Twilight screamed and dashed towards the exit. Unfortunately, she missed the door, and crashed headfirst into an invisible wall. She pounded at the wall with her hooves, but it didn't give. The manticore was getting closer.
"Oh Celestia, where's the door?"
The hair on her back stood on end, and she took off to the left into the glowmelon patch. Not a second later, the creature smashed into the wall with a sickening, splintering crash. The impact sent wood chips flying through the air, a few of which were now embedded in the manticore's feline face. The beast roared in pain, and Twilight spared it a single glance.
"What is this shed made of?"
No matter where the chips had came from, the beast was now in pain and even angrier than it had already been. It bellowed once more before charging at it's quarry again.
"This is bad, this is bad! I'll be torn to shreds if I can't find that door!"
Twilight quickly surveyed her options. There was very little room for her to run. The glowmelon vines blanketed two-thirds of the room and were heavily concentrated on the left and right sides. The vines were covered with sharp thorns, and Twilight had already cut herself by diving out of the manticore's path and straight into them.
She needed a distraction. Thinking quickly, she picked one of the few unpicked glowmelons with her magic, and with a strong telekinetic force, hurled it at the manticore in front of her. The melon exploded into green juice and fruit-flesh. It didn't exactly knock the beast down, but it did momentarily stop its charge. Twilight ran to the wall opposite of where she'd entered, and knocked frantically with both her hooves and a spell.
"Please have a rear exit!" she pleaded out loud, but no matter how much she pounded and propped, the wall stood firm. That meant that the only way out was where she'd come in. And that direction was blocked by a savage monster that was slowly approaching its cornered prey.
Twilight's horn shone bright as another glowmelon flew through the air towards the manticore, and then another.. The first hit the beast square in the side of the head, but the second was swatted out of the air by an enormous clawed paw. Body trembling from overexertion, Twilight levitated another melon to her side, but didn't throw this one away so quickly.
She magically swung the fruit as if to strike at the manticore again but pulled back at the last second, causing the beast to dodge the feint. Then she brought the melon to herself, and grabbed onto it for dear life before flinging both herself and it over the manticore and towards the other side of the room. Twilight felt the swish of claws through her tail as she passed over her assailant,.
"I'm dead! I'm dead! I'm going to hit the wall and fall apart into two pieces and-"
She released the glowmelon before it collided with the wall and fell to the ground. Without even taking a moment to make sure she was intact, she turned her back to the invisible barrier and began to buck at it with both her hind-legs, moving a bit more to the left every time she was met with firm resistance.
She kept her eyes on the approaching predator and threw more projectiles at the beast to keep it at bay. Before long the vines were looking much barer than before, and the manticore was looming ever closer. She couldn't bear to look at it's hungry eyes anymore and turned around.
Twilight's eyes shut tightly as tears began to fall down her face. She knocked on the wall, moved a bit, knocked again, moved a bit, knocked again, blindly threw a glowmelon, moved a bit more, and then repeated the desperate cycle.
"I can't find the door! I can't remember where it is! I'm going to die here unless...!"
Suddenly, she felt the wall give under her hooves, just a bit. She quickly tossed the last glowmelon in the room at the manticore, not daring to open her eyes and see if it had hit its mark or not. Her horn lit up as purple light scanned the flat surface and found the doorknob. Grasping it with her mind, she pulled, and then pushed, and then the door opened. So did her eyes.
Fluttershy was on the other side, with the statue of Rainbow Dash by her side. Twilight opened her mouth but before she could utter a single word, the pegasus pushed past her and into the cabin.
The sound hadn't come from the manticore.
Twilight shakily turned her head around. Fluttershy was standing up to the manticore. In fact, the vicious killer was cowering before the tiny yellow pegasus.
"H-how...?" Twilight stuttered.
"I'm so sorry, Twilight!" Fluttershy turned her head to apologize, before refocusing her stare on the manticore. "Bad! That was a bad kitty, Hal!"
"Hal?" Twilight asked confusedly, still shaking with adrenaline. "You know this monster? You're on first name basis with this monster?"
"Oh please don't think too badly of him, Twilight. He's really quite nice." Fluttershy said meekly.
