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Anon - Rotten [unfinished/long/Hearth/Flitter Lite/epic]

Mar 24th, 2014
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  1. Full tags: unfinished, long, Hearth, Flitter Lite, epic, Flaire Glow, Gray Scale, adventure, Rot, grimdark
  2.  
  3. Chapter I
  4.  
  5. >”Hearth? Is mommy going to be okay?”
  6. >A little ball of white fur is cuddled up against you, her large green eyes imploring you for an answer.
  7. >You are both sitting on a small bench beside your mom’s bed.
  8. >Your mom is currently asleep.
  9. >Her breaths are pained and short.
  10. >The doctors have already seen her, and you know there’s little hope.
  11. “Flitter Lite… You should get some sleep. You've been up all night. I’ll watch over mom. A little filly like you needs her rest.”
  12. >”But what if I don’t get to say goodbye?” Flitter Lite asks you, as her eyes begin to well up with tears again.
  13. >She had been crying all night, and you don’t really have a response for her.
  14. >Things were bleak, not much was left to say.
  15. >But all you cared about at the moment was to help your poor little sister through this.
  16. “Flitter Lite, do you want me to sing you a song?”
  17. >There was no response.
  18. >Then you feel a slight poke as Flitter Lite buries her head into your side and gives a small nod.
  19. >So you start humming the melody softly, just like mom had every night to you.
  20. >This lullaby was a special one that had passed through your family for generations.
  21. >Or so you've been told.
  22. >It doesn't really matter anyways, and so you begin to sing.
  23. “Hush child, sleep child.
  24. The sun is tucked away.
  25. Have no fear,
  26. we’ll soon be there.
  27. Night falls over Day.
  28.  
  29. Hush child, sleep child.
  30. We are finally home.
  31. There is a light,
  32. at the highest height.
  33. Where evil cannot roam.
  34.  
  35. Hush child, sleep child.
  36. The moon watches over us.
  37. The rot is gone,
  38. sing this song.
  39. Sleep well,
  40. without a fuss.”
  41. >It’s a simple lullaby, and you aren't exactly sure what it means.
  42. >But after a few renditions of it you notice the sounds of little filly snoring.
  43. >You smile despite yourself.
  44.  
  45. >Even in times this difficult and trying, she looks so peaceful.
  46. >It gives you hope that you will be able to work through this.
  47. >You carefully get up.
  48. >Gently you lift her with your snout and unto your back; just the same as when she was much smaller.
  49. >She’s extremely soft and light, so you have no problems maneuvering her.
  50. >You carry her out of the small room and into the hallway.
  51. >The cottage your family lived in was tiny and dilapidated.
  52. >Your Father wasn’t the most sociable of moth ponies, and being a woodcutter decided to make his own cabin deep out into the forest.
  53. >This cabin was far away from town, but the trip could be made in a couple hours if you didn’t play around too much in the woods.
  54. >When Father had lived, he usually made the repairs to keep the cottage in working order.
  55. >But he had passed a few years back, long enough for you to remember but not Flitter Lite.
  56. >Now the cottage was a mess of splintered, cracked, and rotten wood that leaks when it rains out, has a terrible draft, and does not keep any small life form out.
  57. >You still check your bed for mice before sleeping sometimes.
  58. >Making it to Flitter Lite’s bed in her room, you lay her gently on top of the sheets.
  59. >You grab the blanket from the floor.
  60. >She really needs to learn to make her bed.
  61. >You tuck her in, and give her a gentle kiss on the forehead.
  62. >She remains in a deep sleep, and you almost think you see a smile form on her cute little face.
  63. >You love her so much it hurts your heart.
  64. >Making your way back to your room, you decide it might be best to get some sleep as well.
  65. >You land on the bed with a muffled thump and your eyelids grow heavy.
  66.  
  67. >Plans form in your head as think about what is going to happen next.
  68. >You worry about being separated from your sister.
  69. >From not being able to support both yourself and her.
  70. >From how she’s going to grow up without any parents.
  71. >You worry about all these things until you wear yourself out mentally
  72. >Then the lullaby plays softly in your head as you sink deep into the hay mattress and sleep overtakes you.
  73. >Complete darkness.
  74. >And then you hear the screaming.
  75. >It’s coming from Flitter Lite.
  76. >You’re confused, why would she be screaming?
  77. >She can be so annoying sometimes, and you’re so tired.
  78. >Very tired.
  79. >You try to get back to sleep but then you hear Flitter Lite calling your name and you feel like you’re being shaken.
  80. >Everything seems like it’s a million miles away, and you’re alone in this slothish abyss.
  81. >Flitter Lite is just disturbing your peace, and you can’t figure out why.
  82. >”Hearth! Hearth please! Please wake up Hearth! I need you, come on wake up!”
  83. >What is she saying?
  84. >You’re having trouble making out the words.
  85. >Then you feel what can only be little filly legs buck you in the side.
  86. >The pain was sharp, but it did the trick.
  87. >You shoot up, suddenly your senses and reality come crashing back down on you.
  88. “Flitter! What is it? Are you okay? Did something happen?”
  89. >You begin to panic.
  90. >The filly is absolutely frantic, she’s hyperventilating and tears are coming out like waterfalls from her eyes.
  91. >”It’s mommy!...” she begins.
  92. >Oh no, she must've passed while you were sleeping, leaving poor Flitter Lite to find her.
  93. >You begin to try and comfort her, but she interrupts you to finish her statement.
  94. >”She exploded!”
  95. >What?
  96. >What does she mean… exploded?
  97.  
  98. >You make a rapid dash to your mom’s room, and the sight is truly terrifying.
  99. >Inside the room that had previously held your mom was now plastered wall to wall with this strange plant formation.
  100. >Long strings of gooey matter hang from ceiling to floor.
  101. >Spores float around freely within the room, being accented by the sunlight shining through the windows.
  102. >What looks like fungi is now growing furiously from the epicenter of the bio explosion, which appears to be where your mom was lying previously.
  103. >Flitter Lite is at your side sobbing.
  104.  
  105. “Flitter, we need to go. Now.”
  106.  
  107. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  108.  
  109. Chapter II
  110.  
  111. >The trees blur past you in streaks of green and brown.
  112. >You know the path well, letting you move through it without hesitation.
  113. >Flitter Lite is on your back between your wings.
  114. >She is currently crying deeply into your fluff.
  115. >You can feel the wetness of her tears soaking through to your skin.
  116. >But now isn’t the time to stop, you need to get to town.
  117. >You aren’t a strong enough flyer to carry her and yourself.
  118. >It doesn’t help that you have only gotten your wings this year.
  119. >You can barely fly a hundred meters, much less all the way back to the town.
  120. >There’s someone extremely important that you need to see.
  121. >Your mom was a herbalist, but she learned everything she knew from the Seer Moth Wilder.
  122. >They call him, “the Pony Who Sees All.”
  123. >When you were young you thought it was some cruel joke because he was completely blind.
  124. >But once you went with your mom to her herbology lesson and you met him.
  125. >Then you realized he sees more than anybody because he doesn’t use his eyes to see, but his mind.
  126. >That doesn’t mean he can actually “see” see, but he can know a person better than they themselves do just by talking to them.
  127.  
  128. >There’s hardly anyone wiser than Seer Moth Wilder, so that’s why you are going to him.
  129. >But why did he have to live so far away?
  130. >Already your legs are burning and you’re panting from not only running full speed but from carrying the weight of your sister.
  131. >But you don’t dare slow down.
  132. >Even the forest now seems menacing, if at any moment a vine will trip and entangle you.
  133. >A branch might reach out and grab you.
  134. >Timber wolves will be stalking you and your sister like prey.
  135. >Lying in the shadows, waiting for you to falter and then striking.
  136. >You clear your head of these nasty thoughts.
  137. >You need to push through the pain, for both you and your sister’s sake.
  138. >Besides, the forest is no different now than it was before, and you know this forest well.
  139. >”Hearth, what happened to mommy?”
  140. >Flitter Lite had calmed herself down enough to finally be able to talk.
  141. >Her voice was shaky and full of misery, but at least this hasn’t traumatized her into silence.
  142. “I don’t know Flitter-bug, but you be good and hold on tight. I’m taking us to the Seer Moth Wilder.”
  143. >”Is he the one with the weird eyes?” asked Flitter Lite quietly.
  144. >His eyes were weird, even by moth pony standards.
  145. >They were full of cataracts, discolored, and the pupils that could barely be made out often stared in different directions.
  146. “Yes. But don’t tell him that, it would hurt his feelings. He’s a very good friend of mom’s. He can help us.”
  147. >Flitter Lite starts sniffling again once you mention mom and buries her head back into your fluff.
  148. >You don’t blame her, right now you’d want to hide from the world too.
  149. >It isn’t long before the village is in sight.
  150. >You wager you probably got here in an hour.
  151. >A feat you’d normally be impressed with, under different circumstances.
  152. >You go to an old looking hut on the outskirts of the town, thankful that he doesn’t live deep inside the town instead.
  153.  
  154. >There’d be too many people asking too many questions.
  155. >You have a lot of questions yourself, questions you intend to find answers to.
  156. >You walk up to the door and knock on it with your hoof.
  157. >The old wood of the door gives a hollow thud each time you knock.
  158. >There’s no answer at first, and you begin to wonder if he’s even home.
  159. >Then the door opens, seemingly by itself, with no one in sight.
  160. >Creepy.
  161. >You take this as an invitation to come in, so you cautiously trot in, and take a second to behold the sight before you.
  162. >This hut was just as amazing as you remember it.
  163. >Various plants and fungi line the shelves of the walls.
  164. >Potions and elixirs fill the cabinets and were spread across the tables.
  165. >Instruments such as crucibles, mortar and pestles, along with a bunch of weird looking vials you couldn’t name were scattered about the workplace.
  166. >The middle of the room held a huge cauldron above a simmering fire.
  167. >You were so busy admiring the room, you didn’t notice the door shut behind you.
  168. >You could have sworn that you heard the quick shuffling of hooves shortly after.
  169. >You ignore this for now, attributing it to your current state of paranoia.
  170. >You take a couple steps towards the cauldron and peer inside.
  171. >You wonder what sort of magical potion with limitless potential the cauldron could be containing.
  172. >”That, my dear, is vegetable stew.”
  173. >You practically jump ten feet in the air from surprise.
  174. >You don’t know how this blind old moth pony had mastered the art of stealth, but he did seem to come out of nowhere.
  175. “Master Seer Wilder!”
  176. >You bow, which throws Flitter Lite who’s still on your back off balance.
  177. >She looks up because of the disturbance and sees the Seer Moth Willder.
  178. >Giving out a small shriek she jumps off your back to hide behind your flank.
  179. “Flitter Lite, it’s okay. This is him, the stallion who’s going to help us.”
  180. >”Ah dear Hearth and Flitter Lite. It has been a long time. You sound so much older now.”
