• Published 29th Oct 2019
  • 834 Views, 121 Comments

Midnight's Shadow: The Bog Witch - Ponibius

Midnight Sparkle answers a summons as an evil spirit has taken residence deep within the Swampy Bottom Bog and is starting to corrupt the land. Midnight finds herself facing annoying haunts, monsters, irritating teenagers, and worst of all: mud.

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Chapter 1

‘Twas not long before I was flying towards Archmagus Mossy Banks’ home in a sky carriage, with the Great Unkindness following behind us. Froggy Bottom Bog was a difficult place to navigate. The mire seemed to go on forever, pools of water and marshy ground dotted by trees spread to the horizon and beyond with few landmarks to be seen. It seemed an evil place, with its near endless supply of mud, gunks, and filth. I shuddered at the thought of going down there. Given the difficulty in finding our destination, we had to get a prearranged Stalker Clan escort before penetrating the bog’s foul depths. Without them it might well have been impossible for me to discover Mossy Banks’ home. During the Lunar Rebellion, Pegasopolis and their earth pony allies had never been able to find the Archmagus in his swampy home despite putting considerable effort into attempting to find and kill him. In addition to the trouble with navigating the bog, Mossy Banks used powerful magics to keep himself hidden, though he had ways to allow some to pass through his wards without trouble.

‘Twas almost a surprise when the materfamilias of the Clan and wife to Mossy Banks, Ardent Stalker, showed up to the meeting place to head my escort to the Archmagus’ home. Though upon reflection, that made sense; I was the daughter to the Archmagus of Canterlot and Grand Vizier, and while Mother had been short on the details Mossy Banks required mine assistance with some matter. Given he was an archmagus, it seemed unlikely he would call for aid if ‘twas not for very good reasons.

Some hours into the flight, Ardent Stalker flew up to the window of my carriage to speak with me. She was a small and lean mare, her coat a light brown, and the locks of her mane a deep green. She wore a set of gambeson armor, though her helmet had an odd, bird-like mask to it with glass eyes that was currently pushed up to allow me to see her face. Her eyes were penetrating and seemed to observe everything around her, and they now focused on me. “I believe this is thy first time visiting our home?”

“Indeed so. I have never had occasion to visit a swamp before.” In fact, I had gone through no small trouble making sure of that. Though now all those efforts had come to ruin considering.

“It might not be much to look at, but 'tis home, and it suits us just fine.” Ardent pointed forward to a clearing that had been made in the bog. “Thou canst see it now.”

I looked out the window to get a better look at my destination. Several large wooden structures sat on thick trunks that held them above the muck. They were simple but sturdy buildings intended to last. Around the structures were half-submerged fields, laid out in neat rows to grow a variety of crops. Beyond the fields sat a wooden wall, with several towers sitting along its length. In addition to serving as Archmagus Mossy’s home and farm, the Stalker Clan had moved in next to him and built a new clan compound to replace the one lost in Cloudsdale.

“‘Tis very...” I desperately tried to think of a nice word to describe a hole built into the dirty bog itself. “Rustic.”

“Aye, that is a word for it.” Ardent shrugged. “Admittedly, I do miss our cloud compound but...” Her eyes seemed to focus on something in the distance. “Moving was necessary.”

Their reasons for moving were very similar to those of the Kicker Clan: after siding with Princess Celestia and turning against their fellow clanponies, Cloudsdale was no longer a safe place for them to live. That fact was made even worse by the fact that they were a minor clan, and would be vastly outnumbered by the other pegasi of their former home. Since the Stalker Clan and Mossy Banks had found themselves in concord during the war, Ardent had decided to resettle her clan in the bog. Though why she would do such a terrible thing to her own clan was beyond me. Mayhaps ‘twas some form of atonement for turning against the rest of Pegasopolis?

“I see you have not built any cloudhomes here,” I observed. “Why not live far above the dirt and muck of the bog?”

“Because homes built within the cover of the swamp are much easier to hide.” Ardent waved to the space above the Stalker’s new compound. “If we build a new cloud-compound then it could be seen for miles around. ‘Twould do much to undermine the advantages of my husband’s magic in keeping us hidden from enemy eyes.”

