• Published 10th Apr 2013
  • 1,733 Views, 174 Comments

Libera Mé - EZTP



Set just after the events of season 3, Twilight Sparkle and her friends must rise to a challenging beast the likes of which will test her not only as an alicorn, but as the Princess of Friendship.

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07 What Are You?

07

Applejack halted a moment trying to catch her breath. She was exhausted and had no idea for how long she had been blindly galloping after the monster. To accompany her exhaustion was irritation at loosing her favourite hat. The monsters stamina was impressive, the ease of how it tore through the foliage was staggering. She had lost sight of it now and came upon a small clearing with tall trees and a steep rock face. The forest was unfamiliar to her, she could not recognise the scape or the trees and realised she was alone amidst the darkness with foreign sounds and shapes encroaching in on her. Now her mind was turning in on itself as her insides writhed with fear. She felt sick and an horrible truth became apparent; she was now in a living nightmare.

She could feel herself growing wilder, more aggressive, letting the madness flow around her as more monsters hid in the darkness, each more terrifying than the last. She stumbled with a shooting pain on her back hoof and screamed as it grew in intensity. Fighting to remain silent and see what was going on she tried to move away but the pain intensified. It was too dark to see clearly so she felt down with her hoof and something pricked it. She panicked and pulled again making the pain worse. Feeling cautiously further down she realised it was a wire with barbs, a trap. By the warmth on her hoof and the familiar smell she knew there was blood. As strong as she was, she could not break free. With nothing to cut with and her scent spreading further, a predator would be on her soon.

She wanted to call out to princess Luna, but the princess only helped ponies in their dreams. She was a long way from home, and she was sure that scream had helped every predator for miles located her.

Her breathing was becoming short and shallow. She was forcing herself to remain calm. Feeling the ground she saw there was no grass there, it had been dug up and the earthy smell was prevalent. She could dig the trap loose. As her hooves pulled more earth upwards, she cursed herself for being so foolish. A sound of glass clinking against itself made hold still. She looked up loosing her breath horrified to see two red eyes floating in the air. Her only action was to hold completely still and wait.

The moon came from out of the clouds to reveal a very large wolf made of glass, crystal or gem, she could not tell. Its gaze was fixed on her as it sat there, the brilliance of its eyes glowing as the moonlight shined through its transparent figure, the teeth perfectly visible although its mouth was closed.

It was clear it could see her and she tried to remain calm, ignoring the shooting pain in her leg. She tried to dig further but a growl halted her progress. She lowered her head feeling angry at herself and that monster, “I may be out for the count, but I will go down fighting.”

The wolf did not bear its teeth but looked at her. It did not move for a while and Applejack could feel her hooves growing colder. She could nit understand why it was waiting. Her thoughts were broken when the wolf turned its head to the side. Applejack could not scream, her breath leaving her as those eyes were formed in a dark shadow by the wolf. She knew it then as the monster emerged from the shadow, she was in trouble.

It had been hiding it in the forest blending seamlessly as if they were one. It was panting heavily from running. Applejack stared defiantly in anger at it screaming with rage, ”Now I’m here, what do you want!.”

She was still furiously tugging at the wire trying to break free and run. The creature now walked slowly to her, she could feel her heart racing as it drew nearer. A glimmer drew her eyes the side where its claw was and to her horror the shape of a blade danced to catch the beams of moonlight. In this moment she was now beyond fear, trapped as it floated closer. She tired to loosen the loop but a stinging in her fore hooves forced her to retreat and push back. Her muscles tensed, a cold sensation rushed over her stomach, this was her fighting reflex and she knew the monster was not going to retreat, she was ready to fight it.

It came in closer to her, something horrible happened. She tried to move but she couldn’t. Every muscle ready to explode and she could not move. A poison could be suspect but she could control her breathing. The monster spoke to her, a gentle tone that made her skin crawl, “You should not have followed Miss.” She wanted to shout something bitter back, curse it, make it run away. Sadly her mouth was met with the same resistance. She knew now what held her; the wide eyes, the dripping sweat and ice cold flow in her. She was paralysed with fear.