  181.  
  182. >He pauses and a look of curiosity crosses his face.
  183. >”Your mother is not here. Where is she?”
  184. >You hear Flitter Lite start whimpering again.
  185. >”Oh dear…” the Seer Moth Wilder bows his head.
  186. “Our mom passed away last night Seer Moth Wilder. She was sick, and the doctors said she would have a couple of days before she left us.”
  187. >”My condolences children, your mother was a very close companion of mine. It saddens this old pony’s heart to hear such news,” the Seer Moth Wilder said.
  188. >”You said you needed help dear child, anything within my power I will do for you,” he continued.
  189. “My mom, her death wasn’t natural. When she died this… this… fungus had sprouted from her body. It was all over the room, and it looked like it came from her.”
  190. >The Seer’s face lifted and grew grave.
  191. >”Fungus you said? Tell me dear child, were there spores drifting about in the air?”
  192. “Yeah, there were also weird clumps of-”
  193. >”Please tell me child that you did not breathe these spores in,” the Seer Moth Wilder interrupted you with urgency.
  194. >There was a serious tone to his voice that scared you.
  195. >He did know what did this though, you could tell.
  196. >You had to recall very quickly about whether or not any of the spores were close to you.
  197. >You didn’t think they were, your memory is blurry.
  198. “No! Well… I didn’t. It was Flitter Lite who found her. But I don’t think she did, did you Flitter-bug?”
  199.  
  200. >You turn to see your sister.
  201. >Her eyes are opened wide with terror.
  202. >Her mouth was open, as if to reply, but she was speechless.
  203. >”Child. Tell me. Did you breathe these spores?”
  204. >A moment of silence passes before your sister finally utters:
  205.  
  206. >”Y-yes…”
  207.  
  208. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  209.  
  210. Chapter III
  211.  
  212. “Flitter Lite, are you sure?”
  213. >You’re panicking.
  214. >You don’t know what it means yet, but judging from the Seer Moth’s reaction it wasn’t good.
  215. >”I… I went into mommy’s room after I opened the door. I didn’t know what happened so I went in,” she begins slowly.
  216. >”After I went in I saw mommy blew up. I screamed and I went and got you,” she says.
  217. >”Child, there is great danger in inhaling rot spores. You would have suffered the same fate as her, were you not to come to me,” the Seer Moth Wilder says.
  218. >He starts to move towards his back room behind the counter and beckons you two.
  219. >You keep Flitter Lite close and follow him.
  220. >He trots at a steady pace as you discover the ‘room’ behind the counter was actually a long hallway with many doors.
  221. >He approaches a door near the end of the hallway.
  222. >It is large and metal, on each side of it there are plants in pots that you have never seen before in your life.
  223. >These plants have many leafy coils that wrap around in convoluted knots.
  224. >It kind of reminds you of a labyrinth, the way the frills intertwine and tangle.
  225. >He lightly lifts his muzzle and touches a single frill.
  226. >Suddenly the plant springs to life and starts to move.
  227. >You give a quick jump back from shock and Flitter Lite lets out an, “eep!”
  228. >The leafy frills retract and unwind to reveal a key deep within the plant’s depths.
  229. >The Seer Moth Wilder grabs the key and smoothly inserts it into the door’s keyhole.
  230. >You’re a little impressed that he’s able to move so fluidly without sight.
  231. >The door opens.
  232. >You, the Seer Moth, and Flitter Lite, enter the room.
  233. >It’s dark in here, very dark.
  234. >Then suddenly you see little spots of light.
  235. >They start out as a few specks, but gain in intensity quickly.
  236. >Soon the entire room is illuminated by this mysterious light.
  237. “What is this?”
  238. >Then your surroundings come into focus.
  239.  
  240. >The entire room was covered in the same weird plant formation that was back at your cottage.
  241. >The door closes behind you.
  242. >Again, there seems to be no apparent force that is doing that, as the Seer Moth Wilder is in front of you.
  243. “What’s the meaning of this?”
  244. >Then you open your eyes in shock as this realization hits you.
  245. “Flitter, hold your breath!”
  246. >Then you hold your breath as well, hoping it’s not too late.
  247. >You look towards the door, it seems like a safe bet to say it’s locked.
  248. >There’s no escape.
  249. >”It’s quite okay children, this strain of rot is quite tame,” says the Seer.
  250. >Rot?
  251. >Tame?
  252. >Your lungs start to burn.
  253. >You were running out of breath anyways, so you decided to trust him.
  254. >But you had a few questions first.
  255. “What do you mean ‘rot’? What is that?”
  256. >”Long ago in the deep forests of Equestria there was harmony and peace. Moth ponies inhabited these woods safe from any threat of the outside world.”
  257.  
  258. >”Legend says this society was a utopia for the moth ponies where they were safe from harm, hunger, and poverty.”
  259. >”Their great success was largely attributed to the presence of the Great Tree Saturniidae.”
  260. >”But one day, the Great Tree grew sick, the leaves started to fall, bugs feasted upon its flesh, and a foul odor permeated the air.”
  261. >”This was the beginning of the rot. There are many theories why it started. Some claim that the moth ponies’ greed stained the purity of the land.”
  262. >”Others say the God of Disharmony himself came down and tainted the tree.”
  263. >”Regardless of the cause, the origin of the rot is irrefutable.”
  264. >”The Great Tree Saturniidae grew hollow and corrupted. Spores fell from it, spreading its taint across the forest.”
  265. >”Many fled and many died during this time, fragmenting into tiny clans far away from their homeland.”
  266. >”These clans grew into towns and eventually have settled into the villages we see today. Nobody dared to venture back into the forest, for fear of their life and spreading the rot even further.”
  267. >”That was a long time ago, and many have since forgotten the tale of the rot. It is only us Seers that remember the true danger out there.”
  268. >”Many think we entertain stories of fantasy and myth. But these things I tell you are as true as your two hooves in front of you.”
  269. >”You have seen the rot, and its effects. Your sister falls ill from it, but we can help her.”
  270. >As he was saying this, he had grabbed multiple plants from the surrounding walls, sniffing and tasting them occasionally.
  271. >You watch as he takes his ingredients and grinds them to dust.
  272. >He proceeds to take the grindings and pour them into a cylinder with some solvent.
  273. >He mixes the solution vigorously and says, “Flitter Lite, please approach.”
  274.  
  275. >Flitter Lite looks up to you for approval.
  276. >You give her a small nod and she slowly proceeds towards him.
  277. >He gives her the newly mixed potion.
  278. >”Please, drink. This will not cure you, but it will prolong the rot’s effects.”
  279. >She eyes the solution suspiciously, but eventually drinks it.
  280. >She makes a face.
  281. >“It tastes icky,” she says as she scrunches her nose.
  282. >You smile despite yourself.
  283. >”I know child. It’s not pleasing. But it will keep you alive for what’s to come.”
  284. >”Please Flitter Lite, leave me and your sister here to discuss something. If you look under the cabinet under the front desk you will find some treats. Help yourself.”
  285. >Flitter Lite perks up at this news, and eagerly rushes out of the room.
  286. >Turns out the door wasn’t locked.
  287. >”You have a quest of great peril before you child.”
  288. >You look back to the Seer Moth Wilder.
  289. >”The tree is still there. It isn’t just a story. And within Saturniidae holds the key to curing your sister.”
  290. >”I would go with you but I am too weak and frail to make the trip.”
  291. >”No one else believes the story of the rot. Even if you were to show them no one would risk their life going that deep into the forest.”
  292. >”However this quest is too dangerous for you to embark on alone.”
  293. >He is making multiple bottles of the potion and packing them in a saddlebag as he speaks to you.
  294. >”Gray Scale, please enter,” the Seer Moth commands.
  295. >The door opens and a grey moth pony enters with his down.
  296. >”Yes Master Wilder,” he replies.
  297. >”Gray Scale, meet Hearth. She’s the daughter of a great friend of mine.”
  298. >Gray Scale looks up, and his eyes meets yours.
  299. >You have a feeling you now know who has been shutting and opening all the doors.
  300. >He quickly looks back down again, “p-pleased to meet you Miss Hearth.”
  301. >What a peculiar moth stallion.
  302.  
  303. >You can’t say you’ve had much experience with them, on account of being deep in the forest your whole life.
  304. >You decide to return the greeting.
  305. “Hi Gray Scale, pleased to meet you too.”
  306. >He doesn’t look up.
  307. >Strange.
  308. >Maybe he doesn’t like you?
  309. >You suddenly feel super self conscious and cross your front hooves.
  310. >It’s a nervous habit of yours when you feel embarrassed, guilty, or inadequate.
  311. >Why are you thinking about this right now?
  312. >”Gray Scale will serve as your guide through the rot forest and to the Great Tree Saturniidae,” the Seer Moth says.
  313. >Gray Scale ears lift up at this.
  314. >”You mean I’m finally going? To the rot forest? To see Saturniidae?”
  315. >Gray Scale now has a burst of energy as he rushes up to the Seer Moth Wilder.
  316. >”I’ll get to see the rot beasts? The glow of wild rot? The plains of decay and the trees of light?”
  317. >He excitedly went on and on, meanwhile the Seer Moth finished packing the potions.
  318. >Then the Seer Moth silences him, and begins to speak in a serious tone.
  319. >”The answer to all those questions is yes. But this is not a game. Hearth’s little sister Flitter Lite has been affected by an aggressive strain of the rot.”
  320. >Gray Scale’s excited state falls to a melancholy.
  321. >”I am leaving you in charge of the voyage, you are to guide Hearth and Flitter Lite to Saturniidae.”
  322. >”You are to protect them to the best of your ability, and ensure the survival of young Flitter Lite.”
  323. >Gray Scale nods his head and says, “I’ll go pack.”
  324. >And off he goes.
  325. >It comforts you to know you have somebody else to go with you on this trip.
  326. >You weren’t sure if you could have made it just with you and Flitter Lite.
  327. >The Seer Moth Wilder approaches you.
  328. >”Hearth, you must understand there will be many hardships and obstacles to come. Pure determination and drive will not see you all the way through.”
  329. >”You need to be strong, swift, courageous, and above all keen, to make it to the Great Tree.”
  330.  
  331. >”I know you possess these traits. I may not see a lot, but I can see this within you.”
  332. >”There will come a time where you will need protecting, and you will need to protect.”
  333. >”A time where you give up all hope, and a time where hope is all you have left.”
  334. >”A time to be strong, and a time to be weak.”
  335. >Gray Scale enters the room again.
  336. >”I’m all packed, and ready to go,” he says.
  337. >The Seer Moth Wilder goes to the saddlebag full of potions and adds a few extra supplies.
  338. >He then beckons you to come retrieve it.
  339. >Once you do, he says to you, “Have her drink a full potion once a day, I’ve included twenty. This will stave off the rot, but not prevent it.”