I frowned as I mulled over what she had told me. “Do you have any enemies?”

“Equestria always has enemies.” Ardent’s grip tightened on her spear. “The gryphon reivers raid our eastern coast, and while we are far from Eastmarch, there are always monsters to be wary of, bandits who would use the bog as a place to hide, and unknown threats who will make themselves known in time.” She frowned. “Such as traitors.”

She was not wrong. Even if one’s current enemies were defeated, that only seemed to create new enemies. That or new ones would show themselves. No one had expected the ephors to so suddenly and violently turn on Unicornia, but they had, and the price for them doing so had been terrible.

“Indeed.” I grimaced as I saw we were now descending towards the compound. “Still, it would be ideal to not live in mud.”

Ardent snorted. “We hardly live in it.” She waved her spear at the ground and logs holding up the buildings. “As you can see, we have our homes well above the mud and water. We would hardly wish to break our bread while sitting in muck, especially after a long day of patrolling the swamp for dangers.”

“That ... does help,” I admitted. “Twas still far too near the mud for my liking, but it helps.”

Ardent turned a frown upon me. “Thou seemst preoccupied with mud.”

“I do not care for it.” I grimaced as I thought of the trials that awaited me once we landed upon the ground. I dearly wished to turn this carriage around and return to Canterlot, but doing so would both deeply offend the Archmagus and cause Mother to become immensely wroth. Likely she would tell me to go right back to whence I came and not to return until I had done as she bade me.

“Well thou wilt need to tolerate it,” Ardent told me. “Especially with the work my husband will require of thee. We often need to dirty our hooves here, and thou wilt do well to get used to it.”

My jaw clenched as she confirmed many of my worst fears. “I can endure if need be.”

“Good. Mossy requires thine aid.” She waved for the carriage drivers to land on a runway, and they made their final descent.

Soon we were upon the ground, and I exited the carriage. All about me were ponies going about their daily work. Many of them were of the Stalker Clan, but there were a few earth ponies and even a couple unicorns spread about their numbers. The compound had a lived-in look to it: the boards were well-worn from ponies walking on them every day; crates, rope, and other supplies were spread all about where there were any open spaces, and below I could see some boats readying to traverse the waters of the bog.

Ardent waved for me to follow her. “Come on, then. We shall find my husband. If I know him, he is tending to his gardens.”

I followed her, trying to avoid any patches of drying mud I saw on the walkway. But I was so preoccupied with that task that I was slow to see a much larger threat: a series of oinks and squeals drew mine eyes from the floor, and they widened at the herd of pigs rushing towards me. There was no time to dodge or find a place to step aside. The herd of swine slammed into me, and I stumbled and fell to the planks as yet more of their number bumped into me. When ‘twas all finally over, I let out an aggrieved sigh as I saw how muddied I had become.

Ardent was hovering over the herd of swine, having avoided getting dirted unlike myself, and her eyes narrowed when they focused on a unicorn colt of about seven years responsible for the sounder. “Marsh Stalker!” Ardent barked, and the colt winced and came to an immediate halt. “What art thou doing driving all these pigs on the walkway?”

The colt grimaced and looked up. “Mine apologies, Mother, but Father told me to move the pigs to the east to try and find truffles. I thought this way fastest to get them there.”

“And thou hast trampled one of our guests as a result.” Ardent points at me as I slowly picked myself up from the ground. “Do not bring the pigs onto the walkway again. Understood?”

Her son’s ears flattened to his head. “Aye.”

Ardent motioned at me. “Now apologize to our guest.”

He turned to me and scrapped a hoof along the walkway. “Mine apologies. I did not mean to knock you over.”

“It is quite alright,” I said through clenched teeth. ‘Twould not do to o'er show my wroth with the child when he had already been chastised by his mother.

Marsh tilted his head to the side. “And who are you?”

“I am Magus Midnight Sparkle. I am here to aid Archmagus Mossy Banks.” I tried to wipe some of the mud off of myself, but I only managed to smear it around.

