"Chase" (SooT prequel) ~Complete

Aug 27th, 2017
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  1. Trip: Vega !!wHt/wyh4M+t
  3. Prequel to: "Staying out of Trouble" ~ A guide by Twilight Sparkle.
  4. Original story reading not required.
  5. Pastebin:
  10. >You skid and strain to make the tight turn at full gallop.
  11. >It's either that, or jump off the ridge, and you doubt your rear hoof would support that.
  12. >You'd covered a lot of ground already, hopefully you were safe. Even so, you'd learned long ago to leave nothing to chance. A twig snapping could be local wildlife, a predator, or worst yet it could be them.
  13. >Those damn humans.
  14. >When the portal opened some three years ago the scientist in you was fascinated! Alien life! They were so interesting: bipedal, mostly hairless, clearly intelligent, and so friendly.
  15. >Too bad the friendly part was all just a front.
  16. >Not two weeks into negotiations they'd made their move. Troops storming out of every portal secured nearby towns in mere minutes.
  17. >The fight for ponyville went as poorly as most. You'd all banded together, you'd stood strong for equestria, Dash and AJ were the first to run into the fray. Neither made it even close to the humans before being knocked out cold.
  18. >We'd long wondered what the long metal devices they carried did. Now that we knew it was far too late.
  19. >While Equestria had opted to be respectful about studying of our new visitors, it seemed they had none of the same reservations about studying us. The anti-magic generator they'd brought with them was admittedly primitive, but still made any advanced casting nearly impossible.
  20. >You ran. You're ashamed to admit it, but after you'd been separated from your friends the only choice seemed to be escape.
  21. >You could have fought, you should have fought, in the end the humans pursuing you were just too terrifying. Who knew what other tricks they had up their sleeves. Who knew what they even wanted to do you with?
  22. >From what you'd seen their methods were nonlethal, but you had no idea to what end.
  23. >As soon as you felt the sharp pain you knew you'd been hit. Adrenaline alone had powered the emergency teleport towards the everfree, thankfully you'd run far enough away from their infernal anti-magic device to pull it off.
  24. >The spell was sloppy and threw you right into a bush, but at least it was away from your pursuers.
  25. >It was quickly made clear what they'd hit you with, some kind of tranquilizing effect. Be Celestia's grace alone you'd slept off your first dose safely tucked away in the bush.
  26. >Once back on your hooves you'd tried other towns, but by the time you got there each was the same. Ponies being loaded into cages, tied up, or chained together. The muzzles, guards, and transportation you saw everypony being loaded into told you all you needed to know.
  27. >Slaves.
  28. >These were no prisoners of war, these were slaves being hauled off to some unknown and horrible fate. Heck, some stallions had already been conscripted into dragging supplies around the former towns.
  29. >You managed to scout out half a dozen towns before things went wrong.
  30. >Purple was never a stealthy color and you aren't the quietest mare. You were somehow about to escape a second time, but it must have been enough for someone higher up to start caring. It wasn't long before they came.
  31. >Trackers you called them, or hunters. Either way it was pretty clear they were here to chase you specifically.
  32. >There were plenty of close calls over the years. A tranq round that missed you by inches, your superior pony hearing tipping you off to one stalking nearby, that one that almost caught you in your sleep the list goes on and on.
  33. >Only your mastery of teleportation continued to keep you out of their clutches. It's hard to track when there's literally no tracks to follow.
  34. >You could never feel safe, though. They'd find you again; It might be days, weeks or even months but there would always be another.
  35. >This time you'd even built yourself a little shelter. Nothing fancy just some walls and a roof, it kept the rain out and the warmth in. You'll miss the small stream it was near and the tasty vegetation in the area.
  36. >That was all gone now. You'd just settled down for lunch when the arcane grenade exploded a few meters away. The evil devices were introduced to you just last year, they seemed to generate some sort of magical EMP in a wide area. You'd just barely escaped your last encounter with them and aren't enjoying your current one.
  37. >If you can just clear the radius of the device you can teleport. Only problem is in your mad scramble to escape the initial shots you'd stumbled right into a nearby ravine. Stupid, you knew it was there but managed to hurt your leg in it anyway!
  38. >You charge your horn again just to grunt at the painful feedback.
  39. >Did they upgrade the range? Did he use multiple? You should be out by now!
  40. >You leap over a rock as you continue your full speed gallop. Living in the wild may have made you more lean, but with food so scarce at time you aren't exactly at your best.
  41. >The thick foliage may makes travel difficult but you must have run at least a mile already! You're heart is set to burst out of your chest, and your bleeding hind leg is killing you!
  42. >You find a good hiding spot amongst the trees for a few minutes rest. Humans aren't as fast as ponies but they're sure as hell persistent.
  43. >The slower pace you adapt is easier on your leg, but no matter what it seems impossible to escape this damned magical dampening field!
  44. >You have to get out of it! You have to get away!
  45. >How long has it been? Hours? The field is still there but you're exhausted. Maybe it's a new model, it could have left a lasting affect on your horn instead of in an area. A wave of fear washes over you at the prospect of horn damage, but you dismiss it. The humans had been humane so far, the traps they'd used so far only serving to capture, not maim or cripple.
  46. >You managed a bit more hiking before you hit your limit. You're starting to feel dizzy and your back leg is is feeling worse and worse.
  47. >There's no way he's still following, you'd estimate you put at least 3 miles between yourself and your old camp already. Even if he is still chasing, you should have a few minutes to try and do something about your leg.
  48. >Supplies are few and far between in the whitetail woods. A bit of magic and a makeshift leaf bandage are all you can throw together on the short notice. Standing on it still smarts, but you should be able to maintain a brisk trotting pace with some effort.
  49. >Ok, you came from that way so this should be the way to- *pht*
  50. >Was that a bug? Stings a bit... What's this blue splotch on your flank? Why are you getting woosie?
  51. >Oh Celestia no!
  52. >You try to run, but your leg's are a jumbled mess!
  53. >Since when are their weapons to quiet?! How did he catch up with you?! Why can't you move?! Last time the effects took minutes not seconds!
  54. >Luna no please this can't be happening!
  55. >You'd body feels more sluggish by the second! You complete only a few more steps before your legs tangle and send you crashing into the forest floor!
  56. >What thrashing you can still do is pathetic, but it's either that or lay down and die!
  57. >Will he hurt you? You must have wasted a lot of their time and resources, they might be angry about literally years of pursuit.
  58. >Just a few more seconds is all it takes for the rest of your muscle control to escape you.
  59. >You can't help but cry now that you're literally a sitting duck. The great and powerful Twilight Sparkle just lying on the ground waiting on some monster to pick her up and carry her off to her new life.
  60. >You can't even turn your head as you hear him approach. What will it even look like? You've never seen one up close without some kind of mask or helmet on.
  61. >The footsteps grow closer until it's feet enter your field of view, boots you think they were called.
  62. >You'd told yourself you'd be strong if this happened, that you'd accept your fate with dignity.
  63. >This is it though, this is really happening. They've got you, the monsters that stole your friend, family, and race away finally have you too.
  64. >Will it hurt? Will you even survive?
  65. >Even your poor muscle control can't prevent the whimpering as he kneels down in front of you.
  66. >Be strong Twilight! Don't cry! Be strong!
  67. >You still can't see his face, but at this point you don't even want to.
  68. >You can't let his first impression of you be this pathetic mess!
  69. >Maybe if you close your eyes he can't tell how terrified you are. Maybe he won't notice your heart beating a mile a minute, as you wait for the beast to claim his spoils!
  70. >He's put some kind of apendage on the side of your neck! Is he going to strangle you right here right now!?
  71. >Die you're going to die!
  72. >"Shhhhh, don't worry girl it's alright. No one's gonna hurt you, just take a deep breath understand? Oh, you really are a beauty aren't ya?
  73. >A what?
  74. >Instead of going for the kill, the human decides to rub up and down your panting neck and side.
  75. >At least it's not cold blooded murder; actually, it even feels a bit good.
  76. >"Why don't we just relax here for a moment? You gave me quite a chase you know that? I see now why they said you're the best! Uncatchable they said! But, even a beautiful specimen like you can't give the slip to old Arnold, unicorn hunter extraordinaire!"
  77. >That grin, that confident swagger, that warm excited voice.
  78. >You aren't sure what you expected but it's not this, not Arnold.
  79. >"You must be thirsty right? Here ya are."
  80. >The creature pulls out some kind of clear cylinder and unscrews the top.
  81. >"Now I'm gonna lift your head darlin'. Nice and easy now."
  82. >Gently, the human slips his claw between your head and the ground. The appendage is so soft, maybe claw isn't the right word, you recall hearing minotaurs use the term hand.
  83. >"Good girl! There ya go!"
  84. >The way he cradles your cheek is surprisingly careful and the water crisp and tasty.
  85. >You desperately wished you could talk. You want to ask him why he was doing this, what he wanted, maybe even if he'd let you go.
  86. >too bad, your attempts at communicating come out far too slurred to be understood by anything.
  87. >Maybe a quick nap will help. You know it's the drug but even all your adrenalin can't fight how heavy your eyelids feel.
  88. >Just a quick nap... 5 Minutes then you'll escape this dumb monkey... Just 5 minutes...
  89. >"Night night love. It'll all be ok, I promise."
  91. >ZZZ We can't have spaghetti tonight spike... the moon isn't in alignment... ZZZ
  92. >ZZZ No rainbow, put down the sword... That's the friendly jellyfish king... ZZZ
  93. *Crackling*
  94. >Ugh your head, did you doze off? It sounds like the fire's going but you don't remember lighting it, heck it shouldn't even be this dark yet.
  95. >Cracking an eye let's you confirm your suspicions about the fire. Why don't you remember lighting it?
  96. >You pop your neck and shift onto your side, only to discover some disturbing facts.
  97. >A.) Your forehooves and rear hooves are each tied together.
  98. >B.) Something tied around your head prevents you from standing all the way up.
  99. >The memories rush back and sent you into a panic!
  100. >You'd been captured! It must have put you to sleep and dragged you off!
  101. >You whip your head around and struggle against your restraints!
  102. >Whatever material the creature used to bind you is tough. It's not uncomfortable, but they don't budge even a little. They look like some kind of padded cuffs made out of fabric?
  103. >A little mana to your horn confirms your fears about the anti-magic field's presence. They must have figured out something new, some way to make their generators smaller, more portable.
  104. >At least you can scooch around a bit. A line attached to the head mounted apparatus you wore prevents you from moving too far away, but a little freedom is better than nothing.
  105. >You take a moment to look down your muzzle at what he'd put on you.
  106. >Straps encircle your muzzle then wrap around your ears and the back behind your head. If the basic shape didn't tip you off the bit between your teeth did. It's a bridle, and a sturdy one at that.
  107. >Ok, you've just got to assess the situation.
  108. >You've been captured.
  109. >You don't have your magic.
  110. >He tied you up tight and left you near his campfire. Close to the fire, but not close enough to actually reach it.
  111. >So where is he? Who leaves their new prisoner unattended?
  112. >Could it be some kind of test? Waiting to see your reaction to a new situation might help him understand you better.