  340. >”Near the end of the journey, she will come to be in bad condition. Therefore the quicker you can get her to the Great Tree the better.”
  341. >”She should be well enough to walk for another ten moons. But after that she will quickly become malnourished and deteriorate.”
  342. >”The rot will have begun to feed on her.”
  343. >”I have included a map and compass in your supplies. Gray Scale also has these along with water.”
  344. >”You should have little trouble in finding edible plant life. But always consult Gray Scale before you ingest any foreign plant.”
  345. >You give a nod.
  346. >”Go now, the both of you. Bring Flitter Lite to Saturniidae, then return to me. There is much I can teach you, but for now, time is of the essence.”
  347. >You and Gray Scale leave the room.
  348.  
  349. >There you find Flitter Lite casually nibbling on what looks like some sugar cookies.
  350. >But that’s not the only thing you find.
  351. >That heart gnawing fear returns to you as you look upon her.
  352. >The tip of her normally snow-white right ear has gone black.
  353. >The rot has begun its course.
  354.  
  355. “Flitter-bug, we’re leaving. Gray Scale let’s go! We need to hurry!”
  356.  
  357. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  358.  
  359. Chapter IV
  360.  
  361. >Flitter Lite was ahead of you skipping on top of the stones that lined the path.
  362. >She loves the forest.
  363. >She did grow up in it after all, and being in the forest seems to help clear her mind.
  364. >It doesn’t do much for you though.
  365. >She can’t see the black spot on her ear that marks the rot.
  366. >She isn’t reminded of it constantly.
  367. >You are, every time you look at her, every thought you can spare, every moment when you close your eyes.
  368. >This fear is ebbing away at you.
  369. >You swore to protect Flitter Lite, and up until this point you were confident you could do that.
  370. >But you weren’t sure you could protect her from this.
  371. >The cloud of fear begins to surround you again.
  372. >You weren’t sure you could protect her from anything.
  373. >You can barely protect yourself.
  374. >Your legs feel weak.
  375. >Your joints begin to buckle underneath you.
  376. >Before you know it you’re on the ground, breathing heavily in and out.
  377. >You can’t seem to pick yourself up, you don’t have control of your muscles.
  378. >”Hearth? Hearth are you okay? Flitter Lite come here!”
  379. >You hear Gray Scale’s voice but it seems distant.
  380. >Your breathing only increases, yet you still feel like you’re being suffocated.
  381. >”I need your help, I think she’s having a panic attack.”
  382. >Gray Scale’s voice has increased in urgency.
  383. >Your senses are rushing at you tenfold and all you want to do is hide.
  384. >You feel hooves lift you up and then the feeling of being carried.
  385. >You don’t know how long passes before you are put down again.
  386. >Everything is not going to be okay.
  387. >Everything can’t be okay.
  388. >Flitter Lite is going to die slowly, and you’re going to watch her do it.
  389. >You’re weak.
  390. >You’re nothing.
  391. >Your consciousness is replaced by darkness.
  392. >Suddenly something wet is placed on your chest.
  393.  
  394. >Relief immediately ensues.
  395. >You open your eyes and see Gray Scale and Flitter Lite looking at you worriedly.
  396. “W-what happened?” You ask shakily.
  397. >”We were walking along the path and you suddenly collapsed and started hyperventilating,” Gray Scale is the first to speak.
  398. >”Hearth you scared me, don’t do that again ok? Promise?” Flitter Lite pleads.
  399. >You look into her great round green eyes.
  400. >Though they were full of worry, they calm you a great deal.
  401. >Gray Scale then begins to speak again.
  402. >”Once you collapsed, I picked you up and brought you to this cave. It’s safer than the road.”
  403. >”You had passed out, but your heart rate was still accelerated and you were fidgeting in your sleep.”
  404. >”I gave you a sedative salve to help calm you down.”
  405. >You look at him and then look down.
  406. >Your entire chest was covered in this gooey substance.
  407. >You look back up to him and he sheepishly looks away.
  408. >”Sorry if I did anything wrong. I was just trying to help…”
  409. >You get up and give him a hug.
  410. >He’s warm, and this is the first time you’ve ever hugged anyone outside of your family.
  411. >You decide you like hugs.
  412. >Flitter Lite lets out a little, “Awww…”
  413. >Once you let go he is staring at the ground intently drawing little circles in the dirt with his hoof.
  414. >Oh no, you did it again.
  415. >You’re definitely sure he doesn’t like you now.
  416. >Why were you so stupid?
  417.  
  418. >Why did you have to hug him?
  419. >You decide to quickly change the topic.
  420. “So did you already have that salve packed? Where did you get it?”
  421. >He looks up a little.
  422. >Flitter Lite gets bored and starts exploring the outside of the cave, but keeping close.
  423. >”Oh that? Well once I found this cave, I went to the edge of the rot forest. We’re not that far away.”
  424. >”Master Wilder taught me about the different kinds of rot, how to extract what you want, and what to mix together to make a whole bunch of things.”
  425. >”To make a sedative is honestly one of the easiest things to do. I… I can teach you sometime if you want,” he says while looking back down again.
  426. “I’d love that. My mom was a herbalist and she taught me a few things. But you can use the rot to help people?”
  427. >”Master Wilder once told me that the rot is like a sentient being. That it feels and has behaviours similar to our own.”
  428. >”Some strains are passive, some are aggressive, some he even described as devious and cunning.”
  429. >For that last part Gray Scale rolled his eyes.
  430. >”I don’t know about all that. But I think I know what he’s trying to say. Approach the rot with the same level of regard as you would a pony.”
  431. >”He cultured the rot in his garden for so long, selectively breeding it generation after generation that he said it was impossible to make the strain anymore passive.”
  432. >”In my opinion, I think he treats the rot like a friend or child. It’s weird I know but the discoveries he’s made in research have saved a lot of lives.”
  433. >”I know you probably hate the rot, because of what it did to your sister. But while it’s capable of destruction, it’s also capable of great things.”
  434. >He got so passionate when speaking about the rot.
  435. >You smile, it’s kind of adorable.
  436. >He smiles back.
  437. >You feel hot all of a sudden.
  438.  
  439. >You’re not sure what it is, but it’s weird.
  440. >You get up and cross your front hooves.
  441. “Well thank you, I appreciate that you want to teach me. Maybe when this is all over.”
  442. “For now, I think it’s best we get going. We don’t have a lot of time.”
  443. >Gray Scale nods, and you pick up your saddlebag.
  444. “Flitter-bug! Come on lets go, we’re leaving!”
  445. >No response.
  446. “Flitter Lite, come here!”
  447. >Nothing.
  448. >Suddenly you hear Flitter Lite screaming off in the distance and the roar of some beast.
  449. >You’re sprinting towards the noise before you realize you had reacted.
  450. >You find Flitter Lite in a clearing.
  451. >But standing opposite to her is some monstrosity of massive proportion.
  452. >It’s not pony, chimera, timberwolf, or anything you’ve ever seen before.
  453. >It looks like a bear with no fur and an abnormally large mouth.
  454. >Rot has formed around its back like a cloak.
  455. >Its maw is dripping a thick black gooey substance that kills the ground where it lands.
  456. >Gray Scale has caught up to you.
  457. >He isn’t as fast as you are.
  458. >”Oh shit… That’s-”
  459. >He is cut off by the roar of the massive beast.
  460. >It begins to charge.
  461. >Without thinking you begin to run into the clearing.
  462. >You had to protect Flitter Lite.
  463. >”Hearth wait!”
  464. >You ignore Gray Scale.
  465. >The beast was big, but it was slow.
  466. >You were exceptionally fast on your feet.
  467. >It was from all the times you would run through the forest and down the paths when you were younger.
  468. >You’ve always loved to run, and now you were thankful for it.
  469. >You reach Flitter Lite first and quickly kneel beside her.
  470. >”Hearth!” she exclaims as she jumps on your back.
  471. >The beast is still charging.
  472. > You make a dash to the left, but turn too quickly and your hoof slips.
  473. >Pain jolts up your hind right leg.
  474. >You’re not sure what you just did but it hurts to put any pressure at all on it.
  475. >You try to continue running but as soon as your right hoof makes contact with the ground the pain is there again, inhibiting you.
  476.  
  477. >The beast is almost upon you.
  478. >Your struggle is in vain and you brace for impact.
  479. >But then suddenly the beast roars out again.
  480. >You peek up and see Gray Scale has flew himself into the beast’s face and is currently beating at its head with a rock.
  481. >He gets a couple good shots to the beast’s right eye before the rot bear swipes him off.
  482. >Gray Scale lands with a hard thud several paces away.
  483. >He’s not moving.
  484. >You can’t tell if he’s breathing or not.
  485. >The rot monster turns its attention to Gray Scale.
  486. >It begins to approach him at a menacing saunter.
  487. >You feel a weight shift on top of you.
  488. >It’s Flitter Lite.
  489. >”You. Don’t. Hurt. My. FRIEND.”
  490. >She grabs the closest thing to her with her mouth, which happens to be one of her medicine bottles full of the Seer Moth’s solutions out of your saddle bag.
  491. >She does a quick twirl and tosses it at the enraged beast.
  492. >The concoction hits the beast in the damaged eye and the glass shatters with force, spilling the contents all over the rot bear and into its open wound.
  493. >You have never heard such sounds of pain before in your life.
  494. >Everywhere the potion had landed on the beast now looked as if it were boiling its skin.
  495. >It has an acidic effect on the beast as the liquid eats away at its flesh.
  496. >The screams of pain turn into whimpers, which then turns to silence.
  497. >The rot bear is no more than a pile of smoking bio mass at this point.
  498. >You manage to pick yourself up.
  499. >Slowly limping to Gray Scale’s side you check his breathing.
  500. >It’s labored, but it’s there.
  501. >You can't move him in your condition.
  502. >Flitter Lite isn't strong enough, and currently she is so shaken up you don’t even know how she’s standing.
  503.  
  504. >>16923410
  505. >You look up to the sky.
  506. >The sun is setting.
  507. >You collapse by Gray Scale’s side, physically and mentally exhausted.
  508. >Flitter Lite is soon by your side, laying next to you.
  509. >”Hearth?”
  510. “Yes Flitter Lite?”
  511. >”I’m scared.”
  512. >She hides herself into your fluff.
  513.  
  514. “Me too.”
  515.  
  516. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  517.  
  518. Chapter V
  519.  
  520. >You open your eyes.
  521. >The sun is out, casting an almost blinding amount of light.
  522. >You have to squint to get a bearing of your surroundings.
  523. >Currently you are alone.
  524. >No Flitter Lite.
  525. >No Gray Scale.
  526. >You lie in the same spot that you had before falling asleep.
  527. >You try to get up with your injured leg.
  528. >The pain is dramatically reduced from before.
  529. >Also it’s bandaged up.
  530. >Gray Scale must’ve taken care of you, again.
