• Published 13th Dec 2011
  • 6,872 Views, 539 Comments

Far From the Tree - Rust



A mysterious pony turned to stone 1000 years ago is revived by the denizens of Ponyville.

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Thawing Out

Note: I don't own My Little Pony.
But I DO have a double bacon cheeseburger.
Nom nom nom. Delicious.
Suck it, Hasbro.

CHAPTER FIVE


THAWING OUT

It was approximately five minutes after noon when the ground began to shake. As earthquakes go, it was a rather small one, and the effects were barely noticed in Ponyville. A trembling cup of water, a chandelier swinging slightly, or a sudden tingly sensation in the hooves were all that was noticed. However, at the direct epicenter of the quake, the Everfree Forest, the unleashed forces manifested themselves much more violently. The shaking devastated a certain stretch of the Everfree, and three particular fillies bore witness to the upheaval.

Scootaloo, Apple Bloom, and Sweetie Belle had managed to travel quite some distance, using the position of the sun as reference to their direction and their crudely-drawn map. The Cutie Mark Crusaders had paused on a ridge line overlooking a depression in the forest floor for some snacks. The slightly mushed apple-fritters dug from Apple Bloom's saddlebags tasted delicious, and the Crusaders were busy munching away when they noticed the area they were overlooking was acting strangely. Scootaloo, being a Pegasus, had the sharpest eyes and spotted the disturbance first. "Hey guys... Why are all the trees over there shaking?" Almost immediately after she said that, the ground under the fillies feet gave a heave and all three tumbled onto the ground. Apple Bloom stood up, spitting out leaves.

"What in Celestia's mane was that? Scoots, Sweetie, ya'll okay?" She brushed some dirt off her coat with her tail.

Sweetie Belle frowned. "I think that was an earthquake. I read about these when I was visiting Twilight's library with my sister. They only happen in the Everfree, apparently."

Scootaloo gasped, and pointed over to the stricken area of forest. "I can see some trees have fallen down! Come on, lets check it out! I bet there are some neat things over there!" She picked up her fallen scooter and reattached it to the wagon.

Apple Bloom hopped into the back, while Sweetie Belle stayed where she was.

"Sweetie Belle, les' git a move on! Ah bet we'll find all kinds o' stuff in the holes them trees ripped up." Apple Bloom motioned for her to climb in the wagon.

Sweetie Belle looked doubtful. "I don't know, guys... What if another earthquake happens? I read something about how they have 'aftershocks', or whatever that means."

Scootaloo turned around and laughed. "Sweetie, you're starting to sound like Twilight. Do you want your cutie mark in something cool, or something lame?"

Sweetie Belle pouted for a few seconds, then climbed into the wagon. "Fine, but if something goes wrong, and it usually does, don't say I didn't warn you."

Scootaloo revved her wings a few times, and started off towards the epicenter.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-

If trees were considered sentient, then ground zero of the damage would have been considered genocide on all things covered with bark. Not a single tree was standing in an area the size of a couple city blocks. The fallen debris made travel with the wagon extremely difficult, so Apple Bloom took over pulling, using her teeth to pull the wagon. Scootaloo acted as as scout by climbing up the broken spars and stumps, calling out where the other landlocked Crusaders should go next. She used her underdeveloped wings like a sugar glider, moving from vantage point to vantage point by jumping from her perch and drifting down across otherwise rugged terrain before climbing another piece of woodland wreckage. It was a technique she often had to resort to; her wings were still too small to give her any lift, regardless of how fast she could flap.

From atop a particularly jagged spear of a tree-trunk, Scootaloo paused to pick a splinter out of her hoof. She looked down at her two friends carefully snaking their way through the wreckage. The fallen trees had created a sort of maze. The thick trunks acted like walls, and were often too mossy to climb over. From her vantage point, Scootaloo could see an uncharacteristically open area that had remained clear of most of the downed forest. Must have been a clearing before the trees came down.

"Hey! Sweetie Belle! Apple Bloom! There's an open spot around that tree on your left!" Scootaloo gestured to the clearing with a hoof. "I'll meet you guys over there!" she called down.

Apple Bloom didn't look up from her task. The forest floor wasn't exactly smooth, and without Scoots' wing power the going was tough. Sweetie Belle acknowledged the call with a wave and set off in the direction Scootaloo had pointed.

