• Published 2nd Jul 2020
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Short Hand - Andrew Joshua Talon



The myriad misadventures of a plucky human in Equestria.

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Thorns, Part 2

Short Hand

A My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Fanfic By Andrew J. Talon

Disclaimer: This is a non-profit fan based parody. MLP:FiM is the property of Hasbro and Lauren Faust. Please support the official release.

- - -

Falling from this height doesn’t give you the time for your life to flash before your eyes. Just a decisive examination of the decisions that led you to this point. In my case, it was fairly simple what decisions had led here:

You’re not the hero, idiot! You’re the big, goofy, token alien character! Twilight and the others are the heroes! What made you think you do anything?! The best use for you is as a decoy!

Yeah I have self esteem issues. I had them before coming to the magical pony world, why do you ask?

Looks like I wouldn’t be getting that Darwin Award though, because as Twilight’s balloon crashed through the forest canopy… It was caught on the thick branches of the gigantic trees. Spike and I kept screaming as we held onto the basket, as our rapid descent slowed in violent, quick jerks. Not hard enough to kill us, but it sure hurt like a son of a bitch.

Especially the last one, where we fell out of the tree onto the forest floor.

“GAH! Ahhh… Owww…!” I groaned. Something spiky and warm was under my back. “My back…!”

The thing squirmed under me, and dug his way out with claws which made me yelp. Spike glared up at me, brushing himself off.

“Your back?! What about my… Everything?!” He glared, as we sat in the crumpled but still mostly intact balloon basket.

“You can tank lava, dude! I’m fragile!” I complained. I groaned and sat up, rubbing my back. “Also, geez, when’s the last time you had a manicure?”

“When’s the last time you hit the gym, Lardass?” Spike shot back. I snorted, and rummaged in my backpack-Which had thankfully stayed in the balloon basket. I pulled out the medical kit, the soft feel of the feathers on it very reassuring. Spike stared at it.

“Huh? What’s that?” He asked, reaching out and poking it. I opened the kit and looked through it. I pulled out a potion, popped the stopper, and drank of it long and deep. My aches and pains faded away, and I sighed happily. I rubbed my back, and stretched my arms up over my head.

“Mm! Tastes like healing,” I said cheerfully. I looked over at Spike. “Oh! This is my medical kit! Fluttershy put it together for me, with help from Zecora.”

Zecora was a zebra shamanist and potions maker who lived in the Everfree Forest. She had a habit of talking in rhyme, but she knew her potions and alchemy. Maybe shamans were required to do sick rap battles back where she was from, who knew?

Spike blinked and fingered some of the feathers. “These are pegasus feathers,” Spike said. His eyes widened. “These are her feathers! She gave you lots of her own feathers to decorate the kit!”

“Yeah?” I said, shrugging. “So?”

Spike gaped in disbelief at me.

“Don’t you know how deeply personal that is to a pegasus?!” Spike demanded. I shrugged.

“She’s a good, close friend. And we’re going to rescue her and the others…? You got a point to all this?”

Spike gaped at me in disbelief. He then rolled his eyes.

“Humans,” he muttered.

“Dude!” I scolded him angrily. Spike glared, and held out his hand.

“Healing potion?” He asked.

I handed him another bottle of the concoction. Spike sniffed it, and sipped it slowly. He swallowed and licked his lips. He grinned.
“Ah… Zecora always puts the right amount of crushed rubies into it,” he said. I made a face.

“You’re joking right?” I asked. Spike snorted.

“You’ll live,” he said. He looked around the dark, dangerous forest that we had crashed in. “So, do we know where to go?”

I pulled my guns up over my shoulder, and grunted. I checked my compass.

“Well, that gigantic spine that smacked us out of the air came from the Northeast,” I said, “so I’m guessing that’s where we go.”

“Great plan,” Spike deadpanned. I handed him the briefcase containing the Elements of Harmony. He held onto it tightly, his tiny claws already digging into the incredibly light metal of the container. He made a face, and I shook my head.

