Timberwolves: Guardians of the Everfree

by Keystone Gray

First published

A research paper on the timberwolves, exploring their creation, purpose, and their connection to the Everfree Forest.

Timberwolves: Guardians of the Everfree
By Blackthorn of Thicket, Princess Luna of Canterlot, and Apex of Everfree.

This volume explores the colorful, mythical tale of the Everfree timberwolves. Part history and part study, the authors provide their experiences, discoveries, and stories. From creation, design, and communication, to the ecological impact of these golems, a full breadth of topics are explored. Each author has hoof-crafted and raised at least one timberwolf, and today the legend of the Vorku species is finally shared with the world.

Edited by Blue Sky of Colt Creek, author of The World At Large: An Explorer's Guide.
©11 AR, Canterlot Royal Press. Originally published in 11 AR, all rights reserved.

Foreword by the Authors

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Timberwolves: Guardians of the Everfree

First Edition


V

Princess Luna of Canterlot
Blackthorn of Thicket
Apex of Everfree


Distributed By

Royal Canterlot Press
Canterlot, Equestria


Editor's Note

I have always held a deep, respectful fondness for the Everfree Forest.

It is dark, mysterious, and beautiful all at once. At night, from the western border village of Heartwood, one can see lights glimmering and glowing in the darkened distance, evidence of some ghostly life that yet thrives. The fireflies of Equestria are but mere simple greens, but the magic of the Everfree twists their lights toward vibrant oranges and cool violets. Flowers absorb this glow when they bloom to light the darkness, and certain rare mushrooms cast a radiant aura of magical power, with varying effects. Indeed, many plants there are revered by alchemists the world over for their healing properties, and some other flora are recognized for their sentient nature.

But only the brave dare to tread in the Everfree Forest. For despite all of its aesthetic beauty and the good it brings to the rest of our world, the Everfree remains the most deadly and dangerous territory at our Equestrian borders.

The village of my birth, Colt Creek, is a half day's travel from this forest. As foolish youths, my sister Apex and I would often tempt fate, daring one another to enter the forbidden land, which we knew was sovereign and free from pony influence. Our friends and elders were keen to warn us of the monsters that lurked deep within, and so we never traveled too far in those days. How right they were! But even as fear rooted us to the safety of Equestria, our imaginations ran wild, and from this we gathered our drive to explore and understand... and so we did, growing to be the adventurers we are today.

While there is excitement in the unknown, there is also danger. But as we acquire knowledge, we also acquire safety. There is still so much more we ponies and deer do not know about this place, so shrouded in myth and mystery as it is, even a millennium on. It is thus our sincere hope that this volume encourages other explorers, ecologists, and scientists to probe and delve its secrets as we have, but to do so in a manner most respectful to its conservation.

We humbly ask that if any feel so inspired to explore, that you prepare adequately with more knowledge than equipment, with more consideration than armament. Learn from your predecessors. Above all else, we implore you to learn survival techniques that do not upset the delicate balance of the magical woods. Failing this, you might attract the dangerous attention of the Guardians of the Everfree.

But for those so driven only to teach and learn, we graciously welcome you.

Blue Sky
Corpspony of Royal Discovery


Acknowledgements

This book would have been impossible to write without the assistance of several other experts in this field. The authors would like to thank Zecora of the Everfree, Hopscotch of Heartwood, and His Highness Prince Bramble of Thicket for their contributions to the alchemical sciences of the Everfree Forest. We also humbly express our gratitude to Her Royal Majesty, Princess Celestia, for her encouragement and endorsement of this volume.

We thank the timberwolves known as Grand, Kahruvel, and Nyx'it, beloved by the authors and now each returned to the forest as Guardians. They have each provided invaluable insight into the mannerisms, behaviors, and eccentricities of their race, both as individuals and as the embodiment of the forest's will. We are grateful for their eternal service.


About The Authors

Royal Warden Blackthorn serves as Captain of the Dierguard for the current ruler of the Dierkahl, King Aspen. Born in Thicket, Blackthorn is a master of the traditional deer arts of animal husbandry and warding. His expertise includes the interaction of timberwolves with the currently existing ecosystem of the Everfree Forest, including the many other magical species that exist therein. Blackthorn is also an expert concerning the shared Old Language, known as Cerfish to the deer or Old Ponish to ponies. He has raised one timberwolf, so known as Kahruvel, whose territory includes the western Everfree.

"Ton wisp'it es ton quiva vida, fosi nyeli kah.
Sim nyali paka dahtta, kahru, nyeli leka sah."


Her Royal Majesty, Princess Luna of Canterlot, was born over a millennium ago in a small, unnamed village in what is now known as the Everfree Forest. As an Alicorn and equal ruler beside Princess Celestia, she participated in the second pony tribe unification, bringing about Equestria as we know it today. As a firsthoof source, Princess Luna was present for all historical retrospectives within this volume. In preparation for the Dark War, she raised one timberwolf known as Nyx'it, who watches over the ancient ruins of our pony ancestors to this day.

"Memki soh nei tantibus, nei etern sinsa vlei,
Nyei desta es taiet drema: pass fleyt nei lohkei."


Apex of Everfree is an earth pony from Colt Creek. From a very young age, Apex learned and mastered the arts of woodcraft and archery, developing a strong respect for nature through her upbringing. Apex is a guide for traders and travelers who wish to pass through the Everfree, and also serves as de facto liaison and translator for Dierkahl and Equestrian dignitaries. Her timberwolf Grand is most commonly seen roaming near to main roads and thoroughfares, ever watchful, keen to keep travelers separate from the dangers of the woods beyond.

"Nousheri kinyu, chai nei, cereta ret vanna.
Nyu temfyu, sikna Teikyun, es vel'ki ichnesa."


Dedication

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We the authors would like to dedicate this volume to Homefront and Stalwart Grace; to Water Lily, Ironshod, King Alpine; to Tall Oak and Dogrose; and to all other beings whose sacrifices breathed life into others. Your gifts were not given in vain. We, your friends, your children, your brothers and sisters, your nieces and nephews, and your descendants, shall cherish your memory always.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. A MOST DESPERATE GENESIS - PRINCESS LUNA
2. INTRODUCTION OF RELEVANT SPECIES - BLACKTHORN
3. GUIDING INTENTIONS - APEX
4. VORKU COMMUNICATION, CERFISH LANGUAGE - BLACKTHORN
5. TIMBERWOLF ADOLESCENCE - APEX
6. ETHOLOGY AND ADULTHOOD - BLACKTHORN
7. THE MAUSOLEUM OF GUARDIANS - PRINCESS LUNA
8. THE DANGERS OF LATENT DARK MAGIC - APEX
9. ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LETTING GO - PRINCESS LUNA
10. AUTRAR NA FI TEIKYUNE, BE FI DIERKAHL


1. A Most Desperate Genesis, by Princess Luna

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A Most Desperate Genesis

By Princess Luna


A thousand years ago, in the summer of 1012 B.R., the Everfree Forest entered a state of war.

A vast army of spectral warriors, 45,000 strong, moved with wanton rage through these magical woods, devouring everything in their path and leaving a barren and desolate wasteland in their wake. These specters appeared as dark ponies, each a black void silhouette with a savage, hateful green-red glow in their eyes. All creatures caught in their path perished, both large and small, and the folk of the wood fled in panic.

At the head of this destructive force stood King Sombra, an umbrum warrior given form as a pony and corrupted by the hateful magic of his ancient race. Unlike the specters of his army, Sombra was typically corporeal, though he could shift into a cloud of darkness at will. Those precious few witnesses who survived encounters with Sombra each describe him with utter horror, for his form was always distorted by the mind magics he used to torment his enemies. As one who has faced Sombra personally, I know him to have a permanently vicious disposition, taking the form of a dark unicorn clad in plate armor with a red cape, a wild black mane, and a glowing red horn.

Sombra had freed the umbrum army from the crust of the earth, from beneath the Crystal Empire. They were but a remnant of a war much more ancient than even I, from a time where darkness was not the exception, but the norm. But alas, after such a long repose, his soldiers were not whole. They were wild and broken, mere literal shadows of their former selves, driven insane by their imprisonment in the crystals they were drawn from. In desperation to repair his ancient kin, Sombra struck out south to feed his evil army, his dark forces gorging themselves on the magic of the Everfree Forest.

Then as today, the Everfree was flush with life unlike any other place on Equus; it was home to vast numbers of magical creatures: the undying phoenixes, reptiles made of living stone, and ferocious chimeras that will not survive beyond the borders of the wood’s magic. Then as today, countless beings relied on the power of this forest for their life and sustenance. This is especially so for the two nations who inhabited it, each rising together to resist this new threat.

In the south-east, our recently reunited pony tribes of Equestria held their capitol in the Castle of the Two Sisters. Princess Celestia and I, Rulers of the Day and Night, stood in defense of our home. Our subjects consisted solely of ponyfolk. Even then, our race held great power over reality through our magics.

Our fledgling nation of earth, pegasi, and unicorn banded together, moving first in defiance of Sombra’s horde. Yet despite our power, we failed in combating this ethereal foe. When our front line fell, our outskirt settlements were swallowed whole before we could sound the alarm to evacuate them. Ponies fled southward, moving deeper into the forest and to our grand castle, where all who were old enough to serve were subsequently recruited and trained for war.

We were quick to realize, however, that this would not be a conventional war.

To the north-west, much closer to the chaos that encroached from all sides, was the deer nation of Dierkahl. Their ruler, King Alpine, Heart of the Forest, likewise unified his nation's citizens in their grand tree city of Thicket. There, he trained a fierce militia, deploying their powerful army of rangers to the field. Unlike ponies, the deer had no innate casting magic. However, as the land's original natives, their unique sense for the alchemical arts and animal husbandry gave their race mythical command over natural magics far and beyond what any pony magic was capable of at the time. Each deer, soldierly or not, was also a consummate pathfinder, and so they retreated most effectively from the dark hordes. To Equestria's relief, deer scouts heroically rescued many ponies as they scouted the land for the enemy, leading them to safety.

What was once an uneasy neutrality between our nations became a strong alliance through our shared adversity, and we strove together to solve the crisis that threatened our home. Pony and deer scientists convened in Thicket, the stronghold most directly in danger of spectral onslaught, for their city was more northward than ours. In pooling our knowledge, we developed a clearer picture of the enemy.

The ghost-like specters proved immune to physical attack and resistant to our magical spells. Each pony tribe brought their unique strengths to bear, and yet, each testimony confirmed that the horde could not be fought through any conventional methods. We attempted all possible improvisation. Pegasi valiantly attempted to slow the advance of the army through inclement weather, inciting lightning storms over the enemy to blacken the trees. This seemed to slow their feeding. Unicorns set warding and shielding traps along the army’s route and hurled volley after volley of magical artillery at our foes from afar. We tried every spell we knew, and even some new ones, each pioneered in our desperation.

We also tried our hooves at the alchemical science of the deer, hoping to bring our own fresh perspective by mixing it with our magic. This is where our most notable developments occurred, with earth ponies using their cultivating prowess to form new crossbreeds of flora that might aid our cause. Our first breakthroughs came soon thereafter, for our cooperative developments of alchemy created the first enchanted woods that were more resistant to the umbrum specters than standard trees.

We persisted, emboldened by our discoveries, and the deer also used their own master crafts to good effect. Our soldiers were issued potions that were tailored to mute or slow specter absorption of "the forest's soul," as the deer called it, and these potions could be applied to trees to harden them from assault. This proved very effective as a stopgap. But more time was needed, and these measures were merely delaying the inevitable.

Desperate to stave off the end, deer scouts commanded valiant battalions of the most dangerous creatures of the Everfree. Hydras joined the fight, and so too did the sapient and spiteful chimeras and cockatrices, who twisted vines and created trenches that would slow the enemy. Cragodiles drained their sulfur bogs and used the bubbling liquid to fill the rivers, turning them toxic, which seemed to delay our foe. Creatures who could dig beneath the ground did so, lying in wait beneath the mud to ambush the corporeal Sombra as he passed, hoping to assassinate him directly. But the specters still proved resistant to all of these physical delaying measures, ethereal and intangible as they were, and they could almost sense life out even if it burrowed underground or fled to the sky.

The shadows pursued all with a vicious hunger, turning from formlessness to vague pony shapes when necessary, and no stratagem appeared to be effective for long; Sombra adapted continuously, learning from our methods. One by one, our soldiers and their creature battalions were murdered, drained of life. The enemy held no sympathy. They showed no mercy. They brokered no quarter, accepted no surrender. All creatures were equally edible. Resistance or submission, it made no difference; each creature was devoured. We and the deer mourned the losses greatly.

Of these creature battalions, the dire wolf species unique to the Everfree Forest survived the longest. Cunning and adaptive, these natural hunters of the forest were the most resistant to the spectral horror. They were already renowned in both of our cultures for their ferocity and intelligence, and survived far beyond the term of any other creature battalion. Under the command of deer, the dire wolves proved excellent guerilla soldiers: diverting the enemy through harassment, spreading the enemy army thin with their speed, and drawing the spectral forces in all wayward directions, causing great agitation for even Sombra himself. These forces were led by brave deer rangers who had each raised these wolves from birth. These noble beings, one and all, dutifully defended their home to the last.

For their efforts, these dire wolves suffered total extinction.


Information from every engagement was collected and painstakingly analyzed, the results studied vigorously, so hungry we were for knowledge of our foe. But it wasn’t enough. As the spectral army drew ever closer to the core of the Everfree, where our great castles and civil centers stood, hope began to wane.

The answer, most ironically, came from the specters themselves.

Several months before the army was predicted to arrive at Thicket, a mixed deer-and-pony scout platoon observed Sombra in his war camp. There, Sombra surrounded himself with strange, glowing red crystals, ones he had excavated from the caverns beneath the Crystal Empire. From these, Sombra tirelessly withdrew more specters, casting dark curses upon them until they were drained. The crystals faded as they were taxed, the formations flickering dark and crumbling, their magic expended.

The commander of this recon platoon determined that if these crystals were being used to create more specters, that they should be captured or destroyed at any cost. Despite the near clairvoyance of the specters, our soldiers had learned how to divert the enemy well by this time, dividing the spectral sentries with ultimately sacrificial feint attacks. Only ten of this platoon survived to reach the crystal trove. Of those, a mere three escaped, forced to watch over their shoulders as their comrades were descended upon by vulturous monsters, their souls devoured. The survivors split up their captured shards between them to increase their chance of success, baiting the enemy through the most lush territories to delay the ever-hungry pursuit. For days, the survivors each struck out through the thickest jungles. Only two of these scouts returned days later – one deer and one pegasus – both providing what would soon become our salvation.

These crystal shards were studied with newfound intensity, for this was our first true victory of the war. Our unicorn scientists further analyzed the composition of the crystals to determine their unique makeup and inert binding spells. Celestia and I participated in this research stage with our alicorn magics, focusing on two slivers of shards which still glowed. What we found frightened us. We sensed life within, in the same way we might detect a pony standing before us. But these beings, these crystals, harbored a directionless, fractured hate, one void of reason. They were completely and utterly insane.

Talks began among our researchers at this revelation. It was suggested that we fight fire with fire, that we create a spectral creature from these crystals, one capable of weaponizing the forest's energy. It was indeed quite an assumption that such a creation might even be possible, or that we could even control such a force. At first, this plan was met with stiff opposition by others of our best minds. Detractors speculated that success in creating these counter creatures might mean trading one great and unconquerable foe for another. Replicating the work of our enemy in our very home might mean our end.

However, no alternative solutions arose. Our options had been whittled down to two: attempt every available defensive measure, or lose everything using measures we knew were ineffective. In the end, we decided to gamble on a flicker of survival over none at all. Celestia, Alpine and I gave our reluctant blessing to go forth with a final, desperate effort.

Rather than use the crystals stolen from Sombra, the deer alchemists replicated these crystals very precisely with their alchemy, and their binding spells were replicated by unicorn magic. The resultant crystals were inert and soulless in their basic form. We would not use these crystals upon sentient beings, and so alternatives were sought. In experimentation, we pressed the very first crystals to a shrub in Thicket's central courtyard, hoping to somehow absorb its energy as our foes did. To our astonishment, it reacted. The shrub withered, its life force drawn into the crystal. Most strangely, the crystal began to glow a pleasant, radiant green, and not the dark red of its cousins. Its living soul was that of the forest; the vicious, hateful emotions which had plagued the red crystals were entirely absent. We had reverse engineered the enemy's weapons, but not the enemy's intent.

To say the least, our deer benefactors were not pleased with the loss of life required to charge the crystals. But even King Alpine himself recognized that sacrifice was the nature of war. Much had occurred throughout the recent months, and all would be lost if we did not make this last sacrifice now. We thus continued to feed the crystals with floral life.

But where to go from there? And how much were we willing to sacrifice to save our forest? Would we surrender the very forest itself to survive?

Certainly, we were highly aware that these crystals were vulnerable to our enemies in their current state, for they were a mere consolidation of the very food they craved. More than this, we knew not any of the spells Sombra used to draw the energy out into a spectral form, nor whether our specters would be capable of action, nor whether they would be immune to an assault by a highly experienced enemy specter, however deranged it might be. We combined our previous discoveries to find an answer. Earth ponies applied their resistant wood, and the deer treated them with their protective potions. Our unicorns then channeled their magic, attuning the crystals and binding them together with their new shells. By the end, we held several protective spheres of wood, a green soul crystal hidden inside each.

We weren't quite sure what we were doing, but such is the nature of desperation. Would we wear the crystal-wood hybrids into battle like armor? Would we line our city with the creations? Would they even prove effective at all, or would they simply become efficiently packaged food for the coming onslaught?

Little did we know how fortune would smile upon us. Though we could not fathom it, the forest could hear our desperate plea. So as with many other great inventions throughout history, our answer found us, manifesting through sheer, unexpected accident.


Weeks after the first crystal was created, a deer ranger returned home, having spent the day charging her assigned crystal. It had begun to glow a magnificent emerald green, an unprecedented event indeed, but this brokered no further result. Discomforted at the death of several trees to achieve this charge, the scout discarded the shell on her workbench and retired to her quarters, frustrated.

Her child, an innocent fawn named Beri, found the shell. Beri was very young, and though she knew her mother was a soldier, she knew not her mother's duties. Perhaps she might have known that something was wrong in her home city, and perhaps she knew how stressed every deer was. In those days, soldiers were very busy, and so she helped around the home for her mother when and where she could. At the age of two, she always cleaned up her messes, put away her toys, and dusted her room. On this day, Beri found her mother's crystal shell. Believing the discarded shell to be firewood, this fawn collected it and dutifully returned it to the pile of twigs beside their fireplace.

When Beri placed it down upon the pile, something incredible happened. The charged crystal emitted green glowing pulses again, each stretching out in all different directions. It reached for the twigs and sticks, grasping them with telekinetic power and pulling them close. One by one, they assembled, forming a small, quadrupedal golem made of wood. It was a specter, holding a vague shape with its wooden body as best it could.

Beri, not knowing any better, began to play with it in her amusement. The golem, not knowing any better, began to mimic the fawn's jumping, rolling, and bounding. Beri's mother returned to investigate the commotion, finding her daughter playfully wrestling with the golem. At first, the mother was alarmed, telling Beri to flee from the creature. Both the fawn and golem obediently fled, the golem scampering into a nearby store room. When Beri's mother commanded her daughter to return, so too did the golem, timid and slow.

It understood her words. More than this, it obeyed her. Beyond the mother's commands, it showed autonomy and curiosity as it watched Beri, trying to mimic her new friend's every move. It craved guidance and knowledge.

This discovery changed everything, and speculation ran rampant in Thicket. How did it understand? Why did it obey? Did the golem take an imprint of the soul of its creators, or was it telepathic? Were we expending our own life energy to charge them? Further, the creature began to express its own initiative, exploring its home independently of its creator's instructions. Now, there were ethical concerns. These creatures were inquisitive, sentient, and alive. We had sent so many adult creatures to die, but could we truly send mere infants to war on our behalf?