  113. >Then again you could just be overthinking things. Just because you'd study yourself in this situation doesn't mean he cares about that.
  114. >You end up simply sitting quietly for a few minutes.
  115. >It's almost dark, you must have been out for a few hours minimum. At least the quietly burning fire offers some comfort.
  116. >Your stomach growl loudly.
  117. >That's right, he interrupted your lunch and it's got to be dinner time soon.
  118. >Will he give you something to eat? Based on his comment early about you being 'healthy' he seemed to care about your well being to some degree.
  119. >An old mare's tale about a crone that fattened foals up to eat them pops into your mind. Not really something you need to be thinking about right now.
  120. >A loud snap behind you gets your attention.
  121. >"Awake already chica? I knew you were made of sterner stuff!"
  122. >The camo covered human emerges from the brush and strolls into the firelight. He's carrying some kind of rod with a couple fish hanging off the end.
  123. >"Sorry I wasn't here to greet ya. I went and got us something tasty to celebrate with."
  124. >Celebrate what? Your capture? That's a bit low.
  125. >"Ya like fish right? Got some veggies around here I can fry up too if ya like."
  126. >You aren't sure if he expects a real answer. You sure don't feel like giving him one.
  127. >After a few minutes rummaging through a small tent the human returns.
  128. >"Silent treatment aye? I know your kind can talk so there's no point being like that."
  129. >First of all you don't want to talk to a monster like him. Secondly your mouth has a bit in it!
  130. >You just fix him with an angry stare, unfortunately it only makes him chuckle.
  131. >"That's alright, if you want to eat you'll have to at least acknowledge me I figure."
  132. >He leaves you to stew in anger while he throws the fish and veggies into a skillet.
  133. >Sweet Luna that smells delicious! Your diet's mostly consisted of raw veggies while on the run. Who can blame you if the smell of properly seasoned and sauteed food makes your mouth water?
  134. >"Now don't get used to eating like this, seasoning limited, but this is a special occasion. You need a good meal after that long run you gave me, and I need to celebrate one of the best hunts i've ever had"
  135. >He's not wrong about the first part, maybe you'll wait til you get a chance to eat before attempting escape.
  136. >The minutes pass in silence as he continues to cook up the mini feast.
  137. >You don't want to do anything too dramatic while he's right here, but you can at least try to wiggle out of your restraints a bit.
  138. >Good news is your leg feels a lot better. Your leaf bandage had been replaced with a real one, no doubt something he did while you were knocked out.
  139. >"I think it's justtttt about ready."
  140. >He walks from his side of the campfire to yours.
  141. >"Now, I can't let you go, and I can't be letting you use that magic of yours. If I remove that bit do you promise to be you good?"
  142. >Now that he's brought the steaming skillet closer it smells even more amazing.
  143. >You nod, anything to get some of those carrots in your stomach.
  144. >"Nice and slow then."
  145. >True to his word he slowly reaches around your muzzle and unclips the bit. You work your tongue and smack your lips a bit now that you can.
  146. >"Better?"
  147. >Well yeah, duh.
  148. >"Here, open up."
  149. >It feels a little weird following his command, but the carrot on his fork smells too heavenly for you to care.
  150. >"How is it?"
  151. "MMMMM."
  152. >"Fantastic."
  153. >He takes a few bites himself before offering you a mushroom.
  154. >Appearances are thrown out the window as you eagerly devour the veggie.
  155. >"A healthy appetite, that's good!"
  156. >Shut up and give veggies.
  157. >The human alternates between your mouth and his for a bit before opting for a speedier alternative, a fork to his mouth and an open palm of food to yours.
  158. >Having to lean down and eat out of his hand makes you feel weird but your hunger wins out.
  159. >"Doing great sparky. I must be a better cook than i realized!"
  160. "Twilight..."
  161. >"What's that?"
  162. "It's Twilight."
  163. >"Oh yeah yeah, I know. Twilight Sparkle, powerful mage, student to the princess even. We didn't know your name back then of course so you just got the nickname Sparky, what with the way you seemed to be able to spark all over the place. You were a high priority target back then you know? Brass wanted to know how you did it, wanted to study you no doubt. Not anymore though, I guess they figured that stuff out by now."
  164. "The princesses! What happened to them?"
  165. >You surge towards him in excitement only to be held back by the bridle.
  166. >The human jumps back a bit and throws his hands up in a gesture of defeat.
  167. >"Your guess is as good as mine chica. Probably nabbed by the government would be my guess, fact is they just vanished after canterlot fell."
  168. >Your ears fall at the news. Canterlot had been the first place you ran to back when it all started. The human army you'd found them was disheartening but you'd hoped the princesses had escaped, maybe fallen back to the crystal empire or across the sea.
  169. >"Hey don't let it get you down. You ponies can eat fish right? Here."
  170. >Oh sweet heavens above when was the last time you'd had fish? It's orgasmic!
  171. >"Pretty good huh?"
  172. "Yes... Sir...?"
  173. >"No need for that Sparky, just call me Arnold. They'll give you plenty of training bout that kind of stuff back on earth, no need for it out here."
  174. "Earth?"
  175. >"Yeah, good ole human planet. Military got tired of chasing ponies so they put up contracts for us private trackers to bring you all in.
  176. "Please, I don't want to go."
  177. >"Didn't think you would. Contract's a contract though sheila, sorry.
  178. >Don't cry! You can't be weak in front of the enemy like this!
  179. >"I hate to see a bird cry. How about this?"
  180. >The man offers you another mushroom from the end of his fork but your appetite's gone.
  181. >You shake your head and scoot away from him as best you can.
  182. "Just let me go! Why do you people even want me? Why can't you just leave me alone?!"
  183. >All your thrashing doesn't seem to be doing much but you've got to try!
  184. >You flood your horn with mana just to feel it vanish. You strain and pull at the rope with all your might, only for it to not give an inch. Even your hoof restraints hold firm, only allowing you to roll over and squirm around in the grass.
  185. >Despite the hearty meal your energy still has it's limits. Just what in tartarus is this rope made of?
  186. >You collapse into a panting mess. Your eyes find Arnold back on his side of the campfire. His blank expression is too hard to read as he pokes the fire.
  187. >It's hopeless. He caught you, he trapped you, and now he's going to haul you off to some horrible fate.
  188. >Who even cares about looking pathetic anymore? You collapse onto your side and let your tears fall into the dirt.
  189. >You don't resist when you feel his hand on your neck again, it's not like you could stop him anyway.
  190. >He sits down besides you.
  191. >You could probably stab him with your horn, but what would be the point? He'd win the fight and even if he didn't you'd be stuck tied up and helpless.
  192. >"That's it, let it all out. It'll be alright, I promise."
  193. "What's - what's gonna happen to me?"
  194. >"We'll take you back, give you a bit of training, probably sell you off to some rich bloke to be his assistant or something."
  195. >Training. Conditioning is more likely.
  196. >"No one'll hurt ya if you're good. Lots of ponies even learn to love their new homes, part of the family and all that."
  197. >The stroking feels nice. After all your fighting's made you sleepy.
  198. >"Just think of a warm bed, hot meals, showers, loved ones. Doesn't that sounds better than hiding the woods all your life? Can't be fun foraging and hiding all the time."
  199. >It's not. The everfree had almost claimed your life a dozen times before you'd made a break for the whitetail woods. Whitetail's safer but there's still predators, ones besides humans that is.
  200. >"I've even got you a warm sleeping bag for tonight, don't that sound nice?"
  201. >A warm night's sleep sounds divine actually. It's not quite winter yet but the fall weather is coming in quickly, nights are cool and crisp even for your thick coat.
  202. >"Want me to get it now?"
  203. >The silent nod is good enough for him.
  204. >It's weird being lifted up and tucked in by your captor. It's even weirder being hand fed the last bits of food while he tells you stories from his past.
  205. >No way their all true, and more importantly you have no idea why he's telling them to you.
  206. >Is he trying to impress you with tales of his skill? To discourage you from running away?
  207. >Perhaps an attempt to bond so you'll resent him less and feel less inclined to rebel.
  208. >You guess it's also possible he's just lonely. He'd said he'd been out here all by himself for months but who knows if that bothers humans at all.
  209. >Either way the warm veggies, warm bed, warm fire, and warm voice make sleep too hard to resist.
  210. >Tomorrow. They'll be plenty of time to come up with a plan tomorrow.
  212. >You can't remember a better night's sleep.
  213. >Between the warm sleeping bag and not having to worry about some human sneaking up on you, you'd slept like a rock.
  214. >So well, in fact, he had to wake you up with a some light nudging.
  215. >You were inclined to ignore him, but enough prodding with his boot forced you to roll onto your back to face him.
  216. >Wow he's taller than you remember. You subconsciously pull your forehooves a bit closer.
  217. >"Got some breakfast for ya sparky."
  218. >He drops a single blueberry out of his hand directly onto your chest fluff.
  219. >Oh, those are the good ones, hard to find, but tasty.
  220. >You crane your neck a bit to snatch up the berry.
  221. >"Thought you'd like those. Well, actually I've seen you eat em so I knew you'd like em."
  222. >It really shouldn't be surprising he spied on you. Part of his job was finding the right opportunity, so recon makes sense.
  223. >When had he been watching though? For how long? The idea of unseen eyes is not a comfortable one.
  224. >Ignorant to your pondering the human kneels down and holds another berry right above your mouth.
  225. >Ok last night was one thing, the food was hot off the skillet and you were a bit shellshocked. If he think's you're gonna let him hand feed you everytime time he has another thing coming.
  226. >You shoot him a frown and roll onto your stomach.
  227. >"Not hungry?"
  228. "I can feed myself."
  229. >It's a risky move, but you've got to get a feel for how he deals with resistance.
  230. >If it upsets him he doesn't show it, seems to be a pretty easy going type?
  231. >He just shrugs and places the food on the edge of your sleeping bag.
  232. >You'll eat it, but you're not going to thank him.
  233. >Guess he didn't expect you too. He's already wandered back to his seat by the fire, looks like he's boiling some water?
  234. >"Well, I'd offer you some oatmeal but if you don't want to be fed..."
  235. >Oats? That sounds good...
  236. >No, you won't let him trick you. You've got enough fruit to tide you over, it's fine.
  237. >Ugh it smells good though.
  238. >Focus Twilight! You've gotta get out of here!
  239. "So what now?"
  240. >"Now? Now we eat breakfast."
  241. >Smartass earns himself a glare.
  242. >"Don't worry about it sheila. Your job is to sit there, stay safe, and be good. I'll radio out later today and see how the river looks, if everything's alright we can be on our way."
  243. >Be good. Just so you can be dragged off to your doom? As if.
  244. >That radio part though, can he do that here, or will he have to leave you alone for a bit?
  245. "What do you mean the river?"
  246. >"Guess you haven't left this area in a while. That river between here and the everfree? We just call it the everfree river. Anyway it's pretty prone to flooding nowadays. With less bird horses to manage the clouds there's some pretty wild weather along the west coast.
  247. "Pegasi."
  248. >"Huh?"
  249. "They're called pegasi."
  250. >"Ah, you know what I mean. Bottom line is I gotta check if we can get out of here safely."