The colt opened his mouth to ask more questions, but his mother cut him off. “Thou canst ask thy questions of the mare later during dinner. Right now thou needs to get these pigs going. Off with thee, child.” Ardent waved for Marsh to go. “And do not do this again.”

“Aye Mother.” He returned to herding the pigs off the walkway.

Ardent hovered down next to me, frowning as she watched her child go. “Mine apologies, Magus. Sometimes children are prone to taking the shortest path to finishing their chores and do not think of the consequences of their actions.”

“I do not wish to make a scene of this, I assure you.” Really, I wished to scream in horror at being covered in mud. I had only been on the ground for but a few moments and already I was filthy. If this was but the start, what other terrible indignities would I have to suffer?

“Enough of that, then. There is business to attend.” Ardent turned and started leading the way again. She showed me down another walkway that led through one of the half-drowned fields where a variety of different crops and herbs were being grown. A couple of ponies were working the fields and Ardent approached one of them. “Husband, I have arrived with Magus Midnight.”

The pony stood up, revealing himself to be Archmagus Mossy Banks. It had been difficult to see him under his hat and beneath the grime covering him; he looked much different cleaned up for the conclave without his nicer dress hat, cloak, and symbols of office covering him. Though up close where I could see his face I easily recognized him.

He smiled at the sight of us and waded through the pattern deep water to approach the raised walkway. “Ah, it warms my heart to see thee, my wife.” Ardent leaned down so that Mossy could plant a kiss upon her cheek. He then offered me a muddy hoofshake. “Magus, 'tis good to see thou hast arrived.”

I stared down at the muddy limb, reluctant to take it. I could not refuse the gesture without insulting the Archmagus, and without being able to think of some way out of the dirty task, I shook his hoof. There was a highly unpleasant squelch as our hooves met, and a shiver ran up my spine as he firmly grasped me. “Aye, 'tis a pleasure,” I forced through clenched teeth.

The Archmagus stroked his beard as he looked me over, spreading a little bit of mud onto his whiskers. “I trust the journey was not too difficult? My wife assured me that thou wouldst arrive safely.”

“And so I have,” I said. “No vile reivers or brigands have assaulted me, robbing me of life and property, nor did some beast of the swamp attempt to devour my flesh and crunch my bones between their teeth to suck out the delicious marrow.”

Ardent blinked a couple of times for some reason before regaining her composure. “Um, aye. ‘Twas an eventless flight here. Assuming thou hast no need for me, I was going to check in with the patrols and then ensure that an appropriate dinner will be ready for our guest.”

Mossy Banks nodded. “That would be quite alright. I will see thee and Marsh at dinner.”

“Aye, until then.” Ardent and Mossy Banks pecked one another’s lips before Ardent departed. With his wife gone, Mossy Banks focused his attention on me. “Alright then. Hop on in and help me harvest these plants, and I will tell thee what I need of thee.”

I looked into the pool of muddy water below the walkway and hesitated to step into its filthy depths. “What aid did you require, Archmagus?”

He arched an eyebrow when I did not immediately step off the walkway. “I could use some help harvesting these penumbra stalks, for one. These herbs are helpful for several medicines I am working on. They just ripened, and I wish to harvest as many of them as possible before Her Highness lowers the sun.”

I frowned as I studied the plants in question. They featured a long stalk rising out of the muck that ended in a purple bulb. Beside Mossy Banks floated a bucket nearly full with the bulbs. I heard one of the reasons the Archmagus had settled here was because it sat on an intersection of leylines that allowed him to grow a range of plants that he used in his studies for medicines and potions. Indeed, amongst the structures of his home was a large greenhouse that was used to grow a variety of rare and difficult to grow plants.

“Ah, of course.” Determined not to enter the muck, I picked up a pair of cutters from the walkway and levitated them towards one of the stalks.

One of Mossy’s hooves shot out to smack them down into the water. He waggled a hoof in disapproval. “Not like that. Thou needst to get close to make sure thou art cutting in just the right place. Now get down here so that I can show thee.” The corner of his mouth grinned. “Or is a little bit of mud too much for a would-be archmagus?”

I puffed out my chest as I realized what was at the heart of this. He must have heard about mine aversion to all things dirty, and now he sought to test me. Well, I may hate dirt with all my being, but if I must treat it with utter contempt to achieve my goals then so be it.