We did not have much time to debate these matters, however, for the enemy approached with great speed, fully unencumbered, for our final delaying measures had fallen.

Left with little other choice as we huddled in our final bastions, we moved forward with this lead. The deer began to experiment further, fashioning golems of larger size and complexity. It was quickly discovered that only a fully charged crystal would take hold of nearby wood, and the crystal’s size and charge dictated just how much mass it could support. In the final weeks of the war, when the enemy army approached to mere tens of miles from our walls and had devoured our densest forests, we threw ourselves into carpentry, eager to finish our desperate final option. All of those who held a sword dispensed with them, replacing their weapons with knives, saws, and whet stones. Even those without experience in woodwork were given blades and were told to improvise. As we forged the golems, our chemists mass produced crystal shells as quickly as we could, and our rangers sought out the few trees we still had left around the city.

It was King Alpine's suggestion that we give the golems forms akin to the Everfree dire wolves, to honor them for their ultimate sacrifice. So we did, immortalizing each new being – each new life – into the image of their bravest predecessors.


At last, I stood upon the final hill outside Thicket's walls and overlooked the clear-cut stretch of land, the result of our desperate craft. Princess Celestia and King Alpine were at my side. Together, we surveyed the approaching enemy army far to our northwest. Our trepidation was almost palpable, still unsure as we were of our final plan. We locked eyes with our enemies, their dark mass trampling the forest at the distance until they met the far treeline.

Behind us stood our army, our new youthful golems standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our soldiers. The deer and ponies of our forces were armed with shields imbued with magics known to resist spectral absorption, and with potions that would disperse a specter for a time - a delaying measure at best. I could feel the fear in us all. Thousands were assembled, and yet not one soldier spoke a word while we waited for what might be our end.

Mind, I have lived a long life. Few sensations are ever as unnatural or harrowing as to be assembled in a crowd as large as ours, but to hear nothing except deafening silence. Yes, we were fearful. But behind us laid Thicket, and within lived the vulnerable lives of our kin. Further beyond still, the Castle of the Two Sisters was nigh defenseless, and would be at the utter mercy of our enemies should we fall. Failure was not an option for us. To fail was to die and to lose everything, and so we stood our ground, wordless and determined, steeling our resolve and tempering it in silence.

Then, we saw him.

Sombra's form carried along above his army, wrapped in shadow and propelling himself like a cloud. But when he noticed us from the distance, he halted. Moments later, we heard Sombra's screeching howl echo through the chill air, issuing some dark command. His army accelerated in unison, wheeling suddenly in our direction through the empty, rolling hills of stumps. Sombra took solid form and landed upon a large rock, his hateful gaze upon us with equal parts recognition and fury. His army looked like a dark ocean, swirling around his perch and flowing like water. The evil horde tripped over itself in haste, pouring towards us like a wave, a sea of hateful shadows growing ever closer. The trees behind them were darkened and withered underhoof, their leaves and branches shriveling into nothing. We could hear them, too. They approached like thunder, screeching in rage, the sound of their ghastly hooves displacing the ground as it sucked the life upward, kicking up charred dust as they raced to devour us.

King Alpine raised a hoof. He drew in a deep breath. When the enemy closed within three hundred yards, his hoof fell forward, pointing at our foe, unleashing our forces with two simple words.

“Vorku! Eda!”

From behind us flew our army of wooden golems, their faces like wolven masks, each crafted of oak and hickory and fir, of redwood and greywood and pine. The clatter of wood thundered around us now, drowning out the stampeding sound of Sombra's soldiers. A battle cry sounded from the deer and pony infantry, who sallied forth in the wake of our infant timberwolves. Neither force slowed, no hesitation in their charge. We charged our spells, readied our weapons and shields, and moved like the wind. For better or worse, we knew that the end of our struggle was near.

Then, what we saw ahead astonished us... flooding us with a long forgotten hope.

Our valiant force of wooden warriors howled without fear, their battle cry rumbling the ground beneath our hooves as they collided with the enemy. They grasped onto the evil spirits, latching on with wooden claws that were charged with equal spectral force, oppressively crushing the dark army between the might of their magically charged jaws. Sombra's specters were wrest from his control, the sharpened wooden teeth puncturing through and destroying their dark integrity. Magical energy dispersed violently, exploding with a blinding white energy from the overfed dark shadows, the forest's magic fleeing back to the trees.

Though our timberwolves were outnumbered sixfold, we quickly realized that this was not a battle, but a feast. A portion of each kill drained back into our creations, green tendrils of energy seeping into their eyes, making them grow even more powerful and energetic. Every kill strengthened their drive. In the wake of our army, a roaring cloud of ghostly white creatures burst from each kill, taking form all around us. These were will-o-the-wisps, each taking the form of the forest animals slain by Sombra's forces. Wolves, rabbits, falcons, bears, boars, cragadiles, squirrels and mice, ursas, cockatrices, manticores, chimeras, phoenixes, and more. Each imprint lingered in the air for a few moments, then dissipated, evaporating, carried by the wind to return to the forest, their souls free forever more.

As our foes crumbled, we all cheered, a wave of elation and relief flowing through us all as our spirits soared. At last, blessed morale. At last, death was no longer a certainty, and we channeled that energy into our charge. We massed for a final assault on Sombra himself, and he retreated; soon he was alone, the coward's howls of rage and anger making him easy for us to pursue westward through the thick forest. Our timberwolves raced after him ahead of us, each sharing in our desire to protect our home. In the final hour, with his back to the forest's edge, Sombra was surrounded by wooden soldiers.

As we moved to strike, the power of the Everfree moved with us, its life magic converging at the point of his retreat as Sombra's grasp upon the Everfree loosened. I could feel it beneath my hooves, the sensation of overcharging magic overwhelming my senses as it coursed through us all. My horn stung and ached, and my teeth vibrated in my skull, the source of this force gathering in the distance before me. As Sombra at last released his oppressive grip, there was a great, cataclysmic explosion of light, the sky turning white, bringing an end to the Dark War. Then, Sombra teleported away... at last surrendering the forest to its new Guardians.

The rest, as they say, is history.

2. Introduction of Relevant Species, by Blackthorn

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Introduction of Relevant Species

By Blackthorn


Lament for the Lost

Quantem, nyei kie leken destra,
Iy krahtt na nyei drema, sketra.
Quar 'yuut nyali loktat nyu tem?
Leka nyu eva in chel fehm?

Nai smosha soh sah yeletkai
soh sikna messta fror nyx nyu.
Bel nai reptem pishva na qua
nyu'uut na nyeli vel Vorku.


Origin of Wisps

To truly understand a Guardian of the Evavrai, one must understand the food they eat.

When the life of the forest fell under Sombra's darkness, all creatures were trampled, be they magical or otherwise. Our ancestors watched helplessly as their lands were ravaged bare. The vessels of their kin were pierced, and our life oozed into the mouths of our enemy. Holy sites and burial grounds were defaced, blackened, and ruined by the tantabus army, lost forever.

As we were driven to the edge of extinction, our sacrifices mounted. But in the wake of our humility, we found that the sacrifices were not for naught. For in unleashing the Guardians, the Teikyun, many lost spirits were reclaimed, returned to the forest for all of eternity.

In the wake of the final battle, the ghostly white wildlife that fled the specters gradually manifested, wandering the forest and becoming permanent fixtures in our territories. They appeared to be all of the creatures once slain by the enemy. The will-o-the-wisps were born. But unlike the dark specters before them, these ghostly rabbits, foxes, birds, and others only gently fed upon the magic of the forest. They were not aggressive, but passive, retaining the mannerisms of their former selves and preferring to avoid others as any wild creature does.

As they travel the forest, they collect its energy. When appropriately gorged, the wisps turn from white to ethereal blue, becoming more lively, active, sometimes aggressive, and finally tangible, capable of interacting with our world once more. This was similar to the Ursa, the two gigantic bear-like wisp creatures which had roamed the Evavrai before the war. Most curiously, the Ursa themselves had returned as well, but their behavior had drastically changed.

Soon, all wisps began to drain the forest's power with increasing speed. The shadow had returned.

As we stood witness to the creation of tens of thousands of creatures of all shapes and sizes, we were at a loss about how to respond. They exhibited traits analogous to our darker foes, and so these new beings thus terrified our two nations, challenging our very belief systems and ways of life.


Study of Prey

Consider the tale of Hemlock, the last Priest of the Ursa Minor.

The deer of old worshiped the two Ursas, seeing them as oracles of change. Behavioral analysis of these creatures had always revealed when something was amiss somewhere in its territory. The prestigious position of Ursa Priest was one of only two; Minor, and Major. Hemlock's charge was to follow his appointed Ursa, to chronicle its travels and habits, and to note any changes in their behavior to the Kahl at once. Because these Ursal observations often led to sweeping changes of national policy, Order records have been exceptionally well preserved through the Old Ages, and so we have come about the journals of Hemlock.

After the death of his Ursa Minor by Sombra's horde, Hemlock was distraught, for his duty was his life's work of fifty some years. To express his anger and allay his depression, Hemlock immediately turned to documenting the Dark War. After, when the Ursas returned as wisps, Hemlock was elated, happily resuming his charge. He followed his appointed Ursa as before.

Curiously, it began small, though it was unmistakably the Minor, positively identified by the star-like constellations visible in its ectoplasm. But despite its small size, it grew as it fed, and it grew, and grew... and Hemlock followed, watching in confusion as it outgrew even its former size. Left unabated, he noted, it would soon rival the old Ursa Major, and in its wake, the forest began to wither once more. Hemlock knew in his heart of hearts that something was wrong, that something must be done, but at first could not accept this, blinded by the sheer joy of his Ursa returning from the grave.

Then, on the fourteenth day of his resumed duties, Hemlock watched helplessly as the great Ursa Minor was challenged by a dozen Vorku. They were united in purpose, barring its passage, attacking relentlessly as soon as they had arrived. The Ursa was rent asunder before Hemlock's very eyes.

His fury was matched only by his confusion.

"There I stood," Hemlock writes, "in the presence of my god, which had turned on us and consumed the Forest's Soul. There I stood, watching the Vorku teeth dig into its pelt, gnash at its constellations, and shatter them into sparking flashes that dazzled the eyes. The Minor roared with a fury and pain unlike any other, helpless as a wounded bird before rats. The Vorku pulsed green as they ate, no doubt satisfied. I called out to them, begging them to cease, but my pleas were ignored. In that moment, a conflicting feeling frightened and challenged me: Of relief, for the Ursa's betrayal was over. Immediately distraught at this feeling, I wanted to resign my Priesthood and to leave the Order in shame. My entire life's work was challenged, and now seemingly invalidated for the second time this year.

"Was I loyal to my beloved Ursa? Yes. Was I loyal to the Forest? Always. But would I dive into action to defend Her against the Vorku, hurling potions, locking antlers, surely giving my life to save my deity which had forsaken us? I could not, with my old bones. I was lost, despondent, unable to rise against the whims of this new force of nature, barely capable of comprehending its meaning. So I did only what was natural, and what I have always done. I watched and recorded, as was my duty."

When it finally died, the Ursa shattered into mist, and its magic was released back to the land.

The silver-blue energy exploded in all directions, blinding Hemlock for moments. It cast the grass up, the green blades growing three times their height in mere moments. The branches of trees were suddenly laden with fruit of all kinds. Flowers sprouted from the ground, bloomed, and blossomed in seconds. The sheer amount of power released by the mighty Ursa was so great that the forest absorbed it for nearly a full mile in each direction, and the path of decay wrought by its travel was immediately restored. Hemlock leapt with fright as the light came for him, his own body launched aside as a strawberry bush appeared from the dirt beneath his very hooves.

The Vorku could not eat all of the spectral magic, so full as they were, as their capacity was naturally limited by the size of their golems, and so the excess was returned to the land. With their duty completed, they left, bounding swift and silent into the night, returning home to their deer and pony caretakers that very evening.

Hemlock's study of this phenomena was the first of its kind. Soon, when he understood what had occurred, his fury faded away entirely, replaced by his own studious drive. Lacking his Ursa Minor, he was left with nothing to study but the wisps and Vorku themselves.

He came to note that this growth and propagation of forest bounty occurs each time a Vorku feasts upon a wisp, even those as small as a rodent. The larger the wisp, the larger the bounty. A small rabbit wisp might, upon dispersal, provide one or two pears or apples, perhaps even just one bush of strawberries if the wisp is sufficiently charged. All of the fruit is real, tangible, edible, succulent, safe, and well sought after for its flavor. Deer had begun to eat the fruit, as did the living creatures of the forest. The Vorku thus made collection of food simpler than it had ever been. All living forest creatures, both sapient and not, now thrived in the wake of our Guardians, our herbivorous hunger becoming a long forgotten concern.

When the Ursa Minor manifested for a third time, Hemlock did not resume his ancient and most revered traditional duty. Under the new order of the Vorku, he knew all had been changed. To chronicle the Guardians was Hemlock's new responsibility, so ordered by Kahl Alpine, restructuring the Order into its new and current form. In the final eight years of his life, Hemlock would dedicate himself fully to the study of these changes. From his writings, we drew much of our first knowledge of this new ecology.


Wisp Life Cycles

Formerly consumed wisps spawn anew under new cycles of the moon, casting awake at dusk and thriving until late morning. They will then absorb themselves into a tree to hide among its energy, safe from the sun and Vorku during the day. Vorku are thus most active at the same hours as wisps, hunting until they are either full or until the hunting period expires, though they may forgo a hunt if wisp populations are low or if the Vorku are at an energy surplus.

The intensity with which a wisp will feed on the forest depends entirely on the state of the moon. At full or waxing moon states, wisps grow rapidly and regenerate to a full state, turning full blue within minutes of manifestation. At a new or waning moon, the wisp population is at its lowest, and they will feed more slowly upon flora, first appearing as a white cloud for days or even weeks until they can gather enough energy to sustain a more steady form.

While we have a dearth of knowledge regarding wisps in their corporeal state, little is known of their regeneration process after they are fed upon. More strange to us is that deer or pony wisps have also never been observed, neither now nor in the records collected just after the war. Perhaps they are still out there, avoiding contact in some of the older ruins now long lost to time; others posit that their souls live on within the Vorku themselves, or perhaps have always been there to begin with. These are but two prevalent theories, each with their own issues and flaws, and so this topic remains a heated debate among deerkind.

No matter what that truth might be, this truth is certain: in the wake of the Dark War, the ecology of the Evavrai was indelibly altered by the relationship between the Vorku and their wisps. Today, there would be no forest without the Vorku, there would be no Vorku without the wisps, and there would be no wisps without the forest. Together, they now form a permanent and symbiotic connection with our homeland.

3. Guiding Intentions, by Apex

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Guiding Intentions

By Apex


Our Dream for the Forest

Fi enfei na nei kahl turb'yor la, ton sparka fi enfei in nyei.
Iy nyeli eksiy drema fror nyeli fi vel, es nyeli etern lega.
Fleyt vanna, nai cereta nyu,
a vida ret a ichnesa,
a vive ret a stahtesa,
ton by sim nyali leka: Teikyune na fi Vel.


Year 0, After Reunification.

Wandering into the Everfree alone was the best stupid decision I ever made.

It all started with a dream I had for my friends and family. My sister, Sugar Song, had a penchant for specialty herbal teas, and my friend Hopscotch was an alchemist who specialized in medicines, and both were quite vocal in their wish to trade with Canterlot. My inspiration to help them really was as simple as that. Unfortunately, the only thing that stood between them and their dreams was the Everfree Forest.

The Everfree had always presented a logistical difficulty in our region. It spans almost 13,000 square miles of territory, separating Sound Valley from the rest of Equestria. Beginning from the north border with the Crystal Empire, it spans southward across almost half of our country. Because a trade connection to the capitol of Canterlot usually precedes strong economic power, it was natural that ponies from the west would want to trade with the east.

Going around the South Everfree route led to certain financial loss if a caravan was ever delayed; the caravan's support services would naturally cost more for longer travels. The risks of a caravan outweighed the benefits in almost every regard, and so one always gambled when they sent goods along this route.

To Sound Valley, the Everfree was an immutable fact of life, its imposing wall of trees a reality that had to be accepted. I, on the other hoof, refused to accept that any problem was truly impossible to solve, least of all this, and so one day I made a decision. To help my friends and family, I would become a pathfinder: to see the unseen, and to document it all. Come Tartarus or high water – Canterlot or bust – I would find a safe path through.


Considering my affinity for the outdoors, I felt I was uniquely qualified to solve this issue. Adventure was in my heart and soul, after all. In my youth, I was a little troublemaker, often leading my father to headaches for "exploring" the backyards of our neighbors. As one might imagine, my father was not pleased, but he could see the value in what I enjoyed doing and sought to refocus my adventurous energy.

He had taken me hiking, and I fell in love with it immediately, often blazing new trails up the mountains that surrounded our valley home. There wasn't one day in several years that I hadn't seen something new after that, often peeling off on my own to see what sights nature had for me. By the time I turned nineteen, I had probably seen every bootleg trail in our region, had even made a few, and had discovered small ponds and a couple of scenic vistas that few if any ponies had ever visited before.

My father gave me other nature-based skills when I was just a foal, showing me books full of the creatures of the world and teaching me how to orient myself if I was lost. It wasn't long before I knew how to identify everything indigenous to our home, from the most noble peregrine falcon to the lowliest field mouse.

I reasoned with myself, as I stared into the Everfree, that it was just nature like any other. Driven to knowledge, a part of me wanted to see it all, to truly know it. I thought that was enough to mean I truly respected it, but true respect requires knowledge. I turned to the libraries at once, ordering every compendium I could find from catalogs of Golden Oaks and Royal Canterlot, studying relentlessly.

Apparently, "solving" the Everfree "problem" wouldn't be purely academic. Data was sparse. What little I had on hoof was outdated, or mired in myth, or outright fictional. There were wild and unconfirmed stories of timberwolves murdering entire villages, of ghost ponies haunting and killing those who entered the woods, and of ridiculous and clearly fabricated tales of cannibalistic deer. All of these tales seemed crafted to scare foals away from the forest's edge, which was all well and good, but the sacrifice for such safety was information. In short, I could not trust half my sources, and the other half didn't know enough to be of any use.

By the end of my research, all I had of value was a rather smudged reprint of a map, one pulled from a dusty Canterlot volume written eight centuries ago. Its words were written in Old Ponish, and the librarian who transcribed my copy annotated that she couldn't read a word of the legend. This left me to my own devices in determining what all the marks meant. Modern cartography conventions meant very little here, so I was lost before I had even started wandering.

Very quickly, it became apparent that the only option left available to me was to simply go into the Everfree and find out its secrets for myself. Despite deciding to go alone (no one would agree to go with me), I wasn't completely foolish. For my own safety, I brought a homemade white oak self bow and a quiver of well made douglas fir arrows fletched with raptor vanes. I paid a druid in Heartwood to treat my arrows with a vine potion, a partially magical creation designed to sprout creeps from their point of impact and snare anything that moved nearby. I felt this defensive measure would be enough to keep me safe from the monsters that lurked in the dark as I learned the grips of Everfree life.

My supplies? A pouch of food and water, my transcribed map, a quiver full of enchanted arrows, and a prayer. With these, I entered the forest, going further than anypony else in Sound Valley might have dared.


I quickly discovered that much of my outdoors knowledge from Equestria was useless in the Everfree Forest. I could not see the sun half of the time, for the canopy was often too thick. I could not see the contours of the land, for the ground was too overgrown. Even the "paths" were just patches of shortened grass, ones I would later discover were often tread by predators as they traveled their hunting routes.

I knew the deer were out there somewhere, too. At the time, they had some elusive, almost frightening mystique. We valley ponies have often heard stories of "The Heart of the Forest," the King of Deer who supposedly detested and hunted ponies, though I tried my best to tell myself that it was an unfounded rumor. After all, if anypony had truly met him, I'd have found some formal documentation to corroborate the meeting. Still, fear took me in those early hours, and so I made a conscious decision to avoid deer settlements... though I doubt I'd have recognized these settlements at the time even if I had seen one, hidden as they are among the trees.