Satisfied that they'd understood, Scootaloo threw herself out into open space with a mighty heave and began gliding toward the clearing. She had passed over the two Crusaders on the ground when she noticed something strange happening to the ground intended as her landing zone. A faint rumbling hummed in her ears as the earth began to form a sort of shallow bowl-shaped depression about the size of a house. Unable to stop herself, Scootaloo landed right in the newly-formed crater. No sooner had she set down when the ground let loose a rumble of protest. The dirt gave way beneath her. Scootaloo let out a startled yelp as she plummeted into blackness.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-

"Sweetie, what in tarnation was that?!" Apple Bloom yelled. There had been a weird sort of thunder, as if it was coming from the ground.

Sweetie Belle's eyes were as wide as dinner plates. "It came from over where Scootaloo went!"

The pair abandoned the cart and rushed toward where their pegasus friend had headed. Rounding a mass of torn-up roots, they entered an clearing surrounded by the carnage the quake had wrought. In the center of the clearing was a large hole. It looked like it had been created recently. The two Crusaders approached the edge of the hole cautiously. They could faintly see Scootaloo far down at the bottom of the dark shaft, pulling herself out of a pile of dirt.

"Hey, Scoots, ya'll ok down there?" called Apple Bloom, her voice thick with concern.

The reply was faint. "Yeah... I think so..."

Sweetie leaned over the edge. "Just stay put, alright? Just stay put! We'll be right back!"

Down in the hole, Scootaloo couldn't help but laugh a bit. "Where else could I go?" she said to herself.

Sweetie Belle turned to Apple Bloom. "You brought the rope, right?"

Apple Bloom nodded.

"Good. We need to pull her out of that pit."

The two returned to the wagon, where Apple Bloom had left her saddlebags. After a bit of somewhat frantic rummaging, the rope was produced from the left bag. Apple Bloom picked up the bundle in her mouth and they returned to the pit. They could hear Scootaloo yelling something from the depths. Sweetie Belle poked her head over the edge.

"What's wrong, Scoots?" she called out.

"There's....something....down here..!" came the reply.

Apple Bloom spat out the rope and joined her friend at the edge. "Like, the bad kind of somethin', or the good kind?"

"I think... it's the good kind..!"

"What is it?"

"It's... some kind of... statue..! Of... a pony!"

Apple Bloom looked at Sweetie Belle. "We should git that outta there as well. We might jus' get our cutie marks from bringin' it back for everypony ta see!"

Sweetie Belle nodded in a agreement. She yelled over the edge. "Scoots! We're going to get you out of there! Give us a minute!"

Apple Bloom uncoiled the rope. With a casual flick born from years of practice at the farm, she spun it into a lasso. Sweetie Belle took the loop, making sure her friend was holding on to the other end, and tossed the line of rope over the edge. They soon felt a tug. Taking that for Scootaloo's all-clear, the two fillies heaved on the rope. They heaved and strained for a good minute before they realized that they couldn't budge the rope. They were just about to let go when an orange hoof appeared over the edge. Panting, the two fillies raced over to help their friend up.

"Scoots, how did ya git up here? We couldn't move the rope."

"I looped the rope around the statue, and climbed up myself once it was taunt! Now come on! We gotta get that statue out of there to bring back home."

The now full strength Crusaders brought to bear all the power they could muster, but they only managed to move the rope a few feet before they collapsed. Not even together did they have enough strength to lift up the mysterious statue from the pit. The little ponies collapsed onto the grass, exhausted. How were they going to get it out? The question was answered when they saw a familiar zebra step into the clearing.

"ZECORA!" the Crusaders shouted. They ran up to the exotic pony to greet her. She was a zebra with a striped, mohawk mane and golden ring she wore around her neck and front-left foreleg. Zecora had been feared in Ponyville for a while before the Elements of Harmony had convinced everypony she was nice. Nowadays, she lived in a hut near the edge of the forest, making potions and medicine from the plants of the Everfree for anypony who came by. She had felt the quake more than anypony from town due to her proximity with the epicenter. She had been checking out the damage when she'd stumbled upon the infamous trio.

Zecora wasn't entirely surprised to find the Cutie Mark Crusaders at the center of all this destruction. They had a reputation for disaster whenever and wherever they went "crusading". She gave them a stern look. "Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and Apple Bloom. Why are you here at a place so recently touched by doom?"

Oh, and she always speaks in rhyme.

The Crusaders filled her in on everything that had happened in the last two days.

"...and now we have something to bring back, but it's stuck in that hole!" finished Sweetie Belle.