Its face was close to her, she wanted to strike out. It whispered softly and rested its claw on her hoof. The touch causing her vision to shake and her hear to beat faster, “You are in one of my traps, please do not struggle. I will not hurt you.” Applejack doubted this creature honestly believed she was that ignorant. Hearing its chilly voice brought her back to that dark cell, how violent it was, the story of the wingless mare. She could see its vision gliding over her body, a hunger lingering in those eyes. She needed to move or speak, her only thoughts on this beast. “Lets get your leg out before the damage gets worse.” It was now in her face and eased past her, still blank and staring into the empty darkness of the forest. Its arm brushed past her side, past her leg and she felt the cold grip slowly pull her towards it. Why can’t I move? Move! she yelled to herself but to no avail, she was stuck. Like a mindless animal she stepped forward with it, grateful for the relief, now focussing on the knife held only a whisper away. The relief encouraged her to move closer, the biting and stinging of the wire fading. She knew now it was a mistake to be here and cursed her luck. She had done something truly foolish and faced the monster on its own terms, she did not know where she was, what it could do and now what it was going to do. That hunger though sent her imagination flurrying.

The monster stuck the knife in the ground, and the other claw settled on her chest. It drew the claw up that had touched her injured hoof and sniffed it, a quick taste of the part of her that bled onto the digits. She found her muscles again and threw herself on the monster, powering it to the ground and kicking off to retrieve the knife in her teeth. She was waiting now for it to come to her, she had all night now and if she was going to go it would be on her terms with it. The large wolf kept watching her from its eating position, scanning the surrounding area, ears darting about at the sounds of the night, sniffing. To Applejack it was behaving as a watchdog.

The creature sat up and rested its arms on the bended knees, She could not make out its face as is spoke to her again, “Miss, before I free you we must speak earnestly.” Its words confused her and she tore her look away from the wolf to it, now sitting close enough for her to reach out and use the knife she held. The thought of it made her nauseous and the blade fell to the soft ground digging in.

She hated being this weak but the cost for her was too high, she had never taken a life, even now she couldn’t. The monster was going to take hers and still she couldn't fight it. Now she was going to be it food, the animal was going to eat her. She screwed up her courage, she would not let it. As long as the Applejack blood flowed in her she would fight it. The figure kneeling close startled her, the monster was quiet when it moved.

“You are bleeding, the barbs are hooked and have dug deep. You are very strong to have pulled that hard.” She stared blankly at it. ”I can smell what I fear is blood but I cannot see. Understand Miss if you run off after I have cut the wire you stand a good chance of attracting the attention of a predator.” She did not understand, the predator was the creature but it was warning her about predators. It sighed at her and continued, “Nod if you understand me!” it barked. The senses of her body returned and she nodded slowly. “Do you understand the danger you are in?” it asked and Applejack got her anger back, she remembered why she was here now, using it.

“The only danger here is you!” she said bitterly.

“This is true but untrue. There are far worse things than me here.”

“Do you always toy with your food like this you beast!”

“Food?” The response alone was enough to calm her while a hope flickered that it did not want to eat her. “There snares are not meant for your kind. I need to remove this properly but I cannot do it here. You need to come with me after I have freed you.” Applejack smelled a trap and kicked it in the face with her hoof sending it with a clumsy thud to the ground.

“Carry your food to you fire you lazy piece of manure! I am not going nowhere with you!” She failed to recoil her hoof when the the talon gently grabbed it and pressed it to the floor. “Do you feel that?” Sure enough there was a light trembling, she shook her foreleg as though it was her muscles fault yet the trembling did not subside, it resounded slowly and gently. “That is why we have to leave now. I am not going to eat you, although at his point it seems you want to be eaten. Am I wrong?”

The wolf started to growl and Applejacks eyes darted to it, she saw the wolf was not growling at her, but the darkness, its poised form warding off something, head lowered with ears pinned back, body ready to strike. The monster before her got up grunting complacently and spoke to her again.

