenly exclaimed, bursting into the center of the group. “You always said you wanted to get your own spotlight on in the Cloudsdale Daily Arcus, and now you did! Aren't you excited!” The animated mare somehow managed to scoot along the ground in front of Soarin's face, even as he wrestled with a laughing Fleetfoot.

Several more of the surrounding Wonderbolts chuckled, enjoying the spectacle before them at Soarin's expense.

Soarin's eyes bugged at the snow white mare, just managing to reply between Fleetfoot's grasp. “Surprise!” He gasped, struggling against his attackers grapple. “I'm in the papers?”

“Of course you are silly! Everypony in Cloudsdale knows how amazing you are now! Well, they did before, but now they know even more. Isn't that great!” The excitable Wonderbolt smiled, oblivious to Soarin's shocked reaction.

Spitfire rolled her eyes. “Alright, alright, that's enough you two, you've had enough fun. Leave Soarin' alone. He's been hazed enough about it already.”

Fleetfoot suddenly dropped the struggling Soarin', eying Spitfire with a demented curiosity. “Was he now!” The pegasus, rushed over to the Wonderbolt Captain expectantly. “So, how badly did you lay in-”

“Don't. Even.” Spitfire spat icily, staring lasers at Fleetfoot's attempt to further rib Soarin'. “Okay, okay, I can take a hint!” The ice blue pegasus shirked away, playfully shielding his face from Spitfire's steely gaze.

“But doesn't Soarin' want ponies to know what he did?” Surprise looked between the humiliated stallion and the yellow mare.

“Ugh, don't worry about it Surprise.” Spitfire put a hoof to her face in frustration. Trotting over to Soarin', Spitfire helped the pegasus to his hooves. “Com'on Soarin', shake it off.”

“Hmph.” Soarin' grunted, frowning. “Easy for you to say.”

“Hey.”

Soarin' turned to face a serious yet concerned Spitfire. “I've got your back.” She spoke quietly, so that the rest of the team couldn't hear.

His own words from before echoed in his mind, drawing a small smile on the stallion's face. Nodding mutely in reply, Soarin' pushed the embarrassment from his mind, turning with his friend toward the rest of the Wonderbolts.

Catching the change in demeanor from their Captain, the rest of the Wonderbolts instinctively formed a tight half-circle in front of the fiery orange pegasus and her second in command, standing in rapt attention.

“As I was saying before,” Spitfire shot another glare at Fleetfoot, “I'm glad you were all able to make it here well and safe.”

An ice blue hoof shot into the air, once again earning an annoyed glare from Spitfire along with Soarin'.

Fleetfoot dropped his hoof, immediately speaking up to defend himself. “Hey, just hold on a minute now Spitfire, I'm being serious!”

Spitfire sighed. “Fine. What is it?”

“Well, we did all get here, you're right about that. But I wouldn't exactly say that we're all well.”

Spitfire raised a brow at the stallion's curious remark, and was about to respond, when Soarin' beat her to it.

“What do you mean? Who's hurt?” Soarin's tone changed to match that of his Captain, scanning the group of pegasi in front of him. It didn't occur often, but Soarin' was quite capable of exercising his authority when he needed to.

Nopony made a move to volunteer any kind of injury. Soarin' turned again to Fleetfoot, an expectant look on his face.

“Well, that's just the thing. Everypony was fine when we left Cloudsdale this morning. But as we flew closer and closer to Ponyville, a lot of us started feeling ill.”

What? Flight sickness? Soarin' thought in disbelief. Such a thing was rare in fully grown pegasi, and completely unheard of amongst the Wonderbolts.

Spitfire simply stared at Fleetfoot like he couldn't have said anything more stupid. “Ugh, Archons help me! Please tell me a bunch of Wonderbolts didn't suddenly become airsick!” She exclaimed to the group, sounding more like an elementary school teacher chastising a classroom of foals.

Several of the Wonderbolts flinched at the outcry. Fleetfoot was quick to cut off Spitfire's frustration, stepping apart from the pack. “No, no, no! It wasn't flight sickness! I know, because I felt it too. It... it started as a headache, but as we got closer, I could feel it... like it was magic.” Fleetfoot stopped for a moment, shivering slightly before continuing. “But we all could tell it wasn't magic. I dunno how to explain it, and I know it sounds crazy, but when we flew over the forest, there was this freeze in the air, like the sky had suddenly turned against us. The headache got worse too. Once we got past the forest though, it went away... for the most part.” Fleetfoot shivered again, glancing over his shoulder toward the edge of the Everfree Forest.