There is limitless beauty in the Everfree, and I was taken by it immediately. Many plants possessed the rainbow assortment of colors that one might expect from a traditional jungle, and the scent of the forest was, for the most part, pleasantly fragrant. Streams were common, and the sound of running water was comforting, but I did my best to remember that predators often roamed near water-rich places to pick off foragers at their most vulnerable.

The fauna was relentless indeed. I tried to be quiet, tried to stay hidden, but they always seemed to find me, whether by scent or magic or whatever other senses they possessed.

To the curious herbivores or omnivores, I was a strange spectacle, an odd outsider. On one occasion, I bore witness to a phoenix coddling her young in a nest, and I was taken at first by the sight of fire in a tree. When I saw a pair of eyes lock onto me from it, I was perhaps just as in awe as the phoenix mother was, who crooned and puffed up her wings to make herself look larger. On another occasion, I was pelted with fruit by some kind of bio-luminescent baboon. It probably meant this to entertain itself or to make a defensive territorial display, but for me this was such a terrifying experience that I nearly got lost as I fled.

In the worst of cases, I would be approached by several aggressive small carnivores, many I could not yet identify, most smaller than half my size but eager to test me for edibility. Often, a quick swing of my bow would deter them; for those who would not, they received a vine snare arrow, or I would flee. I learned that they were quick to pursue if I didn't make an aggressive display of my own. As such, I started to bull rush these various creatures on sight, hoping that they would think I was the predator.

This proved effective for all of about six miles into the deep forest. That's when creatures started getting bigger.


I edited my map as I explored. It began as small notes on the margins of the Canterlot map, as it was so dated that it was practically useless. Old rivers were gone, old hoofpaths were erased by time, and old clearings were now forests. In short order, perhaps within the first two days, I had added so many corrections to the map just along the path I took that I may as well have started with a blank page.

By the third day, I slowly lost the ability to make corrections to my maps, for the forest became darker and more wild. Until Celestia's sun was fully risen in the mornings, I could not see a thing, and even then it was difficult to navigate in the dark beneath the canopy. More frustrating than this, the creatures I now encountered were larger and more ferocious. I no longer had the time nor safety to spare any vigilance for notes.

The effect of each snaring arrow lasted for approximately an hour. This protected me very well at first. However, my inexperience with the Everfree caused no end of mistakes that gave my position away to hungry creatures, and I left tracks that were easy for the more intelligent beasts to follow. Through my bumbling, I ran low on arrows, and I did not have the time nor the resources to replenish them. At midday, a run-in with one silver-tongued, multi-headed chimera was nearly the end of me, trying to draw me in with lies that they were ponies that had gotten lost and mutated by magic. Had I not used my one final arrow, I surely would have perished in their jaws.

After this encounter, I decided – admittedly late – that I would cut my losses and return to the safety of the nearest pony village. I was dangerously low on all supplies, including morale. Little did I know, however, that I had already crossed a line of natural law in the Everfree.


I had become a target for a timberwolf. Drawn by my chaotic wake, and angered by the roars and growls of the creatures I had snared, the timberwolf perceived me as an invasive threat to the stability of the forest.

I never saw him coming; his ambush was quick and mostly quiet. As I walked westward back toward pony territory, the only warning I received was a rapid rattling of wood from behind, the creature's claws clacking as it sprinted toward me. Then, it pounced. Adrenaline shot through me at the sound. I bolted, diving aside, tripping, slipping through mud and scampering to my hooves, narrowly avoiding its razor sharp teeth through sheer dumb luck. I sprinted off my path and into the woods, knowing full well that getting lost from my path would likely mean my end.

The Guardian chased, hot on my heels, and I felt a moral terror which made me wish I had found another chimera instead. This was a new creature to me, larger and stronger and faster than any I had ever seen. I knew that if I didn't find some refuge from it soon, I wouldn't be returning home in one piece.

A voice cut sharply through the forest from behind me. "Kahruvel! Soh marr'it!"

I looked back over my shoulder as I ran, expecting to see the timberwolf snapping at me from behind. Instead, I saw it suddenly standing its ground a dozen paces back, its head low like an angry canine as it emitted a threatening growl. Beside him stood a tall brown-and-white deer, one clad in an ornate royal guard armor made of enchanted redwood. He raised his hoof in greeting, panting slightly, but his gaze was stern. "Stop, pony," Blackthorn shouted firmly, in Ponish. "Or he will continue, and I may not be able to stop him again."

I halted, sliding another pace before my hooves dug into the wet mud. I half-turned and held my position, fearful, not sure if I should comply. Blackthorn approached slowly, holding one of my arrows in his hoof, the growling timberwolf keeping pace beside him. He demanded that I explain my intention in crossing the lands of the Dierkahl. I did explain, the words sounding a little ridiculous as they left my lips. I wanted to learn the woods, I said, so that I could keep others safe who traveled there.

He found it quaint too, going so far as to laugh and say, "And yet, you cannot even protect yourself."

Admittedly, I deserved that. To enter the woods alone, knowing how dangerous it was? It wasn't very smart. Even my brother Blue Sky, a rambunctious twelve year old at the time and still one of the bravest ponies I've ever known, considered this trip a fool's errand. At the time though, I bristled toward Blackthorn, becoming defensive. "Well, I have to learn somehow! No one else in Equestria knows anything about this place! Not anymore!"

"Anymore?" he asked, now interested beyond simple amusement. I explained to Blackthorn that I had studied every written word I could scrape up before entering, and knew as much of its history as anypony had ever cared to preserve. He then demanded several explanations of me, and my answers came quickly: I wasn't there to steal, to damage, or to hunt the creatures within. I only wished to learn. Knowing him as well as I do now, Blackthorn must have thought the truth of me: I was just a stubborn young mare dreaming of heroics, more likely to harm myself than any other creature.

He explained to Kahruvel in Cerfish that I was not a threat, then explained to me that Kahruvel would sense the truth from my soul. The timberwolf's eyes met mine then as he slowly stalked closer.

I felt a chill run down my spine, stepping back once, but I remembered Blackthorn's warning to not flee and held my ground. The timberwolf drew closer until its nose bumped against mine. It was frightening, but letting Kahruvel do this made him relax somewhat, his body language turning more languid and calm. He gave a strange sound, one of apparent satisfaction, then returned to scouting the area around us, nose scanning the ground.


Blackthorn and I made camp together. He shared his food with me, and to say I ate ravenously would be an understatement, though it was more from nervousness than outright hunger.

Over the next several hours, he educated me on the basics of Everfree survival as is known to the deer, providing several truths about the Everfree that I now know by heart: things like how to properly conceal oneself, effective noise discipline, remaining light-footed and relaxed, scanning vigilantly, watching one's step for deadly plants, staying several paces away from any colorful or unknown flora, and several other really simple survival tips that had no conceivable analog beyond the borders of the Dierkahl.

My curiosity soon turned to Blackthorn himself. In response to my questions, he explained he was the newly promoted Captain of the Dierguard, of the Kingdom of Dierkahl. In coming here to the forest with Kahruvel, he was fulfilling a rite of passage and sacred duty, raising and feeding a Vorku. But after Kahruvel encountered a manticore I had snared, he had suddenly broken off from the hunt to chase me instead, which had led Blackthorn to me in turn.

It was much too late in the day for me to make it back to Heartwood in one piece, so Blackthorn offered to guide me instead to the nearest deer settlement, and with no other alternative, I agreed. As we traveled, I remember still being uneasy around Kahruvel. His eyes never left me as we walked, his heavy footfalls padding behind me, his wooden limbs clacking together. It felt as though he was still sensing me out, trying to learn who I was. He was still quite young then too, and Blackthorn told me that I was the first pony he had ever encountered in his life.

I took this opportunity to observe Kahruvel, too. He was a mystery to me in all ways, nothing like the depictions of timberwolves I had seen in books, or even in paintings made by those who had witnessed a timberwolf attack. The ones I knew of were built of many sticks, logs, and other various scraps of lumber that looked shoddily assembled, that loped clumsily, that barely held themselves together as though puppets on a string.

But Kahruvel was much more elegant than that. His golem was aesthetically pleasing, constructed entirely from well sanded, well polished redwood, made with carpentry techniques I would later learn were unique to deer. His core was made of several large, contiguous pieces that complimented one another, some overlapping others like shifting plates of armor. Each of his legs were laterally symmetrical to the next. Kahruvel's face and skull were not as roughly cobbled as those of wild timberwolves, but rather well featured and deliberately designed, smooth yet angular, bearing many ornate carvings similar to those in the royal guard armor worn by Blackthorn.

When I asked why Kahruvel was different than others of his kind, Blackthorn explained to me that he had built the Guardian's body himself. That they could be built was a great shock to me. I never knew such a thing could be done! As most ponies did at the time, I actually thought timberwolves simply sprung from the trees, fully formed! But in the village of Briar, I would learn the full truth in time. I was welcomed with some surprise by the village elder as Blackthorn introduced me.

After I was better socialized and had some time to rest my weary eyes, I would speak once more with Blackthorn before he would leave. I explained my goal of helping trade caravans cross the Everfree, even as it now seemed an unrealistic proposition. But my interest in his homeland had intrigued Blackthorn, and Kahruvel had apparently searched my intent thoroughly enough for Blackthorn to trust I was being genuine in my aims. He thus provided me with a list of times he would next visit Briar.

If I still had interest in any ecological sciences, he said, then I should meet him upon this same schedule. So I did.


Over the next several months, I would travel out into the forest to learn Blackthorn's knowledge, committing everything to memory and keeping detailed notes, both of his lessons and my routes. He taught me Cerfish words in the event that I encountered a wild timberwolf in my travels, words that had saved me from attack on two separate occasions in that time. My visits to Briar also led me to more than just Blackthorn's teachings, for I cultivated several friendships with the residents of Briar in time, trading stories of our homelands.

All I know of Everfree pathfinding today, I learned from the deer of Briar, who were such experts of their craft that they traveled the forest in near silence, stealth, and peace. Simple potion recipes were made available to me that changed how I interacted with the land, one of which sprouted moss leggings which completely nullified any sound from movement. My awareness grew as I learned each animal call in the forest, and from afar, I could soon hear when the most dangerous creatures were on the move. After a time, the longbow I carried almost became an afterthought, seldom needed for my defense.

Briar was a university of knowledge in its own right, and I began to record my experiences in thick leather-bound books which astounded my friends and family back home. This continued for months, and I picked up quite a lot of Cerfish in this time, even recording some of my notes in the Old Language for practice. For the carpenters in Briar, I contributed my own personal knowledge of pony carpentry, sharing my humble, sturdy craft in trade for their impressive and elegant artistry.

Months on, the lead elder of Briar suggested that I make residence in their village if I was to visit so frequently. I declined at first. I still had roots in Colt Creek, and I would need to square my affairs beyond the Everfree before settling there. Still, I learned well from my hosts.


A year on, I was a certainly a different mare, a far cry from the stumbling safety hazard I once was, now full of lessons that kept me nimble and alive. I moved as the deer did: swift and true, confident enough then to move even deeper into the forest. I still had much to learn, of course. But when I finally traveled as far as the village of Rosewood, some twelve miles east past Briar, through hydra nest thickets and across a swamp rife with crags, I was met with astonishment by the deer who lived there... some of whom who had never seen a pony before in their lives.

Blackthorn quickly learned of this feat. He had not been idle beyond his teachings for me, either, for my interest in his homeland had sparked his interest in mine. Like I had for the Everfree, he studied what he could of Equestria in the Royal Library of Thicket. Blackthorn found very little knowledge of Equestria beyond what few border issues arose; each had been resolved by a rather curt series of letters between royalties of both nations, each quickly recompensed or otherwise justified. Beyond this, our nations had very little contact, separated by the natural border that was the dangerous nature of their home.

He knew of course that pre-exodus ponies once shared the tradition of timberwolf husbandry with the deer. In a burst of inspiration, Blackthorn saw in me an opportunity to share more than just stories and knowledge, but culture as well. As luck would have it, the Dierkahl had recently acquired a new timberwolf seed, a donation from a wild pack. Blackthorn made a tentative suggestion to me: that, with permission from their king, I might be allowed to raise one of my own.

I gave this offer serious thought. Despite my earlier fears of these creatures, I had learned so much from the deer by then. The gravity of the offer was known and understood, and seeing Blackthorn's deep bond with Kahruvel had inspired me. But even so, my time in Briar had made me aware of the significance of this, and I recognized that it was a responsibility greater than any I had ever held. This was not a decision to be made lightly, and certainly not one to be accepted without great thought. I asked for more time to choose.

In the meantime of the coming weeks, Blackthorn sought dispensation from King Aspen, explaining his aims in recruiting me for this task. By that time, Blackthorn and I had spoken at great length about my goal of protecting trade caravans that would travel through (and eventually to) the Dierkahl. I was not aware of this at the time, but the prospect of international trade and reopening relations with Equestria was regularly broached between the Kahl and his Captain; our goals aligned, and I was providing an opportunity.

To permit me this honor, to raise a Guardian, would be a step in that direction, and the first such permission to an outsider in many generations. His Majesty, who knew of me only in testimony, passed the final decision to the elders of Briar, requiring their approval and complete consensus before I would be granted the honor. Each spoke to my character. Having known me for some time now, they each signaled trust.

In time, word came back to Briar, and thus to me, that I might raise a Vorku under two conditions. Blackthorn must mentor me through the process. I must also make my home in Briar, for a timberwolf puppy requires forest magic and constant attention to survive; Colt Creek was too far from the Everfree, and thus vastly insufficient. While Heartwood was closer, it was only a border town, and thus not close enough to draw fully from the forest's power.

Likewise, Blackthorn himself received conditions for his vouch, most important of which that he must take over raising the timberwolf should I fail at any stage. This in itself was a great responsibility as well, for he was already raising his own, and two would completely tax his scant free time.

I would have to give up much for this honor. To leave my family behind for years, to focus my attention on something new and novel, was daunting. But when the choice was finally posed to me, I agreed at last, quelling my fears. If Blackthorn thought I was ready, then I must be. If the deer could do this, then so could I.

The timberwolf seed arrived in Briar one morning, an unassuming wooden shell that protected a delicate soul crystal within. The enormity of this endeavor was already known, but it struck me most heavily when I saw that the timberwolf seed was escorted by a contingent of four Dierguard, as such transfers typically were.

Blackthorn explained that I was being allowed to add my intent to the forest. My desired goal of protection, of the defense of others, was valued heavily by the deer. They knew I now held heavy respect for their land, for its dangers, for its powers, and I held a wild and fresh willingness to help outsiders coexist with it. Though it was far beyond me to fathom at the time, my raising of this timberwolf was to be the first step towards a revived bond between our nations.

I gave the seed a name and gender, my right as its mother. So began Vorku Grand, for he was a grand soul, to be raised to value life and guardianship as I do.

At the time, he was only about the size of my head, and heavier than I would have expected. His wooden form was its own unique teardrop shape. As I took this new life into my hooves, I felt the weight of the true responsibility within as I prepared to create a bond to this land that would last for an eternity. It was an immeasurable new sensation, but it filled me with hope for the future.

Such is parenthood. Somehow, I knew in that very moment that the difficult road ahead would be worth every step.

4. Vorku Communication, Cerfish Language, by Blackthorn

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Vorku Communication, Cerfish Language

By Blackthorn


Mother Life

Vida, morot, beret, destra,
Tempa, temfyu, nai viza krahtt,
Sho-lai grata, kor fror liyt,
Tempo, eva, nai lekai grahtt.
Sa iy va, nousheri neita,
Tem etern, nei vel'ki 'tratat.
Krahtt vivei, sikna iy titha,
Rosotu leka ki'loah sotte.


Intent

The specters of Sombra were born with evil intent, for his was a dark and hungry rage. He wielded no words, only furious emotions; no orders, only monstrous howls. They were made only to serve one delusional master, to absorb the forest's soul, and to end all that we knew.

To contrast this was the intent behind creation of our Guardians: preservational, compassionate... and desperate. Their will is the embodiment of the will of our ancestors, and their spirit is that of those who gave everything that we may live in peace. Through the Vorku, our love for our homeland was made manifest, and it literally consumed Sombra's hate until we were safe once more.

Maintaining our intent is thus important, for it continuously drives our Guardians even today.

Forest soul, known as vel'ki in our tongue, is the food and language of our Guardians, its energy retaining the will of our ancestry. Vel'ki is within all who dwell within the Evavrai: the deer, the wisps, and all other creatures therebetween. As we eat, we take in our history. As we return to the earth at life's end, so too does our own vel'ki. We commit our preservational culture to the historical record of the Evavrai's soul. To this end, we instill our common purpose into the Vorku, always teaching them to protect the ecosystem and all of its precious continuity.

This guiding light of purpose is but one cornerstone of Vorku existence. In puppy youth, Guardians are malleable to suggestion of secondary duties so long as it does not conflict with their first role of safeguarding our forest. Examples include the personal charges of the authors:

Vorku Kahruvel, born of my hooves, patrols the west as I have. If he senses that our Liege has left the safety of Thicket, Kahruvel will return, joining His Majesty's retinue. Kahruvel and his packmates have each adopted my sworn duty, vowing to guard our Kahl's life with their own. As I patrol, Kahruvel's pack will join with our unit, only returning to his own duties when mine are complete.

Vorku Grand of Apex is also influenced by his creator's intent. Grand is known to roam close to the primary roads of the Evavrai, thus offering silent protection to travelers. He will act as a buffer, keeping the travelers on the safe paths with his presence, safeguarding them from dangerous creatures or persuading off less socialized wild Vorku, who may misinterpret mere travelers as trespassers. Due to his close upbringing with Kahruvel, Grand is a member of his pack; as a younger Vorku, he will yield to Kahruvel's guidance.

Vorku Nyx'it, created by Kehl Luna during the Dark War, remains the longest living Vorku known to our kind. She remains forever at watch over the ancient central pony fiefdom, always looming in the shadows of their once great keeps, castles, and villages. Her current pack contains six other graywood Lohvorku, all wild and of varying ages ranging from 12 to 410. Our records show that these Lohvorku were all mothered by Nyx'it herself.

The will of a pack and their parentage is extremely influential upon their temperament. Our intent as creators thus reaches down both near and far, from both our yesteryears and yesterdays, further underscoring the importance of Vorku husbandry.


Pack Communication

As the Evavrai wolves once did, Vorku will gather in packs, and often of three or more. The process by which wild Vorku determine pack members is unknown; it seems as though these connections are made at random. Conversely, hoof-crafted "preternatural" Vorku will often join together in a pack if raised in proximity, as have Grand and Kahruvel.

A pack will travel together, share territory, and patrol the places and objects most important to their goals. They will readily challenge threats to both their ecosystem's integrity and to themselves. Packs move as one and act as one. They will share food equally, assisting one another in bringing down wisp prey sometimes many times their size. When challenging a particularly difficult overgrown wisp, different packs may temporarily band together. This is especially the case when challenging Ursa wisps, which must be regularly culled to prevent too much forest soul from being absorbed.

Vorku may convey information telepathically: when they are in proximity, alerting one Vorku will alert all nearby others, even when line of sight is obstructed. We have observed this in cases where a Vorku spots prey, and the rest of the pack will respond instantaneously to its presence.

For deer or ponies, Vorku will convey their intent through their body language, which is heavily inspired by lupine cues. These include ear and brow motion, tail position and movement, and various vocalizations which resemble barks, yelps, and howls. A growl is used as a traditional threat, and a soft bark may be used to get one's attention. They have also been known to point to draw a deer or pony's attention to an object or location.

To signal other Vorku that are beyond the range of telepathy, they may howl. This is used to communicate the detection of a threat, to route prey, to rally a pack, or to alert others to a great communal feast.