"Fluttershy is apologizing for the manticore. Clearly, up is down, left is right, and I am a seapony named Steve."
"He must have gotten too greedy with the glowmelons, and then tried to run you out when you caught him." Fluttershy continued, failing to notice Twilight's eye twitching.
"I don't think he was trying to run me out as much as he was trying to run me through. With his claws." Twilight argued, but Fluttershy didn't pay any attention. The pegasus flitted up to the manticore's head, taking off the glowmelon that still crowned it.
"Now, say you're sorry." the beast master demanded. The manticore looked at the ground sheepishly before issuing an apologetic lick to his tamer's face. Fluttershy giggled, but quickly regained her stern facade. "To Twilight as well."
The manticore approached Twilight morosely, tongue lolling out of it's mouth.
"Uh, it's okay, really." Twilight said with an extremely strained smile. The manticore appeared to shrug, and then walked past her and towards Everfree Forest.
"See you next year, Hal! Oh, and try not to get lost on the way back to the shed next time!" Fluttershy waved goodbye to the retreating hybrid, and it actually waved back as it entered into the woods. Twilight's ears pricked up.
"Wait, do you that mean the animals hadn't been onto us, and they'd just been going in circles because the manticore lost its way?" Twilight asked. Fluttershy turned to Twilight, finally able to give her friend her full attention.
"It seems that way." Fluttershy answered, eyes looking back and forth nervously. "I'm, uh, guessing you have a few questions for me?"
"Understatement of the year." Twilight deadpanned.
Twilight Sparkle was seated near Fluttershy in the invisible shed. Rainbow Dash's immobile form stood next to them. Angel was there too, using the statue as a sofa. Twilight was rubbing her temples with both hooves.
"So let me get this straight. You're Glowmelina?" Twilight asked, voice strained with incredulity.
"No. Well, sort of. I mean..." Fluttershy stumbled over her words. "You see, Glowmelina doesn't really exist. She's imaginary, and I created her using my imagination."
"Okay, but why?" Twilight questioned her friend. Fluttershy didn't answer immediately and made a variety of soft, uncomfortable sounding noises.
"Maybe it'll be easier if I start at the beginning..." Fluttershy sighed.
"Go ahead. It's not like Rainbow Dash is going to start eroding." Twilight replied with a slight smirk, tapping her frozen friend's leg for emphasis.
"O-okay..." Fluttershy began her tale.
"I might have told you this before, but when I was just a filly, I got my cutie mark when I landed in a field near Ponyville and made friends with all of the wonderful creatures I met."
A very young Fluttershy pranced through the fields, small critters following her as if on parade. A butterfly landed on the little filly's nose, and was reflected in her bright blue eyes.
"From then on, I took regular trips from Cloudsdale to the surface to play with all my new friends."
"I promise to come back soon!" Fluttershy waved to the sad little animals as she ascended back into the sky, the symbol of butterflies forever etched onto her flank.
"One day, years later, I was being picked on by a couple of bullies in school. Rainbow Dash used to be there to protect me, but she had dropped out of the school the year prior, saying that 'the system' had been holding her back."
The blow rocked Fluttershy onto her side, the soft cloud floor of Cloudsdale breaking her fall somewhat. She flipped over and started to dig into the fluff, like a gopher might dig a hole. Two masculine shadows approached her from behind.
"Aw, you didn't catch them that time either." one of the two colts remarked, pointing at the Fluttershy's cutie mark, and the numerous red rings around it.
"Don't worry, I'll get those nasty bugs off you, Fluttercry." the other pony chuckled, brandishing his bug net.
"The only way I could think to get away from the ponies who were bothering me was to head down to the ground, and so I did."
Right as the bully swung again, his target fell through the floor and into the blue sky below. Fluttershy began to scream as she tumbled out of the city.
The wind smashed into her face, stinging her eyes and collapsing her wings to her sides. She free-fell for minutes on end, until a hawk appeared by her side, matching her falling speed.
"Air Razor?" Fluttershy called out to the bird, who's only response was to flap its wings. It did so repeatedly, until the pegasus's eyes went wide. "Right!"