I slowly lowered myself from the walkway and into the water. My hair stood on end when I felt the mud squish under my hooves, and for a moment I felt ill. I probed down into the mud, and after a few moments pulled out the cutters.

Mossy Banks nodded approvingly. “Good, now cut the bulb off right here.” He made a slow cut to show me and then presented the cut bulb as an example. “Be wary of cutting too close, or all the sap inside will leak out, and ruin the harvest.”

“I understand.” I had more than enough experience assisting Mother with such things and knew how to harvest a variety of plants. These penumbra stalks were hardly that difficult to cut, minus the fact I had to wade through the dirty mud to get to them.

The Archmagus watched me work a little bit before nodding in approval. “Now then, did thy mother tell thee anything of what I wished of thee?”

“She said 'twould be far better explained by you directly,” I informed him.

He grunted and went back to harvesting the stalks as well. “How much dost thou know of the Bog Witch?”

“I know she was a potent warlock whom you slew before settling here. Nopony knew who she really was, and so they came to call her the Bog Witch. She preyed upon the ponies within the swamp and along its borders for years, and attempts by the Long Patrol and the magi to hunt her down failed to root her out until you took up the task. If what I heard is right, her foul magic had come to corrupt the bog, and so you took up residence here to try and repair the damage.”

“That is correct,” Mossy Banks said as he plopped a couple bulbs into a fresh bucket. “I have repaired much of the damage, and given time the bog will be returned to its natural state, but one spot is vexing me yet. There is a glade she used for the most foul of her spells and rituals. I sealed its corrupting power, but the wards were recently broken. It seems some evil spirit was drawn to the dark power of that place and seeks to make it their own.”

“That is more concerning,” I said. “There is a risk the corruption of the Bog Witch’s magic could spread once again and undo much of the work you have done.”

“Just so.” He spat into the water. “The foul spirit could cause great trouble. Already Ardent’s patrols have spotted more monsters gathering around the glade, in addition to dealing with other troubles as a result of the coalescing evil magics.”

“And I presume you want me to address it?”

“Aye. Due to the corrupting nature of the spirit and mine own magic’s close connection to the land, I would be at a disadvantage against this threat. This is also not a task I would trust to just anypony. Whoever goes into that swamp must be of strong will and a capable spellcaster. The evil there plays upon the minds of ponies and the monsters there are not to be trifled with. What is more, whoever takes on this task must have the skills necessary to rebuild the seal. ‘Tis not a task I consider any of my apprentices capable, or even most of the magi of our order.”

“But ‘tis a task you believe me capable of?” I could not help but feel my chest swell in pride, even if it demanded I come to his dirty bog.

“Thou hast the skills necessary to seal this evil.” Mossy Banks looked me up and down. “Part of the reason why I went to the last conclave was to find a pony who could aid me in this, and I have determined that thou art uniquely resistant to the foul magic surrounding the Bog Witch’s glade.”

I tilted my head to the side. “How so?”

The Archmagus stroked his beard as he thought how best to explain matters. “Thou dost appear to be a natural sponge to all forms of ill fortune and curses. I have never seen the like before.”

I blinked slowly. “And that is somehow good?”

“Yes, at least for our purposes. In addition to naturally absorbing such evil, thou dost appear to filter such things into impotence.” Mossy Banks pointed to the bog beyond the walls. “ ‘Tis like how the bog absorbs much of the water from the rain to prevent flooding and to clean the water into something potable.”

My eye twitched at the idea of being compared to a bog. In truth, I was not sure how to take this metaphor. “So you believe 'twill not trouble me?”

He shook his head. “Neigh, not nearly to the degree it would trouble others. Though there are other dangers in the swamp that I would ward thee against. I assume thou hast seen the masks my wife and her fellow clanponies wear?”

I nodded. All the ponies escorting me to the compound had worn the strange, colorful bird-like masks. “Aye, I thought them a curiosity of the clan.”

