Chapter 6: The Everfree Forest
Spike stumbled down the stairs of the library, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and letting out a yawn, "What time is it?"
I frowned and eyed the window upstairs; it was definitely dark out. I still wanted to hurry, an early morning start wasn't our biggest problem at the time. "Does it really matter?"
Spike nodded, and was by my side with a little more energy as we stepped outside. I wasn't expecting it, but one of Twilight's friends was already there, Pinkie Pie.
"Hi there!" she shouted, trotting over to me with a grin, "I just wanted to say thanks! It's super awesome what you're doing for Twilight. Everyone else is at Fluttershy's house so we should hurry too."
As we started to walk I noticed that Pinkie wasn't bouncing around as usual. She sounded like she usually did, just a little less energetic. "Hey... is Twilight okay?"
"Why'd you ask such a silly question? I mean yeah I was super worried at first, but then Dashie came up with this plan, which means both our Twilight's are gonna be a-okay."
'But what if Dash's plan doesn't work?'
I didn't ask it out loud. I could only imagine how worried everyone had been at the hospital. It was then I realized that Rarity and Dash had been putting on an extremely strong front. These five ponies were desperate enough to journey for something that they weren't even sure of, and desperate enough to trust some stranger they had met the day before to help their friend.
I was desperate enough to go along with it.
We started passing through the main part of town, and the quiet was getting to me.
Phoebe had never been this quiet, and if Pinkie was then she was definitely still worried. I decided to fill the silence with whatever I could come up with.
"Have you ever met someone that could... I dunno, get into your head and mess with it?"
"Like literally walk into my brain? Hmmmm, nope!"
"Not quite what I was going for."
"OH, OH! You mean like make you see stuff?"
"A little bit closer to what I had in mind, yeah."
Pinkie suddenly stopped when we were halfway through town. She turned on me and brought herself up to her hindlegs, planting her front hooves on my shoulders, "Did he have a weird voice?"
"A weird voice? I guess so. What's that got to do with..."
"Did he make it rain chocolate?"
"Chocolate, what does that even..."
"No chocolate rain? I'm sure you'll be fine then!" She smiled and bopped my nose with her hoof before letting go, and we were back on the road again.
I decided not to question Pinkie Pie further, as it only seemed to make things more confusing and chaotic, and that was the last thing I needed.
I ended up going off into my own little world, and before I knew it we had already passed Fluttershy's house and were standing at a line of extremely ominous trees. The entire thing was pulled right out of a Stephen King novel. The branches of these trees were gnarled and looked more like teeth that would tear flesh, the sky above the forest was a dark grey that didn't quite look like a rainstorm, and from within the forest I heard several unnatural sounding animal calls.
Everything about this forest screamed at trespassers to stay out of it, and waiting at the small opening that lead into the monstrous trees were the rest of Twilight's friends.
Rarity stepped forward and smiled, "I'm glad I was right about you."
I frowned and looked away, scuffing the ground with my front hoof.
"Alright!" shouted Dash, "Enough hanging around, we're going right now. The veil is a two day trip and we need to get there as soon as possible."
Two days in Ponyland before I could even think about helping Tammy recover. The thought was enough to drive me past the barrier of this forest with Twilight's friends.
Our little group made good headway as the sun came up and reached mid sky. We hadn't spoken much since we entered the forest, which I thought was a little odd considering how talkative everyone had been in the days before.
It was as we emerged from a particularly bad patch of vines and found a dirt path again that I decided to break the silence, "So what's this place called anyways?"
"The Everfree forest," said Spike, coming up on my flank.
Dash flew to my side and landed, matching my pace, "Normally we don't go too deep into the forest, but we'll have to travel all the way through to reach the veil, so we'll probably run into some nasty stuff."
I turned my head and looked at the group behind us, most of them were doing fine except one, Fluttershy, who might has well have been shaking in her horseshoes. She was keeping up okay, but I could tell the oppressive atmosphere was getting to her.
I raised an eyebrow and turned back to Dash, "What KIND of nasty stuff?"
"Oh you know," Dash grinned nervously and turned away, "Just your run of the mill... dragons, hydras, poisonous plants..."
"And nobody saw fit to tell me all this before we ventured inside?"