“You are the friend of Miss Fluttershy. You need not fear me but what she growls at,” It pointed to the wolf, “I should leave you to them to spare me the risk. Walk away. However I know a lady as smart as you can see the downside in that course.”

Applejack looked on in horror as yellow eyes illuminated the darkness, moving around slowly weaving and focusing on her. She was now in her nightmare and full of fear, only the pain causing her to realise this was truly happening. The creature rested its claw on her shoulder. Applejack thought back to Fluttershy and what she said about this creature, et experience in the cell. She saw it fight the golems again and struggling against the wounds to limp free. At this point she used something Granny had taught her and followed the paths she could follow.

One hoof was to be with this creature although it could end badly. Another hoof had her gallop into the trees. There could be a place to hide for the night and escape tomorrow. However in her state she could barely manage a trot. She saw there was no choice but to follow the more secure path, at least this way if those things attacked the monster would go with her and this trip would not be in vain.

“Fine” she said grudgingly. The monster silently stood and approached the crystal wolf. It placed its claw on the rear leg and the it ceased the snarling, sitting down by it. Even now the height was greater than the monsters, it was the largest wolf Applejack had ever seen. The monster spoke again but its gaze remained on the darkness and the eyes grew larger. “We need to leave now, can you walk?” She looked back in surprise to see the wire had been cut and no longer pulled to bite in. She tried to put weight on her leg but stumbled with pain. Galloping away was clearly not an option. She forced herself up and to go on, the determination to survive taking over.

“I’ll try.”

“Not good enough.” The creature replied and she was angry at this arrogance but worried it would leave her. She wanted to force herself to run, thinking of an escape. A crack tuned her sight to the side, the eyes were circling now, the trapped feeling with the rock face on her left and the monsters all around. The shadow caught a beam of moonlight cutting through the trees and she saw the form of a wolf pass through it. Breath failed her now, she was reliving it. A tapping sound, such as that on glass, caught her attention. The monster tapped the shoulder of the wolf and pointed to Applejack, the eyes grew larger as it looked at her.

Applejack was normally a brave pony, strong and fearless in adversity. However this monster brought out the worst in her. The fear she had though was drowned by terror as something in that very instant changed. The creature did not turn around, but the wolves began to whimper and pull back. Her eyes could only remain focused on the silhouette of the beast. Something in it was different, like the wolves she could sense it but not see it or understand it. There was only the rising instinct to run away. Seeing it now defiant with its back faced on the pack she was in awe at what was happening. What are you?

The crystal wolf moved to her, lowering itself close. Applejack was hesitant thinking about it. The grunt of the beast urged her to action, it shook its head abruptly and turned to the whimpering wolves. It slowly subsided and the eyes regained their confidence drawing closer, that terror in Applejack fading. The monster growled and they halted. Applejack was shocked, to have such ferocity to hold back an entire pack alone. She glanced to the wolf by her now, even laying down it was nearly as tall as she was. The shooting pain in her leg called for relief, that relief was to be found on the back of this animal.

She hesitated until she remembered what Granny had said. ‘To survive a wild animal attack you must outrun the ponies with you, not the animals’. Of course this had been a joke but now the wisdom in it was surprisingly applicable. These wolves were not after the monster, but her. It truly did not need to stay and she could not believe it would fight this hard for a simple meal.

“You are lucky! She would never let me ride her!” it called jokingly. The humour coaxed Applejack on, the pain in her leg now throbbing, with each heartbeat growing worse. Only the snarling of the obscure figures gave her the energy to clamber onto the hard flat surface of the wolf, the edges sliding under her causing great discomfort. It slowly lifted her upwards, now higher than the creature. A warm feeling of security washed over her now, it was in feeling the wolf against her. The fear melted away knowing she was safer atop it now. Her shock slipped through as she felt the monsters eyes on her again.