  251. >Your heart surges when he stands and grabs his bag and weapon.
  252. >He is leaving you alone! This is your chance. Just play it cool Twilight.
  253. "You're leaving me like this?"
  254. >You wiggle your bound forelegs at him with a frown.
  255. "What if something comes? This isn't the everfree, but it's still not safe, there's all kinds of predators around here."
  256. >He chuckles and shakes a finger at you.
  257. >"Nice try sparky, but you aren't my first catch. Nothing will come near here I promise, you'll just have to trust me."
  258. "Can't you at least loosen them?"
  259. >Wait, is he actually going to do it?
  260. >The human squats down in front of you and picks up your bound hooves. His hands feel weird, so many little digits cradling your hoof on every side.
  261. >He takes a moment to inspect and poke at the bindings.
  262. >"Sorry horsey but this is as loose as they get. just be glad I use the soft ones."
  263. >It was worth a try.
  264. >He stands back up to returns to his tent before returning with a small basket.
  265. >"I'll be gone a few hours so here's something to munch on if you get a bit peckish. Not much I can do about the boredom, but just stay put, alright?"
  266. >Like its optional. He takes your angry grumbling as an affirmative and heads out.
  267. >A few hours huh? You lounge around a bit to make sure he doesn't double back.
  268. >No sign of him. Hopefully he's a long way off because it's time to get out of here.
  269. >You struggle with the hoof bindings for a few more minutes. It's not like you thought they'd give, but it would have been nice. Not that it matters, you've still got your ace in the hole, your horn.
  270. >Most unicorn horns are varying degrees of rounded near the tip, but that's most horns. Alicorn horns are said to be sharp enough to pierce the very heavens. You're no alicorn, but a lot of the canterlot noble families are said to carry a drop of alicorn blood from long long ago. Myth or not canterlot horns are sharp, and yours is a razor if you don't have it regularly filed.
  271. >Like, for example, if you had been living in the woods for the past few years.
  272. >You pull the rope taunt. If you can stab it with your horn you might can cut it.
  273. >The awkward angle makes you neck sore, but it's worth it when you see the line start to fray.
  274. >This is it! Just a little more and you can make a break for it before he gets back.
  275. >You did it!
  276. >Sure, you roll backwards when the line finally snaps, but you're free!
  277. >Ugh, mostly free. You're legs are still bound forcing you to move like some kind of weird two legged caterpillar pony.
  278. >You shove your snout in the basket he left you and grab an apple before making your great escape.
  279. >Your great, slow, and awkward escape.
  280. >Hopefully you've got some time before he returns, because this isn't going as quickly as you imagined. It takes all your effort not to simply fall down on your side like an idiot.
  281. >You're a few hundred meters out, but the anti-magic whatever still persists. Either the range of their fields has been improved dramatically, or he actually damaged your horn in some way.
  282. >You really hope it's the former. He seems to care about your well being, even if it's just so you'll fetch a higher price, so you doubt he would permanently maim you.
  283. >If only you could teleport. This stupid half crawling half hopping thing your doing is exhausting, without these dumb cuffs you'd be halfway across the forest by now.
  284. >Whew, it's time for a break. You carefully sit yourself down on the edge of the tiny creek you just crossed, if humans track by scent hopefully it'll throw him off your trail.
  285. >Knowing so little about humans puts you at a distinct disadvantage. Hows their sense of Smell? Hearing? Sight? Based on the little you'd seen of his teeth they seem to be omnivores, so they must have some natural hunting skills.
  286. >Omnivores. You immediately suppress any wild notions as to why a meat eater would want to capture you. There must be much easier sources of meat than intelligent life.
  287. >Despite your efforts a chill shoots up your spine. Meat, flesh, being eaten, ugh being a prey species sucks. Why can't everyone just eat nice little plants and live in harmony?
  288. >Meat helps develop more advanced brains leading to - ok shut up now brain!
  289. >Stupid aliens... was that how he tracked you last time, via your wounded leg? You really needed more information, but there's no good way to get any out here.
  290. >Best to keep moving. You struggle back to your effective two limbs and continue your clumsy exodus.
  291. >Hopefully if you can clear that ridge and your magic will return, if nothing else you-
  292. >What was that? Your ear swivels towards the noise behind you.
  293. *Snap*
  294. >Crap crap crap! Got to move!
  295. >The awkward shuffle you've been reduced to must look pretty silly, but it's the best you can do.
  296. >If that's a predator you can't get caught! If it's him you really really can't get caught!
  297. >You can just hide behind that rock and-
  298. >Ow!
  299. >A glance backwards confirms your fears. It's a green splotch this time, but the numbing sensation is the same.
  300. "No! No, leave me alone!"
  301. >Arnold pushes his way through the underbrush like it's not big deal. He doesn't even look mad.
  302. "Please, please just let me go!"
  303. >The man squats down and scoops up your whole body with ease, just how strong is this guy? Settling you around his shoulders, with a pair of legs on each side, he sets off towards the camp.
  304. >"I can understand wanting to run away sheila but you'll not get very far like this. It's not safe this far from camp either, you'll get eaten up by a bear or something."
  305. "I'd rather be eaten than enslaved! Let me go!"
  306. >You'd be thrashing like a madmare if you could. Whatever he hit you with seems to have paralyzed you instead of knocking you out like last time.
  307. >"Bah, you don't mean that. You're a healthy one and a cute one. With a little luck and some good behavior you'll end up in a nice home minding the little rug rats or cleaning the house. Why'd you want some beasty to tear you into kibbles and bits instead?"
  308. "You can't trick me. I was here when the humans arrived. I saw the beatings, the cages, the foals ripped from their mother's arms!"
  309. >He reaches back and flicks your horn! Ow, that stings! Your eyes water up a little as your head aches.
  310. >"You don't have to yell in my ear. I'm not sure what you saw back then, It probably was awful at the time, but things are different now. The place I'm gonna drop you off is nice. They'll give you a bit of training in manners then ship you out the door to a loving home."
  311. >It's a little embarrassing to see how far you actually made it. The trip that took you an hour barely even takes him 10 minutes.
  312. >He drops you onto your sleeping bag a little hard. Stupid human facial expressions, you can't tell if he's mad or what.
  313. >He leaves you unattended as he turns towards his tent, but you don't dare move. What are you going to do anyway? Hobble away again?
  314. >"I was worried you know. Came back and found your lead torn like that? It looked like something got to you."
  315. >No more little thing rope it looks like. The human returns to your side and clips a metal chain to your bridle.
  316. >You whimper in distress as he pulls you closer and closer to the stake you'd been tied to before.
  317. >Ok, that's too short! Your head can't reach the ground!
  318. "A-arnold please..."
  319. >Struggling to a seated position helps, but it's clear this is still a punishment. There's no way you can sleep tonight if you can't even rest your head.
  320. "Please it's too short."
  321. >"I'll let you down later. You gave me a scare there, there's got to be some consequences."
  322. >As far as punishments go this is pretty mild, but still degrading. Compared to some things you'd seen when poking around occupied towns though it could be much worse.
  323. "Worried about your money?"
  324. >"Well, a little yeah, but I didn't want you getting hurt either."
  325. "But you'll take me against my will... why are you even doing this?"
  326. >"I've always been a hunter, you name it I've bagged one or two. There's a spiritual connection between man and beast during the hunt."
  327. >Spiritual connection? ha ok, weirdo.
  328. >"When I saw the pay for bringing in ponies I figured I'd give it a try. Most are pretty easy, city folk on the run who don't know how to cover their tracks. You and your little magic trick though, you've been some of the most fun I've ever had."
  329. "So glad you were entertained..."
  330. >"I like that fire of yours too."
  331. >He fishes an apple out from behind him and throws it to you. Somehow you manage to catch it in your mouth.
  332. >Is this your prize for amusing him?
  333. >Whatever, it's good, if a bit awkward to eat with one hoof.
  334. "So, you don't feel bad about this? Not even a little?"
  335. >"Way I see it you're currently living in the woods foraging to survive. You'd be safer and happier in a home having to carry your weight than being chased by lions, tigers, bears, or whatever you have out here."
  336. "I'm living in the woods because some humans took over my country!"
  337. >"You're right, but that wasn't me. I've got no interest in changing the past, just living in the present."
  338. "But, the fact I don't want to go doesn't matter? Just another unenlightened inferior to be shown her place?!"
  339. >"Woah woah relax. From what I've seen you're plenty smart, just afraid. I can't say I blame you, but I can also promise you there's a better life out there than this."
  340. "If I submit?"
  341. >"If you behave."
  342. >This is getting you nowhere, time for a different strat.
  343. >"Anyway i've got news, bad news that is, river's flooded. My man on the other side says the weather's only grown worse up there. Hopefully it'll be passable soon but it's hard to say."
  344. "So we're stuck together until it goes down."
  345. >"Afraid so."
  346. "Please tell me you aren't going to leave me tied up like this the whole time. My hooves are already starting to hurt!"
  347. >"Just tried to run away and you want me to untie you? We can see about it in the future, if you don't give me more trouble that is."
  348. >You give a dramatic sigh and pull at your chain while waving your hooves a little.
  349. >Having got the frustration out of your system you lean up against the post and sigh.
  350. "Fine..."
  351. >New tactic. Appealing to his morals didn't work, maybe appealing to his interests will.
  352. "You know, If we're stuck here for so long... and you had so much fun chasing me..."
  353. >That amuses him, he snorts and gives you a lopsided smile.
  354. >"You expect me to believe you enjoyed playing prey?"
  355. >Technically ponies literally are prey animals but no need to mention that.
  356. "It can't be worse than being tied down for days!"
  357. >"Wouldn't be a fair fight anymore. That magic of yours doesn't work right now does it?"
  358. >That gets your attention.
  359. "What did you do?"
  360. >"Trade secret, just a bit of tech."
  361. >Must be a generator of some sort then. If you can just put enough distance between you and his camp you should be fine.
  362. "What's the risk then? I'd rather not just sit here for who knows how long."
  363. >"Ha, we'll see sheila. River might dry up tomorrow for all we know, you just relax."
  364. >The conversation ebbs in and out as dusk approaches.
  365. >You managed to get him to talk a bit about the state of the world outside. You don't learn anything terribly useful but it helps expand your worldview beyond brooks and brambles.
  366. >In return he asks you a bit about your past: friends, family, old equestria, even your time on the run.
  367. "So you're the one that ran me out of my cave!?"
  368. >"It was a pretty nice little setup you had going there. I feel a bit bad about that one."
  369. "Yeah it was! I had food saved there!"
  370. >"Oh yeah, thanks for those."
  371. "Hey!"
  372. >He just laughs and offers you more dinner.
  373. >You still make him put it on your sleeping bag instead of hand feeding you, but he doesn't mind.
  374. >"I'm making it up to you aren't I? Why, I'm cooking for you right now."
  375. >You snuggle further back into your sleeping bag and munch some more. He'd returned the slack to your chain and ended your punishment earlier so it was easy to get comfy.
  376. "Not really sure this counts..."
  377. >"You're a hard one to please you know that? I like that though, none of the other ponies I've found would have anything to do with me. A little conversation does everyone good, especially out here in the middle of nowhere."
