The canopy covered the surroundings in dark, damp shadows, making the shapes of the trees and undergrowth form dark and menacing shapes in the distance.
They spoke of malevolent and cruel beings, promising a quick and gruesome end to one who was not both disciplined and skilled enough to journey through the shady haunts of the Everfree Forest.
Ponies had nothing to fear however. At least not with their dark guardian stalking these vile lands, performing the gruesome tasks of keeping their bodies and minds shielded from the terrors of the dark corners of Equestria.
Dull thumps sounded when the tough hooves of the cloaked figure stalked the forest, making the wiser of the creatures beat a quick retreat, lest his piercing gaze fall upon them, followed by his swift and terrible wrath.
It was an unthankful task, keeping the threats from these lands from spilling into the heartlands of Equestria, where the normal ponies pranced and frolicked, unknowing, ungrateful, yet the guardian youth kept ever vigilant, stoic and unyielding.
A cry of terror pierced the tensed shroud of calmness in the forest, and the cloaked young stallion’s ears shot up and immediately pinpointed the source of the commotion, before taking off at a full gallop, moving through the underbrush and weaving between the trees with ease.
A pair of fillies were fleeing along what could almost be described as a trail, if only there was more traffic in this forest.
Following closely behind was a pack of timberwolves, their glowing green eyes set on tearing and devouring their prey.
The two fillies gasped and came to a screeching halt, as they noticed a dark figure standing in front of them, stance broad and ready for battle.
To their shock, the newcomer turned into a dark mist and shot past them, retaking shape between them and their pursuers.
The figure shook his hood back, revealing the handsome face of a tall colt with a horn on his forehead, and spread dark wings to further shield the ponies.
The wolves stopped dead in their tracks, and reevaluated the situation.
“I am Shadowdark, prince of Equestria,” the colt announced, unflinching in the face of the danger. “And I am here to take it to the limit.”
The wolves snarled, and charged him.
Without missing a beat, the colt leapt into action. Weaving to the side of one wolf, he beat it to the ground with a wing, causing it to shatter to countless pieces.
Another threw itself head on against him, but he blocked its attack by rearing up and holding its paws to the side, before headbutting it and causing it to fly into a tree.
The last one thought it could avenge it’s fallen fellows by jumping the colt from behind and biting on his neck, but when his jaws snapped shut, they bit only air, and he passed through his prey harmlessly.
The colt, who had turned into mist, reformed where he had stood as the wolf regained its stance and turned around, not at all comfortable with his opponent’s fighting abilities.
The colt merely lit up his horn, and blasted the wolf with a ray of white light, causing its remains to rain down across the landscape.
He turned around to make sure that the fillies were fine, and found them giving him a look of fear, mixed with a little admiration.
Shadowdark held back a sigh, but was used to this reaction from ponies, and merely put on a stoic and polite face.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
But before they could answer, a chime from a pocket of his cloak sounded, from the ‘gift’ given to him by his aunt Gabe, on request of his parents.
The blue glowing shape of his father’s head appeared before him.
“Shadowdark,” the glowing, floating head of Sombra asked, with a hint of impatience. “Where are you?”
“I’m… nowhere,” Shadowdark said, thinking quickly to find an answer that would appease all present in the manner he wanted. “Just enjoying the shade.”
“Are you in the Everfree?”
Sombra’s head turned around, and saw the other two ponies, before turning back to Shadowdark with one eyebrow raised, and raised high.
“Senses… tingling,” a disembodied, female voice said, before Sombra was partially pushed to the side by the head of Cadence, appearing much like Sombra did.
Cadence looked where Sombra had looked, at the two fillies, before she turned to Shadowdark.
“Oooh,” she said, understanding, before turning back to Shadowdark with a comforting expression. “Oh, Shady, I’ve told you before, you don’t need to do this to impress girls! You’re more than handsome enough to get their attention the old fashioned way.”
“This is the old fashioned way as far as I’m concerned,” Sombra noted, mostly to himself.
The two fillies had started giggling at the antics of prince Shadowdark and his family.
“If you’d just let me style your mane,” Cadence continued. “And Rarity showed me this wonderful pink topaz earring, perhaps with some–”
“Auntie!” Shadowdark whined. “I don’t like dressing like that.
The remains of the wolves, including one mostly intact head, were sniggering where they lay.
“You shut up!” Shadowdark shouted at them.
Shadowdark walked through the remaining part of the forest in silence with the two young mares behind him in silence, vaguely aware of the intense whispering behind him.
When they exited through the edge of the forest, they noticed a dark cloud shooting down from the sky towards them, moving fast, but not threateningly so.
It coalesced into the, for Shadowdark, very familiar sight of his father.
“Hey, dad,” he said.
“Hi, your majesty!” the young mares said in excited unison, doing little curtsies.
“Greetings to you young ponies and all that,” Sombra said. “Are you alright?”
“We’re fine,” they said, and relapsed into another fit of giggles.
“Nopony else in there?”
“Good. Now run along.”
“Bye, your highness!” they said to Shadowdark, giggling as they ran off towards town.
Sombra turned to his child, and nodded. “Well done, but what were you doing in there?”