As it turned its back to the eyes they approached once more. It whirled around bearing its teeth and widening it body, it looked more ridiculous than Appleblooms impression of her big brother but it worked. There was pure rage when it spoke, it was unlikely the figures could understand it but the tone accompanying these words sent a shiver up her own body. “Come on! Show me your teeth! Growl, bellow and snarl. Step into the light from where you hide. Earn your meals, do not take them. Come on!” It stepped sharply forward quaking the ground with the thud and several eyes disappeared. There was one set however that did not move, it barely blinked and rose high. Higher than that of the wolf that bore her now. The creature did not move, it held its ground as Applejack drew further away with her wolf. She wondered what would happen now, what manner of monster towered over the other monster, if it was another wolf then the biggest one she had ever seen moments ago paled in comparison.

The wolf barked and she nearly fell off with the shock of the sound, feeling on edge and tense. To her surprise as the monster turned to follow they towering eyes did the same, simultaneously leaving the points where they stood. The form under her eased onwards and the monster gained ground to them, walking by the side still clutching the glimmering blade.

Applejack looked at the creature now walking beside them with pleading eyes. She wanted to ask if they would be stalked, normally wolves did not give up that easily. As the monster looked up at her she was affixed with its complexion, the light hair on it nearly glowed under the light as it nervously glanced about her.

“They dare not approach Miss.” The words did little to soothe her as she watched the shadows move along with them, these eyes following her but maintaining their distance. The hardness of the body began to bite her but there was a comforting warmth through it which eased the strain. She shifted a little and nearly toppled off the smooth surface, an icy claw grabbing and righting her.

“Sorry.” She did not know why she said that.

“Concentrate, lay down if you can.” She obliged letting her belly and chest press on the warm flat surface. As they moved on the eyes still followed until they reached a wide field. It had short grass stretching far out into the expanse, glowing under the white light that bathed it. Applejack saw the eyes did not follow past the tree line. She exhaled deeply with relief at the same time as the creature, obviously as relieved as she was.

“They will not leave their territory, the field leaves them vulnerable.”

With the shock subsiding there was now new reason to be concerned. She was trapped with the monster and its pet. As the reasons to be afraid kept building she no longer felt afraid. It was an odd sensation but the warmth coupled with her exhaustion gave her reason to be calm. She remained silent but was too tired to speak. It was not clear where they were headed but she knew whatever happened would be better than the wolves...she hoped at least. It was easy to remain on the wolf underneath and she she let herself pass out. It was not wise, it may be for the last time but she was too tired and listened to that voice telling her it was alright to sleep.

*

Princess Luna flew to the next resident of Equestria; a young colt having a nightmare about his father. The father in question was on the front line during the assault. Luna made it her concern to know every pony in the legion and he was remarkable. From the description of his comrades the initial charge left their line broken and defence shattered however he held his ground, for behind him was her sister. She never understood why there were so many ponies willing to sacrifice themselves for them. Their task of raising the sun was ancient, spanning countless millennia. Always it had endure after the fall of Discord. If they would fall another would ensure it continued. Yet still they had loyal bodies for them, unwavering against any enemy. She was proud to stand by them.

Her guards numbers were less than her sisters. She did not mind for their abilities made them more vigilant, sharing her power they could simultaneously watch over the kingdom at night. It was no concern how few they had, for with the magic they were many. Despite her sister she only feigned the search for the monster. Unbeknownst to her she had found it many times already, the first night was the most harrowing though. She should not have intervened, allowed nature to take its course. It had brutalised many of their ponies, some more than others. The father being amongst the some. After the night with Fluttershy though she had seen a change, or she had seen the true monster. This coaxed her to frighten the wolves away from its unconscious form. That first night it had fought through the cold and the pain. That determination and strength is what she respected.

The colts nightmare was easily doused, a kind word and reassurance to let him know his father was soon able to return to them on obligatory leave. He had sweeter dreams then. One more comforted. Luna had the ability to occupy and manipulate dreams, something she always seemed to be able to do. She never could control a dream though. Some ponies she knew needed beautiful dreams. Again she felt the call of the mare she dreaded, the wingless one in cloudsdale.