  531. >But where were they?
  532. >You call out hesitantly.
  533. >”Gray Scale? Flitter Lite?”
  534. >No answer.
  535. >You try calling out again louder this time and get the same response.
  536. >You decide to test the limits of your leg.
  537. >Taking a couple steps forward you’re able to keep a steady pace with relatively no pain.
  538. >In a trot, you feel a slight twinge.
  539. >You decide to go into a full gallop and then you really start to feel it.
  540. >That’s okay though, as long as you were mobile.
  541. >But where should you go?
  542. >Taking a quick spin you realize you have no idea where you actually are.
  543. >When you ran off course to Flitter Lite you didn't exactly keep track of your direction.
  544. >On that thought, you hear rustling in the bushes behind you.
  545. >You turn quickly, your heart pounding in your chest.
  546. >What could it be?
  547. >Another bear or rot monstrosity?
  548. >Something worse?
  549. >More rustling then out pops Gray Scale and Flitter Lite.
  550. >”Hey, look who’s awake,” Gray Scale says.
  551. >”Hearth! You’re up,” Flitter Lite runs to your side with something in her mouth.
  552. >”I got you a present I found in the forest,” she lets it drop, but it’s attached to string that still hangs from her bite.
  553. >You look at the tiny thing attached to the loop of string.
  554.  
  555. >It’s a little clear rock.
  556. >The whole thing, you realize, is a necklace.
  557. >You bow your head which allows Flitter Lite to jump up and put the necklace around your neck.
  558. >You then take the little rock in hoof and examine it more closely.
  559. >The inside of it seems to be glowing.
  560. >Since it’s day the glow is very faint, but it’s still recognizable.
  561. >”It’s cool, huh? Right sis?” Flitter Lite asks while beaming up at you.
  562. “Very cool. Thank you, I love it.”
  563. >You give her a quick nuzzle with your nose and she returns the affection.
  564. “But… where did you guys go?”
  565. >”We went into the Rot Forest for supplies,” Gray Scale says.
  566. >”After treating your leg, I thought it’d be good to get a restock before heading deep into the forest.”
  567. >”I knew you’d want to head out as soon as you woke up without wasting anytime, and I didn't want to leave Flitter Lite behind unsupervised, so I took her with.”
  568. >You nod.
  569. “Flitter Lite, did you take your medicine today?”
  570. >Gray Scale speaks up.
  571. >”I made sure she did before we went into the forest. No worries.”
  572. >You give another nod.
  573. “Gray Scale… how are you feeling? Last thing I remember you were unconscious.”
  574. >Gray Scale looks down, he almost seems embarrassed.
  575. >”Uh yeah, I was. I’m fine now. I’m really sorry I was so useless. I tried to stop it, he was so strong-”
  576. >You cut him off by giving him a hug.
  577. >You make sure this hug is nice and tight and gets across the message of how much that whole thing meant to you.
  578. >He’s like stone, but you don’t care what his deal is anymore.
  579. >Whether he doesn’t like you, or he doesn't like hugs, or whatever.
  580. >You’re too grateful to him to care.
  581. >Once you release, you look towards the forest line.
  582. “I’m ready. Let’s go into the Rot Forest and save my sister.
  583. >Gray Scale looks up again, and gives you a determined look.
  584. >”Let’s go.”
  585. >And so your group begins their march into the rot.
  586.  
  587. >Once you enter the Rot Forest, it’s instantly recognizable.
  588. >The trees are absolutely covered in the weird fungi, and there are bioluminescent blotches everywhere.
  589. >It’s almost like a light show, in a weird sort of way.
  590. >And you really like lights.
  591. >Really, really like lights.
  592. >Lights…
  593. >”Hearth!”
  594. >You snap back to reality.
  595. “W-what?”
  596. >”Don’t look too hard into their lights. Most rot is harmless but you've seen what happens if you come too close to a bad strain.”
  597. >”It’s best to stick to the path. The further you go out the more chance you’ll run into something volatile.”
  598. >”At least that’s what the Master Wilder says,” Gray Scale finishes.
  599. “Thank you.”
  600. >Your trio walks along a rough path worn down by either the rot animals or other moth ponies who knew about this place like the Seer Moth Wilder.
  601. >Most importantly the path is listed on the map so you won’t get lost.
  602. >As you all walk you hear the strange noises of the forest that surrounds you.
  603. >Branches breaking, trees falling in the distance, the moans and growls of rot beasts far away.
  604. >You keep looking around you as if expecting something to pop out.
  605. >Not to mention your leg is starting to bother you again from walking on it so much.
  606. >You decided to fly a couple inches above the ground to give your hooves a rest while still moving forward.
  607. >You really wish you had practiced flying more often.
  608. >The strain of flying quickly catches up to whatever you were feeling while on your hooves, so you land.
  609. >Gray Scale takes notice.
  610. >”We can rest for a bit if you want to.”
  611. “No, we have to keep going.”
  612. >”You’re going to injure your leg again if you keep pushing yourself like this.”
  613. “I’m. Fine.”
  614. >”If you end up making your leg worse now, there’s nothing I can do about it and it will only take that much longer to reach the Great Tree.”
  615. >Dammit why did he have to make sense?
  616.  
  617. >Your leg is feeling pretty bad at this point too.
  618. “Fine. We’ll take a quick break.”
  619. >Gray Scale finds a small opening nearby with a couple of fallen trunks around.
  620. >You go over and rest your hooves.
  621. >Flitter Lite sits next to you.
  622. >Gray Scale begins to pick up random pieces of wood and starts to pile them in the middle of the opening.
  623. >He encircles the wood with stones and pulls from his bag two weird looking metal things.
  624. >He strikes them against each other and sparks shoot out.
  625. >Before you know it the timber is alight.
  626. >Alight with pretty, pretty fire.
  627. >You’re hypnotized by the dancing flames and intense light.
  628. >Your parents never let you be around fire as a filly, but you never knew why.
  629. >Why would they keep you from something so perfect?
  630. >You feel a hoof placed firmly against your chest.
  631. >”Hearth, you can’t touch it. It will hurt you.”
  632. >You hadn’t realized how close you were drifting to the fire.
  633. >You were really bad at this whole light thing.
  634. “Sorry, I didn’t realize I was moving.”
  635. >”Yeah, I get like that too sometimes around lights. But Master Wilder taught me to resist it.”
  636. “How do you resist it?”
  637. >”Massive willpower and several times getting singed,” he laughs.
  638. >You give a laugh too, not because it was especially funny, but because it felt good to laugh.
  639. >It felt good to talk to Gray Scale, to be around him.
  640. >You check on Flitter Lite and see she’s asleep.
  641. >She must have fallen asleep while Gray Scale was building the fire.
  642. >You go to her and curl around her, draping your wing over her like a blanket.
  643. >Gray Scale comes and sits beside you.
  644. >You look at him, and he looks at you.
  645. >Maybe it was the way the light of the fire was hitting him, but he looked quite handsome.
  646. >He’s smiling down at you and Flitter Lite, and you feel safe.
  647. >Like nothing in the world could invade your little bubble of protection.
  648. >”Oooo! Pretty fire,” an unknown voice says.
  649. >You’re startled into standing.
  650.  
  651. >Gray Scale stands too.
  652. “Who’s there?”
  653. >”Wow you guys can make fire? I wish I could do that. I’d make fire everywhere!” the voice continues.
  654. >You quickly scan around trying to determine the source of the voice.
  655. >As you turn around, you are greeted with a face full of… well, face.
  656. >Face with bright yellow eyes.
  657. >”Hi!”
  658. >You jump at least ten feet in the air in shock.
  659. >As you get your heart rate and breathing back to normal, you take a chance to inspect this new creature.
  660. >It looks like a moth pony, except it’s not.
  661. >It’s covered in a white coat, with the normal chest fluff that all moth ponies have.
  662. >Its wings has holes in it like they rotted away.
  663. >The same goes for its legs, like someone took a drill and bore a bunch of different sized holes throughout its hooves.
  664. >Though that was not its most outstanding a feature.
  665. >The creature was glowing yellow internally.
  666. >Like someone had taken a lamp and put it inside this thing’s chest.
  667. “W-what… what are you?”
  668. >Then suddenly something even weirder happened.
  669. >The color of the glow changed from yellow to red.
  670. >And its previous yellow eyes changed to red as well.
  671. >”’What’ am I? It’s rude to call ponies ‘What’s you know!” the creature said with a hint of annoyance.
  672. >But then just as quickly she reverted from red to yellow again.
  673. >”But I’ll forgive you. Let me start over,” she says gleefully.
  674.  
  675. >”Hi! I’m Flaire Glow! And I’m a rot pony!”
  676.  
  677. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  678.  
  679. Chapter VI
  680.  
  681. “A… Rot pony?”
  682. >You give a quick glance to Gray Scale.
  683. >He seems just as confused as you are.
  684. >”Yeah! A rot pony. I’m just like you moth ponies, except I was born here in the rot forest,” Flaire Glow says.
  685. >She looks back and forth between the two of you.
  686. >”What’s the matter? You’ve two seem like you’ve seen a ghost!” she continues.
  687. >You are not exactly sure how to respond.
  688. >You thought the Rot was just full of monsters and terrible things.
  689. >But this… thing.
  690. >Well, it seems joyful enough.
  691. >Weirdly normal even.
  692. “Hello Flaire Glow, I’m Hearth, he’s Gray Scale, and the little filly sleeping is my sister Flitter Lite.”
  693. >She gives you a confused look, but then spots Flitter Lite who is still calmly napping.
  694. >”Oh my gosh, so cute!” Flaire Glow loudly exclaims.
  695. >This loud disturbance is enough to shake Flitter Lite from the realms of her napping.
  696. >She awakens only briefly before being scooped up and cuddled by Flaire Glow.
  697. >Flitter Lite releases an audible yelp as she’s picked up, and you tense up, ready for action.
  698. >But Flaire Glow dismisses the tension in the air as her entire focus is revolved around Flitter Lite.
  699. >”Aren’t you just the cutest thing ever! You’re so white and fluffy, it’s irresistible!”
  700. >Flitter Lite is visibly uncomfortable at first.
  701. >But then Flaire Glow wraps her up into hug and nuzzles her with great warmness.
  702. >Flaire Glow’s color changes from the previous yellow to a bright pink as she continues coddling Flitter Lite.
  703. >Flaire Glow doesn’t seem that bad.
  704. >Even if she has no idea what personal boundaries are.
  705. >”So Flaire Glow, are there other ponies like you?” Gray Scale inquires.
  706. >Flaire Glow is broken from her trance on Flitter Lite, and puts her down.
  707.  
  708. >”Well, maybe. I don’t know for sure. I’ve never seen anypony else,” she tilts her head to the side.
  709. >”Come to think of it, most of my friends are plants,” she continues.
  710. >Plants?
  711. “Like… the Rot?”