Fluttershy's wings slowly peeled off of her sides, and her feathers caught the wind. Following the hawk's lead, she pulled out of the dive-bomb and went soaring through the sky. Fluttershy sighed in relief, and began to slowly descend in concentric circles.
By the time she reached the ground, the hawk had left. She lightly touched down, and she immediately collapsed. Her heat was beating quickly, and her eyes slowly fluttered shut.
"I... kind of passed out when I got there. When I woke up, I found that I wasn't alone."
When Fluttershy opened her eyes, all she saw was was a pitch white expanse, only interrupted by two black dots.
The two dots blinked.
Fluttershy gasped and backed up, spooking the tiny rabbit in front of her. The bunny quicklybounced off.
"No, wait, I'm sorry!" Fluttershy called after the rabbit before giving chase. "My name's Fluttershy! I'm not going to hurt you!"
"But, when I tried to say hi to him, he ran away. I didn't know if he was alone or not, so I followed him for a bit."
"No, don't go in there little bunny!" Fluttershy shouted as she was led towards a dark and foreboding forest. The rabbit approached the entrance to the shadowy place but turned away at the last moment. Sighing in relief, the yellow pegasus continued to follow her quarry.
"I don't know how long I was following him, but it must have been quite awhile. He finally started to get tired, and I thought I had him for sure. But then he just... disappeared."
Fluttershy stared at the blank space in front of her, where the tracks just disappeared into nothingness. She looked at the spot from every angle, until she noticed a sliver of green light. She pushed her nose through the crack and nudged the door open.
"That's when we both discovered the Glowmelon patch."
Fluttershy stepped into the room, awestruck. Though many glowmelons were dark, faded, and rotten looking, some plump green fruits littered the invisible cabin. Hiding behind one of the fresher melons was the white rabbit, peeking out at Fluttershy and ducking down as soon as their eyes met.
"Neither of us had ever seen any fruit like the glowmelons before, and we didn't know what to think of it. But the bunny sure seemed eager to try one, so I broke one open for us to taste."
Fluttershy gnawed at the hard exterior of the fruit, and, when that didn't work, tried to bounce it against the ground like a basketball. The rabbit shot the pegasus an annoyed look, to which Fluttershy smiled apologetically. Finally, she tied a white cloth over her eyes, and poised a hoof over the melon. With a 'hiya!', she cleaved the Glowmelon in two.
The rabbit hopped up and down excitedly before setting to work on nibbling the new treat. More hesitantly, Fluttershy gave the glowing green interior a lick. Her wings extended outwards, and she couldn't help but start to flutter in the air in delight.
"It was the most delicious fruit we'd ever eaten, and rabbits don't usually care that much for fruit! The bunny and I spent the rest of the day in the garden, eating and playing until nightfall."
The rain poured down above their heads but not onto them. The raindrops plunked against the roof that wasn't there before sliding down the walls that couldn't be seen. Throughout it all, Fluttershy held the white rabbit close to her. The two looked out into the darkness peacefully, safe in their little hideaway from the elements.
"His parents never came looking for him."
Fluttershy woke up to the sight of the white haze once again, but, this time, she wasn't so quick to react. She nuzzled the ball of fuzz, eliciting a yawn from her tiny companion.
"Time to wake up, little angel." Fluttershy cooed. The rabbit's eyes fluttered open, and his back legs started to jitter. The pegasus received five small knocks on her nose, but she took them in stride. She smiled as the bunny hopped upright and stared at her.
"Wait, does that mean the rabbit in this story is...?" Twilight began to ask. Fluttershy nodded.
"Yes, my little Angel." Fluttershy closed her eyes happily. Nearby, Angel rolled his own eyes and then covered his ears with his paws as he lay across Rainbow Dash's backside.
"Aww, that's so sweet." Twilight remarked, ignoring the rabbit's poor attitude.
"I decided to turn the shed into a clubhouse, just for the two of us. Angel Bunny would live there, and I would visit at least once a day. By the time I was out of school, I had moved in as well."
Fluttershy dusted the walls with a feather duster, causing clouds of gray to puff out of the aether. Drawings and posters covered the walls, and near the back of the room sat a modest mattress with a basket next to it. Setting the duster aside, Fluttershy looked at her current residence with pride.