Scaling Power

In times of great need or threat, wild Vorku may fuse to form a Vorku'kahl. In this state, they combine golems, magically bonding as one contiguous being until the threat has concluded. In the wild, these forms have been observed in battle with hydra wisps, or with other overgrown natural wisps that have long escaped standard culling.

Preternatural Vorku golems, those created by deer, are heavier and more contiguous in design. This precludes any merger into a Vorku'kahl, but their increased integrity does permit greater strength and survivability against assailants. Denser construction also yields greater storage of Evavrai vel'ki, making a Vorku'kahl amalgam less necessary; more energy means greater protection or even outright immunity from physical damage, and greater physical power allows a sufficiently charged Vorku great distance, speed, and leaping range.

As an example of the greater armor of crafted golems, preternaturals have braved fires to protect their home. As the spirit is burned out of the forest in flame, the Vorku will overcharge their soul crystal from another region, feeding continuously until they are at full overcharge. Upon completion, their protective enchantments will become visible, and their whole bodies will radiate green energy, shielding them from the heat. They enter the flames, channeling this excess energy into the trees to share their protective enchantments, which extinguishes the flame entirely as it comes into contact with the leaves and bark. Any soul energy dispersed by the flame is drawn back into the Vorku, repurposed continuously until the Vorku must retreat and recuperate.

Despite these protective enchantments, such heroic acts leave some light scorching on the trees and Vorku both. Vorku so scorched are thus honored even more greatly, for they have risked much to preserve our forest's light.


Soulsharing

In the millennium since the war, we have never observed one Vorku devour another in desperation. Instead, if one is starving for energy, another will soulshare to equalize their might. Soulsharing, known as ki-sa'tratat in our tongue (lit: "soul-food sharing"), is the means by which a Vorku shares information, intent, and self with their kin.

Prior to a hunt, Vorku will soulshare each dawn and dusk for approximately two hours. This period, akin to sleep, reduces cognitive divergence in their pack. If two packs are in proximity, they too will share their experiences, spreading their knowledge. If there is a disparity of energy within any member of the pack, this brings them into perfect balance. Every action taken by a Vorku expends energy, but soulsharing mitigates this loss, opening up their souls to the forest itself, their energy freely flowing with the forest around them.

This takes a toll, however. Inevitably, through the course of six to twenty-seven years of adulthood, the individual personality of a Vorku will wane, their demeanor and goals becoming invariably identical to wild Vorku. If the Vorku is created from certain types of naturally enchanted graywoods, this process may even take upwards of a century, for these woods retain forest magic more closely.

In the research committed after the Dark War, it was discovered that a minuscule amount of magical power is traded between a parent and Vorku during the seed phase at wisp feeding. It is theorized that a Vorku's initial personality may be partially derived from this process. While this was at first concerning to our ancestors, no adverse affects have been detected in the millennium since.

Most Vorku only remain in direct companionship with their parent for only three to four years after ascension, roaming away thereafter upon their own initiative. Kahruvel remained in my care for four years. They leave without warning; one day, Kahruvel simply wandered away during a hunt, and he did not return home in the evening. Yet even now, eight years on, he still remembers me well when our paths cross. He has one wild packmate, a stick-and-twig golem who always welcomes me fondly as though I had raised her myself, an example of their shared memories. As their patrol region intersects my own, I may follow their tracks to make contact with their pack. By regularly returning to them, I may delay the speed by which these Vorku forget me, perhaps even for the duration of my lifetime, though the influences we exert upon them will fade without exception.

We do not lament the loss of their self. We deer believe that the eternal soul of the Evavrai vel'ki will remember our teachings in their stead, for all Vorku draw their life from this same source. To us, they are each the emissaries of the forest's will. Long after Kahruvel forgets who I am, an inkling of his upbringing and a trickle of my soul will live on in every Vorku who is born with even a fraction of his energy. In this small way, the customs and culture of the Dierkahl live on with them. They continue to understand our language, and in keeping with the history of their kind, wild packs still donate a fraction of their seeds to the care of village elders.


Cerfish Language

The use of Cerfish (also known as Old Ponish) was common during the initial creation of the Vorku, the language shared between the old pony and deer tribes alike. Despite Vorku understanding of this tongue, they remain incapable of vocalizing it, for they lack the physical and biological faculties required for vocal precision.

We present basic Cerfish terminology in this volume that may protect you from wild Guardians, ones who might otherwise interpret you as a threat or trespasser. If you remember only one thing from this volume, then please remember these words, the Declaration of Peace:

"Nai vlei na vel, plass yor en pas," translated as: "I am a friend of the forest, please pass in peace."

If you truly intend no harm to the woods, this will be sensed. The Vorku will noticeably relax if it accepts your Declaration, and will then move to make physical contact to sense your intent for itself. If your intent is true, your plea will be heard. Remember: in most territories, the Vorku are merely protectors of the forest. If you have fair reason to tread in our woods, if you are a mere traveler, trader, resident, or student, you may receive their permission to continue in the well traveled regions of the Evavrai. However, if one comes to loot, destroy, or otherwise cause harm, our Guardians will recognize their threat and will show no quarter.


Editor's Note: For those interested in learning more about this language, sample translations of all Cerfish text found throughout this volume may be found in the final chapter, Autrar na fi Teikyune. For those who wish to study further, we recommend the complete and unabridged collections of Softspoke's Cerfish-Ponish Dictionary, another text distributed by the Canterlot Royal Press.

5. Timberwolf Adolescence, by Apex

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Timberwolf Adolescence

By Apex


Little Seeds

Titha shodei, titha shodei,
Retka 'tratahok,
Titha shodei, titha shodei,
'Tratat sim nyu kot.

Titha shodei, titha shodei,
Titha faun iy foll,
Titha vivei, plass quiva
Nyei vanna iy nyei toll.


In this chapter, we will explore the early stages and construction of a timberwolf puppy.

Population Control

The creation of a Vorku seed is accomplished through a careful mixture of certain chemical compounds that have long been made secret by the Dierkahl. Timberwolves, being sapient and learning creatures, took notice of this creation process in the infancy of their species, eventually learning to replicate it for themselves in the wild. In time, they were capable of creating and enchanting their own young through wholly natural means, carrying seeds with them as they traveled.

Based on historical and contemporary metrics collected by the Dierkahl, the timberwolf population appears to fluctuate between 7,000 and 9,000. Incidentally, this is the approximate range of the first Vorku army, and these numbers see further adjustment per the forest's active wisp-vorku ratio. Past droughts or fires that have caused significant damage have all been followed by a resurgence of Vorku seed births, and the population works collectively to equalize the balance of the ecosystem until it is fully restored. Likewise, timberwolves will stop breeding for a time if they are effectively culling the wisp population with their current numbers.

Upon discovering that the timberwolves were regulating their own population, King Alpine wisely saw fit to protect the knowledge of their creation. He rightly feared that the creation process might be misused by Sombra or beings like him, ones who did not hold the same respect for nature as the deer. As such, he ordered that all recipes pertaining to creation research be destroyed with prejudice, leaving the timberwolves as the sole proprietors of their own future.


Vessel Formation

Though we gender our timberwolves as a matter of cultural ritual, they are unisex in nature. Any can birth young.

To create a new Vorku seed, a timberwolf adult will devour various flora and liquids over the course of weeks, internally mixing the appropriate and precise formula that will crystallize into a new soul vessel. As the vessels are charged with energy, the bonding spells are each induced at various stages in the formation process, wherein the protective shell of the seed is grown around the crystal core. These new crystals are capable of recursive magic casting; they will "listen" for a spell cast by their creator, and that spell will be quickly learned by the seed and recasted. Once sufficiently charged, the offspring vessel can renew these enchantments independent of any parental assistance. Recasting is a reflex, often compared to breathing by the deer. Timberwolves "breathe" automatically and constantly so long as they have a constant flow of forest energy for strength.

At the stage of the seed's full formation, it may either remain with the pack, or may be donated to a deer village at the discretion of the creator. If the creator elects to become its parent as well, the seed is then carried with the adult timberwolf pack as it hunts. Whenever the pack feeds upon a wisp, that forest energy is equalized between its members, meaning the entire pack will often overcharge themselves to support the new youth. They will continue developing this seed for one full lunar cycle. Vorku seeds vary in size and mass, depending on the wood used to create its shell. As a general rule: larger, heavier crystal vessels require more energy to mature, but also hold greater potential for their ultimate size and lifespan in their final forms.

By the time the seed has been fully charged, the pack will have prepared a puppy golem to receive it.


New Wild Golems

In wild Vorku, the body is made of simple sticks, twigs, and small logs, all collected from the preferred territory of their pack and almost always of the same type of wood. Timberwolves prefer sturdier hardwoods if available and if suitable for their lineage, for the increased density stores more forest energy per square inch, increasing lifespan and energy capacity. Further, certain ancestral lines take more readily to certain types of wood, and this preference may affect their demeanor as an adult, with low wood density leading to energetic temperament and high density leading to lethargic disposition.

The pack will begin the process of whittling the wooden pieces by gnawing, clawing, and scraping them against rocks, putting them into proper shape. The upper skull often receives the most care, especially the concave slot meant for housing the Vorku seed. Wild timberwolves create this slot by applying constant circular pressure with stones, which will often take several days worth of careful, continuous labor. It is not uncommon to see a seed-bearing parent holding a small golem skull between their paws, nose down as they work through the day.

When the puppy golem's pieces have been completed, they are assembled closely together by the parent, thereby reducing the telekinetic strain of their first formation. The skull is turned upward and the seed is carefully inserted into its slot. This phase is most critical, because the slot must be precisely excavated to form a perfect seal; an imperfect seal will lead to golem rejection. If performed correctly, this act binds the shell to the skull permanently, making the skull as much a part of their soul as their crystal itself.

With the new charged wood mass of the skull, the new timberwolf will have new strength to reach beyond itself toward the larger wooden pieces. The telekinesis will spread to the neck and body, drawing them close. This formation process will take several minutes as the new puppy learns to hold itself together. Finally, the twigs that become its tail and ears will assemble, and selected leaves will take their place over the eyes to become brows.

After this, they take their first delicate steps in our world, weak and vulnerable in their youth, quick to topple and fall apart and regularly reform. From here, they must feed quickly to retain their integrity. The pack helps with this step, eagerly hunting down a wisp or fruits to give the puppy its first meal.


Motherhood

Grand's upbringing was incredible for me, for his tale demonstrates just how much individuality and childlike energy these creatures have when they are young. It is understood that they can perceive even before they are given their first body, and can readily identify their parent in this state. They are insatiable learners, and delight in affection, as their seed may glow a pleasant green as one soothes them with words, or coddles them close, or introduces them to a close friend. From the moment they are given out to the world, the Vorku is ever inquisitive.

Feeding Grand's vessel was draining for me too, for hunting the forest on his behalf required constant attention. Blackthorn aided me, though only in instruction and supply, for this was as much a sacred rite for an adoptive parent - for me - as one could be.

I was given arrowheads treated with a potion designed to stun a wisp on impact. When these arrows are pulled from the spectral bodies of a wisp, it is immediately dispersed, the blue magic exploding outward. During this, I needed to hold Grand's shell close so he could absorb as much of the wisp as possible before it escaped back into the trees.

Fortunately, this became easier with time. The more I charged Grand, the more he helped me charge him, and I discovered that a Vorku seed can use its own magic to snatch the wisp's essence right out of the air, pulling that blue energy in. His reach increased the more he fed. Near the end of the hunting cycle, I hardly took him out of his saddlebag; he'd sense the essence getting away and he'd draw it right into his pouch.

Hunting was never a passive experience even between feedings, for I remained vigilant for trees that might provide suitable wood for his puppy golem. The conditions placed upon me by Blackthorn were these:

First, the selected tree must be completely uninhabited by other sentient creatures as a living space. To the deer, sentience means amphibians, birds, mammals, lizards, and any other species of the animal kingdom larger than an inch. There was also a specific exception that I must not disturb any full colony or queen of insects if I could avoid this. Second, the wood I use must contain the escaped essence of a freshly hunted wisp, as this made it easier for Grand to bond with the wood I've chosen. Third, the wood I use must all be drawn from the same species of tree, for this lent to consistency in bodily integrity and proper dispersion of energy.

These restrictions narrowed my choices considerably, but carried with them the benefit of greatly increasing my awareness of the forest. I learned how to route wisps toward trees I wanted to use before shooting and dispersing them. I learned how to read the trees in a way only deer could, beginning to notice signs of life on every inch of bark, on every branch, and on every root... from the slightest scratch of a humble squirrel, to the vast tail scrapings of a hydra marking its territory.

Outside of my hunts, what little free time I had was spent crafting the puppy golem, learning Cerfish, and practicing its use with Blackthorn and Kahruvel. This knowledge would strengthen my bond with my Vorku, and so it was not merely encouraged, but required. By the end of the second week since adopting Grand, the ritual stuck; I was singing old nursery rhymes to him before bed only for the simple pleasure of watching him glow with delight.

During my hunts, I always carried an axe for felling trees and for rough shaping of the larger pieces. For additional shaping, I relied on a draw knife, several whittling knives, and various wood rasps, the same as if I were making a longbow.

With Blackthorn's assistance, I charted Grand's general design very carefully, for every minor tweak or change to his puppy body would have significant effect on his final adult form. I fondly remember Grand always being with me. Whenever I worked, I kept his seed shell nearby. This wasn't strictly a requirement, but I felt that Grand had a right to see how his first body was made.

Most tree woods will suffice, and so I chose redwood. This was not an idle choice, as it was the same wood Blackthorn had chosen for Kahruvel and was grown from the same region. This normally leads to stronger bonds between hoof-raised Vorku and increases the chances of them forming a pack together.

Of course, the primary formative requirement for a golem is that the general form or silhouette is of a quadruped, and that the head vaguely resembles an Everfree lupine. It astonished me to learn that the timberwolf would reject the body otherwise. Blackthorn explained that the preference of the original creators to honor the extinct species had been adopted by the timberwolves themselves, further underscoring just how sensitive these creatures are to the intentions and traditions of their parents.

At the time, I was still only just beginning to understand the deer culture, and I was extremely conscious that I was designing a vessel for a creature they revered. With this in mind, I made the safe and inoffensive decision to make Grand appear as similar to the old Everfree wolves as I could, using only the historical texts of the deer as reference. All the same, my own pony artistic influences shone through as I planned out the puppy form, leading to smooth, gradual curves and realist features as I mimicked the original silhouettes as much as possible.

I was instructed to be careful of complicated convex designs at the puppy phase. Using ornate or complicated puppy designs was not expressly forbidden, but it made the phase to adulthood more complicated later on. The puppy golem is a permanent vessel, to be encased and sealed perfectly within an adult golem; because their soul inhabits the full piece after soul binding, the whole of their puppy body's biomass must be preserved and transferred to the adult body without alteration.

When the main pieces were completed, I sanded the wood down until it was smooth. Then, I uniformly stained all of it with a darker reddish color, made from a mixture of blackberries and canina hips. Color staining is not common in timberwolf creation, but it is permitted, provided that only all natural ingredients are used. For additional propriety and reduced risk of malformation, the fruits used in staining were selected only from flora that were spawned by Grand's feedings.

What was forbidden, however, was applying any unnatural finishing treatments that chemically seal the wood. Blackthorn explained that golems always seal their outer layer themselves. To do this manually is dangerous, for it upsets the delicate chemical balance of the golem's natural magical designs, and may negatively affect the protecting enchantments that Grand would use to bind the wood to the soul crystal.


Grand

A month passed. Before I knew it, the day had come for Grand to receive his first body. His crystal's shell glowed heavily after a hunt, a bright glow that could not be stared at, and did not subside within the hour as it typically did after feedings.

This meant he was fully charged, his magic so strong that I could literally feel the waves coming off of him, the sensation sending chills down my spine. His crystal had grown beyond the means of its shell, and he was thus eager for a new home. I took him back to Briar and broke the good news to Blackthorn and Kahruvel, who eagerly joined me at the base of my treetop home.

From my workshop upstairs, I brought out Grand's young new golem down piece by piece, carefully arranging his body in the rough shape of what he would soon become. I had grown accustomed to speaking to Grand by then, and so I soothed him as he pulsed impatiently in my saddlebag. Soon, little love, I said to him in Cerfish, as I stepped down the stairs for a final time. "Temfai, titha vanna." And I knew he understood, for his light dimmed ever so slightly.

Such events are ceremonial, even in small villages like Briar. Word traveled quickly as we assembled the pieces of the puppy golem on the ground, and so the deer in the town convened, gathering around with their fawns. It is a most holy event, one that is always a spectacle, even in informal ascension rituals such as these. The families from town brought gifts: pears, zap-apples, oranges, and grapes, each hoping to hoof-feed Grand a portion of his first meal.

I withdrew Grand's seed from my saddlebag, carrying it to the skull. No words were spoken then, not that there was anything I could say that would have matched the gravity of this moment. The demeanor of the deer told me that this was a most sacred, solemn affair. I held my breath, swallowed, and turned the skull upside down. For one final time, I nervously straightened out the pieces I had slaved over for a month.

I worried that the body wouldn't take, that the shell might reject it. Moments passed like this as I looked down. There was so much weight on my shoulders in that moment, so much pressure to succeed. I must have been trembling, for Blackthorn placed a hoof on my shoulder, reassuring me with whispered words I will never forget.

"Fear is good. It means you care."

Swallowing my apprehension, I placed Grand's shell into the slot in the skull, hoping the dimensions were perfect. I stepped back beside Blackthorn and Kahruvel.

We waited.

Then, light.

Without warning, everything and everyone around us glowed a vibrant, shimmering emerald color, and we looked on only as much as we could. Grand dimmed just as quickly, and I blinked at his shell. Every wooden piece of the golem pulsed now too, then glowed again, rattling in place in the dirt. Silence again. Darkness. Stillness, as Grand's glow ceased. Then, the jaw near the skull glowed by itself. It twitched several times as Grand tested his telekinetic power, then the jaw slid along the ground, rolling and bouncing off the dirt, wheeling into the air. Airborne, it landed squarely on the skull, snapping into place with a wooden clack.

His skull righted itself, and his eyes cast green. Just like that, Grand was born.

The body was too heavy for Grand to pull over, and so he propelled his head across the dirt instead until it was in position at the torso. Next came the legs. One by one, each individual piece of one leg came alive and slid to his core, beginning with his left side. Each clacked as they met his body. With the new leverage of his limbs, he rolled his torso onto its back next, making room for the right side. The twigs I had arranged for his tail snapped right up and immediately collected themselves behind him one after the other, like a flock of birds landing in a tree. He received his eyebrows and ears from the ground.

Throughout it all, his eyes glowed like green fire, his gaze never leaving mine as his body formed. I was in awe, a joyous smile upon my face as I looked upon him with pride.

I could see Grand stand up shakily, trying to hold his balance. His pieces wobbled, but steadied one by one as he sensed himself and flooded the pieces with his soul. When complete, he stood firm and tall, facing me, standing half my height and size, each limb connection swirling with energy that licked off of him in beautiful tapering spires of yellow-green.

Then, without warning... he dove at me.

Grand had been a seed for only a month, born to an older pack and donated to the Dierkahl at their leave. Under the protective watch of the venerated Dierguard, he was given to me. In my care, he was fed and tended to. He watched me as I hunted for him, as I learned to care for him, and as I crafted the body that would house his soul. Knowing nothing, I took great pains to learn and do all I could to bring him into being. I would tell him my trials, would tell him he was my child, and would tell him that when he was grown, he would be as great as his name implied. As but a simple seed, he could do nothing but watch me support him throughout.

This was the first time he could express gratitude.

He collided at my midsection as I reared in sudden fright. He took me backwards, and I clung to him, hugging him in confusion as he clambered all over me with excitement. Blackthorn and the other deer laughed and cheered with elation. I held Grand in my hooves, and he barked over and over, his nose bumping against mine, sensing me out as he met his mother, telling me in his own way that he loved me for all I had done for him. His twiggy tail brushed every which way, paws battering at me awkwardly even as he still learned how to move his new body.