I heard a cough behind me and turned to see Applejack moving up on us, "Well... we figured you would know it's dangerous an' all."
I rolled my eyes and let out a groan.
I didn't know what to make of it. I had been on the receiving end of gunfire and explosions, but a dragon? A dragon I didn't know how to handle... unless it was the one walking next to me.
I heard Fluttershy whimper a little, and the group stopped to turn towards her. Applejack frowned, "What's wrong Sugarcube?"
"I... I'll be alright, I just need a second. I've never been this deep into the forest before."
Dash looked around us and frowned, "Hmph, not even the ruins Luna went to were in this deep."
Rarity sighed, "I suppose it is a two day trip. I'm starting to regret not bringing my care products, I can already feel the grease in my mane!"
"Don't be silly Rarity!" shouted Pinkie Pie, bouncing to her friend, "We'll have time for that and even more when we get back to Ponyville. I already have everything set up for the party!"
Rarity smiled, "That would be delightful."
I felt like I was some sort of outcast, watching longtime friends interact and carry each other through a difficult time. I had stepped onto foreign land and didn't know what to do with myself. I only wanted to help Tammy and Twilight, but I doubted I would ever worm my way into their close knit group.
It was almost like an art the way these ponies interacted with each other.
This thought process was interrupted by Pinkie bouncing right into me and giggling as we both tumbled to the forest floor, "You're invited too! It'll be super duper awesome having a new friend!"
I couldn't help but smile a little...
And then Pinkie passed out right on top of me.
There was that one brief moment where my brain couldn't process what had just happened.
When that moment was gone I looked around and saw that all of the ponies with me had fainted.
"What's going on?" I couldn't see him, but that had been Spike's panicked voice.
As gently as I could manage I got Pinkie off me and stood up, shaking myself off. I nudged her with my hoof and frowned when she didn't wake up, "Pinkie?"
Spike started to panic, he stumbled into Rarity and yelled her name, then repeated this with Applejack and Fluttershy.
Then it hit me.
The most beautiful song I'd ever heard in my life reached my ears.
It had no lyrics, and the melody and beat didn't sound natural. It clearly wasn't created by a human... or a pony. It felt like something tugging at the back of my mind, and I found my legs moving on their own. Everything else but that song was gone from my mind, and I couldn't help but make my way towards it, wherever it was.
I went deeper and deeper into the forest...
everything went black.
"Oooo isn't he the most adorable thing you've ever seen."
"This one isn't half bad either sister."
"Hahaha, it's been so long since anyone's been this deep into the forest."
Everything came back to me in pieces, first my hearing, then my ability to think coherently.
It was almost like waking up from a dream and having to take a few minutes to realize that you were sleeping.
Part of me didn't want to open my eyes, but when I did I couldn't make much out. Everything was blurry and dark. There were a few familiar shapes in front of me. They looked like ponies, but something was... off about them.
"Look sisters, he's coming to!"
"Really? Oh I'm so excited, what should we name him!"
My vision started to slowly clear, and I noticed that I couldn't move my hoofs. I was strapped to the ground with something, my hooves pinned close together and against my body. I could feel the straps wound tight around my mid section. I started to struggle, and I heard a laugh.
"Tsk tsk tsk, we can't have you getting away."
One of the three figures leaned down in front of me, and I finally got a good look at her... it.
They were shaped vaguely like ponies, but they only had a mouth, and no hooves. It was as if they were spectres.
"It's been a while since we've sung our song," it whispered in my ear, "You are a welcome guest in these halls."
Halls? All I saw was a cave. I managed to move my neck around a little bit, to my left was the outline of a small form, tied up just like I was. "Spike? Spike wake up!"
"Oh he'll wake up eventually," said the creature. It turned towards the other two and smiled, "So what first? It's been so long I almost forgot how to have fun. Our last guests had the time of their lives."
"Yes," said another monster, "But they didn't last too long. Perhaps we should feed them this time, they seem to be limited creatures."
I growled, struggling against the constraints again, "What are you TALKING about?"
"The party of course," said the first monster, "We'll dance through the night together under the moon. We can do it for eternity."
"You've kidnapped other ponies? You let them die?"
"Die? No they merely expired, what is this death you speak of?"
I gritted my teeth, 'We have to get the hell out of here.' I started rocking back and forth, trying to loosen my constraints, "Spike, wake up!"
