“I need to get this straight,” Starlight said, pacing back and forth around her room, her mind full of questions. “You saw somepony enter the cave where we hold the cutie marks. Right?”
“That’s correct.” The stallion nodded, his body tensing up upon taking a seat. “But if what I saw is any indication, we may have some… monster hiding in the cave.”
“Now, hold on, Honey Swirl,” she said. “Five foals are missing, I don’t need anypony to panic even more because of some alleged ‘monster’. Now, can you describe what you saw?”
Honey Swirl took a deep breath and went off on what happened, “I was on top of the rock face overlooking the cave, from where I saw a unicorn heading inside--nopony I recognized. When the unicorn got out of my sight, the air started to smell rotten, and I could hear growls around the rock I was on. I looked around the area, but all I found were these big gashes cutting into the ground beneath me. When I got a closer look at the damage, I could see a faint trace of blood smeared into the cracks. After I saw the blood, I came here swiftly. It sounds crazy, but that is what happened, though you probably don’t believe me.”
“No, no, I believe you.” Starlight sighed as she gazed out her window to the cave, rubbing her chin. “Honey Swirl, thank you for coming with this to me. I’ll have a look into this. But keep this to yourself, I don’t want anypony else to freak out. Just have your eyes out for the kids and keep the remaining children indoors.”
“Don’t worry, Starlight, just please be careful,” he replied, getting out of his seat and over to the door. His body straightened out, his front hooves still shaking a bit. “You never know what will happen in a situation like this.”
Starlight gave a reassuring nod and opened the door for them both to leave. She waved him goodbye and walked over to the path heading to the cave. Climbing over rocks and slightly muddy ground, she stiffened and her eyes widened as she saw three groups of tracks, all heading inside the cave.
“Looks like something came through here in a hurry,” she said, inspecting the tracks. Though they seemed to be made by hooves, two sets of the tracks looked odd--one of them had strange claw-like marks along it, the other appeared normal, albeit the distance between the steps indicated it was made by a biped. “Just don’t know what. This one is much like a dog, but the print is too round. And the marks lack any curve. This is really odd, if there’s truly some creature here, I have to make sure it can’t hurt anypony in the village.”
She followed the tracks leading up the hill, all three merging into one set among the cracked rock of the cave. A quiet growl caught her attention. She perked up her ears, listening. Nothing. Setting her eyes forward to the darkness of the cavern, she caught something glowing out of the corner of her eye. Puzzled, Starlight conjured up a ball of light and cast it into the tunnel. The light vanished in the entrance, as if it hit an invisible barrier, dissolving upon contact.
“What happened?” She inched her head forward and tried to cast the spell again. The magic around her horn just fizzled and stopped. Confusion filled Starlight’s mind, her left ear perked up. She could hear heavy hooves bashing against the stone, heading in her direction. She looked around for a place to hide, spotting nothing but barren rock.
Sighing, Starlight ran into the tunnel and hugged the nearest wall behind a small outcropping. The cold embrace of the darkness consumed her body, hiding all but the sounds of her breathing. As the clip-clop of hooves grew louder, she could hear a faint snarl and mumbling as if someone was trying to talk with something in their mouth.
She hugged the wall tighter as a barely visible silhouette passed her, step by a slow step. She held her breath. She heard a muffled scream of her name and a sudden snap of a growl. Whatever was there was really close, and she could smell it. A strong rotting smell, making her gag. Then she heard something hit the wall above her head. She could feel the edge of it feeling around her horn, moving down towards the center of her head. It was sharp and hard. A shiver ran down her spine. She held her breath and body still. The tunnel was silent except for the sounds of muffled shouts and low growls echoing from a distance.
Please just leave, you got to have something better to do. Her whole body was shaking, panic was starting to kick in. She calmed herself and watched the blade-like claw glide around her body. The creature stopped suddenly, looking at its back and the scared colt therein. The beast snorted and stepped back, creeping back down the tunnel. That’s cherry blossoms kid! She screamed in her mind, anger starting to swell up.
Starlight wanted to help the foal, to rip away whatever had him tied down like a snake coiled around a tree. But she didn't know what the creature would do. Its reflexes were too quick. She would not have any time to defend herself from the creature's wrath, or keep it from tearing her or the foal apart limb from limb. With that thought in mind, Starlight decided to just follow the creature, and figure out where it was taking the colt, so she could somehow try to save him. She slowly separated herself from the wall, landing on all fours again. Carefully maneuvering in the dark, trying to keep her hooves from slipping on the slick pebbles, she stalked behind the creature, keeping a reasonable distance away. She dare not light her horn to check where she was going, but the colt's muffled cries and the ominous growls of the creature allowed her to stay behind them as they weaved their way through the underground tunnels.
Minutes ticked by as they moved deeper, until suddenly the cries and growls vanished. Starlight’s ear perked up.. No screams, no snarls, nothing. Just the occasional dribble of water. She shivered in the cold air.
“Crap, where did it go?” Starlight whispered to herself. As she looked into the darkness around her, she heard a voice that made her fur stand on end.
“Someplace special,” it whispered, freezing Starlight where she stood.
“Who said th--'' Something hard bashed the back of her head, causing her to collapse right onto the ground with a thump. Her eyes widened. Her hooves and fur caught onto the sticky floor, as if drowned in thick syrup. She struggled to free herself from the glue-like ground’s sticky grasp. A groan of pain escaped her lips as whatever had attacked her held her in place. Her heart was racing in her heaving chest.
“Starlight Glimmer, it is time,” the voice spoke again, it slightly louder than it was a few moments ago. A ball of light suddenly appeared above Starlight, revealing a unicorn mare standing over her with a cruel smirk. Starlight gulped as the unicorn brought her face closer to her, their horns almost touching. Her breath was even colder than the chilling air of the tunnels.
“I have been watching you and your village for a while," she said, her voice echoing through the pitch-black caverns. "And I think you should see what is planned for us all.”
Starlight blinked at the mare, her perplexion clear on her face. “For us a--”. Before Starlight could finish, the mare bashed her head with a rock unceremoniously.
“Such an easy prey,” the mare remarked as the unicorn slumped to the ground, a bruise already forming on her temple. She shook her head, humming quietly as she carefully cut Starlight out of the floor and carried her deeper into the cavern. The clip-clopping of her hooves slowly muted as they vanished into the darkness, until only silence remained.