• Published 9th Jun 2021
  • 408 Views, 45 Comments

Seconds to spare - Hope

Princess Luna sends her student, Eris, to make friends in Ponyville.

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Ch.3 In Time We Will Mock

Though Rainbow was right, Eris still wondered at the incredible amount of equipment that AJ assembled so quickly.

The group of six snuck through the town, lit in evening light, until they reached Sweet Apple Acres. The apple trees that covered the hills cast long shadows across the road up to a farmhouse and barn.

Then the farm pony proceeded to load them all up with calculated precision.

"Alright, Rares, bandana first. Yup, hair back. Bags, water, food, yer food. About as much as I think'll stay on ya for a trip. Rainbow! Flight harness. Rope. Remember how ya open these clips? Early hearth's warming present. Survival pack, and food, water. Pinkie!"

Pinkie appeared from behind Rarity, grinning and wearing a camoflogue uniform with a massive backpack and a knife in her teeth.

AJ looked her over warily. "Pinkie… I… could I give ya anythin?"

"I didn't bring anything to eat! This is all explosives!" Pinkie said as she gestured at the backpack.

Everyone chuckled, putting Eris at ease that it must be a joke.

AJ found a couple apple pastry pockets and tucked them into Pinkie's belt pouches before turning to Fluttershy.

"As long as all of you are there, I can do it," Fluttershy whispered.

"Of course, sugarcube. But anything I can give ya? Got another flying harness…"

Fluttershy looked over the assembled gear and finally picked up a backpack full of extra water and survival gear, with a tent strapped to the bottom of it.

"This will be helpful, and I can carry it," she nodded firmly.

That just left Eris, who AJ wasn't quite sure what to do with.

"Eris… what can help ya?" AJ asked tactfully.

"She means what are you?" Rainbow asked, grinning, from nearby.

AJ cringed while Eris chuckled.

"I don't know what I am," Eris admitted. "But… I don't have real magic, like ponies do. I don't have powers. I'm just… Strange and I'm learning about ponies, that's all."

"Shucks, not all magic looks big, flashy," AJ insisted.

"Yeah, you've probably got some magic, deep inside!" Fluttershy agreed.

Eris blushed a little, embarrassed by being the center of attention, but she couldn’t help but smile a little.

“Okay, but… I think it’d be best if I carried the guide book and just… whatever extra supplies that would help,” she explained. “I can’t fly or cast, I’m not all that strong. But I’ll do my best to help.”

“And that’s all we need, darling,” Rarity said reassuringly as AJ got Eris a saddlebag that had extra backpack loops.

Then the group finally set off to the edge of the Everfree Forest, looking out across the wildest untamed land in the continent.

Ponies had long ago tamed the weather and land, bending it to their will with a variety of magics, funneling their pollution to holding zones and bringing favorable weather to every harvest, but this forest had rejected their rule. Princess Luna had never pushed the issue, leaving it wild, but now Eris wondered if that had been on purpose, as they started off into the trees.

The main path was marked “Everfree City” with an ancient carved stone sign which now was half obscured by a large oak tree.

“Imagine livin’ out here, land sakes it’d be terrifyin!” AJ said as Rainbow whisked past them before circling around to hover over them.

“Well, this used to be a road, with paving stones it looks like,” Eris pointed out as she stepped over a very flat stone, and spotted some more in the underbrush. “I imagine it was a pretty nice town! You all are scared of the forest because of the unpredictable weather?”

Rainbow laughed, landing next to her.

“Heck no! We can take some rain. We stay out of the forest because of all the monsters and plants that are warped by magic!”

Eris stopped, staring at the blue pegasus, who was grinning.

“Wait, really?” Eris asked, wide eyed.

“Oh, yes, I live next to the forest and sometimes I’ll see footprints from big big creatures with sharp claws,” Fluttershy said, shivering nervously and looking around as Eris also looked into the dark forest, a bit more apprehensive than she’d been a moment before.

Then she noticed that there was still a little sunlight, just a little.

“Huh, how long has the sun been setting?” she asked as she peered through the trees at the red glow on the horizon.

“Quite a while, but… perhaps an hour or two?” Rarity said tentatively.

“Father time… He must be messing with the flow of time, it’d be appropriate,” Eris said as she followed the group, resuming their trek into the woods.

The sun didn’t go down, and they could occasionally spot the moon low on the opposite horizon, stationary through the trees as they walked.

But after a while they came to a part of the road that descended down the side of a steep hill into a meadow below, where the group stopped for a moment to look down at the creek and forest below, and their first glimpse of the Everfree Clock Tower.

It stood in the far distance, lit up in gold by the setting sun, the wide glass face of the clock glinting as the hands of the clock slowly turned backwards.

“That can’t be good!” Pinkie giggled.

Eris smiled a little and sighed. “Yeah… He’s probably already there, trying to find the elements so they can’t be used against him again. But I believe we can figure this out. We have to.”

“Um… is… is the ground supposed to be doing that?” Fluttershy whispered.

Everyone looked down, and saw that lines in the path were rapidly decaying, the grass rotting away and the dirt breaking down into dust. Eris was the first to notice the lines surrounded them.

“Get off the--!” She started before AJ headbutted her, sending her sprawling out of the circle of lines just as it collapsed, the road falling in a deafening landslide that roared into the meadow.

Eris, dazed, took a moment to even realize what had happened, before she crawled over to the edge of the cliff, looking down to see…

Rarity and Pinkie being carried to the ground safely by Rainbow and Fluttershy, as AJ clung to the rocky face.

“AJ! Why did you do that, you could have gotten out!” she called.

“Throw me a rope, would ya?” AJ replied calmly, grinning up at her.

Eris set her backpack down, and sure enough there was a rope attached to it, which she unclipped and lowered down, letting AJ grab onto it with her teeth, so she could pull her up and back onto level ground. Eris pulled her immediately into a hug.

“You could have died!” Eris wailed as AJ just chuckled and patted her on the back.

“Aw shucks, I’ve been through worse, sugarcube. Ya said ya couldn’t fly with those wings of yours, so…”

“So you almost gave your life for me,” Eris said, letting go of her, looking at the orange pony in awe.

AJ shrugged, coiling up the rope with a calm smile.

“Apples give. It’s what we do. Now come along, we’ve got a big bad scary fella ta wrangle.”