Zecora nodded. "If I help pull that statue out, will you go home without a pout?"

The Crusaders made a Pinkie Promise as one. "Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!" That was more or less a life sentence around Ponyville. You followed a Pinkie Promise or bad things happened.

Zecora took the rope and brought it around one of the still standing trees. She then tied the end around Scootaloo.

"Zecora, why am I attached to the rope?" asked Scootaloo.

"Use power of your wings, and over gravity you'll be king." She pointed a hoof toward the way the Crusaders had entered the clearing. "Fly that way when we say, you'll soon ensure we have the day."

Scootaloo revved her wings, emitting that characteristic engine noise. She nodded eagerly, ready to go. Zecora trotted over to the rope and took hold with her teeth. The other Crusaders joined her.

Sweetie Belle called out the countdown through the rope in her mouth.

"Fwone... Fwo... Fwee!"

On "fwee", the three ponies and one zebra heaved at the rope. Scootaloo wings were moving so fast that the wind they produced ruffled the leaves on some of the trees still standing around the clearing. Apple Bloom's hooves sunk deep into the dirt as she flexed her toned muscles; farm work was hard work, and hard work makes you strong. Sweetie Belle strained mightily, letting out a soft growl. Zecora pulled too, sweat soon gathering on her brow. They didn't know how long they kept at it. Inch by inch, the ponies crossed the clearing, occasionally slipping back a little as one of them lost footing. Finally, the object of their efforts crested the edge of the pit and came to rest on the grass. The four fell down, momentarily spent. Scootaloo undid herself from the rope and approached the statue. The other three followed.

The statue was lying on its side. It was a smoky gray in color, but lightly caked in dirt and dust. It was exquisitely detailed. It appeared to be a large stallion wearing a bandanna around its neck. It was in a position that seemed like it was about to run, and a grim look of anguish was on its face. Apple Bloom wiped some dirt from its face.

"Apple Bloom, the statue kinda looks like you." observed Scootaloo.

Zecora ran a hoof over the sculpture. She frowned. "A statue this is not, I fear. Quickly, get your hooves in gear!" She pointed towards Ponyville. "A certain purple unicorn, is the only hope for this one to be reborn!"

Sweetie Belle's eyes widened to enormous proportions for the second time that day. "You mean this is like when Twilight got turned to stone by that cockatrice? So this is..." she looked at the statue. "...actually somepony who's frozen?"

Zecora simply nodded. Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo looked at the object carefully, half expecting it to spring to life.

Apple Bloom spoke up. "Ah guess we'd better get him to Twilight, then. Cummon, girls! Les' load him into the wagon! We can get our marks for savin' somepony's life!"

"CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS LIFESAVERS, YAY!"

Zecora winced as her ears took a beating. The Crusaders were notoriously loud when they did that.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-

Night had fallen once again. Ponyville had gradually fallen dark, as it's many residents turned in for the day. The Ponyville Town library, however still had its' lights on inside. One occupant in particular was known for staying up far later than anypony else.

Twilight Sparkle was brushing her mane for bed, using her superb magic to control several brushes at once to finish the job quickly. She had some late night reading to do, and by Celestia she'd have the time to do it. Twilight was purple-eyed lavender unicorn with a straight, raven-blue mane streaked with pink and purple. Her cutie mark was a pink star surrounded by a flurry of smaller sparkles. Twilight was the sixth Element of Harmony: Magic. Her skill in the arcane arts was unparalleled, and many would argue that she was the most powerful unicorn-mage in Equestrian history.

"Ouch! Horseapples!"

The most powerful unicorn-mage in Equestrian history had just snagged her mane. She glared at the offending brush with fire in her eyes. "You... what have you done!? For once, I was going to be on schedule for tonight's reading! I had it all planned out! Modern Physics first, followed by a chapter of Shakespony's A Tail of Two Cities!" Nothing gets in the way of Twilight Sparkle when she wants her books.

The brush maintained its composure. Admirable, considering its victim was able to bend solid steel with a thought.

Twilight charged up her magic, considering various ways that the offending hair-care product could be dealt with. Incineration, maybe. Vaporizing? No, too quick. Compression into a singularity? Hmmmm.... now there was a thought. As she was about to unleash her energy, a knock was heard coming from downstairs. She shot the brush a look that could have frozen fire. "You live... For now."