  378. "Yeah, it's been awhile since i've had someone to talk to as well."
  379. >"Seems you somehow managed to keep your head out here all alone, so that's good."
  380. >Whatever else he was going to say is interrupted by a yawn.
  381. >"Guess that means it's time for me to turn in. I'll check the conditions again tomorrow and we'll go from there."
  382. >He crawl off into the small tent and zips it behind him. You're a bit jealous he has a place to hide for the night, but a brake from being around him suits you as well.
  383. >Today didn't quite go as planned.
  384. >Your horn was your one act in the hole, and it's not going to work on this tough chain.
  385. >Either you have to wait until he somehow slips up or take a different approach.
  386. >Gain his trust? If the weather holds out, and two of you are stuck here for a while it just might work.
  387. >He really can't leave you on the chain forever especially as the days drag on.
  388. >There's also the option of playing on his enjoyment of hunting.
  389. >Deliberately offering yourself up as prey feels wrong but he's not a predator, not really. Worse case scenario he'll drop you again then carry you back to camp to house and feed, best case you get away. That one's a long shot for sure, but still worth considering.
  390. >Anything's worth considering at this point, anything that keeps you on the plant you belong.
  392. >According to the radio, the storm's actually getting worse instead of better.
  393. >Of course, that's good news for you. Maybe you've still got some luck after all.
  394. >Fortunately, he's not cruel enough to leave you tied up and bored for days. Either that or he got tired after two days of constant whining.
  395. >"Arnold come on, my hooves hurt! Just for a few minutes? Please!"
  396. >Eventually he caved and actually released the limbs. Who would have thought being able to kick your hoofsies would feel so great?
  397. >You admit you blushed a little when he chuckles at your pleased trotting and stretching. Maybe if he spent almost four full days tied up he'd understand.
  398. >Whatever.
  399. >Sitting down instead of walking only left you with one thing to do, talk to him. You'd spent the past few days building something of a rapport with the human. You'd both grown a bit more comfortable around the other, as well as learned a few things.
  400. >One thing you've picked up so far is that he actually does have morals, weird ones, but morals nonetheless.
  401. >He's willing to steal ponies against their wills, but only because he genuinely believes they'll be happier and safer where he takes them. He also avoids unnecessary cruelty such as more painful restraints or using a 'real' gun.
  402. >You were a bit confused about the 'real' part until he showed you. Needless to say you were terrified once he shot a few rocks to show you. Rocks! It blew up solid stone! How could anyone even think about using that on a living creature?!
  403. >The first few shots of destructive power had you quivering in fear, the last one had you running in terror. Shame the prey side of your brain is an idiot, all you managed to do was fall over when you ran out of chain.
  404. >"Whoa there sparky! You ok?"
  405. >Not really!
  406. >The primitive part of your brain is still screaming at you to hide, so you go to the only place you could reach, inside your sleeping bag.
  407. >Yeah yeah, it's not really going to protect you, but it still feels a bit safer.
  408. >"Hey, you don't have to hide, I promise."
  409. >La la la la la, can't hear you.
  410. >You continue to ignore him until something is pushed into the front of your sleeping bag.
  411. >Crap, it's one of those tasty peaches. Where does he get these things? God they're so good, you can't stay mad or scared while eating one of these.
  412. >You'll munch it, but you'll munch inside the sleeping bag... and with a frown!
  413. >He's quiet while you polish off the fruit then throw out the pit.
  414. >Huh no smart remarks yet, is he even still there?
  415. >Reluctantly you pull back the top of the sleeping bag and peak out.
  416. >Wat? The gun looks to be in several pieces all over the ground.
  417. "Did it break?"
  418. >"Welcome back. I just needed to clean it a bit, it'll go right back together. Didn't scare you too much did I?"
  419. "I-It's just a bit... intimidating. You said people actually use those on ponies?"
  420. >"Well, smaller caliber ones sometimes. Usually just for dangerous types."
  421. "But you wouldn't ever...?"
  422. >"Oh, no no. This one's just for hunting and protection. Like you said, there's lots of beasties out there even if this isn't the everfree."
  423. "Hunting...?"
  424. >"Sorry, hunting animals. You know the ones that can't talk."
  425. "So you can... eat...?"
  426. >Holy crap, you knew he was an omnivore in theory but how can he just casually chat about hunting and eating things!?
  427. >"Every bit yeah. I try and avoid it when I've got guests though."
  428. >Guests. Don't want the valuable prey panicking when they see your violently devour some other poor herbivore?
  429. >"Just don't worry about it sheila. All you'd ever get is the tranq for a nice peaceful nap."
  430. >He strides over to the post you're chained too and removes the lock. Uh oh, did you ask too many questions? Is he going to silence you now!? You'd half expected violence by now, but is this really it?!
  431. >"What do you say to a walk? Been awhile since you've stretched those legs."
  432. >Oh. A walk. That's less horrible than what you'd imagined.
  433. >Can't be too easy though.
  434. >Do you want to go on a walk? yes.
  435. >Do you want to be seen as too compliant? No.
  436. >"We'll go fishing how about that?"
  437. >Fish is good... Fine, you crawl out of your sleeping bag and wait patiently for him to release you.
  438. >This is the first time you've been unchained from the metal stake since your escape attempt. He clipped the other end to himself, but now you at least have a chance to overpower him. Is it worth the risk though? He said the gun was just for the 'dangerous types', a list you were glad you didn't yet occupy.
  439. >No, you should just play it cool. Time is on your side, for now. Looking for opportunities is smarter than taking big risks when you don't have to.
  440. >That said, it feels good to trot. He's a bit slow with his inferior number of legs but that just lets you take it easy.
  441. >You recognize a few landmarks along the trail.
  442. "Are we going to the stream?"
  443. >"You bet."
  444. "Why not the pond? I've seen much bigger fish there?"
  445. >"Oh, is there? Lead the way then miss tour guide."
  446. >Stupid human can't even navigate the stupid forest. How did you get caught by this fool?
  447. >Your charge is reasonable excited at the fantastic pond you lead him to. It's cool you guess, good for a swim at least. You yourself just sit on the side and grab a drink.
  448. >You take a few sips before you catch him watching you out of the corner of your eye.
  449. "What?"
  450. >"Nah, it's nothing."
  451. >He looks around for a second as if taking the whole area in.
  452. >"Do a lot of animals come here to drink?"
  453. "It's more popular than the river. I've seen everything from deer to manticores here."
  454. >"Hmm might be a good spot..."
  455. "Spot for what?"
  456. >"Nothing, don't worry about it. Why don't you just unwind a bit while I catch some dinner?"
  457. >Since when has 'don't worry about it' ever been good advice?
  458. >Good spot huh? What would he need a place for? Camping? Maybe, but he was interested in the animals...
  459. >A glint of light draws your attention to the weapon on his back. Hold on a minute!
  460. "Wait! You better not be planning on hurting anything!"
  461. >"Hey relax. I'll do it when you're not here. I've got to eat too you know."
  462. "You've been fine so far!"
  463. >Truth be told you have no idea what his dietary needs are. It's pretty likely he does need meat but you also don't want deaths on your conscience.
  464. >"Well for a little bit yeah but I can't live off veggies forever."
  465. >The science part of your brain wants to argue that an omnivore should be able to do just that, but you really don't know enough. Not only do different omnivore's dietary requirements vary, but he's an alien to this world.
  466. "What about fish? Isn't that enough?"
  467. >"What, fish aren't alive too? Why are they less important?"
  468. >Because they aren't quadrupeds you can identify with.
  469. >You trot a few quick circles in frustration.
  470. "I just don't want to be responsible for innocent deaths..."
  471. >"It's nature sheila. Just think of it as the circle of life."
  472. >Circle of 'gonna kick him into the lake'.
  473. *Grumble grumble* "Don't like it."
  474. >The monster has the gall to reach over and ruffle your mane!
  475. >You pull as far out of his reach as you can, and attempt to fix the hair he messed up.
  476. >"I'll try to keep it away from you alright?"
  477. >You grumble some more and lay down in the grass. Meat eaters go away, herbivore master race.
  478. "Stupid meat..."
  479. >"Yeah, but it's tasty."
  480. >You make an exaggerated gagging noise.
  481. "Gross! Herbivore here! And prey species!"
  482. >"Bah, you say that but you're the dominant species."
  483. "Doesn't change some things..."
  484. >The sensation of a hand between your shoulder blades makes you jump! How did he sneak up on you like that? Maybe you'd underestimated how stealthy something as large as him could be; he is a self proclaimed hunter after all.
  485. >Either way you swing a hoof behind you to try and ward off the now scratching fingers. They don't actually feel that bad but still.
  486. "No touch."
  487. >The declaration isn't nearly as strong or commanding as you wanted.
  488. >"Don't be like that now. You know I'm just trying to make it up to you."
  489. "You can make it up to me by letting me go..."
  490. >"You know I can do that that either. If I don't bring you they'll just send someone else, could be someone even meaner than me."
  491. "Meaner than you? No way."
  492. >"Hey, who went and got your favorite fruit without even being asked?"
  493. >Ok yeah he did do that. You'd just mentioned peaches in passing then before you knew it he had fetched a dozen.
  494. "I guess that was nice."
  495. >A silent moment passes with his hand still scratching your back. It feels nice, maybe a bit physical contact will make him more sympathetic.
  496. "So what happens to you after all this? Isn't Mr. big shot hunter going to be bored going back to normal animals?"
  497. >"I've thought about that too. I don't really know what I'll do, what could compete with this?"
  498. >He frowns a little as he casts the line back into the pond.
  499. "Is there like a time limit? Like how long until they send someone else?"
  500. >"I doubt they would unless I threw in the towel."
  501. "I-I don't want to go in yet, and I don't think you want your best hunt ever to end either."
  502. >"Well, I'll miss it that's for sure."
  503. "You could, I mean we could do it again."
  504. >He looks down at you and cocks an eyebrow.
  505. >"Do it again? You want me to let you go."
  506. >Well it sounds stupid when you put it that way.
  507. "Why not? You caught me last time, don't think you could do it again?"
  508. >"Oh I know I could but that's just not how this all works."
  509. "But you said yourself there's no real time limit. We can't even get back to your people because of the weather so why rush? Just think of it as a game?"
  510. >Is that a good laughter or a bad laughter?
  511. >"First of all, I could catch you again with no problem."
  512. >Hopefully your challenging smirk will goad him into a stupid decision.
  513. >"Secondly, you've got a point-"
  514. >You jump to your hooves in excitement! Is he going to do it!?
  515. >"Those idiots said the dam might even break, so we've got all the time in the world. You want to play hide and seek?"
  516. >He unclips the chain from your bridle and gives your flank a firm swat!
  517. >"Let's play hide and seek!"
  518. >If freedom wasn't good enough motivation the swat was! You bolt away from the pond just as fast as you can! Gotta run! Got to get away! He'll never catch you again!
  520. >He think this is a game, but you're getting out of here!
  521. >If you can just figure out what's up with your magic you'll be free.
  522. >He'd confessed it was some kind of 'new tech', that must mean some sort of portable generator right?
  523. >Maybe if you can just cover enough ground before he can catch up you'll be able to teleport away.