“They are more than that.” The Archmagus grunted as he placed a couple buckets onto the walkway. “They are an invention by Mage Meadowbrook, and they are enchanted to protect their wearer from many of the dangers of the bog. Not the least of which is bog fever, but their enchantments will also make the animals of the swamp less likely to pay thee heed.”

“That does indeed sound useful.” In addition to the mud and muck, there were several dangers which gave me yet more reasons to never want to go to Froggy Bottom Bog. A disease that fatally turned you into a tree was a very good reason never to visit this place, and its mere existence made me wonder what madness would convince any pony to live here, to say nothing of the wide variety of dangerous animals and monsters that lived here.

“Aye, and I have made one for thee.” Mossy Bank’s horn sparkled as he cast a summoning spell. There was a flash of magic, and a mask appeared before me.

I took the mask and examined it. It was of a similar design to the masks worn by the Stalkers, with a pair of glass eyepieces and feathers decorating its sides. This one was pure black and had a long, raven-like beak. The Great Unkindness cawed in approval as they circled above.

I could give but one reaction to such a fine gift, and I spoke with all the seriousness due to the situation. “I love it.”

The Archmagus smiled. “Good. I trust thou art equal to the task?”

I would have preferred to have fled the swamp and never return, but the consequences for doing so would be terrible. Fleeing his quest would offend him and make him think that I was ill-suited for my rank of magus. If I could not handle the sealing of this evil plaguing his swamp, then ‘twas unlikely he would vote for me at a conclave to become archmagus, and the damage would only spread from there. As a highly respected magus and war hero, his words carried great weight with ponies, and if he thought I should not be an archmagus, then many would follow his lead. What is more, rumors of my cowardice would spread. Nopony would vote for me if they thought I could not deal with a threat such as this, for how could I be expected to aid them against similar threats if I failed here?

Neigh, there was but one path open to me if I wished to advance within the Magi Order, even if every fiber of my being was revolted by the idea of penetrating yet further into the bog’s dirty depths.

“If I can be of aid, I would be glad to assist you,” I told him. “Tell me what must be done, and I will see it completed.”

The Archmagus grinned and his eyes twinkled. “That I do not doubt. We will have thee provisioned and escorted to where thou must go tomorrow.” He pointed at the rows of penumbra stalks that still required harvesting. “But today there is still much work to be done before sundown, and I can explain what must be done while we work.”

I looked out at the long rows of as-yet uncut stalks with their muddy waters to traverse and sighed. ‘Twas going to be a long and dirty evening.

The next day saw me traversing through the bog. As promised, Mossy Banks had a boat loaded with supplies and gave me an escort of Stalker clanponies to show me part of the way to my destination. The bog proved to be even more filthy and desolate than I imagined. All about me was moss covered trees that darkened my path, with many fallen logs and branches clogging the paths before me and delaying my journey as I had to work my way ‘tween them. The waters I traversed were brown from mud, and was often covered by algae and lilypads. Dots of land speckled my path, their soil often wet with mud, and they were covered with all manner of shrubbery, brambles, and grasses.

‘Twas an utterly miserable and filthy trip that I did not think could get worse, but in this I was wrong. As we approached our destination, I saw what was concerning the Archmagus. Where the bog initially teemed with vibrant, if often decaying and dirty life, over time that changed. More and more of the trees we passed were dead, and many times fallen over with all manner of pests, parasites, and diseases evident in their demise. The water became increasingly devoid of the algae, frogs, and fish that once teemed within it, and the chunks of land became dead things where any kind of wilting life struggled to survive on its banks. What was more, there was ill humor in the air. It merely felt like a vague sense that something was off, but over time I came to recognize the corrupt energies infusing the swamp and choking the life from it. It only happened in patches, but Mossy Banks assured me that the rot got worse the closer I got to the source of the malady.

‘Twas as we started to enter this portion of the bog that my Stalker escorts departed my company. As Mossy Banks had warned me, the spirits and corrupt magic here had a way of playing with the minds of ponies, and ‘twould not be safe for my escorts to stay with me for too long. That left me with only the Great Unkindness for company. Mine escorts had at least left me with detailed instructions on where to go, and as the sun started to set, I reached a patch of dry land. There within the trees was a simple structure built amongst the branches of a tree. ‘Twas used as a patrol post by the Stalkers, and they assured me ‘twould be safe from most of the dangerous animals and monsters in the bog thanks to its height from the ground. ‘Twas at least well above the muddy earth.