The trial and sacrifice, the fear of failure, the doubts and worries, it all melted away from me in a most wonderful instant... replaced only with a boundless, eternal love. I told him, "autre!" Sing! He howled, and at last I joined with the crowd as they cheered for Grand. We, the town of Briar, celebrated through the evening, and through Grand, I had become family.

6. Ethology and Adulthood, by Blackthorn

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Ethology and Adulthood

By Blackthorn


"Iy fi rien tya fi horza? 'Yuut soh fera cha, fror cha glista latya qua nyali quiva cereta, iy latra nyeli soh'uut. Iy quan cha rotat, flova ichnesa sho-la latya quar nyeli soh'uut eska bera. Vida es a sik-la, nei vanna, iy fror krahtt nyu quiva rowanset, fosi simtei ichnesa nyu ganna."

Eksen: Pg. 322. Oxalis Grova, be Urtica na Onnotdalasa.


Life Cycle

During the Dark War, a Vorku's life cycle consisted of only two phases: the vessel and the final adult form. We quickly learned the consequences of this first rapid formation. Smaller Vorku took to their forms more readily but peaked sooner, unable to reach their full potential. Larger Vorku had greater potential, but lacked the strength to properly inhabit their bodies with a small crystal. This led to weaknesses and deficiencies we had not accounted for. As a result, not all Vorku were strong enough to survive the final battle, suffering from incomplete bonds that allowed a specter to devour the energy within their crystal.

For the second and third Vorku generations, study of these maladies led to several improvements in golem design, the most impactful of which was the implementation of an interim puppy phase. With a smaller "practice" body, the Vorku can experiment with less biomass, learning to move efficiently and to grow throughout the wood with relative ease. Even wild Vorku, whose designs are often a simple collection of logs, have incorporated our pup phase into their life cycle.

With this phase, their maturity may be reached without incident. To support the new youth, their pack will capture wisps and restrain them, helping their weak young to feed more directly upon wisps they cannot yet catch. As the pup feeds, they gain better control over their cohesion, their speed, and their precision. This puppy phase may last anywhere between a month or a year, depending on availability of their food and the familiarity of their lineage with the wood of their creation.

Packs that are in connection with a preternatural Vorku will socialize their young with deer quite regularly. As such, deer fawns are commonly encouraged to keep a bowl of fresh fruit by their bedside, always ready to feed a visiting wild Vorku puppy who may approach deer settlements for scraps. Mashing freshly picked fruit in their jaws will release hints of forest energy, which will be captured by their crystal soul and stored. The loose pulp will be carried in their jaws, attracting bacteria and molds in time which then further sustain the Vorku as they metabolize the food, releasing minute traces of energy.

For sanitary reasons, a deer or pony parent may elect to clean this excess out once a week. This preference for cleanliness will often persist with the Vorku after they have left the care of their parent, and they will use flowing rivers or streams to clean their jaws. Wild Vorku however will retain this excess rotten pulp for longer periods in order to capitalize on additional metabolizing energy, for their forms typically do not hold charge as strongly as their preternatural cousins do.

As discussed before, a pup's biomass must be fully incorporated into that of its adult form, for its soul is inexorably bound to their body. As such, every adult Vorku made by hoof contains the pieces of their younger form. A parent must thus carefully consider the size and shape of the final form long before they've begun to fabricate the pup golem, for its intended dimensions must be precise and must match the proportional, mathematical limits cast by the size and weight of the initial Vorku seed.

The design of the Vorku adult's golem is open to parental interpretation and creative liberties. This is where a creator's artistic creativity will shine through. When the adult body is complete, the puppy golem will allow itself to fall apart, and the parent will insert each piece where they belong, and each are neatly encased into their adult golem with natural glue before they take root. To complete the seal, the parent simply slots the puppy skull within the adult one.

Wild Vorku do not bother with such complexities. Their bodies are made of twigs and a roughly cobbled skull, and so they will simply collect twigs as they travel, appending them to their body for storage until the first birth day of the young Vorku. Often, the pack will assist with the body, but the skull is always completed by the parent themselves.

Once the adult golem is completed and the puppy's skull and body are inserted within, the form is final. The Vorku will fuse the pieces together permanently, after which no alterations or corrections may be made. Each piece of wood is given immense strength by the enchantments provided to them, and the Vorku's soul will fully control its new vessel. Any attempt to cut into the wood will dispel the enchantments that control their integrity, causing a severe and immediate pain reflex in the Vorku.

After ascension, one will require one full lunar cycle to adapt to their new bodies.


Hunting

Wisps remain evasive survivalists despite their ghostly forms and lack of any obvious intellect. They are quick, some boasting speeds twice that of a deer at full speed. A pack of Vorku must therefore employ several basic tactical maneuvers to trap, corner, or outwit even the smallest of these beings. However, wisps are still subject to all of the awareness rules of living animals, and so sneaking up on them is entirely possible for a more cunning hunter.

A drained Vorku will lack the strength to persist in a full run, and may be more impulsive and desperate in their hunting techniques. This is why having a pack is especially important, for they can share energy or assist in a hunt.

There are several attack maneuvers, the first and most simple of which is a pincer. In this method, two or more Vorku will converge on a wisp from opposite sides to confuse them. Vorku may or may not use stealth in this attack, depending on terrain, time of day, number in a pack, or their eagerness to feed.

Another direct technique is known as howl cornering. If possible, a pack will scout a region for any natural boundaries they may use to corner the wisp, such as rivers, lakes, cliff faces, and boulders, thereby "cornering" their prey for a final attack. During execution, the pack will howl to route their prey toward these obstacles. They will then close the distance, alternating their howls to force the wisp to double back repeatedly until it reaches the obstacle.

A pack will become more selective of their meals when they have reached near to their full capacity. If they are near full, they will avoid expending the energy of another wisp. Instead, they will employ "recursive sustenance." In this, a Vorku may recursively "feed" on the fruit that has recently sprouted from a discharged wisp's energy. Once gorged, a Vorku's body will glow green, the magic unable to conceal itself within the body as it gathers. When in this state, the pack will distribute this excess by moving to a magically weaker part of the forest within their territory.


Guardianship and Patrols

After periods of feeding, Vorku will cease hunting and begin protection patrols in earnest.

All Vorku investigate for non-indigenous life in their patrols of the forest.

Environmental homeostasis is their goal. They are drawn to centers of distress or conflict in the forest, but will otherwise allow the natural order to take place. If a bird eats a mouse, this is accepted. If a hydra eats a bear, this is accepted. If a group of cragadiles challenges a hydra for territory, this is accepted.

Invasive species and wisps are the exception, and a pack will hunt for these within their region in the order of their size, from largest to smallest. A new, standard size wisp is not typically considered a serious threat to a region. However, an overgrown wisp presents an ecological threat if left unchecked. As they grow, they will absorb forest energy with exponentially increasing speed and with no regard for limitations. In their wake, a sapped forest will wither and die.

A Vorku pack on patrol will investigate oddities and strangeness that does not match with their collective memory of an area. They will often visit the ruins of old cities and structures for example, to ensure that the status quo has not been disturbed. Interlopers who have been found to have taken any artifacts from these regions will be pursued and issued a single opportunity to return what they have taken. Those who have committed vandalism against these ruins, however, are at risk of being attacked outright and without warning.

Of especial note are invasive creatures that are dangerous to the Evavrai ecosystem, and for this I provide an example. The basic Equestrian house sparrow is known as a nuisance animal in the Evavrai. These seed-eating birds have stronger beaks than insect-eaters, and will simply murder weaker birds to steal their housing. For a time, this led to an undue population decline and subsequent insect overpopulation, something the Vorku took strong issue with. After this vast imbalance, Vorku have since begun to kill invasive sparrows on sight, usually by leveling its paw like a cannon and launching a claw at them with its telekinesis.

Make no mistake: Our Guardians, for all their intelligence and respect for deerkind and the forest, are still dangerous creatures to all other beings. Outsiders to our ecosystem are at increased risk of threat or attack by Vorku, even if they have not committed an outward offense. Even if the techniques in this volume are followed to the letter, we make no assurance as to the safety of ponies, griffs, or other sapient creatures who tread our lands.

There is hope, however, that this can be changed for ponies with a cooperative effort.

Vorku Grand is a living experiment. It is the hope of the Dierkahl that his unique upbringing will present pony intent to the forest once more, and that our Guardians will again remember ponykind and permit them to pass in peace as readily as they do for deer. It appears to be working. Grand has had many peaceable interactions with ponies under the careful guidance of Apex. Further, Grand's pack - including my own Kahruvel - have adopted his sentiment toward ponies through soulsharing, each becoming more sociable and comfortable in a pony's presence. With time, each cumulative experience will lend toward a new and open peace with our old national neighbors.


Graywood Vorku

Certain lineages of woods are less open to intent transfer than others. Some packs are made of woods that remain resistant (though not immune) to soulsharing, instead gleaning their energy mostly from the wisps and food that they eat. This means they are also resistant to territorial expansion, and thus these Vorku often focus their energies on one area. Because they do not share their territories readily, that are very slow to learn new habits from their more broadly socialized brethren.

These include species of graywoods, certain enchanted oaks, or even yew to a lesser extent - the last of which causes varying manic temperaments. The Lohvorku made of these woods are historically more dangerous to strangers, and have been known to attack non-deer travelers on sight without provocation or warning. Our previous Liege, Queen Cascara, has seen these risks, and has thus fully suspended the use of these woods in preternatural Vorku pending additional study by the Dierguard.

In certain regions, non-deer travelers may find themselves coming across Vorku that do not respond to a Cerfish Declaration of Peace. Of especial concern are those wayfaring in the northern region of the Evavrai. Take note of Vorku body language when issuing the Declaration of Peace: if their stance does not become less hostile (a narrowing of the shoulders, a straightening of the ears, a tilting of the head), retreat immediately. For unicorns especially, avoid magical discharge throughout a Vorku interaction at all costs, even simple telekinesis. Guardians are highly sensitive to local magical energies, and this may enrage them if you have not yet earned their trust.


All Captains of the Dierguard will raise at least one Vorku seed to adulthood. This is a rite of passage, for their development matches our training. Kahruvel's design was thus steeped in deep tradition, a reflection of our cultural heritage, of my own personal upbringing, and of the deep and storied history of Vorku kind. Kahruvel's golem was given the distinct flourish and curvature of our race's historical artistry; the light, fleet footed frame of the ancient and nimble Evavrai lupines; and the dense redwood matter that surrounds the city of my birth.

Kahruvel's upbringing included regular contact with deer young and old, and his adulthood was partially spent in the company of a pony. Because of this, he has been in unity with Grand, and has encountered many traveling ponies in his travels over the past decade. Without exception, each have received their approval and good welcome. Through Grand and Kahruvel both, the wild Vorku they have soulshared with also hold similar consideration toward pony outsiders.

This is in stark contrast to the demeanor of the Lohvorku, and I offer an anecdotal example of the risks inherent in these older lineages. The largest Lohvorku territories lie within the Northern Evavrai, where Sombra's horde first entered our sacred home. These packs are all born to the deer hailing from one of our larger historical cities, so known as Blue Forest. This, unfortunately, was the first major Dierkahl city to be razed. The anger of the few surviving deer was strong, for they had watched their kin be devoured by the Dark Army which bore the shadow shape of ponies. In the descendants of the first Lohvorku, this anger persists, and they are thus quite hostile to any outsiders.

Once during her training, Apex and I traveled to this region to experiment, hoping to socialize a recently adult Grand and Kahruvel with this tribe. As a deer, the first Lohvorku pack we encountered showed me due respect and I passed without challenge. However, when Apex issued her Declaration of Peace, they showed notable confusion. To them, this creature was not a deer, though she spoke and acted as though she was. Her passage was only tentatively permitted, though the pack followed from afar for the duration of the day, clearly suspicious.

We were challenged by this same pack the next morning, now several miles northward, and Apex again offered a Declaration of Peace. This time, her Declaration was ignored, the Lohvorku advancing rapidly. I interposed myself between them and informed the Vorku that ponies were again welcome in the Dierkahl. The Vorku relented, but continued to follow, their body language clearly showing more discomfort at her presence than before.

As Apex and I discussed the prospect of leaving, the pack suddenly lunged, displaying severe aggression. I again stood before them in defiance. This time, they ignored my orders to stand down, circumnavigating me and charging her. To our relief, Grand himself stood in her defense, knocking her down and standing over her such that they could not reach her without first striking him. He issued a loud growl in counter. This, and this alone, stayed their assault. We left the region immediately with all haste, and they again followed, matching pace as we tirelessly returned to central Dierkahl.

We offer a general advisement that these northern lands are closed to the settlement or travels of ponies, donkeys, griffs, zebras, and others. Those who travel the Blue Territories do so at their own risk, and a grasp of Cerfish will not provide adequate protection from Lohvorku as it does in the rest of our land.

There exists one notable exception. Kehl Luna's Vorku Nyx'it, made of graywood, yet lives even today, specifically roaming in and around the territories of Two Sisters. Curiously, she has never expanded her region beyond this land. Due to the pony origin of this original Lohvorku and the comparative lack of hate or anger during her creation, Nyx'it appears to hold some latent respect of her creator's kind. Despite this, we discourage any prolonged stay in the Two Sisters region. This pack may be more tolerant than its northern cousins, but this does not make them as tolerant as our standard Vorku. If you must enter this region, we highly suggest learning the old language beforehoof.


End of Duty

In the Dierkahl, a Vorku's life span can be measured in lunar cycles. Just as the magic of the forest seems to be influenced by the soft light cast by the moon, so too are the wisps and the Vorku. As the moon waxes, strength floods the Evavrai; as it wanes, strength leaves.

Within the first two decades of Vorku genesis, Equestrian scientists discovered that all Vorku lose some maximum charge after each full moon. Their maximum capacity at birth is further influenced by the type of wood used in the creation of their vessels. In simplest terms, harder wood leads to a longer Vorku life span. If we know roughly when a Vorku was born, its approximate biomass, and the wood it was created with, it is possible to predict the exact lunar cycle of its passing. This allows us to chart the progress of each individual with exceptional accuracy.

All woods are technically acceptable regardless of lifespan, current safety suspensions of magic woods notwithstanding. Based on historical data, Vorku made of softer woods, such as pines, redwoods, or firs, will retire in approximately 43 to 50 years. Those of maple, oak, or hickory may last as long as 55 to 104. Those of yew are less predictable by weight alone, ranging anywhere between 40 to 157 years. The two species of naturally enchanted oaks in the Evavrai will last roughly 335 to 380 years. Finally, graywood Lohvorku may live anywhere between 720 and 815 years.

Always the exception, Nyx'it appears to have outlasted all of our predictions at a staggering 1023 years old at the time of this volume's publishing. We theorize that this may have to do with her unique connection to Kehl Luna: Her Majesty's own life energies persist within Nyx'it, the result of the minuscule amounts of life energy shared between a Vorku and their parent during upbringing.

As a Vorku nears its final waning cycle, it will weaken, becoming slow as its ability to control its golem will steadily fade. Upon their final day, the dying Vorku will seek a tree, often selecting one that matches the wood of its construction. There, they will lay. Their pack will lay with them, soulsharing side-by-side throughout the evening. As this process continues, each individual wooden piece of the dying Vorku will lose its charge until naught is left but the skull. Finally, as the skull surrenders its charge, so too does the crystal within. Their eyes flicker, fade, and finally dim. When the last of their light is at last given away to the forest, the others will awaken. Without pause, they carry on, one fewer in number.

In preparation of these events, scouts of the Dierguard will follow these packs, making camp together as the Vorku perform the final soulshare of their brethren. As the pack leaves, we collect the golem. Their natural end is never mourned by our kind, but celebrated, for a natural end is a completed cycle. As a Vorku reaches its end capacity, they return their energy to the land, forever commending their experiences to the eternal vel'ki. After, we forever honor their lives, escorting these holy golems to their final resting place in the Mausoleum of Guardians.

7. The Mausoleum of Guardians, by Princess Luna

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The Mausoleum of Guardians

By Princess Luna


"Ton ayd a pagra es ton ayd kinyu. Blesa leka rosoto quo quiva kikrah."

Kahl Alpiyn


Spring of 1010 Before Reunification

The Everfree would not regrow on its own, so deep the damage was, and so the forest required every ounce of aid to survive. It had been more than a year since the conclusion of the Dark War, and our two nations had begun to rebuild. Patches of darkened detritus were cleared by deer and unicorn patrols, and earth ponies replanted trees where the dark armies had cut through the forest. Pegasi watered the lands with great storms that raged for weeks on end.

The timberwolves paid rapt attention, learning from us. They were a blank slate then, a story yet to be written, and their assistance was immeasurable. As they traveled through places that teemed with life, they fed on it, gathering life energies. As they traveled with us to the deadened wastes, they dispersed their power, returning it. Over time, the soul of the forest was equalized anew, and thus the saplings we planted flourished with vigor.

The Dierkahl capitol city was an ancient and most respectful conversion of the land. The outer walls consisted entirely of naturally planted trees, each grown so close together that one could not slip through. Should one attempt to scale this fortification, the trees also formed a natural upper barrier of branches, each so thick as to impede any and all assault. Enchantments further protected the trees from damage or corruption, and lessons learned from the Dark War were imparted upon the bark and roots by way of alchemy. Animals had taken refuge in these trees to save themselves from the nightmare horde, and thus the city was teeming with more life now than it ever had before.

In this Spring, King Alpine had requested my presence to discuss restoration planning. I approached the tall, gilded gates of Thicket with my retinue and their own timberwolves, and with Nyx'it at my side. We were seen by the Dierguard at the gate, who hailed and graciously welcomed us, the gates drawing open.

These gates were affixed to two tall redwood trees, each two hundred years old at that time, both reaching up to join the canopy above. Within the city, structures clung just beneath the canopy, each home linked together by adjoining rope bridges. Tall spiral staircases coiled upwards around the trees to meet the homes. Glowing lamp orbs hung from branches throughout the city, each lamp charged with a potion which gave soft light that did not burn. In unison, all of these lamps provided a most impressive illumination throughout the city.

The city's streets were made of well trodden dirt paths, the thoroughfares weaving between the natural trees of the region. The deer, forever conservationists, would never wantonly remove a tree - except to excise the taint of dark magic, or to serve a greater ecological purpose. For in the hallowed words of King Alpine, "we deer are blessed with the responsibility of life, and every tree is a home for all. What right do we hold to live among them, then tell a bird that they may not?"

As I had discovered in my diplomatic missions, the tone in the city was always one of hushed reverence prior to the war, for the place had long been considered holy by the deer. But in these fresh spring days, there was an electricity of fresh optimism that could be felt with every step. Deer and pony clamored alike to their duties with excitement. We had a brisk new lease on life, for the realization dawned upon us that our wartime struggle had an after.

As I entered the city, wagon trains loaded near the gates, each preparing to take saplings that would grow to become the tall old growth trees that still stand today. Young timberwolves traveled with their creators, each one standing close to a deer or a pony. As the first generation, their forms were adult, though they were still as young as pups, and so they had not yet grown out of their puppy-like admiration and observation of their handlers. To sustain them in their journeys during the daylight hours, baskets were hung from each wagon, each filled with fruit. As I passed, I watched a deer playfully admonish his timberwolf as it dug its nose into a basket of blackberries too early, staining its snout black as it chewed.

As the forest healed, so grew the relationship between our races. Before, we merely tolerated one another, our borders once a vague and confusing line fraught with uneasy tension. But on this day, we were one, forming a friendship most natural. I felt at home among the deer, and especially among King Alpine, the model of their kind. For like me, the deer appreciate nature for the delicate equilibrium it is: an eternal dance of light and dark, filled with danger and blessings in equal measure.

In short order, I came to the Palace of Kahls. King Alpine greeted me in the main rotunda within the great tree. From there, we politicked: dining, sharing stories of our recent lives, discussing trivialities. Such small talk, sharing of company, and niceties are always present in politics, of course - but in those days after the war, such niceties were no longer taken for granted. We had come so close to oblivion together, and every moment of peace, kindness, and love was to be cherished.