"I always wondered who had built the cabin, and who had grown the glowmelons, which is what I'd started to call them. It must have taken an awful lot of magic, because the glowmelons grew without needing my help at all. It was a good thing too, because I'm no good at farm work."
Fluttershy turned to look at one of the pictures on the wall. It had been drawn with crayons and it appeared to float in mid-air. The pony in the drawing wore a magicians hat and held a hoe in its teeth; the name 'Glowmelina' was scrawled underneath it next to the name 'Fluttershy'.
"When I was younger, I'd draw pictures of what I thought the pony who had created all this might look like. Eventually, I named her Glowmelina. Then, I started adding onto the character until she resembled the stories you heard today. She may have been imaginary, but she was based on somepony or someponies that had once lived here."
"When Angel and I decided to move to Ponyville, we didn't tell anypony about our secret getaway. We still wanted to keep it a secret, just between us. But when I started to meet more and more friends, I decided that I wanted to share Glowmelina's gift with everyone." Fluttershy explained.
"So you decided to create the Glowmelon festival." Twilight guessed. Again, Fluttershy nodded.
"Four years ago to the day. With the help of all my animal friends, I spread the rumors of Glowmelina and brought as many Glowmelons as I could into town, right when they were at their ripest. Each year's festival was more impressive than the last, and the myths about Glowmelina grew into something I couldn't control anymore. It was wonderful." Fluttershy concluded, eyes closed.
"Wow..." Twilight managed to utter at the end of the story. "That's... quite a story. I can honestly say I hadn't been expecting to find out one of my best friends was behind all this."
"You wouldn't have, if there was anything I could do about it." Fluttershy stated simply. "But I know how you get when you think something needs to be explained. There's no stopping you."
"Maybe someone should stop me sometimes. I always seem to get attacked by some violent creature every time I even try." Twilight smiled lightly. "Hydras, tartarus hounds, manticores... You'd think I'd have gotten the hint by now."
"It's in your nature to be curious." Fluttershy tried to mirror the unicorn's expression, but her smile wavered. "I suppose you'll keep searching for the real Glowmelina now, after you've told everyone in Ponyville the truth..."
Twilight didn't immediately answer, instead taking note of Fluttershy's morose body language. She glanced at Rainbow's immobile form and the wondrous garden in which they all sat. She cupped her chin in a hoof, the vaguest hint of a smirk playing across her lips.
"Well I can't exactly turn back now. An invisible shed in the middle of nowhere, glowing fruit that doesn't grow anywhere else? It doesn't make any sense, and I have to know how this all came about. So yes, I plan to continue to search for Glowmelina, or whoever is behind this all." Twilight finally answered, in the most academic of tones. "But, just because I'll be searching for the truth doesn't mean that everypony else is."
"What do you mean?" Fluttershy asked, cocking her head to the side.
"You don't have anything to worry about Fluttershy." Twilight smiled, putting a hoof on her good friend's shoulder. "I'm not going to tell anypony about this."
"Really?" Fluttershy asked hopefully, and Twilight nodded in response.
"My lips are sealed." she went through the motion as well, pretending to zip up her mouth with one of her hooves.
"Oh, thank you Twilight!" Fluttershy hugged the unicorn, a lone tear falling down her cheek.
"Don't mention it." Twilight giggled and unwrapped herself from the hug. "This festival is your gift to all of Ponyville; I don't want to take that away from you. Someday, you might have to let the secret go. But that day doesn't have to be today, or any day soon."
"Thank you." Fluttershy responded with one of the sweetest smiles imaginable.
"What did I just say about not mentioning it?" Twilight laughed, causing Fluttershy to laugh as well. Twilight's laughter dissolved into a yawn. She looked through the transparent ceiling at the darkening sky. "We should probably head back to Ponyville now, before anypony gets suspicious."
"Right." the pegasus nodded, and then got behind Rainbow Dash. Angel Bunny hopped down as Fluttershy raised her hooves up towards the pegasus' rear, and then stopped. She repositioned her hooves slightly, but still didn't place them on the stony flank. She pawed at the ground uncomfortably, slightly blushing. Twilight rolled her eyes and giggled lightly.
"I'll take that." Twilight said with a smile, replacing Fluttershy behind the statue.