“It’s what we need to do, right?” I said.

“But what if we can’t?” Spike asked. I bit down my own fearfilled retort. The same question was already echoing in my head. If I was alone, I’d probably be babbling in fear. What was I thinking? Going into the Everfree Forest alone with a bunch of guns and a baby dragon like I was Fantasy Rambo?

What was I thinking?

I looked at Spike’s anxious, terrified face. It was amazing how expressive the little reptile’s face was. This little being, Twilight’s long suffering assistant and baby brother.

I took a deep breath. None of my fears mattered now. We were here. I couldn’t undo it. I had to press on. I was the only human here. I had the Elements of Harmony. I had to get them to my friends or everyone in Equestria was doomed.

And Spike here… He needed to know everything was going to be okay.

I knelt down, and hugged Spike tightly. He went stiff.

“We don’t need to think about that,” I said, “because we will. Everyone’s counting on us, all right? But that’s okay, because we’re going to do this. We’ll get the Elements to the girls, and they’ll rainbow nuke whatever’s doing this, and we’ll all go home and have cake. I promise.”

Spike hesitantly hugged me back, and patted my sides. “Thanks,” he said. He pulled away, and coughed. “You can let go of me now,” he stated with a wince. I immediately yanked my arms back.

“Right, too close, too close,” I apologized. Spike scratched his shoulder and coughed.

“Yeah,” he said. “Really kind of awkward? Though uh, thanks for doing the big brother thing.”

“I have a lot of practice,” I said. Any further awkwardness was thankfully dispelled by a monster’s roar. We both stiffened. Spike from the sound, and me? Well… Because the sound was familiar.

“What was that?” Spike muttered.

“A manticore,” I murmured.

“How can you tell?” Spike asked. I shook my head.

“Because that’s what hunted me when I first dropped into here,” I said slowly.

The monster’s growl continued to echo. It was close. Incredibly close. How had it gotten here? It was groaning… Like it was in… Pain?

I hefted up my rifle. I motioned for us to move northeast, through the trees. We walked, slowly and quietly. Navigation was hard with all the thorny vines, but we managed to crawl over the top of one of the biggest ones. We slid down into a small clearing, me going first. I waited and caught Spike as he slid off the gigantic vine. I set him down, and we crept slowly through the bushes.

We peeked out and saw… A manticore, lying on his side. A gigantic, tawny feline, bigger than the biggest liger or tigon back on Earth. He had a huge, bushy red mane. Two red, bat-like wings, the size of a small aircraft’s jutted out of his shoulders. His tail was a gigantic, blood red scorpion’s with a stinger as big as an American football.

He was baying low, his right wing twitching. And a small striped form was under its paw, wriggling and moving. My eyes went wide.

“Zecora!” Spike gasped.

The manticore lifted his head and looked over at us. I immediately held my rifle up and rushed out of the bushes.

“Get away from her!” I shouted.

“Run away Zecora! Get away!” Spike yelled.

The manticore roared, a warning. I adjusted my aim, locking my eyes right through the sites and on the center of the monster’s forehead. It snarled back, angry and defiant and yet…

Zecora managed to pull out from under the paw, and shook her head.

“Quiet, quiet, if you will! My patient here is very ill!” Zecora cried. Our jaws dropped.

“Patient?!” Spike and I both cried. The manticore moaned, his shifting making his wing shudder. It was now that I noticed there was blood on the wing. A lot of it.

Zecora nodded.

"I saw him fly and crash back down, as I was on my way to town," Zecora explained. "He bayed for help, so greatly pained. I tried to keep him well restrained." She eyed me intently. "So could your gun please elsewhere train? I need a potion for his pain."

I growled. “This is the same asshole who hunted me when I first ended up in this place! He and the rest of the monsters here might be working for whatever’s sending thorny vines all over Equestria!”

“Yeah!” Spike shouted. “And he attacked us! I mean, see that wing! You did hit him!”

