Thunder rolled through the Everfree Forest as yet another wild storm rolled through the dreaded wood.
"Really? Another storm?!" Rainbow Dash shouted in agitation as she pumped her wings fighting the fierce winds that carried the ominous thunderhead towards her friends.
Normally the rainbow-maned pegasus could simply knock apart the clouds, but here in the Everfree, the clouds were just as ethereal to her as normal clouds were to everypony else. With a snort of irritation, the cyan pegasus gave up on her recent attempt to dissipate the storm. In seeming retaliation a powerful burst of wind forced her to the ground.
"Sorry, everypony," Rainbow panted. "This storm is here to stay, I can't touch it any more than you can normally.
A once-white unicorn cast a look of disgust at the layer of grime and dirt on her usually pristine coat and mane. "That's quite alright. At least the rain should help wash out my co-Ouch! Twilight!"
"Come on, we need to get a move on." Twilight gave Rarity's flank another poke from her horn. "The faster we get back, the faster we can round up some help to find your sisters."
"And Scootaloo." Said Rainbow Dash with a smirk.
"And Scootaloo….Yes, Pinkie?"
The pink mare ceased her frantic waving of her fore hoof like a school filly.
"What about Zecora? Shouldn't we find her as well?"
Twilight was just about to answer with the affirmative when a flash of light and the crashing of thunder preempted the lavender unicorn. The group jumped in fright.
"Sweet Celestia's Flank, that's a lot scarier here." Rainbow Dash squawked in surprise.
The rest of the group barely had time to agree with her before a nearby tree, an ancient monster of a fir toppled to the ground. Standing right behind the shattered stump was the most horrifying sight any pony had every seen.
The creature was long in limb and neck, and even in the dim light of the storm, the ponies could see the jagged mass of teeth crowding the beast's mouth to the point that even it had closed it's mouth, the glistening dagger like teeth would be seen. Twilight could see the body itself was heavily muscled. Literally as it seemed the creature had no skin on the majority of it's body.
As one the ponies screamed in terror and took flight. The frightened friends stayed close together, some ancient instinct telling the ponies there was safety in numbers.
Twilight chanced a glance behind her and was surprised to see no pursuit from the creature. Looking forward, she barely had time to duck under a low hanging tree branch. Pursuit or not, she and her friends were not staying in this forest a moment longer.
Sensing they were near enough to the edge of the forest, Twilight summoned her remaining energy to her horn and with a flash the group of ponies were gone.
In Canterlot Castle, Princess Celestia was attending a celebratory feast for a newly married couple of ponies. It surprised her that such an elderly couple would put off the wedding for so long. The older guard had apparently been courting his new wife for some time and only recently had they decided to tie the knot.
Nodding towards the pair of ponies, Celestia sat down at her spot at the head of the table. No sooner had she done so, a familiar green flame appeared in the air above her, drawing the attention of everypony around her. The fire swirled and eddied for a little bit before depositing a letter with Twilight's seal directly in to the surprised alicorn's salad.
Suppressing an irritated huff, Celestia plucked the letter out of her salad. Cracking the seal, she scanned the letter.
"Dear Princess Celestia
PLEASE HELP! Some unknown kind of monster in Everfree Forest attacked Twilight and her friends while they were searching for Applejack and Rarity's little sisters! Twilight's unconscious from teleporting everypony from the Forest to the library as they escaped! Fluttershy's home have been crunched and all her animal friends (including a dang manticore!) got munched (including the manticore!) by something big and nasty from the forest. It seems really strong considering it was knocking over and crashing through fully-grown trees according to Applejack. Please send help!
P.S. Ow. Applejack did not need to hit me so hard. Please send a detachment of Royal Guards to help search Everfree for Applejack and Rarity's sisters…and Scootaloo.
Your panicking and too-handsome-to-die-young, Spike"
The Solar Diarch felt worry the fate of her student as well as a small surge of pride. Teleporting five ponies plus herself while galloping after spending however long searching was as dangerous as it was impressive. However, the Princess's worry overpowered the sense of pride. It seemed that her beloved student was suffering from a horrendous case of magical burnout.
Standing up, the Princess cleared her voice. "Fillies and Gentlecolts, I'm sorry to put a damper on this wondrous occasion, but unfortunately something has come up that demands my utmost attention. Please continue on and make this a day for this happy pair of ponies to remember."
Pleased with her little speech, Celestia turned and exited the room. A dead silence followed her, but as soon as the tip of her ever-blowing prismatic tail disappeared, a rambunctious blue-gray earth pony mare with a straight mane of lighter gray leapt on to the table.
"Come on everypony! What better time for music and dance?!"
With that announcement, the party started back in full swing.
Ponyville Library shook as a small, screaming dragon plummeted from one of the high shelves to the ground.
Peeling himself off the floor, Spike checked himself. Every scale was in place and his spikes were still in a row. Looking at the floor he found the cause of his latest tumble, a letter with the royal seal lying in a pile of newly fallen books. The letter's arrival and the resulting monstrous belch had launched the young dragon off the ladder he had been standing on as he put the last of the books away. Naturally the impact of an infant dragon hitting the ground was enough to knock all the recently shelved books right back off.
Hours of work erased, Spike picked up the letter in one claw as he started grabbing books with the other.
"Stupid books" he grumbled as he stacked books in an attempt to at least clear the walking space. This done the assistant made his way into the small kitchen nook off to the side that was reserved for Twilight and him.
Taking a nice cold bottle of apple juice from the icebox, Spike sat down at the table and flicked a talon across the seal, neatly parting the wax. With a practiced flick of the wrist he flipped the letter open and started reading Celestia's message.