Spitfire looked unamused, expressing her disbelief to the ice blue Wonderbolt's story. “And what exactly am I supposed to say to tha...” Spitfire's rebuttal droned away as the gears in Soarin's mind turned, pushed on by Fleetfoot's words.

Magic, but not magic? Soarin' thought to himself. That sounded all too familiar. The blue Wonderbolt thought back to his own recent experiences. He hadn't felt sick at any point, that was for sure. But there was still some kind of connection, there had to be. What Fleetfoot had said was just too similar. Did that mean that his fellow Wonderbolt was one of the other two? Or any one of the Wonderbolts around him? But that can't be right, there's only supposed to be three of us, right? Soarin' frowned, trying to sort through the maze of thoughts in his head.

Sighing, the stallion stepped away from the group, trotting over to the large forest that stretched out before him. Taking a better look, the blue pegasus regarded the legendary expanse before him. Ancient and gnarled roots gripped at the edge, blocking out the lush green grass. The light seemed to have difficulty piercing the canopy, darkness taking hold of anypony after only a few hoof steps. Even the trees of the Everfree stood apart, twisting limbs reaching out like groping skeletons. Despite these physical deformities, it was the absolute silence that cut through the entirety of the forest, like a trap that beckoned unwary adventurers into the shadowy depths.

Like many in Equestria, Soarin' knew of the Everfree Forest, as well as its many stories and legends that seemed to surround the wood. And like others, he had scoffed at the idea of manticores, timber wolves, or even hidden villages of ghost ponies shrouded within the ominous forest.

Just an old forest. Soarin' thought, brushing the ghost stories aside. And yet, he found himself walking closer still to the hazy wood. But now that I'm actually looking at it... Soarin' unconsciously stepped closer to the persistently misty and darkened forest. He could feel something, reaching out from the wood, moving within the veil of the fog.

...flew over the forest...flew over the forest...the forest...the forest...

Soarin' could hear Fleetfoot's echo in the back of his mind, but it was a distant warning, barely registering with the pegasus.

Closer he crept, only a few hoof steps away from the torn edge of the forest. The haze seemed to shift about, meeting the wary stallion just beyond the sunlight. Soarin' stood still. He felt no headache, no signs of illness. Suddenly he felt the ethereal strands boldly reach out, touching his mind.

Gasping slightly, the stallion took a hoof step back. What in the... Soarin' began to think, the recesses of his mind screaming that no good could come of this, but he gave pause. It wasn't the aura from before, from his commune with Commander Hurricane. Rather, he could feel the weakness within this aura, its fledgling movements as it seemed to search about. Despite the haunting forest before him, the Wonderbolt felt not threat as the invisible haze spilled out around him.

The blue pegasus relaxed slightly. Maybe, ...maybe this is a lead, or some kind of sign? Finally something to go on? Closing his eyes, Soarin' mentally spoke out. Hello? Several unanswered second passed, but Soarin' could feel the visitor cease its random movements. Who are you? Silence still filled the Wonderbolt's mind. But instead of a mental reply, the stallion was abruptly filled with panic and fear. But it was not his own. The magic like stream around him pulsed, feeding him with more intense emotions. The stallion shirked slightly again, but held his ground. It was like feeling the mind of a foal, lost and confused. Soarin' immediately imagined a trapped pony, imprisoned within the confines of the forest. Where are you? What's wrong? Soarin' frantically called out. The aura pulsed again. Though there were no words, the blue pegasus could almost hear the cry of help across the silent giant before him, desperation all around.

Frustration overtook the stallion. What should he do? Rushing into the forest was fool hardy. But if he left to get help, would it be too late? Would anypony even believe him? The pegasus stared deep into the blackness of the Everfree, growing more anxious with each passing second. He couldn't leave, he couldn't abandon the tether that clutched at him like a lifeline, not when somepony was trapped in the forest. Every oath he had taken, the very pegasi blood that ran within him compelled the Wonderbolt to rush forward, defying the abyss before him. That's all there is to it then. Soarin' thought grimly, jaw set.

Taking a hoof step forward, the pegasus could feel the ethereal wave intensify around him, as if it knew he was coming, beckoning him further. He faltered, surprised at the sudden force that had been so absent in the fledgling aura, but it only lasted a second. He was about to take another step, when another familiar power triggered within him, the same that had previously only manifested around Rainbow Dash. It roared within and around him, swirling around the confused pegasus, closing tighter and tighter around the stallion. The mystical line from the forest pulsed again in confusion, but of a different kind. Soarin' could feel the fizzling alarm from the weakened tether, as it slowly dissipated against the strengthening barrier that continued to pour out and around him.