Okay, so I had better aim than I thought. Good.

Zecora nodded, “It was not of his own free will. The villains true are hidden still.”

I scowled.

“Wait, he was being mind controlled?” I asked. The manticore growled angrily at me, flexing his claws. “He didn’t need to be mind controlled to attack me when I showed up!”

The manticore gestured with a claw to his face. There was a scar on his eye. I scowled.

“You had that before! I distinctly remember it!”

“Can this wait for later?” Spike demanded. He looked to Zecora. “Who’s really behind this?!”

Zecora shook her head. "Reveal that, sadly, I cannot. Have you a potion kit or not?"

“That’s barely a rhyme,” I complained. I glared at the manticore, and he glared back. He growled low and threateningly, puffing his fur up. He then trembled, and grit his sharp teeth as his wing folded back down. He still kept snarling up at us, his claws digging into the soil.

I sighed. I pulled out the medical kit, and opened it up. I pulled out a healing potion, and tossed it over to Zecora as I kept my rifle trained on the manticore.

Zecora took it, and immediately took the potion. She pulled out a few odds and ends from her bag, and added them to the potion. She looked back at us.

"Now someone, hold him still you must. He's not exactly quick to trust,” she stated. I sighed.

“You’re really not going to let us go if we don’t heal him, are you?” I asked in exasperation. The zebra shook her head. “You know, we could just leave you here.”

Spike shot me an angry, betrayed look. Zecora met my eyes evenly, her expression unmoved.

"Oh yes, indeed, I know you could... abandon me here in the wood?”

I grimaced. Damnit. I should have stayed in bed this morning.

I set down the rifle.

I rummaged around and pulled out my Webley. I handed it over to Spike, grasping his clawed hands so he could grip the weapon properly.

“Look down the sites,” I said, “hold it firmly. If he moves? Shoot until it runs out,” I ordered. Spike trembled, looked at me, and then at the gun. He took a deep breath.

“I’ve got it,” the little dragon said with a nod. I nodded back. I looked back into the eyes of the manticore. He glared. I glared back, and I slowly approached him. A step at a time.

“Okay, big guy,” I said, “I don’t like you. You don’t like me. But if we heal you, we can all get out of this alive,” I stated. I held the manticore’s gaze, even as he snarled back. I stepped closer, closer…

I pushed the monster’s head down, holding him as best I could. The monster snarled, but didn’t move. Zecora took the modified potion, and applied it to his injured wing. The wound began to glow, and a single, mashed up piece of metal popped out of the hole. The manticore roared in pain, trembling, and I had to use all of my weight to keep him still. I struggled as the monster bellowed and snarled…

But he kept his claws in the dirt, and his scorpion-like tail curled up.

Zecora caught the bullet, and examined it critically. She looked over at me. I scowled back, utterly unrepentant. I looked back at the manticore, who growled back angrily. I let him go, and brushed my hands off. Zecora pulled out some bandages from her saddlebags, and wrapped the wound up tight. The manticore flexed his wings, wincing a bit.

“Okay,” I said slowly, calmly, to the monster. “Okay… You’re healed. We didn’t shoot you.” I paused. “Again. Do you know who’s behind all this?”

We heard hooves clopping against the dirt. I looked over at Zecora, who shook her head. I grimaced and grabbed her. I hefted her up over my shoulder and carried her off.

"Ah! Unhand me now, you human ape! Your manhood I will amputate!"

I rushed back over to Spike, who had been holding the gun all this time. He dropped it, and grabbed the Elements Case. I scooped up the gun as I ran, and Spike scurried behind me rapidly. We vanished into the bushes, just in time as a large horde of something stampeded into the clearing. We laid down in the bushes, and we peered out.

I blinked. I blinked again.

They were… Deer. All with similar proportions to the Equestrian ponies: Big craniums, large forward facing eyes, and all with armor. The lead was a tall, black stag, who examined the injured manticore critically.