Her nightmares were particularly gruesome, Luna’s constitution often failing under the torrent of imagery. Still they could not find a spell to bring her wings back. The gliders were a quaint substitute but no real replacement. It had been tried for a long time and the mare had remained strong. Yet another victim to it’s brutality.

Although she tried the bizarre beast always drew her curiosity. It was from a land where she had never been, the dreams it had providing a clear path to the beings that dwelled within. Masters of warfare and destruction. The monsters resilience to her invasions grew weaker by the day. Recently she was able to converse with it. The conversation in question a series of creatively worded threats, eventually forcing her to leave or risk being smothered by its twisted demons. A tortured mind was not a safe place for her to occupy.

Tonight she was happier though knowing the friend of Twilight, Applejack, no linger suffered from her nightmare. It would be the first night she slept well since her return home. Twilight on the other hoof did not show such promise. Luna was afraid to converse with her over the turmoil afraid it would be too much to bear. An alicorn was meant to journey along that path alone. It was their destiny to discover the wonders of their new forms. Twilight though was a needy filly. Luna often disagreed over Celestias interventions, although she was surprised with the news she would soon become one of them. For now the Alicorn needed to be with her thoughts alone, at least the anger she felt buried her sadness. Soon she would accept it, they always did.

After the mare she would go to it once more without the slightest idea as to why.

*

Applejack awoke to see her body covered by a simple blanket. She felt hot lifting it clear to let the cold wind momentarily cool her. She was illuminated by light from a nearby fire, the creature sitting by it, tending to its knife rinsing the blood off in a pot of water. The dripping of water from it was soothing. That pot and bucket she had lost three days ago, it seemed her suspicions about being stalked were not insane after all. She was relieved however that she was still around, that voice she listened to was right. Now though it had her here, for what reason she did not yet understand. She Held still for a moment feeling the breathing chest of a large animal next to her. Slowly turning she screamed scrambling away in shock seeing the wolfs head right by her, those horrible teeth visible through the transparent surface. The wolf jumped to its feet, bearing the teeth and searching around expectantly for the threat, not focused on Applejack. She heard the monster knock the bucket over and saw it standing prone, knife drawn and at the ready scanning the darkness. The flames dances on the blade, now she could see it was crudely fashioned from some type of stone or gem. It turned its back to the fire and eased towards her, facing away in the night. A sharp exhale from the wolf made her jump. The monster sheathed its blade with its own exhale. In that short moment the two had surrounded her, backs faced outwards protectively. This did little to comfort her seeing the two beasts this close. The wolf lay down complacently to return to her sleep and the monster turned to her. Glancing over her it laughed, deep and loud wheezing at the sight. She looked down at her hooves and saw she had torn the blanket that was gripped between them from the fright. She was embarrassed at being this jumpy tonight.

“Its not funny!”

“I laugh with relief my dear!”

The sounds of crickets echoed in the night, a soothing rhythm over the breeze gliding in the meadow grass. A cold nose rubbed against her, the wolf sniffing then returning to its slumber, by her once more. She slowly recalled the events of the day, remembering now she looked at her back leg, it was expertly bandaged. The agony had become a pleasant tingling sensation and she slowly put her weight on it, relived it did not cry out again. The creature returned to the bucket, placing it neatly by some saddle bags, most likely also stolen from another pony. She looked at the dressing again. The blood she had seen on the knife.

“Try to keep off it. It will need time to heal. The damage was nothing permanent and the risk of infection is gone.”

“How did you...?” she trails off unable to construct the question.

“Some herbs a friend of yours enlightened me with.”

“Fluttershy?”

“Good, I wasn’t mistaken. Not her but a bizarre stripped one who speaks only in cryptic rhyme. truth be told she is helpful but annoying.” Applejack thought about the mysterious stripped one and wondered how it knew her.

“Zecora?”