"You shouldn't rush him, we're not ready yet!" yelled one.
"But sister, it looks like he's really looking forward to this!"
No slack... nothing. I couldn't break free no matter how hard I tried. "Where are the others?" I asked through gritted teeth.
"The girls!" I shouted, "What did you do with them?"
The first monster laughed, "Oh those useless old things? We left them where they were. They'll wake up in no time, but I seriously doubt they'll find you. OH! Would you like a gift? Sister, help me please."
A moment passed and what looked like a gem stone was placed on my chest.
"Let me go."
"Why would we do that?"
"I'm trying to save my friend, just let me go."
"I'm afraid that's not going to happen, and like I said, there's no way they'll find you here."
"Oh, you overestimate yourself dear."
I craned my neck up to look where the voice had come from, not ten feet away stood Rarity, flanked by the rest of the gang. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Pinkie Pie hopped past her friends, a huge grin on her face, "Did I hear somepony say party? Because I'm PRETTY sure I heard somepony say PARTY!"
"Sister!" shouted the first monster.
One of the monsters responded and opened its mouth... only to be caught around its mid section by a rope.
Applejack stepped forward, rope still in her mouth.
Rarity smiled, "I'm afraid you won't be getting another chance to sing tonight."
Applejack tugged with a force I'd never seen before, and the monster she had roped slammed into the ceiling of the cave with a crack. The scream it let out was almost enough to shatter my ear drums, and it fell to the ground, incapacitated.
Rarity's horn glowed and my bind was loosened.
The monster that had spoken to me let out an inhuman growl, and was about to charge the group. I tackled it from behind, trying to get a good hit on its face with my hoof.
Fist fights I had been in, but hoof fights? Not so much.
I missed by a mile and we ended up stumbling over several times.
The monster ended up on top and screamed in my face. I punched it in response, causing it to stumble back.
One good thing about the hooves... I didn't have knuckles that hurt after I hit something.
"No!" shouted the first monster, "Our endless dance!"
Pinkie hopped forward and grinned, "Nopony has better parties than me!" To this day I still don't know where she pulled it from, but in front of Pinkie was what appeared to be a cannon with a fuse on the end of it. "NOPONY!" she shouted, then she pushed the fuse like a button, and out shot several party materials: streamers, a table cloth, and a completely made and perfect looking cake... right into the monsters face.
Pinkie grinned and tossed the cannon to who-knows-where, then she hopped forward and bucked the monster right in the chest.
Another one down.
The last monster let out a blood curdling scream and ran down a path in the cave, the noise fading slowly as it gained distance.
"Way to take away all the action from me guys!" shouted Rainbow Dash. I looked over and noticed that Fluttershy was hiding behind her.
Pinkie grinned, and it was then I noticed there was cake on her face. She licked it off and giggled at Dash, "Well you were being a super duper slow poke!"
Dash huffed, "I can't see anything in here, and it's too cramped to fly! Not my fault!"
"Oh dear!" Rarity rushed over and clasped my face in her hooves, pushing it around and looking at me from head to hoof, "Are you alright? Where's Spike at?" I lifted my left hoof and pointed to where I had been tied up, and where Spike remained, still unconscious. Rarity was on him in an instant, "Oh you poor thing!"
"Okay," I said with a sigh, "What the hell were those things?"
Dash raised an eyebrow, "Hell?"
I wanted to pull my hai... mane out, "Ugh, just what were those things?"
Fluttershy clung to Dash and looked at me with her head slightly down, "Um... I think they were Sirens."
"Sirens. You're kidding right?"
"Well," said Rarity, "It would make sense, the beautiful song, how it only attracted you and Spike."
"Great, now we're on the frikkin' Odyssey!"
"The what?" asked Dash.
"Forget it, let's just get Spike and get out of here."
"We should set up camp," said Applejack, "Ah know ya'll are in a hurry to help Twilight, but we made good ground today an' we need rest."
I nodded, "Good idea."
We ended up setting up camp right outside the cave. The Sirens probably wouldn't be back, and this place was mostly devoid of other nasties due to them, so it was a good place to stop.
Setting up a tent with my mouth and hooves was hard, but with a little help from the rest of the gang I was off to sleep just like they were.