Somewhere in the depths of the Appleloosan Mountains, was a cave, undisturbed for centuries. But tonight, of all nights, something stirred within. Dusty bones, long dead and forgotten, began to move of their own accord, reassembling and reforming into a crude structure that was then filled with life and given flesh once more.

Standing proud, bones snapping audibly as they got back into the daily motions, was an immense ram. His shaggy coat, as black as the darkness that revived him, hung in mats and tangles to the ground. His massive horns, curved into terrible points, framing his scowling face. His eyes glowed red, burning with the intensity of dark magic of a power untold. Dark magic second only to the force that gave him life once more.

"Ah! I see you are in good spirits, Master!" the ram spoke to no one, his voice gruff and gravely. An akward silence fell upon the cave, but he cocked his head as if listening to a response.

"A thousand years, you say? Well, sounds like some ponies will be in for a culture shock!"

More silence.

"I'm where? Apparently the landscape has changed since my...demise..."

Anypony present at this conversation would think this ram was mad for talking to himself.

"No, Master! I will not fail! Scorpan was always a fool. But I, Grogar, shall succeed!"

The mighty beast cowered and began shaking slightly.

"No, Master! Anything but that! Please! I promise I will not fail!"

After a few agonizing minuets, the ram managed to regain composure. "Of course, Master. A source of pure, innocent magic is heading this way? Yes...a barganing chip for a more powerful prize...What? A unicorn powerful enough to be a gateway? Yes..."

Grogar shared a hearty laugh with the imaginary voices, then with a flash of bright red, disappeared to his own devices.

Spike and the Crusaders had left the train, and waved goodbye to the strong ponies that pulled it. All that was left now was to find Apple Bloom's cousin Braeburn to have a place to stay, then plan out how they were to find Dash.

"Wow! This is just like those old movies I see on TV late at night!" Scootaloo exclaimed, looking over the tiny town. It looked like it came right out of a Colt Eastwood movie. She couldn't wait to go on an adventure, or round up some bank robbers.

"We're not here to sightsee. We need to lay out a plan to find Dash." Spike reminded.

"What's to lay out? You know where Little Strongheart's tribe is, don't ya?" the orange Pegasus asked, trying to find an argument to get away.

"That's not the point. The desert is dangerous without proper guidance. I only got there last time because I was accidently kidnapped. Going at it alone, we'll need water first and foremost."

"Cousin Braeburn!" Applebloom cried, and bounded towards the tan pony wearing a vest and Steson hat.

"Well, tarnation! Whatn' the hay you doin' out here, Apple Bloom? Applejack let you go out here alone? I always knew she was a bit crazy."

"We're on a rescue mission, for our friend!" Apple Bloom explained.

"All the way out here? Did she get ponynapped?"

"No, she ran away. But we got to find her before it's too late!"

"What she's trying to say," Spike interviened, pushing the filly away so he could talk. "Is we need some supplies so we can travel to the buffalo tribe."

"Well, that's a might ways from here. I don't think cousin Applejack would be plum to happy if she found out I let her sister and her friends go out there and get lost."

"Well, if you can provide a guide or somepony, we'll happily accept." Spike conceeded, much to Apple Bloom's chargin.

"I reckon I ain't got nobody foalish enough to go out into the desert at such a short notice." Brayburn lamented, looking off at the crowd of ponies going about their business. He noticed a storm brewing on the horizon. "Sides, it's about to go an' storm. It'd be real dangerous out there then."

The cowpony glanced down to see three sets of watering eyes and a disappointed dragon. He sighed. "Tell ya what. Ya'll come stay with me for the night, an' I'll see what I can do to help ya tomorrow morning. Deal?"

Spike agreed to the terms, and the house rules.

Soon, Spike and the Crusaders were seated around a hoof built table, in an equally hoof built home. The place gave an air of old fashioned kindness, and the fruits of an honest days work. The meal was also filling, as they had apple dumplings and apple cider. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo could handle the potency of the cider, but Sweetie Bell displayed a look of suprise as the sugars rushed to her head. The others snickered.

"Now, if ya'll are dead set on this mission, ya'll need your rest. So mosey onto bed." Braeburn commanded. "I'll see if I can russle up somepony to help in the morning."

The four nodded and left to the set up guest room that held four cots. After a bit of rolling and silence, Spike was nudged awake.

"What's wrong?"

"Ah'm nervous. What if something nasty from that evil thingy comes and tries to get us?" Apple Bloom asked.

"What makes you think that? We made it this far, and we're not going to quit now. Besides, you got me protecting you, right?"

"Ah guess you're right. Thanks, Spike."

"Aw shucks, t'ain't nutthin'." Spike replied in his best accent, making the filly snicker.

"Ah'm glad we're together now, Spike. If somethin' bad does happen, at least we didn't miss this moment."

She laid down to sleep next to the dragon, who only smiled and blushed. It was weird having someone come onto him, as normally he was the one chasing hopeless dreams.

As the four slept, a pair of glowing red eyes peered through the window.