  712. >She perks up.
  713. >”Mhmm! A lot of them are pretty silent. But the one’s that talk a lot I talk to.”
  714. >You are beyond confused.
  715. >You decide to let it rest, but then an idea hits you.
  716. “Hey Flaire Glow, if you can talk to the Rot. Would you mind talking to the rot that’s in my sister?”
  717. “It’s killing her. If you could talk to it to make it stop, or maybe go someplace else. I’m not sure if you can do that…?”
  718. >You weren’t completely sure how this whole Rot thing works, but it was worth a shot.
  719. >Flaire Glow goes from a pink glow to a purple glow as she inspects Flitter Lite.
  720. >Then from purple to blue.
  721. >”Oh no, this isn’t good. The Rot inside her won’t talk to me. But I can tell it’s very mean.”
  722. >”I’ve only seen these bullies deep inside the forest. They like to take control of everything without asking permission.”
  723. >Her mood visually drops as the blue glow emanating from her grows dimmer.
  724. >”I’m sorry, I can’t help.”
  725. >You expected as much.
  726. >”But I know somepony who can!”
  727. >Flaire Glow perks up again and resumes her normal yellow glow.
  728. >”We can take her to Mom! Mom will fix her right up,” Flaire Glow beams.
  729. >Gray Scale gives her an inquisitive look.
  730. >”Who is this ‘Mom’?” he asks her.
  731. >”Mom is the best Mom ever! She’s my Mom, the Rot’s Mom, everything’s Mom!” Flaire Glow makes a happy trot around the campfire.
  732. >”Are you talking about Saturniidae? The Great Tree?” Gray Scale asks her.
  733. >”No silly, the Great Tree is Mom’s house. Mom is Saturniidae!” Flaire Glow says.
  734. >Gray Scale seems blown away by this.
  735. >Flitter Lite makes a quick tug on Flaire Glow’s tail.
  736. >”Your mommy will help make me better?” she asks softly.
  737.  
  738. >Flaire Glow picks Flitter Lite up for another session of cuddling.
  739. >”Of course she will! She wouldn’t let a little cutie like you get bullied by some big ol’ meanie like the Black Rot!” Flaire Glow declares as she spins in circles with Flitter Lite.
  740. “So you’ll help us reach Saturniidae, your Mom, to help my sister?”
  741. >Flaire Glow looks at you.
  742. >”I promise on my glow, that I will help you and your adorable sister reach my Mom,” Flaire Glow says with determination.
  743. >Well, I suppose you can add another party member now.
  744. “Thank you so much. Let’s get going. I’ve rested enough and we have little time to waste.”
  745. >Flaire Glow props Flitter Lite up onto her back and nods.
  746. >Gray Scale packs up, puts out the fire, and gives you your bag.
  747.  
  748. >The party of four now heads back onto the main pathway, towards the center of the Rot Forest.
  749. >That is, you all would have, if there wasn’t a massive cluster of rot blocking your path.
  750. >It looked like some form of grotesque barricade that was spewing spores and visibly growing by the second.
  751. >”Uh guys, that Rot isn’t friendly,” Flaire Glow says as she backs away from it.
  752. >You and Gray Scale back away too.
  753. >”Looks like we’ll need to do a bit of offroading,” Gray Scale says.
  754. >A section of the Rot barricade exploded into a cluster of spores a distance off.
  755. >You, Flaire Glow, and Gray Scale run in to opposite direction off to the side, in hopes of going around it.
  756. >The forest gets denser with each step you take away from the path.
  757. >Soon your entire field of vision is filled with Rot, fungus, and tree as you navigate between the obstacles.
  758. >You can hear Flaire Glow and Gray Scale running with you, but you can’t see them.
  759. >There’s too much vegetation, you can’t even tell where the barricade is anymore, or if you’ve already passed it.
  760. >You’re tripping over vines on the ground, and spores from the Rot cover your coat, get into your eyes, and choke your breath.
  761. >This was not good.
  762. >It’s beginning to get very difficult to breathe and see.
  763. >Your breath becomes labored, and you can’t swallow.
  764. >All saliva from your mouth and throat are gone and replaced instead with this dust.
  765. >It seems like this forestry is never going to end.
  766. >This could be it.
  767. >You knew the Forest was dangerous, but you weren’t expecting this.
  768. >Making a more desperate push forward to escape from the depths of the forest, you finally crash into a clearing.
  769. >You're currently having a large coughing fit, as the spores and dust from the Rot have breached your airways and dried out your throat.
  770. >Gray Scale is the next to emerge into the clearing.
  771.  
  772. >Gasping for breath and landing beside you, he quickly uncorks one of his canteens full of water and gives it to you.
  773. >Your throat felt as if it were on fire from how dry it was.
  774. >You try to choke down as much water as possible, often spurting out just as much from being unable to swallow.
  775. >Eventually you get to the point where you're able to actually get the water to go down.
  776. >The cooling water relieves the burning.
  777. >Before you know it, you finish the canteen.
  778. >Gray Scale underwent the same process of purging as you did.
  779. >Flaire Glow pops out some distance away into the clearing.
  780. >Flitter Lite is stable, and covered in minimal dust from the Rot.
  781. >”Hey! Where’d you guys go? I was trying to show you the way but then you guys started barreling through the forest like that,” she says.
  782. >She hops over to you two.
  783. >”That was pretty silly ya know,” she says giving a nonchalant smile.
  784. >You’re just grateful Flitter Lite is unharmed.
  785. >But Gray Scale seems a little bit more agitated than you.
  786. >”You could have told us to follow you!” he growls at her.
  787. >Flaire Glow seems slightly taken back, and her yellow light switches to a red.
  788. >”I thought you guys would have known to follow me. I did say that I’D take you to Mom, so duh!” Flaire Glow retorts.
  789. >”We could have died back there, so you didn’t think that was worth mentioning?” Gray Scale raises his voice.
  790. >His voice is a bit rough considering the amount of dust that was previously in it.
  791. >”It’s not my fault you’re too much of a dummy to realize, ‘Hey! She lived in the Rot Forest all her life and is a rot pony, maybe I should follow her!’” Flaire Glow starts to tear up.
  792. >”How was I supposed to know how quickly things would go bad off the road? I’ve never been here before! Whereas you said that you lived here all your life!” Gray Scale is unrelenting in his verbal assault.
  793.  
  794. >”I… I… I’m sorry okay?! I just thought you guys would follow me. I’m sorry.” Flaire Glow is crying now.
  795. >”You just can’t assume things like that, especially when something as dangerous as that-”
  796. “Enough.”
  797. >You cut him off mid sentence.
  798. >This fight was pointless, and was escalating needlessly.
  799. >Gray Scale was shocked, but did not continue his speech.
  800. “Gray Scale. Stop picking on Flaire Glow. She’s obviously had enough, there’s no need to be mean.”
  801. “Flaire Glow. Thank you for helping us. But if there’s important things we need to know, make sure to tell us.”
  802. “This is our first time in the Rot Forest, and even simple mistakes like that can get us killed.”
  803. “Now both of you, apologize to each other.”
  804. >Damn, you really sounded like your Mom for a moment.
  805. >Gray Scale looks down and shuffles his hooves.
  806. >”I’m sorry for being a jerk…”
  807. >Flaire Glow nods.
  808. >”And I’m sorry for not telling you guys to follow me,” she says.
  809. >Well now that that’s cleared up-
  810. >There’s a massive roar that shakes the ground.
  811. >Everyone jumps in shock as the sound resonates the entire forest.
  812. >There is a brief silence.
  813. >Then what sounds like thunder begins to emerge from the other side of the clearing.
  814. >”Oh no… Magnurot,” Flaire Glow cowers.
  815. >”Remember when you told me to warn you about dangerous stuff? Well that’s one of them.”
  816. >The sound of pounding thunder comes closer as trees in the distance falls in its wake.
  817. >It appears to be heading directly towards your group.
  818. >”I don’t think the Forest wants us to reach Mom,” Flaire Glow says.
  819. >”What makes you say that?” Gray Scale asks, voice full of fear.
  820. >”First there was the barricade, and now there’s Magnurot,” she begins.
  821. >”Guys, Magnurot doesn’t come to the borders of the Forest. In fact, it never comes out at all.”
  822. >”It’s usually asleep, but something woke it up, and it’s very, very angry.”
  823.  
  824. >Just as Flaire Glow finished her statement, the opposite edge of the clearing explodes.
  825. >The prior treeline is now occupied by a massive bipedal monstrosity.
  826. >It is stout in body, having no neck but rather a head that connects directly with its torso.
  827. >It has a massive “O” shaped mouth lined with razor sharp teeth.
  828. >Tiny black eyes line each side of its head.
  829. >Massive gooey rot tentacles protrude from around its head, grasping at everything and wielding enough power to rip trees from their roots.
  830. >Two, miniscule by comparison, arms attach themselves mid torso to the monstrosity.
  831. >Each arm only contains two fingers, each of with end in deadly looking claws, rendering them useless for anything besides killing.
  832. >Magnurot pauses only briefly to scan the opening until it spots your group.
  833. >Then it lets out another deafening roar.
  834. >Flaire Glow shouts,
  835.  
  836. >”Here’s your warning, if you want to live, follow me!”
  837.  
  838. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  839.  
  840. Chapter VII
  841.  
  842. >Flaire Glow was ahead of you, leading the way.
  843. >Gray Scale was behind you, keeping close.
  844. >Flitter Lite remained on Flaire Glow’s back.
  845. >Magnurot was in pursuit behind you.
  846. >Each step he took filled the ground with vibrations.
  847. >Debris from the uprooted trees and dirt flew towards you.
  848. >He was close, but he wasn’t catching you.
  849. >Flaire Glow had tried to take a turn, but a thrown tree soon blocked her path, forcing her to continue forwards.
  850. >She weaved in and out of the trees and obstacles rapidly, and you could barely keep up.
  851. >You were soon covered in cuts, bruises, and dust from running into trees, vines, and rot plants.
  852. >Then your field of vision was suddenly filled with a massive brown obstruction.
  853. >It was one of the uprooted rot trees that Magnurot had thrown.
  854. >Magnurot had managed to cut you off from Flaire Glow and Flitter Lite.
  855. >By the time you had circumvented it, Flaire Glow was out of sight.
  856. >You had tried to scream for them, but your throat was still incredibly sore from the previous encounter with the rot spores, and the new inhalation of the forest’s dust.
  857. >Sprinting and dodging also had you gasping for breath.
  858. >There was no way you could get a word out.
  859. >You quickly glanced behind you.
  860. >Gray Scale was no where to be found either.
  861. >Panic setting in, you dash forward, hoping to find another clearing before this forest or Magnurot claims you.
  862. >Anywhere where you could gather your bearings and have an appropriate field of view to scour for your friends.
  863. >It’s a race against a giant rot monster.