  524. >It's at least worth a try.
  525. >You feel good as you weave in and out of the trees, no scraped up leg to slow you down this time.
  526. >A full belly and a few good night's rest equals one determined horse!
  527. >Normally you just survive day to day out here in the forest. You might get a bite here and there but it was never quite enough to make you feel strong.
  528. >Things are different this time though though, under his care you havn't been surviving you've been thriving.
  529. >Being hand fed veggies, fruit, and even fish in your warm sleeping bag? Yes sir!
  530. >Maybe you should have thanked him, but that makes you feel a little... weird.
  531. >Thanking him for capturing and caring for you...
  532. >There's some stockholm syndrome in there somewhere.
  533. >The thing to do now is push forward! If you can escape his anti-magic field then you can count yourself free again.
  534. >Things are looking up!
  536. >Things are not looking up!
  537. >Even after constantly being on the move for hours your magic shows no sign of returning.
  538. >Maybe it's time to consider other possibilities. He said he used 'new tech' but not exactly what it was.
  539. >He'd opened the first chase with one of those stupid grenades, but unlike the old ones It didn't seem to care about distance.
  540. >Maybe it had coated your horn in some kind of anti-magic residue?
  541. >That doesn't explain how he'd kept your magic suppressed for the past few days or why it was still working now.
  542. >Think Twilight. What did he do next?
  543. >The very first thing he did after bringing you down was give you something to drink.
  544. >Theoretically it was to refresh you after such a long run, but what if it was more?
  545. >Drugs?
  546. >He had been feeding you generously.
  547. >Well technically, he has to feed you if he wanted you to be worth anything, but the idea still makes sense.
  548. >If that's the case what do you do? They'd work their way out of your system eventually, but there's only so much you can do to rush that.
  549. >A nearby stream is a welcome diversion. You take a long drink as you catch your breath.
  550. >The only real choice is to keep moving until your magic returns.
  551. >That's assuming you're right though. The truth is there's just too many variables. It could be drugs, some residue on your horn, hell he could have slipped some implant into you while you were asleep!
  552. >That last one makes you shiver and bound over the stream in an attempt to keep moving.
  553. >Your best bet is just keep moving no matter what.
  555. >Spoiler: You still aren't the most athletic of specimens.
  556. >Another two days of hiking soon has you exhausted.
  557. >The good news is your magic seems to slowly be returning. It's not enough for advanced stuff, but you can at least use basic telekinesis now. Even the little bit of progress is encouraging, and tells you your drug theory was right on the money.
  558. >Teleportation might be possible in another day or two, but you're too tired to keep on the run. Some good old fashion hiding will have to do the job.
  559. >A hollowed out tree trunk isn't nearly as comfortable as Arnold's sleeping bag, but such is the cost of freedom.
  560. >You find yourself grazing on some bland grass as the sun starts to set on day 3 of your newest escape attempt.
  561. >Ancient ponies grazed all the time, but for more modern ponies the act is seen as uncivilized or a last result. You hate to admit it to yourself, but you almost miss being hand feeding you like a princess by Arnold.
  562. >Arnold. Sure, he was a monster who wanted to sell you, but at least he was someone to carry on a conversation with.
  563. >You really shouldn't miss him. Having your years of solitude broken must be messing with your head.
  564. >Both your thoughts and your body roam as you think about him, it's easy to get lost in thought while grazing.
  565. >It's comforting to write him off as a monster, but is he really?
  566. >What if hunting is just his special talent? Can you really blame him for using it?
  567. >Fluttershy might argue it's like hating a bear or a manticore for just because they're predators. They aren't necessarily evil or malicious they're just trying to survive.
  568. >That doesn't make them easier to love, they would sink their teeth into your belly given the chance, but it doesn't mean they deserve hate either.
  569. >You shiver a little at the mental image of teeth approaching your vulnerable underside. Humans don't eat pony... right?
  570. >If he'd wanted himself a bite of Twilight Sparkle you suppose he already had his chance. Then again he was kind of fattening you up...
  571. >Morbid thoughts are interrupted by a sting on your flank, a fly maybe?
  572. >Buck.
  573. >It's a green splotch.
  574. >You're pretty much bucked at this point, but you try to run anyway.
  575. >The few yards you manage to cover seem pointless when you fall onto the ground. It hurts quite a bit but you refuse to just give up.
  576. >"Woah! Don't hurt yourself there sparks!"
  577. >You grunt in frustration as you attempt to drag your body forward with your forehooves alone.
  578. >A firm human hand on your side puts a stop to that when it pins you to the forest floor.
  579. >"Your scraping yourself up sheila, just relax."
  580. "Easy for you to say..."
  581. >"Ha, yeah I guess so. Here maybe this will help."
  582. >He brings out that same bottle of water and bring it up to your lips. Forget that, with what little muscle control you have left you turn your head away.
  583. "It's drugged isn't it, the water and the food both?"
  584. >"Pretty and smart, this is why your the best!"
  585. >It's nice to be praised, and the hand rubbing up and down your neck feels great too, but you've got to stay mad.
  586. "I don't want to be drugged, do I have to drink it?"
  587. >"Well, not right now I guess. I've got a few other tricks for holding you magic types, stuff in the food is just the most subtle. Most aren't as clever as you and never figure it out."
  588. >Between the praise and the two handed rub down he's giving you you can't help but blush.
  589. "Thanks..."
  590. >"You ain't too angry at me for finding you again are you? I had a devil of a time this time I'll give you that. Couldn't find hide nor hair of you all day yesterday and what do I find today? A purple target just grazing along without a care in the world!"
  591. >Ok yeah, maybe you got a little careless.
  592. >You can still grumble angrily.
  593. >"Don't be like that, I had fun at least."
  594. "Lucky you..."
  595. >He chuckles as he sits down besides you and drags your now limp body into his lap.
  596. >This is totally molestation.
  597. >"How about I make it up to you?"
  598. >Ok, one hand scratching your withers and one scratching your neck feels divine. Who knew human fingers would feel so nice digging into your coat.
  599. >You have to work to keep the breathiness out of your voice.
  600. "Q-quit it."
  601. >That was feeble.
  602. >"I think someone likes it."
  603. >Thank Celestia you've lost all muscle control otherwise your hind leg would be kicking like a dog.
  604. "Why do you know-"
  605. >Oh gosh, deep breaths.
  606. "Pony sweet spots?"
  607. >"It was more of a guess really, is it working?"
  608. "Just shut up."
  609. >He spends a few more embarrassing moments turning your muscles into jelly even scratching as far south as your cutie mark. The whole situation is even more intense when combined with the fact you can't even lift a hoof in your defense. He could put those hands anywhere...
  610. >No, bad Twilight, no weird thoughts!
  611. >"What say we get back before dark huh?"
  612. >Really?! Instead of throwing you over his shoulders like last time he's scooped you up in his arms like a baby!
  613. >Undercarriage exposed! You can't even move your hooves to cover yourself!
  614. "A-arnold really?!"
  615. >"Huh?"
  616. "Do you, do you have to carry me like this?"
  617. >"How else are we going to get back? You do remember you can't walk right?"
  618. "Just put me over your shoulder!"
  619. >The human shrugs and repositions you.
  620. >This... this isn't what you meant.
  621. >Before he put you around his shoulders with a pair of legs on each side.
  622. >Now he's thrown you over one shoulder leaving your tail end up near his face.
  623. >"Better?"
  624. "This might be worse."
  625. >He just laughs.
  627. >A generous hike later he gentle drops you off on your sleeping bag.
  628. >How is he not even winded? He'd just carried your generous flank well over a mile.
  629. >He hums a little tune as he reattaches your chain then brings out the hoof cuffs again. Your ears flatten against your head when you see them.
  630. "I thought we moved beyond those..."
  631. >He gently lifts a hoof and starts to secure you, at least he's gentle about it.
  632. >"Maybe tomorrow. I don't want you hurting yourself as the paralysis wears off."
  633. "I'm not a foal. I can handle my own limbs."
  634. >"Tomorrow I promise. Here."
  635. >He scoots closer to you, and lifts you up into a sitting position, before offers you a fire grilled sweet potato. You however, refuse to open your mouth wide enough.
  636. "Untie me first."
  637. >"Be a good girl sparky."
  638. >Your neck muscles ignore your commands so the best you can do is stubbornly hold your mouth shut.
  639. >You scrunch your nose as he pokes you in the mouth with the potato
  640. >This vaguely reminds you of your first time with a colt... best to keep that to yourself.
  641. >"Don't make me get mean with you."
  642. >It's a threatening line said in a light hearted way.
  643. >It's true meaning is revealed when his other hand approaches your vulnerable underbelly. He wouldn't... He can't!
  644. >You last a whole 3 seconds before the tickling makes you burst out laughing. Of course, the instant you open your mouth you get a muzzle full of sweet potato.
  645. >Mmmm it has just the right amount of salt and pepper.
  646. >Oh yeah, you're supposed to be mad about him spoiling your hunger strike.
  647. >You bite off the bit in your mouth and let the rest fall into his waiting hand.
  648. >"Gonna eat now?"
  649. >What a bully.
  650. >You blush as he takes you by the chin and opens your mouth for you.
  651. >Guess you're getting fed whether you like it or not.
  652. >It's good, but this is a new level of degrading.
  653. >When he comes back with a few other veggies you open your mouth yourself.
  654. >The obedience burns a bit, but it's more dignified than the alternative.
  655. "This isn't drugged is it?"
  656. >"Nah it's not, but you've got to choose. You can either take the drugs or we can use this."
  657. >He reaches into a pocket and pulls out an inhibitor ring.
  658. >Inhibitor rings existed before the humans showed up, but were limited to either the royal guard or kinky bedroom stuff.
  659. >You make a conscience effort to convince yourself this is one from the guard armories.
  660. "The ring."
  661. >"Suit yourself, but we can't play cat and mouse again without you taking a dose of your medicine first. It just isn't fair following someone who can vanish into thin air."
  662. >Having your magic sealed with a ring is a bit unpleasant, but it's not your first time.
  663. >"There ya go, looking great."
  664. >Psh yeah, looking great my ass.
  665. >He gives your neck a rub with the hand supporting it as he brings a water bottle up to your lips.
  666. >The muscles in your neck are still so weak he has to tilt you head back for you as he raises the bottle.
  667. >Some sight you must be: legs bound, bridled, chained, horn ring, and now having your head held for you while he pours liquid down your throat.
  668. >At least nopony's around to see you handled like this.
  669. >You'll begrudgingly let him nurse you for now, but you'll not enjoy it.
  670. >You'll not enjoy it one bit!
  672. >Maybe you're enjoying this a bit too much.
  673. >The thought comes to you unbidden as you lay on your back while he hand feeds you grapes.
  674. >True to his word, he'd unbound your hooves after the sedative wore off overnight.
  675. >You're still chained, bridled, and magically suppressed, but your makeshift bed is soft and the fruit is sweet.
  676. "Where did you even find grapes?"
  677. >"Just ran across them when I was following you."
  678. "I don't understand how you had the time to scavenge, and set up camp, while keeping up with me..."
  679. >"Well, I'm the best. That's just what I do."