Back when he and Twilight had lived more or less on their own in Canterlot, the unicorn had once taken umbrage at him reading the letters from the Princess to her. The arguing had gone back and forth until Spike simply started refusing to send the letters for here. A few missing letters thanks to the less-than-stellar Canterlot Postal Service had eventually brought her back. Any argument the violet unicorn had crumbled before Spike's pointing out that while Twilight had been too young to raise him, Princess Celestia had taken care of him herself rather than appointing a nanny to take care of him. In many ways Celestia was like the mother he had never known and he'd like to at least hear from her on occasion.
Slurping his juice through the straw, Spike read through the letter as he walked into the main room.
I have appraised Luna as to the situation. She will remain in Canterlot while I shall be arriving very shortly from Canterlot with the guards. They shall search while I shall see what I can do for Twilight. Expect me very soon."
A sudden crash reverberated throughout the tree library, staggering Spike as he juggled his drink and the note. Just as the young dragon regained his hold on the two, a nearby tower of books started leaning in his direction.
"Oh come on!" He wailed as gravity won out prompting another avalanche of books.
"Spike? Are you there?" Called a heavenly voice. Spike groaned. All he saw was darkness and books. At this rate he was going to gain either an unnatural attraction to books like a certain unicorn or an unnatural fear of them. Another groan soon followed.
From the sheer weight, mass and the obvious wear on the cover of the books, it had been a few of Twilight's favorites that had bowled him over. In other words a small mountain of books, each not much smaller than him and together they accounted for at least a small forest in pages.
The sound of stifled giggles made it's way through to his cave of literary pain. A soft golden light surrounded the books on top of him before they all floated up revealing his savior, Princess Celestia. As always she looked radiant to the young dragon. The same golden light wrapped around him and he was gently floated over to her.
"Hey, Princess. How was the flight?" Spike's green eyes crossed a few times as they tried to focus on her.
"It was lovely, Spike." Celestia replied, a mischievous yet radiant smile on her face. However it soon melted away revealing a look of concern as her magenta eyes fixed on him.
"Are you ok, Spike?"
Shaking his head, he reassured her. "I'm fine, Princess. Just a few too many knocks to the head in too short a time."
With a beckoning wave of his claw, the young dragon made his way up the stairs to Twilight's room, the Princess right behind him. Twilight Sparkle slept fitfully atop her bed. Every no and then she'd either thrash about briefly or roll over moaning softly.
Spike watched his surrogate sister, worry evident on his face. "Is she going to be ok? I know that spell took a lot out of her, but I've never seen her like this!"
Princess Celestia's horn erupted into intense golden light that then flowed over her student's sleeping form. A look of intense study on her face, Celestia concentrated as she absorbed the information her spell provided her. "Hmmm"
Spike's scaled brow knotted as he looked between teacher and student, silently hoping Twilight would be ok.
"Good news, Spike." The tall alicorn announced. "The patient is perfectly fine with the exception of a chipped hoof or two. Twilight should be up and about in a few hours."
The little dragon swiped the back of a claw across his forehead. "Phew. I'm glad. She just about dropped the moment she got back. The others weren't much better."
The princess's face grew uncharacteristically stern. "I see. Did any of them recognize the creature that chased them."
"No. Even Fluttershy and she's pretty much the animal expert. Twilight said she didn't know either...um, then she passed out."
"That's odd" Celestia mused. "While Everfree is certainly a wild and dangerous place, ponies have traveled through it enough to have seen most of its denizens."
Abruptly the white alicorn stopped as she felt a familiar sensation she hadn't felt in years.
"Spike, must you pull on my tail?"
Grinning sheepishly, Spike jerked his claws away. "Sorry, Princess, old habits die hard."
Chuckling, Celestia moved over to one of the libraries windows. After staring out at the forest for a moment, she turned back to her scaly subject.
"Spike, I'm going to go to Trottingham and any other towns that are near the edge of Everfree forest to see if there's been any activity from the forest near them. The captain of this detachment of the guard, Snow Wing, should be back soon with a report on the search. Tell him what you told me and send along any reports you receive."
The young dragon snapped a salute, his young face taking on a stoic expression similar to many guards. Laughing, the princess disappeared out the window with a flap of her huge white wings.
Spike watched as the white blur disappeared in the sky. "I hope she gets back soon," he murmured as he trudged back to the small kitchen for another juice. On his way, he chanced a glimpse Everfree from one of the other windows. His heart froze.
A thick, roiling fog was seeping out of the forest at a horrifying pace, obscuring everything within its ethereal grasp as it flowed like river towards Ponyville. Spike tried to convince himself he was not seeing shapes moving within.
The clouds above lost their cute, puffy look as they rapidly gathered, casting the town into shadow. They to seethed and churned, while growing dark all the while. Soon a tremendous thunderhead of terrifying power had gathered over Ponyville.
"Um, ok, that's not natural. Time to call the princess back." Spike spoke aloud as he frantically searched for a piece of paper and a quill. Unable to find the quill, Spike plucked a new one from a certain sleeping owl who awoke with an indignant hoot.
Spike apologized as he wrote. "Sorry, dude, I didn't want to wake you like that, but I couldn't find a quill and one look outside should tell you why we don't have time for anything."
With another annoyed hoot, the owl peered out the window only to fly frantically away as a horrifying snarl sounded from the fog now creeping through the town.
"Oh wow," Spike whimpered, "Could this get any worse?"
It was then he caught the slightest movement in the clouds above the town, as a large dark shape winged through the clouds.
"What the heck was that?!"
And then some of the buildings at the edge of town burst into flames.