“This one was injured by the balloon,” he declared. “The control of the Heart of the Forest has been broken.”

A smaller deer was alongside, and nodded.

“Yes Lord Blackthorn,” he said. He hesitated. “What of the Elements of Harmony? They came into our midst willingly. They spoke of peace.”

Blackthorn snorted. “King Aspen made it clear. There will be no peace until the encroachment on our kingdom is stopped.” He looked over at the manticore, who snarled at them. “Place the spell back on this one. Have him join the others in the dump.”

I immediately reached for my rifle, but Spike and Zecora stopped me. I glared at them both, which was very inconvenient as I had to keep looking back and forth between them.

“Guys!” I hissed.

“The girls are okay,” Spike said, “they’re trying diplomacy. If we do anything aggressive, it’ll just make things worse!”

Zecora nodded. "A kind word here may do more good that guns, like in your neighbourhood."

“What the hell kind of a place do you think my homeworld is?” I muttered. Zecora kept up her glare, as did Spike. I sighed, and my shoulders drooped.

“Fine,” I muttered. I stood up, and slowly walked out into the clearing just as Blackthorn’s assistant was pulling out a magical… Thing? Some kind of wand with a gem? Whatever it was, the manticore didn’t like that. He snarled, and spread his wings to try and intimidate the deer. The deer stood their ground. I cleared my throat.

Every single deer looked at me, and their eyes grew wide. Like I was an oncoming car with the headlights on. I offered a smile with my mouth closed-No need to show off my teeth.

“Hello, Lord Blackthorn was it?” I called. “Good afternoon! I’m Andrew Shepherd.” I paused. “I come in peace, and would like to discuss your situation-”

“A human?!” Another deer gasped. “A HUMAN WORKING FOR EQUESTRIA?!”

“It can’t be!” Blackthorn cried, at a much higher pitch than he’d been speaking before. “Humans are extinct! It’s not possible! IT’S NOT POSSIBLE!”

I lifted my hands and spread my fingers.

“No no no! I am a human! I’m not going to hurt you, I’m just here to talk! About the giant thorny vines and the monsters and to get the Elements of Harmony back-!”

“CELESTIA’S WRATH IS UPON US!” Blackthorn shrieked. Half of his troops immediately fled, speeding off into the undergrowth like ghosts. The other half pulled out bows and arrows and pulled them. I immediately reached for the Glock 21, but I was seized from behind by gigantic, furry claws.

Oh great, my mind said as the rest of me screamed in fear and anger, I had to turn my back on the dangerous manticore who is now…

Lifting me out of the path of the arrows? I looked up at the manticore, who was wincing as he flew but determinedly keeping me out of harm’s way. He then none-too-gently tossed me up onto his back, and I grabbed onto his thick, billowing mane. He roared in defiance at the remaining deer, who all turned and fled.

We landed roughly, and I scrambled off of the manticore like he was on fire. He growled at me, and I glared back. Even so…

“Thanks,” I managed. The manticore growled back, but nodded. Zecora and Spike barreled out of the bushes, Spike still holding onto the Elemental Football.

“Deer! From the kingdom of Thicket!” Spike gasped. I shook my head and looked at the dragon.

“You know who those guys are?” I asked in disbelief. Spike nodded quickly.

“Yeah! I mean, I live in a library,” he said, “though this is obscure even for Twilight’s reading habits.”

“Then tell the tale, oh Dragonborn,” Zecora said, “what do you know via unicorn?”

Spike took a deep breath. “The deer of the kingdom of Thicket are very solitary,” he recited, “and haven’t been seen in large numbers outside of the Everfree Forest in centuries. They’re very reclusive, and use nature magics to protect their domain. Also kind of have a superiority complex, since they were here in Equestria before the Three Tribes migrated due to the Long Winter.”

“So we’re dealing with a bunch of elves,” I sighed. “Wonderful. And they fear humans?”