Still, we spoke of more serious topics. On this visit, we spoke too of the Guardians we lost.

We were continually aware that we had sent mere youth and innocents to war on our behalf. Despite its necessity, we still considered this with guilt. Alpine believed it was a debt we must repay if we were to retain any honor with our survival, and with this I agreed. The success of our timberwolves against Sombra's horde was not total; many timberwolves died, some being too rushed, too weak, too ill formed to withstand the dark specters and their evil. We considered these lost creatures as kin, for they had been a mirror image of our souls. They were the very embodiment of our will to survive.

After the war, our soldiers traveled out into the battlefields to find those timberwolves who had not returned, who had chased their duties to their last spark. Even a year on, we were still locating their remains - their crystals were burnt out, absorbed, overrun, with some golems even buried beneath the mud that had flung wildly in the maelstrom of war. Yet their vessels remained, a remnant of their sacrifice, just as with the bones of the wolves before them. We found them all.

The skulls of our Guardians were each created from scratch by a loving carpenter. Even when the timberwolves began to breed amongst themselves, the skulls they crafted were each unique, the result of many hours of toil by its wild mother. Even when they were killed, even as their soul was burned out of them, their skull lived on in form, itself a symbol of their memory.

With a wistful smile, King Alpine suggested the Mausoleum of Guardians.

We had long discussed the different forms of honors we could bestow upon our saviors. A mere statue would be insufficient. A simple graveyard was beyond the traditions of the deer, who preferred tomb interment or cremation. They deserved something more, something that would last an eternity... something that could be visited even today, a thousand years on, to pay respects to the sacrifices made.

Alpine explained that the palace held host to a grand subterranean greenhouse, suggesting it be the place of recognition. Similar greenhouses were common in Thicket and in other deer settlements. As a cultural cornerstone of their kind, places like these are where communities would store their alchemical reagents. The greenhouse of the palace however was massive, once intended to house the personal stores of the Kings and Queens of the Dierkahl.

We finished our meal and began a tour of this space. It was a short walk down a flight of stairs into a tall hall, accessible from the Kahl's private estate. The greenhouse was not unlike the grand entrance halls common in pony palaces, though it spanned nearly a half mile in length. We walked this chasm in its entirety, each suggesting different changes that could be made. I came to a realization as well: that this space was a preserve of sorts. Indeed, many deer were already withdrawing the flowers and herbs within, intending to distribute them out to the savaged land.


In the coming year, our nations combined the expenses of construction.

Upon completion, we again toured it, Nyx'it again at my side. The entrance was no longer connected to the Kahl family's private quarters; instead, it was accessible from the main palace foyer. Beyond the gilded gate, one enters a domed building made of stone, one much akin to the town halls of contemporary pony villages. This entailed a smaller rotunda than the palace foyer, this one a dozen paces in length. As we entered, our hoofsteps and Nyx'it's claws echoed through the entrance hall.

At the center of this structure stood a fountain, with a tall willow tree growing from its center: a marvel of deer and earth pony ingenuity, carefully guided into the shape of the extinct Everfree wolf, leaping forth.

At the base, an inscription could be read in a plaque of gold, bearing this inscription:

"Ches es quar nyali onnot fi sacrae na fi shodei chel sho-la savari,
Ton sparka fi horza, iy driva fleyt fi loh fau kahl.
Nyali leka etern grett, nyu blesa chaie na fi vel."

Beyond this living sculpture laid the central staircase, bowing down and outward, twelve paces at its base. Here, we beheld the Mausoleum proper. Its length had been doubled to a mile. Its walls had been expanded outward twice their original width. The ceiling was raised and vaulted, vines hanging from above, and toward the far end was a raised platform for the funeral ceremonies that were to be held.

Above, the long skylight gave way to the forest, sky, sun, and moon. Rather than glass, the open ceiling was protected by thick, interlacing vines, which served to allow light but protect from large objects falling in from above. To protect the room from moisture, those vines were enchanted to constrict in rainfall, and wild plants with reflexive fronds were grown along the opening to ventilate air downward. Chemical lamps hung from the walls, all resting between the open brick bays, converting the heat of the space into light. The bays ran the length of the chamber, stacked triple, in long rows that ran parallel with raised walkways. At regular intervals, stairways joined those raised sections with one another.

Close to the entrance, many bays were empty. But at the end of the hall a mile on, these recessions held the skulls, golems, and core seeds of the many timberwolves we lost. We were utterly silent as we crossed the space. As I came to the bays of golems, I observed the skulls, each unique from the last. There were several deer in robes of green and gold traveling the hall, each druid tending to the resting golems, treating their wood for longevity. Their dead were well cared for, explained Alpine.

At least one thousand perished in the Dark War. I read some of the names as I passed. Vlei-root. Vannavida. Tratat'it. Beneath each was a poem or writing by their creator. Alpine stopped before one such bay. He reached out with a hoof, reverent and tentative, pointing for my attention. To any other onlooker, this golem might seem as humble as all others. But I recognized this timberwolf immediately as Liyt na fi Kahl.

This was King Alpine's own timberwolf, who tragically perished in the first charge. I looked upon Alpine, who was often so stoic as to never let his feelings show. But in this holy place, his facade cracked and his guard lowered. I could see him tremble. As he turned away, I followed his gaze. There, not far from us, stood another pony.

Her name was Underwing, a blue pegasus filly who I recognized. She was a delicate thing, perhaps only seventeen years of age then. She hailed from one of the villages which had been swallowed whole in the beginning of the invasion, spared through happenstance, for she had traveled to a relative's home some miles west of her home village. Under the guidance of Dierguard scouts, Underwing and her aunt had retreated to the Castle of the Two Sisters. Her parents had never been found.

Underwing, being a mere fifteen years old when the war came, lacked any skills for fighting or survival. Her time at Two Sisters had thus been spent learning. She was quite bright for her age, picking up a fondness for carpentry as many did.

But rather than fall apart by her losses and her circumstance, Underwing grew quite strong and determined, gaining a name for herself by participating in complex fortification projects at such a young age. When the time came to build our timberwolf Guardians, she volunteered immediately, creating Vorku Saegrata, or Sun's Tree in Common Ponish. Saegrata was a large hickory timberwolf, joining the vanguard of the first charge, standing shoulder to shoulder with Liyt na fi Kahl and Nyx'it. Sadly, as with Liyt na fi Kahl, Saegrata had not survived, her seed vessel merely too small to inhabit the large form created for her.

In the year since the war, Underwing moved from Two Sisters to Thicket, driven to help the deer with their restorations. When the Mausoleum's inner doors were opened this day, she and all others who had lost a Guardian had been especially welcomed, and before her laid the remains of Saegrata. Nyx'it and I halted at her side. She did not turn as we approached.

Her body language told me all I needed to know. This was the first time Underwing had seen Saegrata since she went missing in the battlefields.

Nyx'it stirred uncomfortably. She must have known the significance of this holy place. She sat straighter, her dark features more still. Never once did she bark or grumble with impatience in the Mausoleum, as she sometimes did when we stood still in her younger years. Her ears folded back, her head lowered, her eyes dimmed, and she looked... respectful. She looked to me, perhaps to gauge my expression, or perhaps waiting for me to say something. Nyx'it was so desperate to learn back then.

Silence took us as Alpine raised his hoof to Underwing's shoulder. Her strength broke at the touch. I could hardly hear her words entirely, so distraught as she was. So young, Underwing said. Too young. And with this I agree; no being so young should be sent to die.

King Alpine spoke, uttering the words that would become the Final Prayer of Conveyance.

"Our hearts weep for her death and cheer for her life. For Saegrata, here in her home of Thicket and the Everfree, we do both. We honor her. Saegrata began as but a humble seed. Through our love, she grew into a Guardian of the Everfree. We thank her for her sacrifice, and she will never be forgotten."

Underwing nodded. There was nary a sound but the echoing steps of hooves throughout the hall. She wept then. Delicately, respectfully, she touched skull within the recession. She sat for several long minutes, whispering to her friend too softly for us to hear. Then, she thanked Saegrata one more time, kissing her brow.

That mare would go on to live out the rest of her days in Thicket, raising three more timberwolves to replenish the lost. She'd use her craft to help ponies rebuild their homes and roads to the east, literally laying the groundwork for what would eventually become Celestia's eastward exodus from the Everfree two centuries later. Though many of Underwing's friends and family were taken from her, she persevered. She was not unlike the timberwolves, in her way. Underwing was a good mare who never let her tragic beginnings slow her, and I count myself among those proud to have known her. Her strong willed spirit transferred well onto the timberwolves she raised.

The Mausoleum still stands today. Those who raise preternatural timberwolves are often encouraged to attend services with their companions, for we wish for our Guardians to know that we still remember what they've done for us. This behavior of mourning is as much their tradition and right as ours.

8. The Dangers of Latent Dark Magic, by Apex

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The Dangers of Latent Dark Magic

By Apex


"Memkut: evna en morot, a yardaquae quillet vilbet azhken, iy a faue plana vilbet morotet."

Kahl Alpiyn


Year 2, After Reunification

During Grand's early adulthood, he was still easy to excite, young, alive, and ready for the world. He loved to hunt, launching himself into the woods ahead of me whenever I suggested we go, scarcely giving me time to prepare. If he saw me collecting my bow, he'd know immediately what we were going to do. If he so much as made physical contact when I had the inkling to hunt, he'd know then, too. I'd have to plan accordingly, discreetly gathering my supplies and waiting until just the right moment to say, "Nyali eda kah." We're going hunting.

On a fateful autumn's morning however, I noticed Grand had become uncharacteristically lethargic, refusing to lift off of his right side. I hoped to rouse him by asking him if he was hungry again, but his reaction was not as I expected, his gaze shifting my way in a most reserved and sluggish manner. He did not hold his attention on me for long either, clearly distracted by something. Worse, he had begun to groan softly with pain at every breath.

I was alarmed. This was well beyond anything in my training. For a moment, I thought rather plainly that he might have caught some kind of timberwolf specific illness. I wondered if Grand had eaten a wisp that was somehow tainted, or if he had eaten some flora that interacted poorly with his enchantments. But surely, Blackthorn would have told me about this risk if it existed. Under closer observation, I noticed wispy lines of dark green magic between the joints of his body. Normally, such magics only visibly presented when Grand was either overfed or underfed on wisps, in either case struggling to retain his form's cohesion with telekinesis.

He was struggling, of that there was no doubt. His emerald eyes were below baseline luminescence, each dimmer than I had ever seen them before. He refused any fruit I offered him. When he at last rolled to nose a proffered pear at my insistence, I noticed his right shoulder was covered in a dark substance. I yelped at the sight of it. The damage consisted of an oily, toxic black moss that hung like a small cape, gripping his wood at a narrow strip at the top of its length. The mass occasionally rippled with crimson and green. This occasional shimmer, I was later told, indicated the recursive casting of a dark magic spell.

If an infection was weakening his golem, that meant something was critically wrong with his own defensive enchantments. I took him to Thicket at once. There, several deer experts examined his body. Prince Bramble, son of King Aspen, caught wind of this development quickly. As our top alchemical researcher, His Highness knew best out of any alive as to the nature of alchemy magic, and so he lent his expertise. Upon investigation, he informed me that if Grand's protective enchantments were to falter for much longer, he would surely die.

We were all terrified, as this kind of mossy infection had never occurred before. Worse, we feared that if such a blight could affect Grand, it might spread to other timberwolves as well. In alarm, we realized that this incident coincided with two timberwolf packs going missing outright, their whereabouts untraceable for several weeks. We scrambled to find an answer, now desperate to discover the source of the infection before it spread any further.

The knowledge of those old protective potions was long lost to time, and so we could not replicate them on our own. I knew from my studies, however, that Princess Luna had been greatly involved in the process of timberwolf creation, and had returned from her exile two years hence. I hoped that Her Majesty might recall some of this lost knowledge, and so I urged the deer to petition her for aid. We sent an emergency courier to Ponyville far to our east with hope that the message would be carried directly to Canterlot. But we would not stand idle. Until Her Majesty's help arrived, we had but one other hope.

At the edge of the Everfree Forest where Sombra had finally lost the Dark War, there had been a severe discharge and explosion of forest energy, one that radiated for miles as it returned itself to the land. At the focal point of this blast, a tree had sprouted, one we ponies came to know as the Aura Tree. The village of Heartwood, well known for its healing potions and salves, had grown around this tree, taking advantage of its unique properties.

Aura Sap was quite a valuable and limited resource, capable of intensifying or amplifying enchantments beyond their standard capabilities. It had to be used in conjunction with a precise distillation however, making it difficult to use effectively, and so its use was limited only to those who would use it responsibly.

The deer laid no claim to Heartwood, itself a border village but well within Equestrian territory. I had one connection in Heartwood though: Hopscotch, who was by then a very skilled alchemist himself. We hoped he would either have some of this resource on hoof or could otherwise petition for its use.

Normally, using potions or tools to alter a living golem was considered a grave crime in the Dierkahl. We had no other options, however, if we were to save Grand's life. As the Dierguard searched my recent hunting grounds for the root vector of the dark magic infection, Blackthorn went as courier to Heartwood, racing ahead. Prince Bramble and I left at once in his wake, Grand in tow, traveling as quickly as we could and warning off any Vorku who approached to escort us.

During our trek, His Highness and I shared some initial concerns about bringing an adult timberwolf into a village of ponies. I knew, from anecdotes told to me by villagers, that Heartwood had one negative interaction with a Guardian about twenty years prior. Their village elders knew nothing of the true nature of timberwolves, nor of their cultural significance to the deer. They were sure to remember that attack quite well, and not with any fondness. Nopony was harmed in this incident, but there was still some risk that our request might be rejected as a result of their frustrations.

Blackthorn met us near the outer edge of the Everfree, stating that Hopscotch had smoothed things over for us in preparation for our arrival: he had advised the villagers of what to expect, had given them his word that Grand would be civil, and stated that Grand would be escorted by one pony and two deer handlers. The village leadership had tentatively signaled their acceptance. In any event, I hoped that Grand's friendly demeanor would shine though and win them over.

Our only chance of curing his blight laid at the center of their village. If there was even a vague hope that his enchantments could be restored, I would do everything I could.


Heartwood serves as a way station between the Everfree's bounty and the world at large, for there are plants, fungi, and fruit unique to our forest and known for their power in medicines and salves. Heartwood, being a town of pony alchemists that specialize in medicine, is thus one of the most respected scientific capitols in the known world.

At the time, the village was hosting the year's Running of the Leaves for Sound Valley. Ponies from all over the region gathered for a thunderous competition, racing one another for accolades and renown. The carefree residents of our humble river valley would rumble the amber leaves from their trees with their stampede. The skies were cloudy, and in the dusk, they shone bright with the orange-yellow reflection of Celestia's waning sun.

One wouldn't know there was a race going on with how busy the village market was. The air was alive with calls for trade, merchants offering phials of potions that cured all that ails, poultices and teas and comfrey weave bandages, soothing ointments, and flavored cough syrups that smelled like sweet candy. Wagon trains full of fragile goods came and went, traders of all races coming and going, all bound for cities all over Equestria and beyond.

The homes of this village were, through some twist of ancestral fate, vaguely similar to those built by deer. They were each suspended from the canopies of the trees and built into and around the trunks, the homes each surrounded by cylindrical outward balconies. Catwalks bridged close homes together, allowing neighbors to cross without reaching the ground. Such design, I knew, was intended to discourage the nocturnal predators of the Everfree from assailing the residents in their sleep.

When we arrived, Grand attracted onlookers as expected. Being quite well socialized and comfortable with a pony already, he showed only initial apprehension as ponies crowded around to get a look. They were wowed as they watched his body shift and move about. His golem's design was more deliberate than those of this wild-raised counterparts, and was very clean. Having fewer loose parts than his wild counterparts made Grand look less like a pile of wood to the villagers, and more like a true lupine.

With some nostalgia, I remembered how I felt when I looked at Kahruvel for the first time, and part of me envied them for the pleasant mystique of that experience. But they could not have seen Grand as I did. To them, he must have looked stoic and calm, the very picture of dignity as he moved with carefully measured steps. But to me, this was not Grand at his best. He was usually very active. To me, he looked distressful, nervous, frightened, and in considerable pain.

We passed the Aura Tree as we crossed the village central square: a bountiful willow, clad in silver bark and bearing gilded leaves, whose sap shines like molten gold yet is always cool to the touch. This reagent was a potent and powerful transformative liquid, oozing like an ectoplasm. Yet, only a few drops are produced each year.


As such, our request for Aura Sap had been denied. Blackthorn argued with the elders for at least an hour, applying his now infamous argumentative spirit. Failing with this approach, he moved on to emotional appeal, telling biting hypotheticals about a forest without timberwolves growing wild, its creatures flooding out for refuge before the land shriveled to nothing under the tyranny of wisps. But these ponies could not have known these risks, and they had little reason to trust a deer, having never met one before. His presence was only tolerated at the behest of Hopscotch. As their patience was at its limit, I feared they might turn us out; I urged Blackthorn to retreat from the town hall.

We tried our best not to be angry, but we had nothing now, and we had to do something.

It was our hope that a pony perspective in this problem might provide a new approach to solving it, as it did long ago. Prince Bramble provided Hopscotch with several deer recipes that pertained to strengthening trees against infection from dark magic. These were the only three recipes to survive the purge of twenty-some recipes of timberwolf creation, ones that were important enough to not be considered secretive. The deer had already tried all of these methods on Grand before, but to no avail. We hoped this might change if they were attempted with an earth pony's magic, as it was in the old times.

Hopscotch and Prince Bramble began at once.

As the alchemists worked, Blackthorn and I had taken Grand for a walk around the edge of town by the Everfree, trying to keep him in connection with the land. I again tried to offer Grand some fruit, and yet he still would not eat, wincing at the sight of it. Maybe he was afraid that eating would feed the corruption that tormented him, or perhaps absorbing more food simply worsened the pain. Blackthorn suggested that Grand simply did not wish to allow any more forest energy to be corrupted, so dedicated Grand was to his overriding duty.

We returned to Hopscotch's home within the hour. As we waited helplessly, Blackthorn and I tried to comfort Grand. In our own ways, the four of us each worked through the night. I did not sleep as I comforted Grand, soothing him with promises that everything would be okay. With despair, I watched the black, bubbling moss on his shoulder grow, turning me into a liar.

The cauldron's heat was strong within the treetop home of my friend, the glow emanating strongly from the center hearth of the tree's trunk. Hopscotch and Prince Bramble debated quietly about the different enchantments of their potions and how they might affect Grand's current enchantments. They were fully aware that their urgency and uncertainty gave me no small measure of stress. We knew that the decoctions they brewed were only delaying measures, only slowing the spread of the moss, but none would destroy it. To succeed, their potions had to protect the wood up to the same standard of the original enchantment, and then to exceed it. For that, we needed the Aura Sap.

Soon, the night was nearly over, the light of Celestia's sun beginning to return as the sky moved from a starry black to a deep navy blue. So far, we had treated Grand with several different iterations of the potions we had. We hoped some would burn away the moss, while others were made to affect Grand's enchantments more directly. All were either rejected by his body as foreign, or were outright ineffective.

To modify a timberwolf's golem magic is to submit them to torment, for the whole of their body is the chamber of their spirit. Their enchantments require constant power, and so to change an enchantment forcibly was to potentially damage the forest magic within, risking its loss. This is why such modifications are not only taboo, but outright illicit in the Dierkahl. If the enchantment potion was to be successful, Grand would be subjected to immense pain as he absorbed it. If it ever failed, we would have wasted valuable time in its creation. But we had no choice but to try. Losing Grand would be so much worse.

Being his mother, I was privileged to have Grand's trust more than any other, and so I had to participate closely with each application of potion. He would allow only me and me alone to do this. I placed a hoof upon his paw every time. My intent was pure and true, to heal him, and I knew he sensed this. How couldn't he? Already, he knew me better than any other being alive. I focused my whole being on the hope that he would survive, hoping he could feel that hope too.