“I help with her ingredients and potions and she does my medicines in kind.” Applejack was amazed how well travelled this creature was in such a short time. To establish dominance in this dark place, ally itself with a crystal wolf, which she never thought possible, and strike a system with Zecora. Not to mention steal her property. “Before I forget I have prepared some answers. No doubt you have questions.” She was very confused but sat down a comfortable distance from the wolf and the monster. “You were asleep and the trap was easier to remove, less pain. The trap is mine, never meant for you and I am deeply sorry you were caught in it. I have not seen your kind this far out and I felt it was safe to lay them there. The wolf behind you is a friend, I trust her with my life and she does hers to me in kind. She is without a pack and we happened serendipitously across one another. Your leg will be better by morning, owing to the brew. I insist on escorting you as far as the orchards of your plantation to apologise for the distress I caused you, and the fact that my friends,” It waved its arm above it in a circle, “Are out there right now. They are some type of wolf, No match for us,” the wolf proudly raised its head, “Especially her. For tonight you are safe, you have my word. I think that covers it.” She was taken aback by the creatures clarity. It sounded nothing like it did in the cell. In the light she could see the grime was washed away leaving the features less sinister. It had healed nicely from the battle. It wore garments still, now more torn than she remembered. It was a great relief to not be its next meal.

“Just one question.”

“Oh?” the creature looked genuinely surprised

“Why for ponies sake have you been stalking me!”

“Oh...” it said again with realisation, “Forgot that one.” She awaited its response as it stared at the fire in thought.

“Well?”

“I wasn’t. She was.” Applejack turned to the wolf, she gave a yawn and returned her head to the legs ready to sleep but still glancing up at Applejack with apologetic eyes. The sight made her smile, a thumping noise drew her attention to the stump where its tail should be, it hit the ground repeatedly and she felt the need to reach out and stroke the smooth body. “She likes you. I myself do not understand it. Nor is it my place to. I followed her to your farm and all she did was simply watch you.” Applejack was very creeped out knowing they were both there the whole time and she had missed such a large beast prow;ing around.

“Why?” she was bewildered.

“My dear that wolf is ten fold more cryptic than the rhyming striped one. As I said I trust her. She does not hunt your kind-”

“Ponies,” she corrected it.

“Ponies, she was not searching for something, I have given up trying to understand.” She found herself gazing on a scar than ran across the monsters face, the hair it trekked through no longer grew, a deep wound. She did not remember seeing it in the cell. It turned its face to hide the scar, “Rest now. We will leave tomorrow when you’re ready. There are some fruits for you to eat should you feel peckish.”

“Umm...thank you?”

“I agree this is rather awkward. Not the first time mind you she has placed me in these situations.” The wolf had now gone to sleep, breathing deeply. “How are you feeling?” It spoke casually to her as though nothing had happened. Yet again Granny’s voice came; ‘make the best of every situation, even a rainy day can be a good one if you choose to like the pitter patter.’ With that she decided to follow the monsters lead. It was their enemy, it had caused a lot of turmoil, this may be some trick. For now though it had helped her, although it was its own snare that did this to her. At least it was warm here by the fire and she trusted her instinct. It told her there was no danger now.

“A little better thanks, you and your critter gave me a right good fright. Something does bug me...who are the traps for?

“If you truly want to know it may unnerve you. Those traps are for my food. Do you wish me to elaborate?” She paused to think for a moment. “It means expand on the description.”

“I know what it means!”

“Sorry.”

“You should be. Don’t go thinking I’m some silly filly! You got that?”

“Yes M’am.”

She smiled as it looked away guiltily, “Well it’s not that strange...every predator around these parts eats something. We just have to be careful and make sure its not us!”

“That’s good. I like that. You see my kind function better with such nutrition. It is the way we were built. What I eat is whatever can be eaten. You need not worry though, I prefer insects; better nutrition and far easier to prepare and cook. These fruit spiders however,” it pointed to the large body of one lying by the fire. She was shocked but then again she hated spiders, "They are very easy to snare, a little fight but it is not enough. One can last a while.”

“Well as long as you don’t go after us.”

“Don't flatter yourself!” A casual laugh was shared while they stared at the fire. The monster became very solemn, focussing on its claws.

“Hows the princess?”