  864. >You don’t think that the potions will do to much to deter it.
  865. >Especially since it is so massive.
  866. >And you need to save as many as possible for Flitter Lite.
  867. >Running is your best option.
  868. >After what seems like an eternity, the trees begin to thin out.
  869. >The empty spaces grow larger, and it’s no longer a hassle to dodge them.
  870.  
  871. >Eventually there are no more trees in your way, and what stands before you is something out of a dream.
  872. >You weren’t quite sure what to think of it.
  873. >A field glowing neon blue.
  874. >Beautiful stalks with blue mushrooms adorn the landscape.
  875. >Each of the stalks are covered in the miniature rot lanterns, and light up the earth with brilliance.
  876. >Glowing spores adorn the air, just as bright as their fungi counterparts.
  877. >These spores made it appear as if the stars themselves floated down and hung suspended in the air.
  878. >It was all so beautiful, you just had to go in.
  879. >Besides, you could still hear Magnurot raging behind you.
  880. >Running into the lights, you bring yourself deeper and deeper into the sea of blue.
  881. >This place felt warm, and inviting, wherever you were.
  882. >Maybe this stuff wasn’t so terrible after all.
  883. >Your pace slows from a full gallop to slow stride.
  884. >You feel safe.
  885. >As you walk in the field, you notice a small white moth filly crying in the distance.
  886. >You trot up to her, as she’s curled up on the ground.
  887. “What’s the matter little filly, did you lose your family? What are you doing out here?”
  888. >”I got lost, and now I don’t know where I am,” she replies.
  889. “That’s okay, I’ll help you find them.”
  890. >The moth filly nods her head and climbs onto your back.
  891. >As you traverse the field, you take time to inspect the large rot stalks.
  892. >They are large and tall, yet skinny.
  893. >They also contain many holes, from which the glow emanates and the spores are released.
  894. >The spores float out gently, like dandelion seeds carried by the breeze.
  895. >It was almost relaxing to watch.
  896. >”Miss, you were going to help me find my family… right?”
  897. >Oh yeah, that’s right.
  898. >Your memory was kind of hazy.
  899. >You don’t think you ever caught the filly’s name.
  900. “Sorry, I was distracted. Yes, I am. By the way, what’s your name?”
  901. >”I… I don’t know,” she hesitantly replies.
  902. >A moth pony not knowing her name?
  903. >That was weird.
  904.  
  905. >Actually come to think of it, you weren’t quite sure of your name.
  906. >You’re sure it will come to you later.
  907. >In the meanwhile you will help this filly.
  908. >You two continue to walk in the same general direction for awhile.
  909. >There was no change of scenery.
  910. >Everything was just an endless ocean of blue.
  911. >Your hooves were getting tired, especially with carrying around this filly.
  912. “Let’s take a break. I’m starting to get sore.”
  913. >You set her down on the grass.
  914. >Even the grass here was blue, and the edges glowed.
  915. >The filly nods, and you notice a minute detail about her.
  916. >On her right ear, there appeared to be something black sticking to it.
  917. >No wait, the fur actually was black!
  918. >Like somebody had burnt it.
  919. >Or as if it were infected.
  920. >There was something there, something very familiar.
  921. >Almost as if it were on the far reaches of your mind.
  922. >You take a deeper look at her.
  923. >You swear you know her from somewhere.
  924. >No matter how hard you try to think, everything is blurry.
  925. >You’re going to give yourself a headache at this rate.
  926. >It was like trying to swim against a current.
  927. >Mentally exhausting yourself you decide to drop it.
  928. >You were very thirsty too for some reason.
  929. “I wish I had something to drink…”
  930. >The white filly looks up at you.
  931. >”What about those things in your pack?”
  932. >She gestures towards your back.
  933. >Come to think of it, you’d almost forgotten it was there.
  934. >You didn’t know what was inside, so you decided to take a look.
  935. >There were glass bottles full of some liquid.
  936. >There were tons of them in fact!
  937. >You wish you’d known this earlier.
  938. >You open one of the bottles, and sniff the contents.
  939. >No smell.
  940. >Well, it’s either this or continue to go thirsty.
  941. >Preparing yourself for how it might taste, you gulp a large portion of it down.
  942. >It was pretty gross, but you forced yourself to swallow it down your sore throat.
  943. “Ew…”
  944. >And then you were hit with the force of a sledgehammer.
  945.  
  946. >Your memories came rushing back to you in a torrent.
  947. >The forest, Flitter Lite, Gray Scale, Flaire Glow, the Seer Moth Wilder, the Rot, your mom.
  948. >Everything was simultaneously bursting from your head.
  949. >You look at your sister.
  950.  
  951. “Flitter Lite, where’s Gray Scale? Where’s Flaire Glow? Nevermind, we don’t have time. We have to get out of here!”
  952.  
  953. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  954.  
  955. Chapter VIII
  956.  
  957. >The blue seems endless.
  958. >You look in all directions and see no sign of the forest or clearing.
  959. >No sign of your friends either.
  960. >Flitter Lite now was cowering from you.
  961. >”Who’s Flitter Lite? Or anypony else?”
  962. >This wasn’t good.
  963. >She lost her memories like you had.
  964. >And you were running out of time.
  965. >You weren’t sure exactly how long this potion would keep your mind safe from the blue rot.
  966. >Time was of the essence.
  967. “Flitter Lite, it’s me your sister, Hearth. This rot takes away your memories, that’s why you don’t remember anything.”
  968. >You try to talk as quick as possible.
  969. >You need to make her understand.
  970. “But you have to drink this and come with me.”
  971. >You offer the remnants of the bottle to her.
  972. >She just looks up at you, and back to the bottle, her eyes clearly full of fear.
  973. >You must look like a monster to her, the way she’s looking at you.
  974. >You slowly approach her.
  975. >You’re ready to use force if necessary to get her to drink this.
  976. >”N-no! Stay away!”
  977. >Flitter Lite jumps up from her cowered state and backs up.
  978. “Flitter Lite you need to listen to me. You need to drink this now, it will help you.”
  979. >And just like that, she sprints away.
  980. >No!
  981. >You begin to trail her.
  982. “Flitter Lite come back here! I’m not going to hurt you!”
  983. >You’re faster than Flitter Lite.
  984. >You can also run harder for further than her.
  985. >But even with these advantages on your side, you’re on the brink of losing her at every step.
  986. >Her small form is concealed by the thick density of the blue rot.
  987. >She falls in and out of your sight.
  988. >Constantly disappearing, and reappearing a distance off.
  989. >You have to slow down to look for her amongst it, often catching her running out of the corner of your eye.
  990. >This impedes your process greatly.
  991.  
  992. >And is mentally wearing you down.
  993. >She’s also getting further and further away from you.
  994. >You dodge and weave between the stalks of the glowing blue rot.
  995. >Blurred blue lines pass by as you frantically chase your sister.
  996. >Her movements are sporadic, making it that much more difficult to keep up with her.
  997. >Losing sight of her is becoming a more common experience as the chase progresses.
  998. >Soon you’re relying solely on sound.
  999. >You can hear the hoofsteps faintly hitting the soft ground.
  1000. >It was like grasping at straws as she was slipping away from you.
  1001. >As you rush towards the source of the sound, you need to pause to try and find the sound of your sister’s hoofsteps again.
  1002. >It’s off faintly in the distance to the right of you.
  1003. >You try and find it, but only have a vague sense of where it came from.
  1004. >This chase is slowly losing hope.
  1005. >You pause again to listen.
  1006. >Silence.
  1007. >Panic starts to set in.
  1008. >You run out again to try and find her, pausing at intervals, desperately searching for any noise that might give her away.
  1009. >Everything looks the same, there’s no distinguishing features.
  1010. >Nothing.
  1011. >Running back and forth amongst the endless sea of blue, you lost all bearing and direction.
  1012. >Your desperation was growing more intense.
  1013. >You started to knock down the large rot stalks with strength you didn’t know you had.
  1014. >Tearing into the environment hoping to reveal your sister.
  1015. >Your throat started to clench up, and your eyes began to sting.
  1016. >You have to find her.
  1017. >You have to find your sister.
  1018. >Running for what seemed like hours through this maze of rot, you constantly search for her.
  1019. >Calling out as loud as possible.
  1020. >Running until your legs felt like they were on fire, with lactic acid building up and your sides began to cramp.
  1021. >Despite your physical condition, you pushed through the pain.
  1022. >It felt as it daggers were cutting in to you as you ran at a breakneck pace through the field.
  1023. >You can’t keep this up forever.
  1024.  
  1025. >Already you feel your legs giving up on you no matter how hard you pushed them.
  1026. >It was like fighting a losing battle.
  1027. >The more you pushed, the more slack your legs would go.
  1028. >This caused you to stumble and fall multiple times.
  1029. >But each time you would pick yourself up.
  1030. >Battling the nails of agony that tried to keep you down.
  1031. >You finally had to come to a stop, not being able to push anymore.
  1032. “Flitter Lite!”
  1033. >Your voice was raspy.
  1034. >There was no response.
  1035. “Flitter Lite please! Please come back!”
  1036. >Only silence.
  1037. >You feel hot tears start to stream from your eyes.
  1038. >You were on the verge of a breakdown.
  1039. >Choking on your own words, you make one last attempt.
  1040. “Flitter Lite! Please! Please!”
  1041. >That was barely audible.
  1042. >A major sensation of nausea overwhelms you.
  1043. >Dry heaving follows.
  1044. >You lost her.
  1045. >You don’t bother running anymore, you can’t hear anything over the sound of your crying and retching anyways.
  1046. “P-please…”
  1047. >Your broken spirit takes a mental toll almost as great as the running took a physical toll on you.
  1048. >You fall to the ground.
  1049. >Joints weak, and energy spent.
  1050. >Curling yourself into a tight ball, you close your eyes and try to think things out.
  1051. >You have to have a plan.
  1052. >You need a plan to save Flitter Lite.
  1053. >To save Gray Scale.
  1054. >To save yourself.
  1055. >You can’t focus on any one stream of thought as your emotional hurricane makes it impossible.
  1056. >Everything just loops back to Flitter Lite and how you let her slip from your grasp.
  1057. >How her hoofsteps faded into the abyss, and you lost her.
  1058. >Wait, something isn’t right.
  1059. >You try and turn your focus back to the world around you.
  1060. >You concentrate on a sound that appears far off.
  1061. >Hoofsteps, you hear hoofsteps.
  1062. >They’re faint but you hear them.
  1063. >Trying to calm yourself so you can hear better, the possibilities swim through your head.
  1064. >Flitter Lite?
  1065. >Did she decide to come back?
  1066. “Flitter Lite…?”
  1067. >The hoofsteps grow louder.
  1068. >Much too loud to belong to a filly.
  1069.  
  1070. >You lift yourself up.
  1071. >Even in the shaky miserable state you're in, you're not about to be taken out yet.