Spike shrugged. “Well, you are creatures of legend,” he said, “maybe you’re their Nightmare Moon? A story told to all deer faun to keep them well behaved?”

I hummed. “So, could we use that to our advantage?” I asked. Zecora shook her head.

“All hopes of peace may dissipate,” she warned, “if tensions further escalate.”

“They’re trying to destroy all of Equestria, Zecora,” I pointed out blandly. “That’s basically a declaration of war, no matter what their justification. Until they stop that, there’s no point in negotiating for peace. Sometimes another word for peace is ‘surrender’.”

Zecora nodded slowly.

“On this, I think, we are agreed,” she said, “but resolution we still need.”

“First off,” I said, “let’s find Thicket. Then we work out what to do from there.”

- - -

It wasn’t too hard to find the kingdom’s walls. From a distance they looked like any other part of the forest, but get closer and glowing torches, regular patterns and of course many deer trotting around gave it away as an artificial structure. I looked up at the battlements, all well manned.

Er, deered. Whatever.

“Great,” I muttered, as the manticore, myself, Spike and Zecora all camped out in the bushes some distance away from the city walls. “How do we get in there?”

“That’s a good question,” Spike observed. He hummed, and then snapped his fingers. “Oh! What if Zecora and I pretended to be bounty hunters? And we said we’d captured you and wanted a good price for you?”

“They might just kill me on the spot, Spike,” I said dryly. “And a bounty hunter doesn’t usually accompany their prisoner past handing them over to the guys paying for it.”

“Really?” Spike asked, confused. “That’s how it happened in ‘Power Ponies Volume 54’!”

“Believe it or not, this isn’t a comic book,” I sighed. Eventually, the broad doors of the castle opened, and a royal entourage trotted out. The lead deer held up a magical sceptre to his throat, and spoke. His voice was loud, ringing out through the trees.

HUMAN FROM EQUESTRIA. HEAR US WELL,” the deer bellowed, “WE KNOW YOU ARE OUT THERE. WE KNOW YOU HAVE BEEN SENT AGAINST US. BUT WE HAVE THE BEARERS OF THE ELEMENTS OF HARMONY! SURRENDER YOURSELF IN ONE HOUR, AND WE WILL RELEASE THEM. IF YOU DO NOT…” He trailed off, before turning and heading back into the castle walls. The doors slammed shut, hard.

We were left in silence. I took a deep breath, and began to stand up. Zecora grabbed my shoulder, and shook her head. I scowled.

“Zecora!”

“So hard, you keep yourself alive, yet with this danger, in you dive?” She demanded. I gaped, and shrugged.

“Look, if they can get out, you can hand them the Elements and save me!” I pointed out.

“Unless they lie,” Spike said. “I mean, these guys mind control animals to do their bidding! How can we trust them?”

I sighed, and rubbed my forehead. The manticore, having been patiently waiting, growled at me. I glared back.

“Well if anyone else has another suggestion, I’m all ears,” I stated. “I mean, to even have a chance of getting through those walls, we’d need an army.” I looked at Spike. “Could we send Celestia a letter to have her get her forces here-?”

“There’s no time!” Spike insisted. “And last she wrote, she was working hard enough just keeping the vines from destroying all of Equestria!”

I sighed, and looked intently at the walls. “All right,” I said. “So we need some way of breaching the walls. And the only way to do that is with an army. A fearsome, deadly, powerful…” I trailed off as I saw the manticore chew on the back of his forearm. I blinked. I blinked again.

“Shepherd? Hello? Why have you trailed off? Right now, we must be hard, not soft!” Zecora hissed.
“I’ve got an idea,” I said quietly. Spike blinked back, raising a scaly brow.

“What kind of an idea?” He asked. I sighed, and then smiled at the manticore. He glared back, confused. My smile grew.

“A really stupid one…”

- - -

Author's Note:

Just one semi-epic trilogy and then back to shorts, I promise.

Rhyming corrections done by The Iguana Man. He's a great guy.