He held my gaze quietly, listening to my every word as I comforted him. In those moments, I wished I could soulshare with him myself, and I wished I could share the load of his pain. I wished I could understand his own unique, telepathic language. I had no idea what would happen to him. I knew he could feel my fear and my love all at once.

So far, nothing had worked.


Princess Luna had received our message in the evening, flying at once to Thicket. Upon her arrival, the deer directed her to Heartwood, and she had flown further through the strong wind of the night to our aid. Immediately, she had appealed to the village elders to learn of our location. In this early morning meeting, they advised her of our request for Aura Sap. Of this request, she demanded immediate approval.

Minutes later, we heard her knock on the door of our balcony. To open a door to find one's Princess on their doorstep was quite a shock; still, she wasted no time, entering and explaining immediately. Her Majesty brought not only a full phial of Aura Sap, but her own freshly recalled knowledge of the Dark War's sciences. To Her Majesty, that intervening passage of time since the war felt to her as though it had been only a mere fourteen years... short enough time to guarantee solid recollection of the old spells.

The past unfolded in the humble kitchen of a humble pony alchemist, aided by two royal kehls. Hopscotch and Prince Bramble quickly followed Princess Luna's instructions to the letter, forbidden from writing anything down and urged to forget the ingredients as soon as they were added. There, for what we had hoped would be the final time, we revived an ancient secret long ripped from the pages of history.

Soon, the formula was nearing completion. The glass distiller at the hearth glowed a strange color, some mixture that seemed not quite green and not quite gold. I stared with desperate hope through the foggy glass as it was turned over. Several bright, glossy drips of gold-mercurial Aura Sap were added then, and the colors intensified twofold as the distiller glowed. For a moment, I could see nothing else but its light. Before I could blink, the distiller had been emptied into a phial by Hopscotch, its contents carried to my hooves by my Princess.

I guided Grand to lay down with a hoof. He obeyed. I know he could feel my hesitation, and he gave a nervous glance toward the others in the room, then toward the phial I held in my hoof, whimpering in pain and fear. A timberwolf's grasp of Cerfish can be spotty and scant when they are malnourished. It is difficult to know when they understand the words they're offered. To be certain, parents often develop and train a tell for such situations. In Grand's case, he knows to paw the ground twice in understanding.

"Shh... by tai, vanna nei. By tai."

Be good, my love.

At my words, Grand reached out and gently pawed twice at my hoof with his claws. He trusted me.

As I looked upon his ravaged shoulder, the oozing black moss seemed to ripple faster with arcs of red-green electricity. It had spread to a quarter of his right side by then. I knew that Grand was fighting a battle too, constantly recasting as he tried to eliminate the infection. I began to tip the phial, hesitating as I looked down at my friend, my Guardian, my child, who now more than ever needed our protection. He looked up at me with a soft, pleading whine. His leafy eyebrows turned upward. He was terrified. He had endured so much pain already throughout the night, but I had to continue. I had no choice but to continue what was essentially a surgery on a conscious patient.

I poured very little at first, only a drop, but it began to sizzle immediately. It was enough to cause Grand to cry out and convulse; I had to shush him for several long minutes, and my heart broke to see him suffer. But the effect upon the infection was as immediate as it was obvious. The black moss had bubbled viciously in a bid to survive, failing to do so as one full radial inch of it burned away. It had crusted as it seared and died, forever scorching the surface of his shoulder.

At once, we knew this blight could be defeated, but I also learned that the easy part of this ordeal was now behind me.


It took several hours to cut away the infection. It was the most difficult trial of our lives, but it was done.

We carefully removed the deadened moss for analysis. Hopscotch painted a rendition of the dark, mossy substance for posterity, so it may be later identified in future occurrences. With this rendition, we sent a letter to The Canterlot Royal Archive, requesting any information they might have on this seemingly unprecedented magical phenomenon.

It was morning. I still hadn't slept. Grand remained at my side, and I could hear the clattering of his wooden limbs as the space between the pieces narrowed. He was starving, but I hoped he could now eat. As Blackthorn and others discussed the issue with Princess Luna, I took Grand for some fresh air, walking with him into the forest.

A mere two years before, I had taken that same path to begin my first true expedition into the Everfree. I had no idea then of what I was getting myself into, but I wouldn't have traded that experience for anything in the world. Back then, I was an idealist. Now, I was a true ecologist, pragmatic and driven. What concerned me now was Grand, his survival, his comfort, and that of the forest by extension.

He still loped awkwardly, but that would eventually pass. He walked closer to me now though. I recognized his hunger, his head darting in desperation as he scanned the nearby forest. We both knew that the hunting period was quickly drawing to a close, and so the wisps would be retreating to their trees in due time. Fortunately, dawn under a full moon was the best time to hunt, providing the largest wisps. I gave a silent word of thanks to Luna and her moon, taking Grand and my longbow partway into the Everfree.

We found a plump boar wisp within the hour. I remember it well: the creature was large enough to rival Grand for size, its tusks each the size of my forelegs. Grand rushed forward immediately, desperate to feed and trusting my aim. I reared up to draw the bow fully with both forehooves, releasing an arrow and hitting the wisp square beneath its neck and directly at its chest.

Grand swooped in and finished it off as it staggered and tried to flee, my child digging his wooden teeth into its neck and eating ravenously. The energy seeped from the wisp, turning from blue to green as it seeped into his piercing emerald eyes. He charged up, thriving for a moment. But then, the majority of that meal was swept down to his injured shoulder. He forced it inward, the green tendrils reaching out from his skull and wrapping tightly around his side, Grand binding his own enchantment to the fresh alchemical magic with as much strength as he could channel.

It wasn't until I watched him charge his shoulder plate that my fear gave way to relief, one that slowly replaced itself with a cold anger. I knew the colors of the old enemy, of that heavily contrasting red-green on black. Even a thousand years on, part of that old foe Sombra was still alive, still trying to kill us, trying to kill our forest. I wanted to ensure this infection never happened to any other Vorku. "Never again," I muttered to Grand. I wasn't alone, either. When I returned to the village, I could see that same fire in Luna's eyes, and in Blackthorn's, and in Bramble's. We all knew what had to happen next.

We thanked Hopscotch for his expertise and returned to Thicket immediately. Grand remained at the city in the care of Blackthorn, as we feared he might be reinfected in his weakened state. The rest of us joined the scouting Dierguard, who by then were already retracing my recent routes through the forest as best as I could remember.


Recognizing the importance of the timberwolves, Princess Luna ordered that the stores of Aura Sap be surrendered to the deer as needed. Several more phials of the restorative potion were created, and we prepared for the worst.

Over the course of the next several days, a militia of deer searched for the source of the corruption, each carrying a small dose of the critical cleansing potion mixture. They all retraced my recent patrols and expanded from there. I chided myself for losing sight of Grand on more than one occasion, as he is as apt to explore independently as I am. I suspected his infection may have occurred when we were separated.

It was infuriating to be without answers, especially after expending so much effort to find them, knowing that what happened to Grand likely already had occurred to others. Still, at the time, I continued to blame myself for Grand's damage. Blackthorn, ever a friend, assured me that it wasn't my fault. "You are his mother," he said. "You are giving him nothing but your best."

I was still thinking of Grand as though he were still a puppy. I still wanted to protect him from everything. Without a doubt, that lesson would not be lost on him. He would remember my love as he grew older and left me for good. He would pass that lesson on to other Vorku in his life. The forest would share it. I tried to find strength in that.

My concerns paled in comparison to the utter drive I could sense in the Dierguard scouts. As I joined with their patrols, I noticed they were far more intense and determined than I had ever seen them. It should not have been a surprise to me. My affinity for nature, strong as it is, will always be nothing compared to theirs. We all knew the extent of damage Grand suffered. We all knew the risks, and with so many other timberwolves missing, we feared the worst.

Princess Luna provided her knowledge of the region as well, amending our maps with the locations of smaller ancient pony ruins now long gone from our records. Not even the Archives of Thicket were so precise: she brought knowledge of several scorched earth lines in the Everfree, of the measures taken to stall and delay Sombra's hordes, of the countermeasures taken by Sombra himself, and of the locations of smaller important towns and villages that were razed by his army. The deer scouts and scientists began a sweep of these territories as one, with King Aspen himself joining in the search. We turned over every location for any latent hints of dark magic.

It was at this time that Princess Luna received a letter from Princess Celestia, confirming our fears at last: King Sombra had been sighted in the frozen north beyond the Everfree, and the Crystal Empire had returned from its magic shroud. We gave Princess Luna our thanks for her aid and good luck as she returned to organize Equestrian affairs. Both nations again prepared for the worst, fearing the return of war.


Our journey eventually led us to several hanging green mosses, each lined with fuzzy dark lines as they hung from trees.

According to Luna's additions to our maps, these trees were growing atop the ruins of buildings of an old village that was once populated by two thousand deer. The clinging, darkened tendrils were unassuming, blending perfectly into the foliage of the Everfree, and there was no way we could have known that they were so dangerous or potentially deadly unless we were looking for them. Immediately, we treated the roots of the trees in the same decoction that had been used to cure Grand. Special defoliant potions were used to debride the moss, which was then collected for study.

Not far from the mosses, we found the lost Guardians.

At the sight of them, the lead scout wailed with anguish. I heard it from where I stood across the town as I worked, her cry echoing loudly, stunning all of our unit to silence. In an instant, I could feel her pain, heartache, and misery. I could not see it yet, but I immediately knew what that sound meant. My heart wept already as I rushed to her side with the others, and I saw the lead doe turn away, shuddering as she fell into the shoulder of another.

The eight empty golems teemed with red-green electric arcs, the black moss covering their wooden corpses like a blanket of death. They were laid side by side, close to one another, having attempted to soulshare in a desperate, hopeless bid to conserve themselves. I remembered the agony Grand endured when I had offered him food; I could only imagine how excruciating it must have been for these Guardians to share their energy so desperately.

Their life energies had been swallowed whole. Beneath the moss and within their skulls, their soul crystals were compromised, burned black and cracked into lightless gray shards by the evil magic. The enchantments placed on their golems had been snuffed. Their tender souls were long dead, lost forever, their energies unable to return home to the earth of the forest.

I knew two of them. Vorku Velka was a preternatural who was raised by Dierguard Canina, a friend to Blackthorn; the second was a wild Vorku puppy nicknamed Liytsae – Sunlight – by the fawns of Briar. She was known for approaching our village to feed on scraps, or to soulshare with Grand when he too was still a puppy. I remember hoping they would pack together, long ago. Now I knew that would never be. While part of Liytsae would live on in Grand forever, it was little comfort... it also meant that part of Grand had also died with her.


Eight funerals were held in Thicket, one for each loss. The skullpieces of each golem were cleansed, restored, preserved, and forever commended to the Mausoleum of Guardians. Over the next months, the entire able population of the Dierkahl had made a pilgrimage to their capitol to participate in one of the ceremonies. Together, we each mourned our losses as one.

It is important for us to remember that the Everfree Forest is still so dangerous, and all forms of life - even those of dark magic - can still thrive in its depths. For all of our study, research, and knowledge, for every attempt we make to understand this home, we still know so very little.

The deer, whose core philosophy is to coexist with the chaotic nature of the forest, consign themselves to the truth that there will be much loss in life. Sometimes the answers we are given as to why these losses occur are not as clear as we wish them to be. But it does give an important frame of reference as we mourn. We are reminded every day, whether we realize it or not, that life is as easily taken away as it is given. All we can do is strive to understand the dangers that lurk in the darkness and adapt to them.

After this, I take so little for granted anymore.

9. On the Importance of Letting Go, by Princess Luna

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On the Importance of Letting Go

By Princess Luna


Eater of Shadow

Eva ful na meyuzh, nai 'yuut autre.
Fi chai nai sho-la es eva sahtt vel.
Nai ful nei kahl ret uzh memki, Vorku
Nyei vida es drema na a aksur kehl.


To stain the mind, scar the heart, and smother love in its cradle, look no further than dark magic.

By now, all of Equestria knows of my crime, where I betrayed all and became the dreaded Nightmare Moon. I make no secret of my misdeeds of the past. It could not be a secret even if I wished it to, for any who turned up to my night sky saw the evidence emblazoned on the surface of the moon. My very existence had become a cautionary tale against hubris.

I've felt true darkness. One cannot imagine the way such magics gripped my soul and turned it black, feeding itself with recurring anger as necessary. It granted limitless power, but at the cost of everything else. It acted a blindfold, preventing me from seeing my own folly. It was a comfortable drug, an escape from my limitations. It was a blanket of straw, acting as tinder and burning me alive with wanton spite. I felt I could do anything, and often more than anything.

It was a continuous, cycling chain of hatred, one that could not be broken by words or reason. I had not given Celestia any other choice but to banish me. And what did I first do, when I sprung free from my prison a thousand years on? I scoffed. Lost time was trivial to me. Meaningless. Nothing. Still under the influence of the darkness, I could not understand how incredibly lost I would be, or how different the world had become, or how powerful its magics still were. I became arrogant. I faltered and failed. In this failure, I was finally disarmed of the darkness in my soul.

No pony would have doubted Celestia had she returned me to exile, banishment, or worse. Even as I write this, there are still elements of Equestrian society that would see me driven from the land and my royal office, and to them I hold no ill will, for even today I still work to regain their trust. But at the very instant of my Reunification with Celestia, the dark cloud was lifted from my eyes. With the darkness excised, the weight of my crimes crashed down upon me. I could finally see it then, the harm I had caused to those who loved me. I was no longer blinded, nor possessed. Then came the remorse.

I imagine that Celestia had spent a millennium thinking of what to say to me upon my return. As she looked down at me in my defeat, I was at her mercy, to be crushed or cast out. But even after what I had done, and after all that time in between, she still considered me family. She still offered forgiveness. Kindness. Love. So here I stand, once more at her side as an equal, and I have since striven to earn this forgiveness every day, again forever in service to Equestria. May I learn, and may I never fail you again, my little ponies.

Alpine once considered me family too, as he was the closest friend I had ever known in life. But to use dark magic was as heavy a betrayal to a deer as any could be. Alpine's feelings fell from deep fondness and affection to revulsion and pain, and so great was his disappointment that he cursed my very name in his memoirs. I cannot fault him. You now know of the harm Sombra wrought upon Alpine's beloved forest. Dark magic became the most illicit act in their kingdom; even today, conviction for its practice carries the penalty of death. For this, Luna became a term synonymous with betrayal.

Much has changed since the old times. Our own race has been beyond the Everfree Forest for so long that many do not even remember we were ever there. Our seat of power is now in Canterlot, a land once foreign to me. Our roads are safer to travel, free of brigands and carnivorous beasts. Our diplomatic relations with other nations have civilized such that war is infrequent and bordering on rare, with trade and discourse being the norm and not the exception. The definition of "town" has changed as well. In my day, such a term meant that the settlement had a guarded border wall, but this is often no longer required.

Technologies and modes of transportation exist that I could not have even fathomed in the old days, such as airships of wood and canvas, or naval ships of metal and coal. Trains, steam power, electricity, new methods of crop cultivation. Vast unwalled cities stand unopposed and unassailed at the shores of our continent, made of more concrete and steel than I could have ever dreamed of, without any fear of pirates and raiders sacking and razing their homes from foreign shores.

I learned the new legal provisions, learned of our major cities, of where the conflicts laid, and of each nation's relationship with ours. Our culture, our artistry, and even our very language has changed, and with it our very way of life. Despite the difficulty presented by all of this new knowledge, I have brought myself fully up to speed in the years since my return. My capability now matches that of long ago, and my sister and nation have welcomed me back most graciously, for which I am ever thankful.

In the early months immediately following my return, I moved to confront my shortcomings and reconcile where and when I could. Reconciling with those one has betrayed is difficult indeed when time has claimed them all. But if what I have earned back is to have meaning, I must try, and I resolved to never allow myself to forget who I have wronged. Among those is Nyx'it, the daughter I left behind.

Of course I remembered Nyx'it upon my return, quickly asking Celestia of her fate. She admitted that she did not know, for Celestia had not returned to the Everfree even once following the Exodus of 782 B.R. Wanting for an answer, I wrote to the deer, not yet knowing that my very name had entered their lexicon as a curse. King Aspen's attendants would provide me with nothing.

This was frustrating, but understandable, for I was new and unknown to them at best. Our relationship with their nation had waned over the centuries, and our parting was not on the best of terms. Worse still, the deer remembered me, for King Alpine's memoirs had become a cultural mainstay on the bookshelf of every citizen in the Dierkahl. So, left with no other options to find Nyx'it, I recklessly struck out to the Everfree on my own to search, carrying naught but my wings, a will, and a pure intent.

I loved Nyx'it dearly, as all Vorku parents do. Despite her fearsome golem made of graywood, dark as night as she was, her personality had always been sweet, kind, and charitable in my presence. I remember how, long after her cousins had left their creators and moved on to their natural duty, Nyx'it remained in my care, following me around nearly everywhere I went. Hunting with her was such a delightful hobby, something I could not have imagined living without.

Such is the gift of graywoods to age slower, making her practically inseparable from me, always looking to me with love. In the days before my banishment, we very well expected our Guardians to last forever. Their golems were sturdy, and the forest's bounty was reciprocal, seemingly endless. We had not yet known the long term effects of soulsharing or the effects of the waning moon on their magics.

Several months before Apex would take her first steps toward Briar, I would take my first steps back into my old home: our tall castle deep within the Everfree.

The concept of a thousand years of time is difficult for most ponies to fathom. Lo, to fully come to terms with this span, I had to see this place in its full dereliction. Two Sisters had changed significantly, now broken with time, its skylights and ceilings collapsed from a thousand years of rain, its bridges crumbled through a thousand years of wind and snow. Still, as a testament to our architects of yesteryear, the library within the castle's core was exceptionally well preserved. Dust, I felt, was tolerable and preferable to decay.

I felt right at home there, immediately turning to the comfortable and familiar pages of the Old Language. Alone, and in a place without judgment, I studied with ease, returning to the castle at least twice a fortnight, arriving and leaving through my old chambers in the Moon Keep. I caught up on our history as rapidly as I could, seeking to know what eventually became of those I once knew. To know such things occurred long in the past was still difficult to process.

Between my studies, I continued my search for Nyx'it in the forest, traveling to the places I had taken her in her youth. I attended the ponds and meadows where she once loved to hunt, but the land had changed. Old villages were long absent, with no trace left in their wake, and other places were simply overgrown. In those explorations, as I flew and searched and rediscovered my lost home, I saw several timberwolves from on high, some of them taking notice of me in passing. To know their race still flourished was a breath of hope.

Over the next month, I read of the deer, and how their own culture adapted to their new Guardians alongside Equestria. Then, I read with some difficulty that timberwolves did indeed expire with old age - worse, they forgot their creators with time. Knowing this, I stopped looking for Nyx'it, trying to accept that she had at best forgotten me, and at worst had passed and was gone forever. In either case, it would be much too painful to confront her as she was now. The deer would surely not permit me to visit the Mausoleum to see if she had been interred. So as with all the other things I had lost to time, I tried to let go of her, too. For some weeks, I thought I had.

But as fate would have it, Nyx'it found me anyway.


One evening, I had stayed at the castle later into the night than was typical for me. My magic had finally returned to me, my scorched horn at last recovering from the shattering of the nightmare spell. By then, I had returned to my former strength and appearance, my mane again flowing as my attunement with the moon was restored. It felt good to cast comfortably and without pain, and so I cast a simple magelight spell to celebrate. This permitted me to explore the old castle entirely under the darkness, and so I walked down memory lane, cutting through the shadows of the Moon Keep and exploring old hidden passages long forgotten.