“What are you doing?” Soarin' called out. “Stop! I have to help-”

His words were cut short with a final mental snap, as the ethereal shield encompassing him ruthlessly ripped the magic like cord from his mind. A gasp escaped the stallion's mouth, the blow back rushing through his skull with a head splitting headache. Clutching his head, the Wonderbolt fell to his haunches, trying to alleviate the pain. Despite this, his would be shield intensified around him like a hurricane, attacking the anchor-less aura, catching it in a violent vortex. Even though he had lost the connection, Soarin' could still feel hazy emotions reach his wounded mind. Alarm. And... frustration? Anger?

Soarin' was left to wonder, as the tornado around him silently expelled the tether, casting it back, deep into the Everfree. Then, as quickly as it had arisen, the aura dispelled.

Soarin' continued to grasp his head, his headache still wracking about his mind. What in the depths of Tartarus, was that? But his mind was too freshly wounded; he was having difficulty just trying to think lucidly. If anything, he knew now that he didn't want to gallop off into the Everfree.

“Soarin'!”

Still somewhat dazed, it took the stallion a moment to register that somepony had called his name. Turning round, he could see Spitfire staring at him, along with the rest of the Wonderbolts. He could tell that many of them, especially Fleetfoot, were staring between himself and the shadowy forest, clearly spooked by the infamous wood.

Standing upright, Soarin' gave the forest a final quizzical look, before trotting back the group of pegasi.

“What were you doing? That was the third time I've called you.” Spitfire looked over the blue pegasi concernedly.

Soarin' plopped down next to the Wonderbolt Captain, still rubbing his temples. “It's nothing. Just... just a-”

“Headache?” Fleetfoot cut in knowingly.

“Erm. Yeah. Just a headache.”

Spitfire shot Fleetfoot a nasty look. “Alright. That's the last I want to hear about head aches, not-magic, or freaky forests.” She glanced about the rest of the Wonderbolts, many of whom shuffled about awkwardly, clearly bothered. “You're all fine now, so from here on out we're focusing on tomorrow's show. Got it?”

Nods and silent assents filled the group.

Spitfire sighed. “Good. Take five, but don't get too comfortable, we've still got to fly to the skyfield.” Turning to Soarin', she eyed the stallion with an expectant look. “Just a headache?” She said quietly, so the rest couldn't hear.

Soarin' let out a tired breath. “Like I said Spitfire, I'll tell you later today.” Soarin' glanced over his shoulder to ominous wood behind him. “Just another thing added to the list, that's all.”

“Okay.” She looked over the stallion again in concern. “As long as you're alright.”

Soarin' returned with a weak smile. “Don't worry Mom, I'm a big colt.”

Spitfire simply rolled her eyes. She trotted over to the pegasi, addressing the group once more. “Alright, everypony, get airborne. I've got point.”

Over a dozen pegasi wings battered against the wind in reply, the Wonderbolts joining the their waiting Captain in the sky.

Taking a moment, Soarin' also took to the air. Immediately he felt better, letting the cool breeze flow through his feathers. The refreshingly chilly air filled his lungs, gently easing his throbbing head. Questions still wafted about in his mind, about what was in the Everfree, and why his aura, something he still didn't really understand at all, had suddenly triggered. More questions. The flying pegasi sighed, trying to focus. Maybe meeting with Rainbow Dash would be a good thing. It's the only thing I've got to go on at this point anyway. Unfortunately, at the thought of the cyan filly, Soarin's mind felt like pushing, other 'thoughts' about his head. Rather than scowl, the stallion smiled to himself. Well, she is pretty attractive...

“Aha, thinking about that Rainbow Dash filly I see.” Fleetfoot suddenly flew astride the daydreaming Wonderbolt, a sickening grin on his face.

Several nearby Wonderbolt snickered.

Soarin' groaned aloud in annoyance. Things just couldn't be simple.

Author's Note:

I present to you chapter 7. For once I actually made a deadline I set for myself, to get the next chapter published during the four day weekend around New Years. Think of it as a belated Christmas/New Years gift. I think this chapter turned out well, though it only accomplished a small portion of what I had originally outlined. Unfortunately, I do not possess the skill to bust out a twenty thousand word chapter that would require such an outline (in other words, a chapter like from End of Ponies). We'll be getting to Rainbow Dash next chapter, who I've neglected a bit, despite her being one of the main characters. I hope you enjoyed reading this chapter, and maybe it will help with any possible hangovers. Happy New Years!