"Augh, my head..." Rainbow Dash moaned, laying on Twilight's bed with an ice-pack held to her head. She was back to her old, prismatic self again.
"Sorry. The effects of a cockatrice stare can linger for quite while depending on how long you take to unfreeze the victim." Twilight responded, standing at her desk just a ways away from her friend.
"Well it feels like there's salamanders crawling through my veins setting everything on fire!" Dash howled. "What were you and Fluttershy doing when I was frozen? Sitting on your plots?"
"No, but Angel was sitting on yours..."
"We followed the animals as long as we could, but we never found Glowmelina, so we brought you back." Twilight answered truthfully and then turned her head towards the stairs. "Spike! Could you bring me a scroll please?"
"Pony feathers! You expect me to believe that you two didn't find out anything at all? Fluttershy was sure in a hurry to leave when I asked her about it." Rainbow Dash replied accusingly, sitting up.
"It's been a long day, and we're all tired. She just wanted to go back home." Twilight explained as Spike waddled into the room yawning, a blank scroll in his hand. Twilight nodded as she took it from him. "You're welcome to stay here tonight if you don't feel good enough to fly home, Rainbow."
"Maybe." Rainbow answered noncommittally, rubbing the ice pack over the rest of her body like a sponge. "That Glowmelina is a slippery one. You aren't going to give up now, are you?"
"Of course not. Though it might take us awhile to find a new lead, you can be sure I'll follow this mystery to its end." Twilight reassured the pegasus. "But for now, let's all just relax."
Rainbow Dash sighed, flopping exaggeratedly onto the bed. Twilight smiled as her quill levitated into an ink jar, and then met the parchment face.
"Dear Princess Celestia,
I've always believed that ponies should question what they know and seek out the answers. And I still believe that. However, sometimes in our search for the truth, we can end up stepping on the hooves of others. Such a situation must be treated carefully. The truth is valuable, but sometimes a pony's secret can be worth just as much.
~Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle"
Twilight nodded her head and rolled up the paper. Spike hopped up onto the desk, took the scroll in his hand, and took a deep breath before blowing green fire over it. The flames consumed the parchment, and the two watched as the embers disappeared into the night sky.
Princess Celestia sat on her throne in Canterlot castle. Her left hoof tapped at the ground impatiently, and her eyes continually wandered towards the clock. Suddenly, Twilight's letter materialized before her, startling her. The princess unraveled the scroll and read through it carefully, smiling all the while.
"What an interesting letter. More... cryptic than usual." the princess remarked to herself. "Though I suppose, considering the subject matter, I can't fault my student for being vague."
A royal guard entered, startling the princess a second time.
"Excuse me Princess Celestia, but there's a strange package for you from Ponyville. There's no return address and it's, uh, glowing." The guard pony said. "Should we have the bomb squad look into it?"
Celestia's eyes to lit up in delight.
"Oh, that won't be necessary! Have it brought in!" the princess requested eagerly. The guard obliged, and returned less than a minute later with a glowing square package. He carefully placed it on the ground in front of her. Celestia nodded repeatedly. "Thank you, you may be dismissed."
The guard bowed once and then left the room. As soon as he left the room, Celestia tossed the scroll away and quickly levitated a plate and knife out from behind her throne. She tore into the box with her hooves like a filly on Hearth's Warming Eve and pulled out a large, shapely glowmelon. Brandishing the knife with speed and expertise, she cut it into a number of pieces, and then took a bite almost immediately.
"Delicious..." Celestia shivered with delight. She eyed the only words on the box of her gift. "I wonder if I'll ever find out who this 'Glowmelina' pony is..."
Authors Note: I'd like to thank my amazing editor, Hal 9000/Scootacool of the FiM Forums. This story would not be half as well written as it is without his help. My thanks also go out to Gilda from the Sonic Stadium Message Board, who provided some advice on character dialogue; RealityCheck from FIMFiction, who helped me solidify the moral of the story; and my awesome friend BetaWolf from the FiM Forums, who pointed out numerous ways to improve the story. And finally, I want to thank my best friend Cleveland Rock for putting up with me talking about this story all the time, even though he can't stand the pony fanbase. Hopefully he'll get a little rest now.