  680. >Perhaps the effect your deadpan stare is lost since you're upside down.
  681. >Either way, you open your mouth to allow him to deposit more food.
  682. "You swear these aren't drugged?"
  683. >"Cross my heart. I haven't lied to you yet have I?"
  684. "Well no... you've just kidnaped me and tied me up against my will..."
  685. >"As opposed to tying you up with your consent?"
  686. "S-shut up, you know what I mean!"
  687. >He plops another grape in your mouth as you blush.
  688. >"I guess I might. Food's 100% natural though, see?"
  689. >He throws one in his own mouth.
  690. >Hey! Those are yours!
  691. >It's good to hear he isn't flooding your system with more unknown pharmaceuticals, but it also removes a possible excuse for why you're acting so compliant.
  692. >Maybe compliant isn't the right word, but you' can't help but feel like you've lost your fight.
  693. "Fine, I'll believe you... So what gave me away this time?"
  694. >"I'm not really sure I should be giving you tips on hiding from me."
  695. "Oh, is 'Mr. World's greatest hunter' afraid I'll get too good for him to catch?"
  696. >"Oh no, of course not. Without your magic I can catch someone like you any day of the week."
  697. "Tell me what happened this time then."
  698. >"Well you're fast, but you're easy to track. I'm sure you wore yourself out and had to take a break, but that was your problem. A human can follow for days and days. As long as I'm on the trail I'll find you eventually."
  699. "I was pretty tired..."
  700. >He scoots closer and takes a forehoof in his hands.
  701. >"Running all out will do that."
  702. >What is he? Oh! Oh, that feels great!
  703. >There's no denying your muscles are sore from both your extended run as well as your time tied up.
  704. >How does he know how to massage ponies so well? You're practically melting in his hands.
  705. "Well what am - OH! - what am I supposed to do then?"
  706. >The way he hit that one sore spot really sends a shiver down your spine.
  707. >He just shrugs and gives you a wry smile.
  708. >"Hold still so I've got a better shot?"
  709. "I don't like being shot!"
  710. >"Yeah, but you don't seem to mind how you're being treated right now."
  711. "I am a prisoner! I have no choice, but to defer to my captor for my own safety!"
  712. >That makes him crack a smile.
  713. >"Do you want me to stop?"
  714. >Horseshoes, he's calling your bluff.
  715. "N-not yet..."
  716. >What a jerk, he ruins your mane by ruffling it like that!
  717. >"If they ever make that river passable again, and we get out of here, I just might miss you sparkle."
  718. >You just might miss him too. It's been so long since you've had someone to talk to, much less someone to give you a little physical contact.
  719. "We could just stay out here forever?"
  720. >"Nice try. If I can't bring you in they'll just send out someone else to finish the job."
  721. >You frown, but still accept the food he continues to offer.
  722. "Fine. Well, when are we going to go again?"
  723. >"Tomorrow? You still seem tired."
  724. "Yeah, tomorrow."
  725. >But first more food.
  726. >You aren't a fattie.
  728. >It's beginning to look like you just suck at this whole 'running' thing.
  729. >3 days later he tranqed you at a full gallop near the gorge. That one hurt a bit.
  730. >A few days after that you went to sleep under a rocky overhang, and woke up in your sleeping bag. Tied up of course.
  731. >Today you've just been yanked off the forest floor by a net trap. Yes, that's right, a hanging net trap.
  732. >Holy crap, did he fashion this thing himself out of vines? Now he's just showing off.
  733. "Arnold! Come get me down!"
  734. >He makes you take a good dose of his magic suppression drugs before re-releasing you, so you're currently pretty helpless.
  735. >Just where is that jerk? He better not make you wait here where a manticore could come eat you at any moment.
  736. >You probably only waited an hour or so, but you're still pretty annoyed when he finally arrives.
  737. "Do you not check these things!?"
  738. >The suppressed laugh only makes you glare at him harder.
  739. >"To be honest I didn't think this would work. The mighty sparky defeated by vines."
  740. "Just shut up and let me down."
  741. >"Your wish is my command."
  742. >Instead of moving to untie the trap he raises his gun!
  743. "Woah! Come on do you really have to shoot me!"
  744. >"Afraid so. I know you, you'd kick me and be out of here the second I let you down."
  745. >He's not WRONG per say.
  746. *pht*
  747. "Ow!"
  748. >That thing stings at close range!
  749. "You couldn't back up!? And why do you always shoot me in the flanks?!"
  750. >"Biggest target."
  751. >Oh. No. He. Did. Not.
  752. "Take that back! I am not fat!"
  753. >Gods he's always laughing. Even as he lowers your now frozen form to the ground he's chuckling.
  754. >"You're very slim I promise."
  755. >He rubs a hand down your side, and gives you a reassuring pat before picking you up. At least you can't shiver from the contact due to your paralysis.
  756. >He may say you're thin, but he definitely grunted as he hauled you over his shoulders.
  757. >You aren't fat...
  758. >You would describe yourself as... healthy...
  759. >Maybe you did put on a few pounds in the past several days, but that's still well within acceptable ranges.
  760. "... You better have something good for dinner at least."
  761. >"I got some fish again."
  762. >Oh, fish!
  764. >Is this the 5th time now you've been in this position? Your powerless body being supported and hand fed by this human.
  765. >You want to tell yourself you aren't developing a complex, but this is almost starting to feel natural.
  766. >You swallow the latest bite and speak before he can bring you more.
  767. "Couldn't you have just put the cuffs on me before letting me down?"
  768. >"If the cuffs weren't back here at camp maybe."
  769. "I think you just like shooting poor defenseless animals..."
  770. >"Eh, call it a habit."
  771. >Yep, he's not even going to deny it.
  772. "That has to be abuse. They don't shoot ponies on earth do they?"
  773. >"Nah, don't worry about that. You behave and they'll treat you right."
  774. "Fine... still stings though."
  775. >He looks down towards your lower body momentarily.
  776. >"Was it the other side? Do you want me to take a look?
  777. >Uhhh no. No, you don't want him inspecting your cutie mark.
  778. "N-no, no it's fine."
  779. >"So you're just making a fuss huh?
  780. "I am not making a fuss! This is a serious issue! I-"
  781. >And he shoved your mouth full of fish.
  782. >Jerk.
  783. >You munch.
  785. >That night brings something new to you and Arnold's camp, rain.
  786. >Not just a sprinkling either, but a downpour.
  787. >Arnold's initial plans to set up a tarp over your sleeping area doesn't cut it when the water starts coming in sideways.
  788. >You can't help but panic a little as more and more water starts to build up.
  789. >The effects of his tranquilizing dart is wearing off, but not quickly enough. Wiggling your hooves and neck is now possible but full scale muscular control still evades you.
  790. "Can't we find a cave or something!?"
  791. >"Didn't see any and it's too late to go looking now!"
  792. >Giving up on the tarp he returns to your side and scoops you up.
  793. >"New plan!"
  794. >New plan? Oh that.
  795. >He carries you in his arms towards his tent.
  796. >Are - are you two going to share the tent? It's awfully tiny.
  797. >Ok, that's a yes. He just zipped the door behind you both.
  798. "Are we both umm...?"
  799. >"Sorry sparky but I guess we got to. No way I can leave you outside in that mess."
  800. >Oh boy.
  801. "U-umm yeah, thanks."
  802. >"No problem. It's late though, what do you say we just turn in?"
  803. "O-ok."
  804. >Oh sweet Celestia there's only one sleeping bag. What happens now? Even he looks a bit awkward.
  805. >"Well, uh how about we..."
  806. "I can just... Over here should be fine..."
  807. >"You sure? We can share or-"
  808. "No! No, it's fine! I'll be fine! Could you just give me a bit of help..."
  809. >"Oh, sure."
  810. >Stupid body, stupid tranquilizer, stupid Arnold.
  811. >He reaches over to help you curl your limbs in and side a bit further into the corner.
  812. "Thanks..."
  813. >"Great, yeah. I'll just turn in then I guess."
  814. >You manage to scooch a little further, but your back is still touching his.
  815. >Not that you aren't thankful for the shelter from the rain, but this thing is clearly meant for 1.
  816. >"Well, gnight then."
  817. "Yeah, night."
  818. >It's not that you don't trust the ape. It's just that you couldn't be more vulnerable, and now you're trapped in a small enclosed space sleeping right beside your captor...
  819. >Oh boy.
  821. >Morning comes too soon.
  822. >Positive news: you can move your limbs now.
  823. >Negative news: They're still cuffed together so raising your forehooves to block the light is not very effective.
  824. >You attempt to squirm further down into the sleeping bag for some much needed darkness, but run into a few problems.
  825. >First of all you're in a sleeping bag when you distinctly remember not going to sleep in one.
  826. >Second of all there's something firmly wrapped around your barrel holding you in place.
  827. >Oh Celestia the something is breathing!
  828. >Help!
  830. >Attempting to squirm away only gets you hugged tighter.
  831. >You feel a bit like a teddy bear, his powerful arms completely surround and squeeze your body.
  832. >Oh Celestia, he's so close!
  833. >You can feel his breath on the back of your mane, and even his heartbeat along the back of your neck.
  834. >It's... strong...
  835. >Further maneuvering fails to get you any more out of his grasp. The fact that you're still cuffed doesn't exactly help.
  836. >You huff in resignation.
  837. >At least it's a nice morning. The light drizzle still hitting the tent makes you thankful you're inside, even if it involves being a little too close for comfort.
  838. >Maybe you can just... No. What if you? No.
  839. >Nothing you try gets you any closer to freedom. Wow he's a really heavy sleeper isn't he?
  840. >You let yourself collapse in futility.
  841. >All in all it could be worse. You could be stuck outside in the rain with no mobility or magic.
  842. >Magic.
  843. >In the past you've woken up to find yourself already sporting your horn ring but not today.
  844. >Have the drugs worn off yet?
  845. >You light your horn and discover access to a fair amount of power.
  846. >It might not be enough to teleport out but it's enough for some telekinesis, and you know the exact target.
  847. >He'd stored his backpack at the back of the tent, that had to be where the horn ring was.
  848. >It takes a few minutes of careful searching before you have it.
  849. >There was never a chance to examine it before, since the only time you saw it was when he was locking it in place.
  850. >It's a robust design. Most *ahem* 'fun' rings weren't exactly designed for durability, but they'd clearly copied this from a guard blueprint for this one.
  851. >It would hold back even the most powerful unicorns, including yourself.
  852. >The good news is horn rings are designed to work when equipt, not to be durable when off. With no horn to draw power from for it's protective enchantments the device was simply a frail piece of metal with runes carved in it.
  853. >You make a few 'adjustments'. When the time comes, and the drugs have been flushed out of your system, you'll be able to break it and make a real escape.
  854. >You're pretty much a genius.
  855. >Dr. Twilight 'Genius' Sparkle stiffens when the creature behind her starts to grumble in it's sleep.
  856. >Crap! You quickly return the ring to his pack and move it back to it's original location.
  857. >The human yawns loudly and removes an arm to rub his eye.
  858. >"Aw man, must have overslept."
  859. "Yeah... Could you uhh..."
  860. >You can feel him crane his head to look down at what he'd gathered in his arms.