My destination was still a half a day away, and my guides told me that ‘twas best not to traverse the bog at night. Considering they regularly patrolled this swamp and lived here, it struck me as best to follow their advice. Besides, the long day’s travel through the swamp had made me weary, and a good night’s rest someplace dry and relatively clean struck me as a wise idea.

Not wanting to risk any animals getting into my supplies, I began the process of unloading them and levitating them up to the tree-shed. ‘Twas as I was about to empty a large bag filled with corn for the Great Unkindness that a curious sound came to my ears: the voices of ponies. That was unusual, for the Archmagus and the Stalkers told me that they had told all the natives of the bog to avoid this place, and that they had patrols in place to ward away any ponies who drew too near.

I wished to know what this was about. If there was some lurking danger near where I was to sleep then I wanted to know what it was, and deal with it if at all possible. If it was just some ponies coming too close to the center of the corruption in the bog then they needed to be warned to depart.

I made sure that my new mask was securely fastened onto my face. The sweet-smelling herbs in the tip of the beak helped mask the smells of the bog. I also made sure my black cloak and black wide-brimmed hat were also securely in place before I headed towards the sound. The Great Unkindness started squawking unhappily over not receiving their dinner yet.

I sighed. “I will feed all of thee as quickly as I can.” I had been looking for a dry piece of land where I could place the corn for the ravens, but had not been able to find one in the fading light. I would probably need to clear a spot with my magic, though that would take time. But I wished to see what trouble was out in the bog sooner rather than later.

I sighed and levitated a bag of corn onto my back. “Here, we will see if there is a good place to feed thee along the way.”

I picked my way through the trees and brambles, and ‘twas not long before I saw a campfire’s light shining through the trees. Five ponies sat around a fire, all unicorns I saw and adults, a few years younger than myself. As I drew near, I started catching the words of their conversation, and even recognized their accents as belonging to that of ponies from Canterlot.

“I cannot wait to get to thy father's lodge, Penultimate. We will have such fun!” said one of them. He was a large, barrel-chested stallion with a light green coat, and short-cropped blue and yellow-striped mane.

The mare next to him, probably Penultimate, smiled smugly. She was a tall and thin thing, with an alabaster coat and a long, flowing yellow mane. “But of course. ‘Twill be enjoyable to spend some time away from our parents, work, responsibility...”

“That sounds like a fine idea to me.” The third of the companions took a puff of whatever was rolled up in a slip of paper. He was a short stallion with a yellow coat, and a dual-striped brown mane and bloodshot eyes. He was snuggled up with a mare with a pink coat and yellow mane who had her head lying on his chest, clearly content to remain where she was. “We certainly brought enough kegs with us to ensure our enjoyment.”

He waved at a nearby boat that lay on the shore. It was so full of supplies, many of them kegs, that I wondered how they fit everypony into it.

“I can drink to that.” A stallion with a red coat and orange mane raised a mug before taking a deep draft. He frowned when he looked into the mug’s depths and then overturned it to confirm that it was empty. “Or at least I would if I had something to drink.”

“Here, let me refill it.” The barrel-chested pony took his companion’s mug in addition to his own, and stepped towards where they had unloaded a keg. “Just do not drink all our provisions before we even get to the lodge. We have hardly even gottenaaargh!”

For some strange reason, he screamed and stumbled back when he saw me standing at the edge of their circle. The rest of his companions scrambled and shouted as they all raced to get on the other side of the fire from me. They huddled together, thought I did not know why they were all acting so frightened. The Great Unkindness flocked forth, filling the branches overhead as they watched the proceedings.

Wishing to warn these ponies of the danger and get back to my camp to sleep, I placed the bag of corn down before I addressed the group. “BEWARE! This bog is no place for thee! Remain here and ‘twill be thy doom!”

“Doom! Doom! Doom!” the ravens echoed, knowing the truth of the matter.