  1072. >As the steps come closer, you tense up in anticipation, ready for anything.
  1073. >You prepare what’s left of the open potion in case of some rot abomination.
  1074. >Rot Bear, some other monstrosity, or maybe even some normal animal as lost as you.
  1075. >Your mind shuffles through the possibilities.
  1076. >The steps get louder, and louder, as the mysterious source comes closer in proximity.
  1077. >You can hear your heart audibly beating within your chest.
  1078. >The pressure in your ears rises, giving the distinct ringing sound that they make when under extreme anxiety.
  1079. >Pupils dilated, hair raised, if you weren’t so tensed up you may have started rearing.
  1080. >Any second now and this unknown force will be upon you.
  1081. >Finally the brush and rot stalks move aside to reveal…
  1082. >Gray Scale!
  1083. >There he was, his entire monochromatic self!
  1084. >Your tense body goes slack to it previous shaky state.
  1085. >You start choking from the previous nervousness you just experienced, and the shift to this great relief.
  1086. >You also didn’t notice quite how long you were holding your breath, but the burning in your lungs told you it must have been a while.
  1087. >”Hey I heard you calling. You seemed upset so I came running. Can I help you?”
  1088. >You tackle him.
  1089. >Partly out of happiness.
  1090. >Partly out of priority.
  1091. >This surprise attack is enough to shock him to the ground and pin him down.
  1092. >All your muscles ache worse than anything you ever felt before, but this revelation brought a new energy to you.
  1093. >And you knew how to spend it.
  1094. >He opens his mouth, whether to object or to question you.
  1095. >He didn’t get any words out, because as soon as he opened it you practically shoved the potion down his throat.
  1096. >Sorry Gray Scale, you wouldn’t be doing this is it weren’t completely necessary.
  1097. >You let the bottle go and get off of him as he sputters and chokes down the concoction.
  1098.  
  1099. >He manages to stand up, before his eyes go very wide and he falls back down.
  1100. >That was probably the potion taking effect.
  1101. >He starts to have minor convulsions, and it was in fact pretty scary.
  1102. >You understand now why Flitter Lite was so scared of you and the potion.
  1103. >Finally Gray Scale stops and his eyes meet yours.
  1104. >”Hearth?”
  1105. “Gray Scale!”
  1106. >You leap back into him for another hug.
  1107. >He winces at the impact, but otherwise doesn’t seem to mind.
  1108. >You rest yourself fully on him.
  1109. >He supports your entire weight as you go through what you have to say.
  1110. “There’s little time to explain, but I lost Flitter Lite in this rot field, she doesn’t have her memories back, and I haven’t seen Flaire Glow since we got separated in the forest.”
  1111. >”Wait wait… Flaire Glow and Flitter Lite got separated? That doesn’t make any sense, they were together during the whole chase.”
  1112. “I know, it’s weird, and I don’t understand it, and I don’t know where Magnurot went or why he isn’t still chasing us.”
  1113. “But we don’t have time. We NEED to find Flitter Lite. And a way out, like, now!”
  1114. >Gray Scale nods his head.
  1115. >”Have you tried flying?”
  1116. >Honestly, you hadn’t thought of that.
  1117. >You just got your wings recently, and even still you weren’t the best flier.
  1118. >You shake your head.
  1119. >He breaks the hug apart, then preps himself for takeoff.
  1120. >”Here, let me check.”
  1121. >He takes off and flies high above the field.
  1122. >”There’s the closest exit out of here north!” He yells back down to you.
  1123. “Do you see Flitter Lite?”
  1124. >”No, I’m sorry. Let me scan the field. I’ll be back soon!”
  1125. >He takes off in the direction back where you came from.
  1126. >You had a sinking feeling in your chest that he wouldn’t find her.
  1127. >Hope is sometimes your greatest enemy when it comes down to these things.
  1128.  
  1129. >You hope that Flitter Lite will be found.
  1130. >You hope that the rest of the travel will be safe and that you will make it to Saturniidae.
  1131. >You hope that Flitter Lite will be cured, and that you can go back to the village and live with the Seer Moth Wilder and Gray Scale.
  1132. >You hope to live long enough to find a place to call home again.
  1133. >But truly in your heart, you know how slim these chances are.
  1134. >And this hope only causes heartache, as the hope leaves you little by little.
  1135. >The reality of this crushing situation is bearing down on your shoulders.
  1136. >This Forest may be the end of yours and Flitter Lite’s journey.
  1137. >You await Gray Scale’s return.
  1138. >Some time passes before you hear an odd noise.
  1139. >It’s coming from above.
  1140. >It sounds like grunting.
  1141. >And struggling.
  1142. >You look up and see Gray Scale.
  1143. >He made it back!
  1144. >And in his mouth, he is carrying by the nape of her neck a little white filly.
  1145. >Who is currently trying her hardest to kick out of Gray Scale’s grasp.
  1146. >He lands down beside you with a large thump.
  1147. >Clearly exhausted, he’s panting heavily and is barely supporting himself.
  1148. >But you can see the pride he has in finding Flitter Lite.
  1149. >You know how hard it is just to fly alone, much less fly and carry somepony.
  1150. >He offers you the still struggling filly.
  1151. >”Let me go! Let me go!”
  1152. >You take Flitter Lite from Gray Scale and go about the same process that you took with him.
  1153. >Pinning her down and opening a new potion, you wait for her to yell or scream at you, and take the opportunity to force feed her it.
  1154.  
  1155. >You personally make sure she drinks the entire thing.
  1156. >Then she transfers in the same state as you and Gray Scale had.
  1157. >Her small form starts convulsing rapidly.
  1158. >You embrace her and begin to cry.
  1159. >Out of relief, out of joy, out of fear, and out of sorrow.
  1160. >Holding her tightly against your fluff as she shakes and shivers, tears stream down your cheeks and wet her coat.
  1161. “It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay…”
  1162. >You keep repeating this phrase as you slowly stroke her back and wait for her to return to a normal state.
  1163. >She becomes still.
  1164. >Little time passes before you feel a wiggle out of her body.
  1165. >Then, practically a whisper, you hear her say, “Hearth?”
  1166.  
  1167. >Sometimes, maybe hope isn’t such a bad thing after all.
  1168.  
  1169. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  1170. CHAPTER IX
  1171.  
  1172. >“Hearth, where am I?”
  1173. >You see the confusion in her eyes.
  1174. >She scans the surroundings.
  1175. >”Can we leave here? I don’t like this place.”
  1176. “Yes Flitter Lite, we can.”
  1177. >You smile, your chest filling up with warmth at having found your sister.
  1178. >Still in your tight embrace, she wiggles to get out.
  1179. >You didn’t realize you were holding her so hard.
  1180. >”Blech, that stuff still tastes icky.”
  1181. >She holds out her tongue in disfavor.
  1182. “I know it does Flitters.”
  1183. >You pet her head compassionately, which elicits a small blush of embarrassment from her.
  1184. >“Hearth, stoooopppp… I’m not a little kid.”
  1185. >You finally let her go.
  1186. >Gray Scale leads the way out of the glowing rot fields from above.
  1187. >You really wish you could fly as high, fast or as long as he could.
  1188. >You make a quick promise to yourself to practice flying as soon as you get out of here.
  1189. >The blue Rot stalks start to thin out as you approach the edge of the field.
  1190. >You can’t help but think that the field is actually relatively small.
  1191. >It couldn't be that hard to find your way out of it.
  1192. >Then the realization that as the spores were affecting your mind, they were also probably guiding you in circles and deeper into the field.
  1193. >You shudder as you imagine what could possibly be in the center of it all.
  1194. >Maybe there were corpses piled high, as the Rot fed off their bodies.
  1195. >Or maybe some sort of monster, that awaits upon unwary prey to stumble into its maw.
  1196. >You, Gray Scale, and Flitter Lite have officially made it out.
  1197. >But what now?
  1198. >Gray Scale lands beside you.
  1199. >”That was pretty scary.”
  1200. >You nod in agreement.
  1201. “Gray Scale, do you know where we are? First the barricade, then Magnurot, then this? What’s happening?”
  1202. >Gray Scale just shakes his head.
  1203. >”I have no idea. The Master Wilder never told me about the Forest being this active before. He said this would be a pretty straightforward journey.”
  1204.  
  1205. “Do you think it has anything to do with Flitter Lite?”
  1206. >You look down at your sister.
  1207. >The black in her ear has spread lower, threatening to soon reach her head.
  1208. >Gray Scale shakes his head again.
  1209. >”I honestly have no idea. We should get going though. We need to continue North, and hopefully we’ll find the path again.”
  1210. >Seeing no better option, you agree with him.
  1211. “Wait, what about Flaire Glow? She might be in the field too.”
  1212. >”I doubt it. She lives here, and knows the effects of the field. I don’t think she’d plunge herself into it knowing the dangers.”
  1213. >Then he gets an angry look on his face.
  1214. >”Also, I think we’re better off without her anyways. Ever since she’s joined us, look at all the bad stuff that has happened!”
  1215. >He stomps his hoof.
  1216. >”No, we’ll continue without her. Besides, I kinda enjoyed it when it was just me, you, and Flitter Lite.”
  1217. >You feel a warmth spread across your cheeks.
  1218. >Realizing what he said, he looks down and blushes too.
  1219. >”I-I just meant that it was easier you know? W-Without having to look after an extra somepony.”
  1220. >He clears his thoughts with a shake of the head.
  1221. >”Anyways, come on, we have a lot of ground to cover.”
  1222. >And so the party moves forward, away from the field and deeper into the Forest.
  1223. >As you all walk, which is relatively easy as this part of the Forest seems quite tame, you can’t shake the feeling you’re being watched.
  1224. >You do a quick scan and see nothing.
  1225. >Just trees, Rot, and bush.
  1226. >Shrugging, you move forward to catch up to Gray Scale and your sister.
  1227. >Again, a shiver is sent down your spine as your sure you feel the weight of something’s gaze upon you.
  1228. >You scrutinize your surroundings.
  1229. “Guys wait up.”
  1230. >Gray Scale and your sister wait.
  1231. >”What is it?” Gray Scale asks, alert as ever.
  1232. “I… feel something. Something watching us.”
  1233. >Silence falls amongst the group.
  1234.  
  1235. >You continue looking and listening into the Forest around you.
  1236. >Tall trees with various fungi protruding from it.
  1237. >Rot that softly glows against the dark, canopied background.
  1238. >Some sounds off into the far distance of birds chirping, or wind rustling the branches above.
  1239. >Then, you hear a sharp *Snap!*
  1240. >Shortly there followed by a soft, “Darn it!”
  1241. >You look towards the source of the sound.
  1242. >At first you see nothing.
  1243. >Just some trees, bushes, and a pile of white, glowing rot.
  1244. >Although that pile of Rot looks funny to you.
  1245. >It’s…
  1246. >It’s almost pony shaped.