  861. >"If you wanted to cuddle sheila all you had to do was ask."
  862. "I-! WHAT!? YOUR THE ONE!!"
  863. >You squirm like a mad mare to escape the warm comfort of his chest.
  864. >He laughs when he lets go and you squirm like a two legged caterpillar across the tent.
  865. >"So you don't want me to untie you?"
  866. >You glare back at him over your shoulder before rolling your body over to face him and wiggling your legs at him impatiently.
  867. >"What do we say?"
  868. "Release me."
  869. >He pokes you in the snout! Ugh!
  870. "Fine! Release me please!"
  871. >"Close enough. First things first though."
  872. >He fishes the horn ring out of his bag and slips it back over your horn. Despite the flaw you'd introduced it still serves it's original purpose.
  873. >The sudden and intense snuffing out of your magic still makes you whine and curl up into a tiny purple ball.
  874. >Unfortunately he takes the opportunity to stand and pick up his curled up captive by the scruff of her neck!
  875. >Not the scruff! The ancient pressure point forces you to go perfectly still as he carries you outside and chains you to your post.
  876. >Your brain starts to reboot only when he finally releases the back of your neck.
  877. >You try to act cool. It's odd enough that that spot affects mares so oddly, but the effect is particularly powerful on you.
  878. >"You there sparky?"
  879. >Ok, acting casual has failed.
  880. >He snaps his fingers in front of your face.
  881. "J-just don't grab me there."
  882. >"What? Here?"
  883. >Eeep!
  884. >Higher brain functions grind to a halt when he reapplies pressure to the base of your mane.
  885. >Your mind shrinks down to two basic tasks: breath and hold still.
  886. >"Huh."
  887. >He rotates you and waves a hand in front of your face.
  888. >You're gonna kick the crap out of him for this!
  889. >"You know kittens do this too."
  890. >Buck him, you aren't a cat!
  891. >He even has the nerve to poke you in your sensitive belly before putting you back down.
  892. >You shake your head and whirl around on him angrily.
  893. "Don't do that!"
  894. >"Alright, I'm sorry. I was just curious... Do all ponies do that?"
  895. "Shut up..."
  896. >He laughs and starts peeling some juicy looking fruit.
  897. >"That a sore subject? I'll make it up to you then, want to come with me today to check out the river?"
  898. >Walking does sound more fun than sitting here tied to a post.
  899. "Fine."
  900. >A quick breakfast later and he's clipped your chain to his belt.
  901. >The two of you start off through the woods with him taking the lead.
  902. >The terrain is a bit rough, but with his larger body clearing the way it's manageable.
  903. "You do know where your going right?"
  904. >"Of course. Just got to head east, it's not exactly rocket science."
  905. >What the buck is rocket science?
  906. >Unfortunately you never get a chance to ask. The sound of rushing water tells you he's at least picked the right direction.
  907. >"Hmm, looks like it might be improving a bit. Let me see if I can get anyone on the horn."
  908. >He pulls a device out of his backpack before you can point out he has no horn.
  909. >Must be some kind of artificial horn? Surely humans can't do magic like ponies though?
  910. >He proceeds to talk to the artificial horn, but so little of it makes sense to you that you ignore it.
  911. >Must have some kind of communication spell built in.
  912. >You start to trot closer to the river to get a better view when you trip over something.
  913. >Dumb rock! You give it a firm kick only to receive a spike of pain up your leg!
  914. >Wow thats solid!
  915. >You peer down to see what you hit.
  916. >Buck.
  917. >What might appear to be a rock to the untrained eye looks a bit different to you. The edges are a bit too flat and angular to be natural, also a magically inclined individual such as yourself can feel the tiny spark of life inside it.
  918. >It's not a rock. It's an egg.
  919. >A hydra egg.
  920. "Arnold! Arnold we need to go!"
  921. >You rush back over to him and tap in his side with a hoof. If the two of you don't get out of here soon you'll both be deep fried!
  922. "Arnold listen this is important!"
  923. >What is a hydra even doing this far from the everfree? It's rare for one to roam so far, much less nest! Perhaps it's stuck on this side of the river as well?
  924. >Your pestering and poking doesn't seem to bother him. He simply brushes you off and continues talking to his magic box.
  925. >Buck buck buck! Hydras are dangerous enough normally but a nesting one is ten times more aggressive!
  926. "Arnold!"
  927. >He looks down at you with a bit of annoyance.
  928. >"Just hold on a minute sparky, I'm in the middle of something here."
  929. "No no no! We need to go, please!"
  930. >"Just 5 more minutes."
  931. "No! Hydra! Nest! Eat us! Run!"
  932. >This bucker isn't taking you seriously, he just pats your head like a foal.
  933. >"Don't you worry about it, I'll protect you from whatever comes this way!"
  934. >He gestures towards the gun over his shoulder like it can stop a rampaging regenerating three headed behemoth more commonly known as a hydra.
  935. "No you don't understand!"
  936. >An ear splitting roar cuts off whatever his response would have been.
  937. >You have to admit his reaction time is impressive. In a flash he's pulled the gun off his back and has it pointed right at the quickly approaching reptile.
  938. >Too bad it's not going to accomplish jack.
  939. >*Boom!*
  940. >Holy buck that's loud!
  941. >The hydra staggers as it's rightmost head goes limp.
  942. >At least he actually hit it, regardless the other two heads are less impressed and drive the body forward.
  943. "Arnold we have to run! You can't kill that thing!"
  944. >"It's all good sheila, one down two to go."
  945. >You at least have time to cover your ears before the second boom takes down the leftmost head.
  946. >"See? Not a problem!"
  947. "It is a problem the first one will-"
  948. >Another roar cuts you off. It only takes a quick glance to confirm your suspicions, the first head is back up and as angry as ever!
  949. "Regenerate!"
  950. >He watches as both right and leftmost head recover.
  951. >"Huh..."
  952. "Huh?!?!"
  953. >You rear up on your hind legs to get as close to his face as possible.
  954. "We! Need! To! Go!"
  955. >He fires off another shot before lowers his rifle and looking between you and the incoming beast.
  956. >"Nah. It's too late now."
  957. "Too late?!? We have to-"
  958. >What? What is he doing?
  959. >His hand fiddles with something on your bridle before pulling the whole thing off.
  960. "What are you..."
  961. >"Not sure we can outrun something like that. I'll go this way, you go that way."
  962. >"Sorry for not listening to you sheila."
  963. >He forcibly turns you around and slaps your flank!
  964. >"Go on now! I'll slip away and catch ya later!"
  965. >Between the slap and the angry predator your instincts have you galloping all the way back into the woods before you can even think!
  966. >He says he can slip away but can he!? That's an exceptionally large hydra. If it thinks he's a threat to it's eggs, then not even the thick trees of the Whitetail Woods will slow it down!
  967. >You shake your head and skid to a stop.
  968. >Instinct tells you to run far far away but you can't just leave him! Sure he's a human, and he's even your captor, but he's also your friend!
  969. >Your legs tremble in fear, but you turn back.
  970. >It's not hard to follow the sound of rampaging beast. Fortunately superior quadruped agility and knowledge of the wood's let's you cut a few corners and catch up quickly.
  971. >He definitely ran into the ravine, whether by choice of chance you can't say. What you can say is the waterfall at the end is going to trap him in with a very angry monster!
  972. >You cut across to where you know he'll end up and perch on the rocky edge.
  973. >He round the corner at a sprint carrying only his weapon.
  974. "Arnold!"
  975. >"I thought I told you to run sparky!"
  976. >He sprints to the wall near you and tries to climb the smooth rock face.
  977. >"Shit! How do I get out of here?!"
  978. "I-I don't know!"
  979. >"Fuck, you just go sparkle I'll fine a way!"
  980. "No! I'm not leaving you! There's no way out!"
  981. >An angry mother hydra round the corner and locks eyes with it's target.
  982. >It will be able to cover the few hundred feet in no time! It's time to act!
  983. >The sabotaged ring on your head buckles under the surge of magic you call forth.
  984. >Having no ring feels fantastic, but you still lack access to your full mana pool. The drugs must still be slowly working their way through your system.
  985. >You have to try anyway!
  986. >A powerful bolt of magic shoots forth and hits the creature right in the chest.
  987. >Despite being a rather powerful blast, most than most unicorns would conjure, the beast cries is annoyance rather than defeat.
  988. >You know hydra's are naturally magically resistant, but you were still hoping for a better result!
  989. >"Twilight just go!"
  990. "No!"
  991. >Three more bolts at least stun the beast, but it's still covering ground.
  992. >Buck buck buck! What do you do?
  993. >If you had access to your full mana pool you could try more complex stuff: Gravity manipulation, temporal banishment, even simple mind magic, but you just don't have the power.
  994. >The flurry of bolts you throw the beasts way is quickly exhausting you, and only slowing it down.
  995. >Magic on a budget that can stop something this big? There has to be something!
  996. >Well... there's always that.
  997. >Do some ponies consider witchfire bolt to be 'dark magic'? Sure
  998. >Does it have a SLIGHTLY corrosive effect on the caster and their surroundings? Well yeah.
  999. >Does that make it evil? No, of course not.
  1000. >Celestia herself might have banned the research of various dark magics hundreds of years ago but that doesn't mean ALL of it is bad.
  1001. >It also doesn't mean her personal student doesn't have access to the restricted spells deep in the royal archives.
  1002. >It's for that reason the nearby vegetation wilts, and a purple haze forms around your eyes, horn, and body.
  1003. >You've handled dark magic before. You know which whispers to ignore, which to listen to, and which ones to embrace.
  1004. >They say witchfire steals a bit of your soul each time you use it, and as you let loose you can see why.
  1005. >Everything screams in protest, but the bolt of green and purple magic flashes down from the sky as promised.
  1006. >The effect is nothing short of devastating.
  1007. >An entire hydra leg is instantly severed as the dark art does it's work.
  1008. >This can work! You can do this!
  1009. >You prepare another spell right for it's chest, but notice the angry creature already recovering.
  1010. >Usually such corrosive magic would prevent regeneration or healing, but the hydra's natural resistance must be powerful indeed.
  1011. >You'll have to hit it in the heads.
  1012. >Heads. Multiple.
  1013. >One bolt felt like it was stabbing a knife into your skull, and now you need to cast 3 at once.
  1014. >You simply can't.
  1015. "Arnold!"
  1016. >"I'm here! What's the plan sheila!?"
  1017. "All three! We need to hit all 3 heads! Does your gun still work?"
  1018. >"Yeah it should. I can only shoot one though! Can you get the other two?"
  1019. >Can you? You have to at least try.
  1020. "I... Yeah, yeah I can do it."
  1021. >"Alright I'll get the middle you get the other two! Ready!?"
  1022. "Ready!"
  1023. >"On three! One! Two! Three!"
  1024. >Dual casting is a dangerous art.
  1025. >Dual casting dark magic is borderline suicide.
  1026. >You can't help but scream as the greedy magic tears through your horn, but you can tell it works from the devistating noise alone.
  1027. >If only you could look up and see to be sure...
  1028. >If only you weren't so sleepy...
  1029. >If only you didn't stumble and fall right over the edge and into the ravine...
