Author's Note: And we're back, ladies and gentlemen!
Sorry for the long absence. I was going through some doubts about my writing and still trying to figure out some troublesome plot details. Nevertheless, it's been worked out now and I hope the story is better for it.
Also, I've made another change to the end of Chapter 2. This one's a bit more noticeable, so you may want to reread it if some things in this chapter confuse you.
The Everfree Forest was never known for its luminosity, but today it seemed darker than it had ever been. Even the animals knew something was wrong; the forest was silent as the grave, save for the seven ponies cautiously making their way through it.
The Doctor would have liked to have landed the TARDIS closer to their destination, but remembering what had happened during his last encounter with Reapers, landing far from the epicenter was the safest route for now. And so the six walked, consumed by a very uncomfortable silence.
Applejack cleared her throat awkwardly. "So, uh…new look?"
"Hm?" the Doctor said distractedly. "Oh, yes. I regenerated, like I said I was before I left last time. You know, die and get a new body and all that."
"And a new fashion sense, it would seem," said Rarity. "I thought I threw out all your bow ties."
"Oi! Bow ties are cool."
The mare chuckled. "If bow ties are cool, then I'm Princess Celestia."
Rarity's hoof shot to her mouth when she realized what she had said. She glanced at Twilight; the purple unicorn stared dejectedly at the ground.
"So!" Rainbow said loudly when the silence became unbearable. "What do you think's up ahead, Doc? More Reapers? Aliens? An evil wizard?"
"Haven't the slightest idea," the Doctor replied. "But that just adds to the fun!"
"I don't see what's so 'fun' about runnin' in blind," said Applejack.
"It's like reading a mystery novel. The further you go into the story the more clues you get to the villain's identity: their past, what they look like, what they're capable of. If you're paying enough attention, you can figure out whodunit before the author even reveals it! Oooh, that reminds me – Rarity, did I ever tell you about Agatha Christie? Mystery writer, I met her once – brilliant woman! Fooled me every time – well, really only once, but I can tell you – "
A shrill howl filled the forest. The seven ponies stopped in their tracks and huddled together in fear. Slowly, a group of shadows approached them, each with a pair of menacing green eyes.
"Timberwolves!" Applejack shouted.
As if on cue, the wolves leaped at them, forcing them to separate.
"Amazing!" the Doctor laughed, dodging a large set of teeth. "Animals made from nothing but sticks and branches – held together by the psychic energy from their own consciousness's, no doubt. But if that's true, I wonder how they – "
His theorizing was interrupted by Rainbow Dash slamming into him, pushing him out of the reach of a pouncing wolf. "Less science, more fighting!"
The skirmish was soon split into four groups of fighters. Rarity stood close to Fluttershy, protecting the timid Pegasus with her magic. Applejack and Rainbow Dash tag-teamed every timberwolf that came their way, combining their respective strength and speed to keep them at bay. Pinkie Pie, oddly enough, was holding fine on her own; any wolf that hadn't been too confused by her antics was introduced to the business end of her Party Cannon.
The Doctor found himself back-to-back with Twilight Sparkle, using his sonic screwdriver in tandem with her magic.
"Didn't take you for the fighting type, Doctor," Twilight said, speaking for the first time since they left Canterlot.
"I try not to be," he replied, sending a sonic wave that jumbled a wolf's wooden pieces around. "Most of the time, I just stick to running. But then again, I don't usually travel with unicorns."
"I guess you're just lucky to have me around, then."
The ponies fought hard, but it was clear that the timberwolves had no intention of giving up. For every one they knocked down, two more emerged from the shadows. In a matter of minutes, the ponies were surrounded.
"Any particularly brilliant plans?" Rarity asked.
The Doctor clutched his screwdriver. "Listen; I'm going to put the screwdriver on a frequency that should disorient them, but it needs to be close to work. While I'm holding them off, you need to run like you've never before."
"But we can't just leave you!" Rainbow cried.
"This is our only chance, Rainbow Dash. Don't worry about me, I'll catch up with you later."
The stallion leapt forward, holding the screwdriver in his teeth as it emitted a high-pitched whine. "Go! Now!" he grunted through his teeth.
There was no time to argue with the Time Lord. Together, the six mares rushed the timberwolves, who barely noticed them crash through their lines amidst their pain.
The Doctor watched them go for as long as he could see them, and turned back just in time to see a paw swipe at his face, knocking him into a tree.
As consciousness left him, he could almost hear an odd, far away laughter mocking him in his head.
The Doctor had no way of knowing how long he had been out; the trees let such little light in it was a wonder he could see at all.
As he walked on, he also realized that he had no sense of direction. He had never been to the Everfree Forest before, and the readings from his sonic were so confused with the natural energy from the forest that he could end up wandering in the forest for hours before he even found a way out.
With that came the realization that the six mares were likely no better off than he. Even after their travels together, they didn't know how to handle a paradox like this. Even if they escaped the wolves, they were probably walking into even greater danger.
And finally came the greatest and worst realization of all: that here, in this dark, foreign forest, he was well and truly alone.