  1247. >It is a pony!
  1248. >It’s Flaire Glow!
  1249. “Flaire Glow?”
  1250. >”Well there goes my cover. Thanks a lot twig.”
  1251. >She over dramatically tosses the broken stick far off into the distance.
  1252. >”Traitor!” She calls after it, as it strikes the ground a ways off.
  1253. >”Hey guys,” she says sheepishly as she lowers her head and glows a purple-ish pink.
  1254. “Flaire Glow, where have you been? What happened?”
  1255. >Gray Scale is gazing at her with spite.
  1256. >She begins to speak.
  1257. >”O-Ok, I know you guys are angry with me. But after Magnurot split us all apart, I couldn’t find you guys to warn you about what was ahead.”
  1258. >”I tried so hard to hold on to Flitter Lite, but she was knocked off by Magnurot tossing everything around.”
  1259. >”Even when you guys went into the Lullaby Fields I couldn’t follow you in there.”
  1260. >Gray Scale then speaks up.
  1261. >”Why not?” He asks.
  1262. >”Because, there are certain places where I’m not allowed. I couldn’t go in there,” she says.
  1263. >”So because you didn’t want to break a rule, you didn’t try and save us?”
  1264. >”No, you don’t understand! I can’t! It’s what you ponies call… sacred? Even if I wanted to go in there my body won’t let me!”
  1265. >She’s becoming visibly desperate to try and explain herself.
  1266. >“I’m really, really sorry!” She says and glows blue, “I wanted to help you guys I really did, but I just couldn’t.”
  1267.  
  1268. >It looked as if Flaire Glow were on the verge of tears.
  1269. >Even Gray Scale took notice and backed off.
  1270. >”Hey, look, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you couldn’t help us. I just assumed you put us in danger. It must’ve been hard to see your friends in danger like that and be unable to help us,” Gray Scale says.
  1271. >She nods, her eyes firmly on the ground, and face partially shielded.
  1272. >Probably to hide her crying.
  1273. >”You guys are the only other ponies I’ve seen, I really hoped we could be friends. But I heard what you said after you got out of the field,” she says.
  1274. >”So instead of coming out, I decided maybe it’d just be better to leave you guys alone. But I couldn’t just leave. So I followed you some ways,” she continues.
  1275. >Now seemed like a good time to secure her as a permanent member of this expedition.
  1276. >You could see how lonely she was.
  1277. >In fact, you knew first hand how having no friends had felt.
  1278. “Flaire Glow, you’ve tried to help me, Gray Scale, and most importantly my sister. By all means, we are friends.”
  1279. >She suddenly glows yellow and looks up at you.
  1280. >This reveals a big, teary-eyed smile as wide as a billboard that radiates happiness.
  1281. >Her eyes are shining and full of hope.
  1282. >”You mean it?? We’re friends??”
  1283. “Of course we are.”
  1284. >You return her smile, with a reassuring nod.
  1285. >And then you are tackled to the ground with a huge hug from Flaire Glow.
  1286. >She’s surprisingly strong for being so thin.
  1287. >”Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!!”
  1288. >The words are coming so fast from her they are just flowing into one large stream.
  1289. >Then, as she has you pinned to the ground, and you look up in her large glowing yellow eyes…
  1290.  
  1291. >She quickly bends down and plants a large kiss on your lips.
  1292. >Which elicits a verbal protest from Gray Scale, a blush so deep that you felt as if you were on fire, and a fit of laughter from Flitter Lite.
  1293.  
  1294. >Flaire Glow ends the kiss and returns to her normal delighted self, completely oblivious to the effects of her action.
  1295.  
  1296.  
  1297. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  1298. Chapter X
  1299.  
  1300. >The walk after the kiss is…
  1301. >Awkward, to say the least.
  1302. >No pony had spoken afterwards.
  1303. >Flaire Glow hums happily to herself.
  1304. >Gray Scale seems to be silently fuming.
  1305. >Flitter Lite is resting on the back of Flaire Glow.
  1306. >And you're currently in a state of shock.
  1307. >Shock and confusion.
  1308. >You decide to lighten the mood with some conversation.
  1309. >The starting topic: Getting to know the world around you.
  1310. >The Rot Forest so far had held many surprises.
  1311. >Deadly, scary surprises.
  1312. >You would like to avoid anything and everything dangerous, if possible.
  1313. >Though this forest seems intent on making sure you smash head first in every obstacle along the way.
  1314. >You look over at Flaire Glow.
  1315. >She’s happily skipping and humming as if this twisted, monstrous forest didn’t surround her as it did you.
  1316. “Hey, Flaire Glow.”
  1317. >She stops her hop, and looks at you with her head tilted.
  1318. >”What’s up?”
  1319. “I was just wondering if you could answer some questions. About the Rot, that is.”
  1320. >”Sure! Shoot,” she says as she resumes her skip.
  1321. “Well, how many different kinds are there? I must’ve seen tons of different kinds just on the edge of the forest alone.”
  1322. >”There’s gazillions! I can’t even count how many of them are my friends, and I haven’t even met all of them yet.”
  1323. “That was going to be another thing. Your connection to the Rot, how does it work?”
  1324. >”Well you see, I can talk to the Rot like I can talk to you guys. It’s a special connection I have with this forest!”
  1325. “And it talks back?..”
  1326. >”Mhmm! Oh, well… sometimes. It really matters on what type of Rot it is. Some are better at talking than others.”
  1327. “That’s actually really cool.”
  1328. >”I have plenty of the Rot as my friends! But then there’s some really mean ones too, that don’t get along with anything.”
  1329. “Like the Black Rot.”
  1330. >You look at your sister.
  1331. >The black of her ear threatens to touch her head soon.
  1332. >Also, you were already down a couple bottles of her medicine from spending it to kill the bear, and to save yourselves from the Blue Rot.
  1333. >It’s a good thing that the Seer Moth Wilder packed extra.
  1334. >But he never intended to have the path be this rigorous.
  1335. >If you weren’t careful, Flitter Lite might run out of her medicine, and the Black Rot would take her over that much faster.
  1336. “What is this Saturniidae, and what can she do for Flitter Lite?”
  1337. >The amount you knew about this situation really infuriated you.
  1338. >You want to have just a basic understanding of what the hell is really going on for once.
  1339. >Maybe then things would stop taking you by surprise.
  1340. >Flaire Glow looks like she’s about to say something.
  1341. >Then she immediately stiffens up, like she was startled.
  1342. “Flaire, are you okay?”
  1343. >”Huh? Y-yeah I’m fine. Saturniidae you said?”
  1344. “Yeah, Saturniidae. Are you sure you’re fine, it looks like something spooked you.”
  1345. >”Nope, I’m fine. Saturniidae is the Mother of all of the Rot. She lives inside the Great Tree and is the kindest, most caring, loving Mom anypony could ask for!”
  1346. >”And she can definitely be able to cure your sister of the Black Rot!”
  1347. >Gray Scale shakes his head.
  1348. >Wait, I’m not getting this whole Saturniidae isn’t actually a tree thing,” he says.
  1349. >”I mean, the way Master Wilder made it sound, it was that Saturniidae is this huge tree right in the center of the Rot Forest,” he continues.
  1350. >”That’s silly! How would you be able to ask a tree anything anyways, goofy?” She teases.
  1351. >Though that is a pretty legitimate question.
  1352. >And Gray Scale looks stumped.
  1353. >”I-I… Uhm… I honestly am not sure. I guess I thought it was a talking tree?”
  1354. >Wait.
  1355. >What?
  1356. >He was supposed to be leading you to this place.
  1357. >And he doesn’t even know what he’s looking for?
  1358. >There is going to be some serious discussion time later on.
  1359. >Your anger is interrupted by Flaire Glow giggling, presumably at the thought of Gray Scale trying to talk to a tree.
  1360. >”Gray Scale, you don’t even speak tree!”
  1361. >”Wait, is that actually a thing?”
  1362. >”...No.”
  1363. >”You’re lying. Or being sarcastic. Are you making fun of me?”
  1364. >”...No.”
  1365. >”You’re making fun of me.”
  1366. >”Yes.”
  1367. >You let off a little laugh.
  1368. >She may be a bit on the weird side, but at least she’s upbeat.
  1369. >It’s kinda refreshing too, given the circumstances.
  1370. >Her being so light hearted also makes you feel better about the whole…
  1371. >Erm…
  1372. >”Lip collision” incident of earlier.
  1373. >Surely it was just her being silly.
  1374. >She didn’t mean it like that.
  1375. >She probably doesn’t even know the meaning of a kiss in pony society anyways.
  1376. >Though she does seem to have some form of social manner, and can tell right from wrong.
  1377. >You wonder who taught her that.
  1378. >Probably this Mom figure she was taking you to see.
  1379. >You truly hope that this Saturniidae figure and the Great Tree are one in the same.
  1380. >But she says that her Mom can help Flitter Lite, and that’s all that really matters.
  1381. >Looking toward Flitter Lite, Gray Scale, and Flaire Glow, you smile.
  1382. >Gray Scale is trying to argue that it wasn’t illogical to think at this point that trees can talk.
  1383. >Especially after everything we can see the Rot do.
  1384. >Flaire Glow responds to him in turn that if he really wants to meet a tree, she could talk to one for him.
  1385. >She even knows a nice one that is lonely with a great personality, full branches, and nice wide roots.
  1386. >Gray Scale then replies she can take a stick from that tree and shove it up her as-..
  1387. “Language!”
  1388. >You glare at him and motion towards Flitter Lite, who is now glancing up at all of you with a look of confusion.
  1389. >”Oh, right. Sorry,” he replies weakly.
  1390. >The four of you continue on for a bit until you reach a fork in the path.
  1391. >You look to the left and to the right.
  1392. >The map was practically useless at this point since you’ve been driven so far off course.
  1393. “Flare Glow, which way?”
  1394. >She looks at the divide.
  1395. >”The quickest way is to the left. But it’s a little bit more dangerous. The right is a lot safer, but is considerably longer.”
  1396. >You nod.
  1397. “No question about it then, we go to the left. We must get to Saturniidae as soon as possible.”
  1398. >Everyone agrees.
  1399. >The notion of danger though makes your stomach uneasy.
  1400. >Even looking at the paths, the left seems darker, and more sinister.
  1401. >It doesn’t matter though.
  1402. >As long as you were all together you could push through anything.
  1403. >You could overcome any obstacle.
  1404. >”Uh, Hearth? What’s that?” Flitter Lite asks you as she points down the path.
  1405. >Standing in the middle of the road, was the silhouette of a large bipedal figure.
  1406. >You blink, and as soon as it was there, it had disappeared.
  1407. >Without a trace, without a sound, but it’s presence still lingered.
  1408. >With a gulp, you lead your party down the path, with the ominous feeling of being watched.
  1409.  
  1410. Would-be spoilers: bear, Magnurot
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