  1030. >If only...
  1032. >The loud crack of firewood brings you back to the world of the living.
  1033. >Too bad your everything hurts, maybe just a bit more napping would be best.
  1034. >You squirm deeper into the nice warm sleeping bag only to be disturbed by something pressed against your muzzle.
  1035. >Experimental sniffing tells you it's some kind of roasted vegetable, a mushroom perhaps?
  1036. >Well, you are sleepy, but then again mushrooms are amazing.
  1037. >The muzzle invader pokes you more and more insistently until you finally open your mouth.
  1038. >Oh, it is a mushroom! Perfectly roasted and seasoned too!
  1039. >Your tired eyes remain shut as you munch, but the mysterious free food keeps flowing.
  1040. >Everything you're fed is deliciously warm. You aren't really sure why your body feels so hollow, cold, and empty, but the warm food and toasty accommodations are a huge boon.
  1041. >It feels like you've been eating for hours, yet there's still room in your stomach for more. This time however, when you open your mouth nothing comes.
  1042. >Maybe if you just wait a moment...
  1043. >Is a filly actually going to have to open her eyes? And they call this customer service.
  1044. >You crack a single eye and spy Arnold tending more food over the fire. His eye catches yours.
  1045. >"Sorry, you're really going through our supplies. I'll have more ready in a bit."
  1046. >Psh, having to wait. He better give you a complimentary dessert for this outrage.
  1047. >Even one eye open proves to be too much effort. You bury your snout in your forehooves and rest.
  1048. >Or at least you would if he didn't take the opportunity to touch you.
  1049. >The hand scratching behind your ears feels really nice though, you can't help but lean into it a bit.
  1050. >"You really saved me back there sheila."
  1051. "Mhmmm."
  1052. >"Figured you'd just leave. What with the whole 'slavery' thing you seem to dislike so much."
  1053. >He chuckles and runs the back of a finger over your chubby pony cheek.
  1054. >The half hearted attempt to bite him fails but makes you both smile.
  1055. "You owe me..."
  1056. >"Yeah I guess I do."
  1057. >The finger pushes down on your chin prompting you to open wide.
  1058. >Mmm onion and pepper! Just the right amount of salt too! Sweet Celestia, the glorious salt.
  1059. >You MAY have licked his finger a little to lap up the remaining flavor. Who can really say what happened?
  1060. >"Are you gonna be ok?"
  1061. "More food."
  1062. >He's a good servant, perhaps you'll keep him.
  1063. >It's another half hour of steady feeding later before he finally stops.
  1064. >You crack the eye on the side of your face he isn't rubbing.
  1065. >"Sorry sparks were all out. You just ate two days worth of supplies."
  1066. >That's only slightly shocking to hear. Dark magic doesn't stop at ravaging your magical reserves, it takes whatever it needs to get the job done.
  1067. "S'fine. Just need *yawn* a nap."
  1068. >Your head lolls into his chest as he scoops you up, but you don't care.
  1069. >All that matters is closing your eyes, just for a minute.
  1070. >Just a fast power nap...
  1072. >Everything. Is. Sore.
  1073. >Not just every muscle, even your horn feels like someone tried to rip it off.
  1074. >You toss and turn for a minute before accepting that it's time to get up.
  1075. >Ok, systems check:
  1076. >Horn: sore, but still in one piece.
  1077. >Hooves: unbound, that's new.
  1078. >Head: No bridle. This must be the first time in weeks that you've been without it.
  1079. >Wings: Wait what? You're a unicorn...
  1080. >A loud growl interrupts your wondering about why you'd looked for wings.
  1081. >Oh yeah, you have a stomach.
  1082. >Thankfully you spy a basket full of fruit sitting in the corner of the tent.
  1083. >You grab an apple with a hoof and shove it into your muzzle while you look around.
  1084. >He put you in the tent at some point. It must be well into the day based on how bright it is in here.
  1085. >Unzipping the front and pulling back a flap confirms it. You must have slept all the way til noon.
  1086. >Oddly enough you don't see Arnold anywhere.
  1087. >Maybe he left to gather more food?
  1088. >Walking isn't fun, but you crawl out of the tent and over to the sleeping bag outside anyway.
  1089. >You skip the morning stretches today. Taking a seat with your hooves curled under you is much more your speed.
  1090. >Despite how much your horn hurts you need to run a few tests.
  1091. >Pouring magic into the appendage causes some unexpected results!
  1092. >Did some of the dark magic build up in your system?!
  1093. >You may not be at 100% mental capacity right now, but you're pretty sure your magic isn't supposed to have nearly that much green in it!
  1094. >You quickly shut off the flow of magic and purge what's left in your horn.
  1095. >Thats... not good.
  1096. >Ideally it will work it's way out naturally, but until then absolutely no magic.
  1097. >Even as you tell yourself this you can feel something wrong up there. It's almost like your horn craves more mana, and that's the last thing you intend on giving it!
  1098. >"Great your up."
  1099. >Good timing. The human emerges from the trees with a fishing pole over his shoulder.
  1100. "Arnold, listen to me very carefully."
  1101. >You climb over to him on clumsy legs.
  1102. "Do you have another horn ring?"
  1103. >"Another ring? No, I just had the one, and I'm pretty sure you broke it."
  1104. "Drugs then, do you have more drugs?"
  1105. >"Yeah, plenty."
  1106. "Drug me."
  1107. >"Hold up now. After what you did I don't think we need that anymore. Why are you asking this? Whats going on?"
  1108. "Residual effects of channeling that much dark magic. It wants more mana and I can't let that happen. You didn't mind pumping me full of this stuff before, what's the problem now?"
  1109. >"Before sure-"
  1110. >He sits down and pulls a waterbottle out of his backpack.
  1111. >"I just feel bad after you saved me like that, you sure?"
  1112. >Once you nod your consent he opens the bottle and holds it up to you. You down the whole thing just to be sure.
  1113. "You can make it up to me by looking after me. I'm... not at my best. It might be a while until i am."
  1114. >Oh! He reaches over and starts scratching your plush underbelly.
  1115. >"That I can do sheila."
  1117. >The next few weeks were the most luxurious you'd had since before the portals.
  1118. >When your physical strength returned he started to take you gathering with him.
  1119. >It was actually nice to be out and about without having to watch over your shoulder constantly.
  1120. >On you own you had to be wary of human as well as wildlife. Now you need only concern yourself with predators, and his gun is more than enough to keep you safe from those.
  1121. >Working WITH a human almost feels like cheating.
  1122. >Good food and a warm dry tent to sleep in is hard to argue with though.
  1123. >The two of you even go to a nearby swimming hole from time to time.
  1124. >It's one you'd avoided in the past for safety reasons, so you enjoy a chance to dive right in.
  1125. >"You're gonna turn into a fish if you don't get out soon."
  1126. "They're called seaponies and they aren't a myth."
  1127. >"Rightttt."
  1128. >You paddle over to the rocky edge and throw your forehooves over the side.
  1129. >He's still avoiding looking at you. It's been a few days now, you thought he might tell you on his own but maybe not.
  1130. >You clop a hoof onto the stone to get his attention.
  1131. "Arnold. What's going on?"
  1132. >"Uh, your swimming, that's about it."
  1133. >Smartass.
  1134. "I can tell something's been bothering you. What is it?"
  1135. >"We can talk about it later."
  1136. "No, just tell me. Is it the river?"
  1137. >He looks surprised for a moment but only a moment.
  1138. >"Guys up north said they'll have the dam fixed soon."
  1139. "That's good right?"
  1140. >"Sparky you know what this means."
  1141. >You pull yourself out of the stream and sit down on the warm rock.
  1142. "I know this can't last forever. It's been fun just camping out, but I never thought things would stay this way."
  1143. >"Damn it sparks... Why don't you just go? I'll point them in the wrong direction, you'll be safe for a while."
  1144. >His change of heart ever since the hydra incident is sweet, it really is.
  1145. >You scoot over and place a hoof on his leg.
  1146. "We both know they'd just keep coming after me, and with better and better equipment. I've... I've been on the run for long enough. I'm tired of woods, I'm tired of hiding, I'm tired of living in fear. I'm ready to go. You promise-"
  1147. >You have to gulp back a bit of fear in your voice.
  1148. "You promise they'll be nice? My... my 'trainers'?"
  1149. >He reaches over and strokes you mane without looking up.
  1150. >"I should be able to arrange for you to go somewhere else. The pay's less but the treatment should be better."
  1151. >You lean into his shoulder and whisper.
  1152. "Thank you."
  1153. >You squeak when he pulls you into a rough hug!
  1154. >"You do what they say and they'll treat you right. Just remember your manners, yes sir and no sir, stuff like that."
  1155. "Yes sir."
  1156. >Is he... sniffling? Guess you'd made a friend afterall.
  1157. >"Since your coming in from wild they'll bridle and hobble ya. I'll see if I can explain how well behaved you are, maybe they'll cut you some slack, I dunno."
  1158. "I understand."
  1159. >Speaking softly and stroking his back feels like the right thing to do.
  1160. >"They'll give you a proper ring. Probably an adjustable one, prove yourself and they'll set it low for you so you can still use some magic."
  1161. >The dark magic residue had only worked it's way out of your system a few days ago.
  1162. >You both knew it, but he hadn't cut off the drugs and you hadn't asked why.
  1163. >Continued pampering was the real reason you hadn't say anything.
  1164. >A few weeks ago you'd have suspected the reason he didn't bring it up was keep you from running, to keep you captive.
  1165. >Now though you suspect he just didn't want to give you a taste of a freedom you'd soon lose again.
  1166. "I'd like that."
  1167. >He breaks the hug and looks you right in the eyes.
  1168. >"Now, you listen here sparky. They'll take you. They don't let any ponies through to earth without decontamination and training first. It'll take a long time and I'll have trouble keeping track of you, but I promise I'll make sure your happy. No matter where you end up I'll be sure you're safe and happy, deal?"
  1169. >You can't help but smile at his sincerity.
  1170. "Deal."
  1172. >The hike to the human towns took a few days, but you've had worse.
  1173. >"Alright we're close, ready?"
  1174. "Yes. Thank you for everything Arnold."
  1175. >"You too sparky."
  1176. >The sight of the bridle doesn't make you feel good, but you now know it's a necessity.
  1177. >If he doesn't give you his comfy one the other humans will rig you up with a much worse one.
  1178. >He pauses before putting the bit in your mouth.
  1179. >"At least try to look like you're afraid of me sparks. No one likes a smug horse."
  1180. >You giggle but do your best to school your expression when he finally fills your mouth with metal bit.
  1181. >He pats the side of your neck and gives you a small smile.
  1182. >"Ready?"
  1183. >He waits until you nod to grab your leads.
  1184. >"Then let's go."
  1186. END
  1193. >"We really taking this one to greenscapes?"
  1194. >"Hell no, this one gave us the slip for years. Orders from the top said to send her straight to happy horse trainers."
  1195. >That sounds promising.
  1196. >"Is that name supposed to be ironic? Some kind of marketing thing?"
  1197. >"Guess so, either way they get the tough jobs done no matter what it takes."
  1198. >Oh boy.
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