As the light of the sun grew and streamed through the windows and breaches of the walls, I could see better without my spell, and thus doused it. In its place, I began to channel the spell that would lower the moon, knowing it was my time and duty to yield. I rounded the corner into the grand entrance hall, observing the old tattered standards of family houses long gone. I moved down the steps, my hooves echoing through the hall as they crushed pebbles, and I craned my head to the broken ceiling above to watch the moon as it gave way for Sister's sun.

I hadn't seen Nyx'it there in the shadows cast by dawn. She sat alone, watching the sky, following the moon as it withdrew. The only hint I had of her was the glow of her striking green eyes. I stopped as I saw her. My breath caught. My heart froze still. She turned, laying sight upon me at last.

There was no mistaking Nyx'it as the dawnlight struck her features. She glowed softly from the sides of her skull, enchanted petals of violet creeping flowers hanging from her leafy ears. Her golem's colors were rare among her kind, a grayish brown that belied the enchanted wood of her making. There she was, as I lived and breathed... the only daughter I ever had. For the briefest of moments, I forgot the effects of their aging, of the deterioration of their individuality. As I stood in the hall of my old home, it was as though I had never left. I had taken a step back in time.

Without thinking, I ran to her, calling her name, missing her dearly. But she snarled and snapped, recoiling as I approached, countering my advance with aggression. I halted, struck with denial as I gazed into those green eyes of the Everfree. I knew the truth. I had read it. Still, I was desperate to make her remember me, and so I pled with with her in the Old Language.

"Nyx'it? 'Yuut nyu memki nyei mat, chai nei?"

Do you remember your mother, my child?

But she could not. As with all other things, time had taken its toll.

Despite this vast disparity between us, she heard my words. At first I thought she had finally recognized me, for there was new uncertainty in her eyes, her ears folding and her head canting to the side. At that moment, her pack flooded the Great Hall in support of her, drawn from the forest by her earlier snarls. Their growls nearly drowned out the clattering of wood as they swarmed. But as they entered the range of Nyx'it's telepathy, they stayed their advance, taking note of her new concern.

Nyx'it approached me slowly at the foot of the stairs. I could not move as I stared into her eyes; if she wished me slain, it would have been so, for in that moment I could not raise a hoof in my defense... not against my beloved daughter. I breathed her name as she came within mere inches. I was powerless before her gaze. She stood for several moments, the greens of her eyes blinding me as she touched my nose with hers.

I am not sure what I was feeling in that solitary, frustrating moment as she sensed my soul. Was it just sadness? Or was it fear? Confusion? Disappointment? I think it was a mixture of these things. I had lost so much, had been feared and distrusted by nations, had been forsaken by old allies. I was slowly coming to terms with all of this. With death of friends, with dejection, with scorn cast my way. But I had never yet faced an old friend to find I had been... simply forgotten. This was a new sensation, one so foreign and miserable as to rend the heart deeper than any other loss I had suffered.

Guilt flickered strongly then, for leaving her behind. My head was bowed in submission to her judgment. I remained still, refusing to move as she considered me. Then, without ceremony, Nyx'it turned away. She moved for the door. Her pack, trusting her judgment of me, followed her without hesitation. I again listened to the clattering of their enchanted claws on the broken tiles. Then, silence.

I remained quite still for some minutes as I considered what that encounter had meant to her, or to me. She must have felt my love for her. There was no way she could not detect the deep respect I held for that place, for her, or for the Everfree in total, or that I now intended no harm. There was also no way she could not feel the guilt in my heart, that she could not see the wrong I had wrought. Yet, as was her right as Keeper of the Land, Nyx'it had deemed me worthy to walk these halls once more.

While most timberwolves soulshare their memories away within twenty years, Nyx'it and her graywood children perhaps held onto hers for around a century or more. The effect of this knowledge was strong upon me. What could she have thought after I left her? If the deer of that time had told Nyx'it what I had done, who was I to her then?

Despite what I had done, Nyx'it returned to the forest. It loved her as much as I did, holding her close, sustaining her, and it provided my daughter with the power to have children of her own. Today, she is every bit the Guardian I had hoped she would be, for I had raised her with all of the love I could give in our short time together. She did not crumble without me in her adulthood, nor did she fail in my absence. She had taken to the forest seeking balance, structure, and order.

I still miss her as she was in her youth. But I am proud of her now, even if she does not fully know who I am or what she means to me. Nyx'it moved on, becoming something beautiful and cherished by all who call the Everfree home. To see my daughter one final time, to see that she was not ruined by my act of betrayal, eventually brought a warmth to me that no words of forgiveness could have given. It took many days of contemplation to come to this conclusion.

Only then did I finally begin to move on as well.


A thousand years ago, before a warm hearth in a humble home, the first timberwolf was born.

It had not the trappings of professional craft, nor any knowledge of its fellow kind. It was a blank slate. Clear. Pure. It came into being as a pile of wood, not knowing what it was, what it was for, nor how it came to be. As it formed into the basic shape of its soul, it stood. In front of it was another being, a fawn that matched its size. This fawn, merely two years of age, made a sound... perhaps it was a gasp, or a cheer, or a simple hello. The timberwolf, new as it was and knowing nothing else, made a sound back too.

The fawn danced with excitement next, bounding left and right on her front legs. The timberwolf joined her, mimicking her movements. Next, the fawn jumped. They began to dance together. The fawn was happy, and through her, the timberwolf knew what it was like to be happy too. Within seconds, they were friends, one welcoming the other to life with innocent, loving play.

What a marvelous way for the first Vorku to meet their creators.

We had created new life, and we were awestruck with the immensity of what we had done. We had created a new soul, one as living and delicate as any of ours. Each was a vast responsibility, one that stretched for millennia. We took them in love and kindness, honoring them for their service to us with service of our own. Through our actions and through our care for the land upon which we stood, we taught them not how to kill, but how to feel love and how to protect it.

The Guardians were created for war. But in that first moment of purity, when we heard that this creature had played with a fawn, we knew instantly that they were more than the sum of their parts. These were not mere weapons. They deserved more than war, and so we sought that limitless potential within them. Our resultant affection inspired them, leading these innocent, youthful creatures to adopt our love for our home. They are, after all, reflections of our selves.

It is frightening for many of us as parents to see our timberwolves grow and mature, to watch them leave our sides, and to know that their memories will spread thin as they become one with the forest. But in calling ourselves their parents, we recognize that they, like our fawns and foals, will eventually grow beyond us, becoming something unique and beautiful.

Nyx'it, who was born at the very beginning, has long forgotten who I am. There is no way she could still know Kehl Luna, Kehl na Equestriy iy Kahl na Lohkei, any more than she could know Princess Luna, Ruler of Equestria and Heart of the Night. But I still love Nyx'it, Eater of Shadow. Like the deer, I choose to believe that those memories of our love together are still held close by the Everfree itself, dispersed throughout its being. The memory of her youth remains strong within me too, and I will always cherish that for as long as I am blessed with life. As I see what the timberwolf race has become, I think of everything they have accomplished in their eternal dance with nature.

If they so desired, the Vorku could destroy so much. They could easily breed beyond their means, could become what they were born to fight, and could devour the forest entire as their enemies once did. But as creatures who love our home and our culture, the Vorku choose not to do this. Continually thirsty for guidance, they donate their young to their creators, giving them a beautiful life in our care. They protect their home ferociously, exactly as they were raised to do. I choose to believe that our goodwill, that our love for these creatures, is internalized at their core. We have taught them to embrace balance.

That is the lesson we wish for them to hold forever in their hearts. This is why the deer still teach them, raise them, and share their intent with them. We do not set them upon the world with a lonely birth in bitter winds. We do not force them to obey, or to conquer. As they age, we do not swaddle them. They become their own, strong and noble.

Because long after they are a scampering mess of wooden paws clattering down a hallway; long after they have nestled against us in our sleep, safely tucked against our sides to share their warmth; long after we have sung their praises before them as two nations saved; long after they have forgotten us and have moved on from our homes; they move on ever forward without us, but stronger for us.

Trade has reopened with the Dierkahl in recent years, and with it comes a mixing of cultures. The legend of the timberwolf has thus resurged throughout Equestria, spoken of in whispers and shrouded in rumors. The truth of our history has also trickled out into our kind from the knowledge stores of the deer, our historians again uncovering the long lost tale of Sombra's Dark War and how his horde was conquered.

In the wake of this, those who are close to me in my court have asked me the rather ambiguous question of how we managed to create a new creature from nothing. Academically, even scientifically, it was relatively simple. A living creature is so easily created, but also easily abandoned. Speaking purely from experience alone, I know that life can be a hollow existence to those without affection or purpose. To me, to truly live is to thrive, to be accepted, and to be loved. So whenever this question is posed to me, I hold no doubt nor hesitation in my answer, one simultaneously simple and complex in so many wonderful ways:

Love. That is how we created the Guardians of the Everfree.

Autrar na fi Teikyune, be fi Dierkahl

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Autrar na fi Teikyune

Be fi Dierkahl


In this appendix, we present translations for the various Cerfish poems, songs, stories, and quotations used throughout this piece. Though the Dierkahl has embraced the evolved common tongue, the original Cerfish tongue is still used, and is required for communication with the Guardians. As such, fluency is common among the Dierguard, for their scouts are the most commonly selected candidates for raising new Vorku.


It is customary for parents to write two or more short poems for their timberwolf: the Life Poems, and the End Poem. In the Foreword of this book, each parent presents a Life Poem. Life Poems are oft written during the lifespan of the Guardian, usually extolling the virtue of their existence or creation. The End Poem is not to be written until a Guardian's life has come to its end. Should a parent not survive their Vorku, the End Poem is written instead by a relative or, failing this, by the Kahl themselves. Both poems are to be presented at the Vorku's interment in the Mausoleum of Guardians, displayed before their final resting place.

Kahruvel iy Bloctorn

"Ton wisp'it es ton quiva vida, fosi nyeli kah.
Sim nyali paka dahtta kahru, nyeli leka sah."

"To eat wisps is to give life, so we hunt.
As we pack together, hunter, we are one."

Nyx'it iy Kehl Luna

"Memki soh nei tantibus, nei etern sinsa vlei,
Nyei desta es taiet drema: pass fleyt nei lohkei."

"Remember not my nightmare, my eternal sincere friend.
Your destiny is better dreams: peace through my night."

Grand iy Apex

"Nousheri kinyu, chai nei, cereta ret vanna.
Nyu temfyu, sikna Teikyun, es vel'ki ichnesa."

"Nourish yourself, child mine, created with love.
Your future, great Guardian, is the forest soul's will."


Lament for the Hidden

Following the Dark War, our ancestors searched for the deer and pony wisps of their kin, but to no avail. Theories run throughout deer culture as to where these beings went. Perhaps Sombra's army inhabits the wisps that remain, forever serving as prey for the Vorku. Perhaps the souls of our ancestors refused to be taken by these creatures. Or, perhaps it is instead that the souls of the slain might yet live on within our Vorku.

The answer has yet to surface. To exercise their frustrations at this uncertainty, our philosophers and scholars turn to art. Lament for the Hidden is one such piece.

"Quantem, nyei kie leken destra,
Iy krahtt na nyei drema, sketra.
Quar 'yuut nyali loktat nyu tem?
Leka nyu eva in chel fehm?

Nai smosha soh sah yeletkai
soh sikna messta fror nyx nyu.
Bel nai reptem pishva na qua
nyu'uut na nyeli vel Vorku."

~

"Suddenly, your souls were shattered,
and all of your dreams, scattered.
Where do we find you now?
Are you forever in that phase?

I speak not one command
nor great message for your shadow.
But I often wonder of what
you feel of our forest's timberwolves."


Ki Enfei

The bond between parent and timberwolf can be striking despite the short time they spend together, a connection often described as a rapid fire. In the Life Poem Ki Enfei, or Soul Fire, the parent of Vorku Flova'ki (342 to 298 B.R.) describes their passion for their companion, beginning with their initial spark and ending with their shared lifelong duty.

"Fi enfei na nei kahl turb'yor la ton sparka fi enfei in nyei.
Iy nyeli eksiy drema fror fi vel es nyeli etern lega.
Fleyt vanna, nai cereta nyu,
a vida ret a ichnesa,
a vive ret a stahtesa.
ton by sim nyali leka: Teikyune na fi Vel."

"The flame in my heart rises to stoke the flame in yours,
And our beautiful dream for the forest is our eternal legacy.
Through love, I created you,
a life with a will,
a being with a purpose.
To be as we are: Guardians of the Forest."


Mat Vida

In the Dierkahl, it is a commonly held belief that a short life filled with purpose holds greater cultural value over a long life with none. When Mother Life calls us home, we all hope to say we did all we could to serve our kin. The author of the following is unknown, but this may have been the intent, for it is written from the perspective of the Evavrai.

"Vida, morot, beret, destra,
Tempa, temfyu, nai viza krahtt,
Sho-lai grata; korfror liyt,
Tempo, eva, nai lekai grahtt.
Sa iy va, nousheri neita,
Tem etern, nei vel'ki 'tratat.
Krahtt cretei, sikna iy titha,
Rosotu leka ki'loah sotte."

~

"Life, death, birth, destruction,
Past, future, I see all.
A growing tree, reason for light,
Now, forever, I am the trees.
Food and water, nourishing nature,
For eternity, my soul is shared.
All creatures, great and small,
They are welcome here."


Little Seeds

Little Seeds, or Titha Shodei, is a nursery rhyme song written in 1002 B.R. At the time, it was not uncommon to find mixed schools for pony foals and deer fawns at border villages. So inspired by the sharing bonds formed by Vorku, a pony educator and Vorku parent by the name of Quillborn wrote this song for his young students, aiming to instill tolerance that would carry our two nations forward together.

For chapter five, Apex elected to include this song not just because it was one of Grand's favorites, but also because this piece conveyed her sentiment toward Grand's very creation, itself a unifying act between nations.

"Titha shodei, titha shodei,
Retka 'tratahok,
Titha shodei, titha shodei,
'Tratat sim nyu kot.

Titha shodei, titha shodei,
Titha faun iy foll,
Titha vivei, plass quiva
Nyei vanna iy nyei toll."

~

"Little seeds, little seeds,
Have consideration,
Little seeds, little seeds,
Share as you can.

Little seeds, little seeds,
Little fawn and foal,
Little lives, please give
your love and your care."


Eksen: Pg. 322. Oxalis Grova, be Urtica na Onnotdalasa.

Urtica, a deer born in the village of Honorhome, was known especially for his talent with historical fiction. In his most pivotal piece Oxalis Grova, written in 625 B.R., Urtica details the struggles of Kahl Oka during the March of the Ursa, a civil war engagement in 1302 B.R. This battle led to the Kahl's sacrificial final stand against pursuing dissidents; Oka purchased valuable time for his remaining forces and wife to regroup with the armies of Dierkahl. These words were paraphrased by an aide who survived the battle, and this quotation was subsequently included in Urtica's novel seven centuries later.

"Iy fi rien tya fi horza? 'Yuut soh fera cha. Cha glista latya qua nyeli quiva cereta iy latra nyeli soh'uut. Quan cha rotat, flova ichnesa sho-la latya quar nyeli soh'uut eska bera. Vida es a sik-la, nei vanna, iy fror krahtt nyu quiva rowanset, fosi simtei nyu ganna."

~

"And the rain on the horizon? Do not fear it. It glistens upon what we have created and heals all of our sadness. When it ends, flowers will grow upon where our sadness was born. Life is a cycle, my love, and for all you have lost, so too will you gain."


The Mausoleum of Guardians

The following is directly attributable to Kahl Alpine, whose words were oft repeated in his Mausoleum memorial sermons. Such statements, including his many aphorisms and common observations, would go on to provide the foundation for all of our traditional sermons and rites honoring the Vorku.

"Ton ayd a pagra es ton ayd kinyu. Blesa leka rosoto quo quiva kikrah."

"To aid another is to aid your soul. Blessed are those who give their whole being."

On the memorial plaque in the Mausoleum Atrium, beneath the Lupine Tree:

"Ches es quar nyali onnot fi sacrae na fi shodei chel sho-la savari,
Quo sparka fi horza iy driva fleyt fi loh fau kahl.
Nyali leka etern grett, nyu blesa chaie na fi vel."

"Here is where we honor the sacrifices of the seeds who grew large,
Who sparked the horizon and drove through the dark foe's heart.
We are eternally grateful, you blessed children of the forest."

And The Final Prayer of Conveyance, as spoken for Underwing's Saegrata:

"Nyeli kahl vafell fror varr morot iy autre fror varr vida. Fror Saegrata, sotte in varr dalasa na Ticcet iy Evavrai, nyeli dahtt'yuut. Nyeli commet varr. Varr sprou as bel a titha shodet. Fleyt nyu vanna, varr sho-la inton a Teikyun na fi Evavrai. Nyeli grett fror varr sacra, iy varr vill nevar by morotmemki."

"Our hearts weep for her death and cheer for her life. For Saegrata, here in her home of Thicket and the Everfree, we do both. We honor her. Saegrata began as but a humble seed. Through your love, she grew into a Guardian of the Everfree. We thank her for her sacrifice, and she will never be forgotten."


Eater of Shadow

This piece is a second Life Poem by Princess Luna, written for Nyx'it circa 0 A.R. It is not uncommon for loving parents to provide several throughout their lifetime. Should there be more than one poem at the time of interment, the most suitable piece will be selected for their resting place by their parent, relative, or Kahl.

"Eva ful na meyuzh, nai 'yuut autre.
Fi chai nai sho-la es eva sahtt vel.
Nai ful nei kahl ret uzh memki, Vorku
Nyei vida es drema na a aksur kehl."

"Ever full of joy, I do sing.
The child I grew is forever one with the forest.
I fill my heart with wonderful memories, Vorku
Your life is the dream of a proud princess."


The Dangers of Latent Dark Magic

King Sombra had not yet been defeated at the end of the Dark War. He instead teleported away, escaping judgment and returning to the Crystal Empire to lick his wounds. As the deer remained in the Evavrai to cleanse Dark Army stragglers, the Royal Sisters of Equestria gave chase to the North, through the Blue Territories.

Celestia and Luna arrived at the Crystal Empire to find it in disarray, with many of its native crystal pony denizens enslaved and mining the earth in vain for more of Sombra's umbrum specter crystals. Though Sombra was weakened, battered, and on the cusp of defeat, the coward mustered the strength to retreat once again, using his magic to force the Crystal Empire into planar phase. It disappeared, leaving the Royal Sisters to gape at the hole left in the ground. They ordered the site fully excavated; two remnant crystals were sought out with life detection spells and were subsequently destroyed.

After receiving word of Sombra's survival, Kahl Alpine became an outspoken hypervigilant, forever at the ready. "Sombra will return," he warned, whenever his councilors would suggest easing patrols. So came this saying:

"Memkut: evna en morot, a yardaquae quillet vilbet azhken iy a faue plana vilbet morotet."

"Remember: Even in death, a porcupine's quills remain sharp and an enemy's plans remain deadly."

Upon review of a journal discovered in Sombra's Crystal Palace quarters, we believe that the Dark Foe did intend to return, comfortable to simply wait out the lifespans of his enemies. When the day came, he would exhume the final specter crystals and again march on the Evavrai. A thousand years later, the Crystal Empire would return from this shroud. Sombra, predicting that the Vorku might be turned against him once more, returned briefly to the Evavrai to lay darkmoss traps, sowing the seeds he had hoped would grow into total destruction.

But the Dierkahl and Equestria did not wither with age, and neither did the long memories of its leaders. Our vows were upheld. As we worked to cure the darkmoss blight, a short battle ensued between Sombra and a small contingent of Equestrian forces, led by Kehls Twilight Sparkle, Mi Amore Cadenza, and Shining Armor. They each witnessed Sombra's death as he was fully disintegrated by magical fire.

Though a body was never recovered, this may be how umbrums die. But if by some strange twist of fate Sombra has again slipped through our grasp, we remain resilient and strong in defense against his evil. Our three nations shall endure, always standing ready and in unison to defeat him. For in the immortal, final words of Kahl Alpine:

"To combat the darkness is our eternal duty."