Twilight vacated her bedroom. She passed by her assisstant, a baby dragon named Spike, sleeping in his basket. As she descended the stairs to her door, she had to carefully manuver around towering stacks of books. Living in the library as the town librarian did have its ups and downs. The ups being she had almost unlimited access to whatever book she wanted. The downs being she and Spike had to put them all away again once they were finished with them. Twilight reached the door.

"Yes? Who's there?" she called.

A familiar voice answered, slightly muffled through the door. "A freind in need of some heat and light, on this cold and dreary night."

Twilight smiled. Only one pony spoke like that. She opened the door to greet her friend from the Everfree. "Hello, Zecora! What are you doing out so la-..." She stopped as she saw the Cutie Mark Crusaders standing beside Zecora. "Oh." This should be interesting.

Sweetie Belle took a step forward. "Sorry, Twilight, but we found a pony that's been turned to stone by a cockatrice. We need you to fix him."

Twilight shuddered. She remembered being turned to stone. It had been so unpleasant, that she'd spent countless hours developing a spell to return anypony frozen back to normal. She'd never had the chance to test it. Until now, it seemed. "Well, where is he?"

Zecora pulled a wagon out from around the building. On it was the stone pony. Twilight levitated the statue with her magic and brought it through the doorway. It barely managed to fit through the small entrance. She motioned for Zecora and the Crusaders to come inside. They entered, and Sweetie Belle closed the door behind them.

"Now, care to explain where you found him?"

Scootaloo piped up. "The Everfree Forest!"

Twilight whipped around, concentration suddenly gone. The statue made the library shake when it landed. "You girls went in there again? Don't you remember what happened last time? Fluttershy's chicken coop still has scorch marks!"

The Crusaders grimaced. Fluttershy had given them a Stare that left each with nightmares... for a month.

Zecora interrupted Twilight's rant. "Twilight, you have much to do, to make this pony's heart beat anew!"

Twilight lowered her head bashfully. "Ehehehe... Sorry. I'm a little testy right now."

She turned to the statue so she could examine it closely. Her horn lit up and she swept it over the stone staillion's form. She muttered to herself as she worked. "There is an absolutely enormous amount of magic coming from this guy. Funny, he's an earth pony. Wait... What is THIS?" She stopped her horn over the statue's chest, directly over the bandanna it wore. "This... It's the same magical aura that Princess Luna has. How could you have it, eh?" She talked to it as she paced around. "I think we need to get you out of there right now." She looked over at Zecora and the Crusaders. "Stand back, please. I've never done this before, so I don't know what will happen." Her horn began to glow once again as she powered up. A violet aura enveloped the statue for a few moments, before condensing on its surface momentarily and then sinking deeper. Bright, sparking chinks appeared on the figure's skin, each crack appearing with a sound like a glacier breaking up. Twilight gave out a groan of effort. Her horn suddenly shot out a bolt of energy, slamming into the figure and shattering the stone completely. A dark teal shape flew out of the fractured encasement and hit the wall with a bang before slumping to the ground. Twilight cut off her magic, breathing heavily. She approached the stallion lying on the floor. The side of the dark teal pony rose and fell, but faintly.

"Is he alright, Twilight?" asked Apple Bloom.

"I think so. He's either asleep, or hitting the wall knocked him out. We'll put him on the couch for tonight. Help me move him. This guy is almost as big as your brother, Apple Bloom, and I'm spent on magic for a while."

With much struggling, Twilight, with the help of Zecora and the Crusaders, managed to lay the big stallion down on the couch. Twilight turned to the four, and said, "You all can sleep at the library tonight. I've got some spare pillows and blankets upstairs. We'll all sleep down here, in case he wakes up during the night. I'll send the Princess a letter about this in the morning."

Twilight chuckled a bit as she climbed back up the stairs to fetch the extra bed furnishings. Late night studying? Not in this town...

Author: Whoa! Longest chapter yet! Wrote this one in a day. On an I-pod. Cuz I love you guys. Seriously. I'm gonna love and tolerate the shit outta you. Shoutout to my new editor, Nathan Traveler, author of the critically acclaimed (well, at least by me) Omnius the Travelling Guardian series. Anything to add, Pinkie Pie?

Pinkie Pie: Yup! Have a cupcake!

Yummy! -takes a bite- Oh, these are so good! what did you put... innnntoooo... theeesseeeee....what the.......... -falls to the ground, unconscious-

Pinkie Pie: Just a "dash" of love, silly!

Lol, sorry, couldnt resist some cupcakes.