The barrel-chested one slowly pulled himself from the group to take a couple steps towards me. “Whoa! I do know who you are, but we do not wish for any trouble.”

Ah, good, then we had common cause. “The lot of thee are going into grave danger, and a most gruesome end awaits thee if thou dost not alter thy course. Return from whence thou came and never return.”

The pink mare hugged her intended tighter. “We are just going to a cabin to relax and enjoy ourselves. We are hardly doing anything wrong!”

“Do not listen to her.” The one with bloodshot eyes slowly pulled his special somepony off. “She is just some crazy bogpony!”

Mine eyes narrowed. I was no bogpony, and he had best not insult the fine mask that Mossy Banks had gifted me. “Heed me! If thou stayst here, thou wilt suffer a most terrible fate. Flee and never return!”

“Death! Death! Death!” the Great Unkindness cawed in agreement, and the ponies before me huddled together once again.

The barrel-chested one took a deep breath before stepping in front of me again. “Look, whate’er your business, it has nothing to do with us. Leave us be, or we may be forced to action.”

Was … was he actually threatening me? But why? I was merely giving them perfectly good advice to leave the dreadful and terrible swamp. Besides, they had clearly been fooled by somepony if they thought a vacation to a bog was a good idea. I was doing them a great favor by telling them to flee this place.

Penultimate scoffed, and called out with disdain from behind most of her friends. “Do not think to scare us! Do you know who my father is? He is a really important noble, and he will become wroth if he learns that somepony attempted to scare us.”

I internally rolled mine eyes. I had heard such threats so many times that I rarely felt the need to respond to them. I did not know who she was, so I could hardly know who her father was. Even if I did know who he was, I doubt I would be intimidated. As an archmagus and the grand vizier, mine own mother possessed a much higher station than nearly anypony else in all of Equestria, and she could probably break any and all of this fop’s parents. Not that Mother would approve of me using her name in a similar manner as this mare.

The pony with the bloodshot eyes slowly approached me one hooves that were tad unsteady as he held up a hoof in a pacifying gesture. “We do not wish for trouble. How about you just leave us—”

He lost his footing on the muddy ground and collided with the bag of corn. The bag fell over and corn to spread all about the ground. As one, the ravens of the Great Unkindness turned their heads towards the small, tasty yellow treasures on the ground.

“CORN! CORN! CORN!” they cawed as they descended upon their feast.

The unicorns gathered before me all screamed and fled. I knew not why—all the ravens desired was their meal. ‘Twas not as though they were fresh corpses whom the ravens wished to feed upon the eyes and tongues of while their bodies still yet cooled.

They ran for their boat, and in a panic, did their best to get it back onto the water even though the ravens paid them no mind. All while they yelled at one another, and created a great ruckus.

“Go go go!”

“Get in the boat!”

“We are all going to die!”

“They are in my mane!” Penultimate cried, despite no ravens being near her. Her panic flails resulted in her smacking the pink unicorn.

“Ow! Penny, you hit me!”

“It was the Bog Witch!” the pony with the bloodshot eyes cried. “She’s going to get us!”

“She won’t if we row fast enough!” The barrel-chested stallion shoved an oar into his compatriots hooves, and after half a minute they finally managed to get off the shore.

I frowned as I saw that they were all very slowly heading deeper into the forbidden and dirty bog. “Neigh! That is not the way!” I waved a hoof in the direction of Mossy Bank’s home. “Go that way instead! Turn away! Turn away! Neigh, that is the wrong way! Safety is the other way, thou fools!”

“She is casting a spell at us!” one of them cried.

“I do not wish to be turned into a frog!”

“Row faster! Row like thy lives depend on it!”

“I dropped mine oar!”

No matter how much I beseeched them to go towards safety, they inexorably continued towards doom until they and their boat disappeared into the darkness. I sighed, lamenting the fools that I must tolerate in the world.

I felt a sudden, odd sympathy with Mother and the fact she had to deal with ponies such as these every day.

Author's Note:

Thanks to my editors Chengar Qordath and Comma-Kazie for all their help, and to my pre-readers Brony Writer, wolfstorm56, Trinary, 621Chopsuey, Rodinga, and PoisonClaw for their hard work editing.

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