“Not good. She has something special for you if you come back.”

“I’ll make a point of staying away now.”

“Good, we’ve got enough troubles without you scaring the apples out of us.”

“What about the mare who...” It trailed off unable to finish. The concern was strange for her. It was almost as if it cared. Most likely wanting to enjoy the news of her suffering. Applejack could feel that bitterness again, she would not give this beast the satisfaction.

“She is doing great. Everypony wants to help out and she is feeling worlds better.” She did not believe what she saw, a smile.

“That’s some good news.”

“What?”

“Miss. Can I ask you something? It’s a little important, something to do with one who lost her wings.”

“You can’t get her anymore.”

“I don’t want to. My question is...what happened back there when my friend here came to carry you?”

“Pardon?” Applejack was not gullible. She knew this was a ploy.

“I mean from the forest a few moments ago. Did anything odd happen?” A sickening grip held her stomach as she remembered that change and the terror she felt. She did not know what had happened then. Clearly it did not either. That was too elaborate to be a trick, for she had felt it instinctively.

“The wolves grew a might more afraid for a minute.”

“Did I say anything?”

“Just that she did not let you ride her.”

“ I see...alright, thank you.

She could not stop herself, now in a position to get some answers that Twilight desperately needed. “Why do you want to know?”

“One moment my friend here was next to me, the next she was next to you and those wolves were whimpering. I do not know what happened. I just don’t know.”

“Did you umm...black out?”

“I just don’t know miss. I just don’t know,” it repeated.

“What does that have to do with the mare you hurt?” she bitterly asked.

“It would explain why I cant remember...” it trailed off and the claw made circular motions.

“You really think I’m dumber than a colt in the middle of beauty pageant.”

“Excuse me?”

“How could you not remember that? Isn’t that a little too convenient! You ripped the wings from her body. Listen to that! FROM HER BODY! What’s wrong with you?” Her outburst did not fall on deaf ears. The creature hung its head, a long sigh passing over the claws.

“I just-”

“Don’t know!” she shouted in irritation. She could see the creature was confused but at last it was showing what she hoped was emotion. She wanted it to feel that sting and never forget it. That feeling of terror though, her instincts were never wrong. Something had changed. If this creature could black out it would explain one thing about its arrival and prove it had been truthful with them.

“I did not ask the question for you Miss. As long as you answered honestly I can use what I have learned.”

“You really expect me to believe you can’t remember that? I’m sorry but that’s one shiny cart with a heap of milage.” The creature turned sharply away from her holding its head with one claw. From the bag it pulled out a cloth and she could hear it sniff while it wiped the snout. Before her curiosity could coax her to go closer it returned the bunched up rag. She did not know what to make of it.

“No. I do not expect you to believe it Miss.” The sadness in the voice bore into her. She could not understand what was happening but it was strange. It was time to be gracious and coax a little more from it.

“How many have you had?”

“A few. I have kept myself far enough away that no creature has been harmed again. I’m fairly certain...”

“Do you think you will again, tonight?”

“You are quite safe Miss. You see that little lady behind you will keep me in check. She’s done it before.”

“Well thats good to know.”

“It’s probably late now. I suggest you get your sleep.”

“Alright,: she hesitate, "Goodnight then...what’s your name anyway?”

“I still will not say.”

“Why?”

“Ambiguity deepens my isolation.”

“Don’t tell me then. It’s not important.” She shifted away from the wolf but it rolled by her again. It was clear she could not avoid it so she gave in and leaned against her. The belly was strangely soft. Soft glass felt odd, a perfectly smooth pillow almost. “Goodnight then ambiguity.”

The creature chuckled. “No it isn’t.” The dull steps of the monster brought another blanket to rest over her. It was very comfortable, a little hot so she let it cover her back legs and flank. She felt strangely safe without a tent. One side was a tall fire, the other was the crystal wolf, it felt secure. She let the weariness set in and she nestled to sleep with a little home spun wisdom from Granny. ‘I’ll sleep on it, worry about it tomorrow.’

“Goodnight Miss.”