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Protagonist

Writefag_Roulette Jan 26th, 2019 (edited) 116 Never
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  1. https://8ch.net/pone/res/322000.html#322003
  2. https://web.archive.org/web/20190219013458/https://8ch.net/pone/res/322000.html
  3.  
  4. >you suppose you've never really been the main character of the story you've been living in
  5. >to be sure, you've been in situations like this more times than you can count
  6. >but those stories have always been about...
  7. >her
  8. >a beam of dim starlight shines bright white through a gap in the forest canopy
  9. >it lights up the woods just enough for you to pick out the purple in her coat
  10. >Twilight Sparkle
  11. >she's effortlessly beautiful
  12. >brilliant
  13. >favored by the princesses
  14. >actually, she's a princess herself now
  15. >or, technically, she was
  16. >you see, that's just the reason you're watching over your sleeping friends in this forest tonight
  17. >nothing unusual in the course of your life
  18. >some artifacts you've never heard of were stolen by some megolomaniac
  19. >the megolomaniac escaped into the Everfree Forest
  20. >and now the six of you are sleeping in the dirt
  21. >except for you
  22. >it's your turn to stand watch
  23. >not that you're eager to sleep in the dirt
  24. >annoyingly enough these artifacts you've never heard of couldn't even have to decency to be jewels this time
  25. >no
  26. >they're some sort of apples
  27. >but apparently, if they aren't sitting in a jar somewhere in Canterlot Castle
  28. >then alicorns can't exist in Equestria
  29. >frankly, you find the whole premise highly unlikely
  30. >weren't Princesses Celestia and Luna supposed to have been alicorns when they first arrived in Equestria?
  31. >you're sure if you asked Twilight Sparkle she'd have an explanation for you
  32. >you're not really interested
  33. >so it was a pair of perfectly ordinary unicorns, one white and one blue
  34. >who commissioned another perfectly ordinary unicorn
  35. >this one purple
  36. >with the task of retrieving these apples
  37. >and this perfectly ordinary purple unicorn asked her five best friends in the whole wide world to help her
  38. >ah, but there are a few major complications that come from this
  39. >in the first place, since ordinary unicorns Celestia and Luna have only ordinary unicorn power, they cannot raise the Sun or the Moon
  40. >you seem to recall learning that before the two of them, ordinary unicorns would combine their powers and raise the Sun and Moon together
  41. >but what do you know?
  42. >so right now, neither the Sun nor the Moon are in the sky
  43. >and your journey thus far has been lighted only by horns and stars
  44. >in the second place, without the magical effects of the magic apples, the former alicorns are aging rapidly in a bizzare reversal of their immortality
  45. >that's not such a problem for Twilight Sparkle
  46. >she was barely an alicorn for four years, so the most she can age is another four years
  47. >though you can't help noticing a pair of thin lines beneath her eyes
  48. >but Celestia and Luna
  49. >they're somewhat over one thousand years old each
  50. >Twilight gives the two of them about a year to live
  51. >and that's why you're sitting in the woods in a darkness that might be midnight
  52. >but it could be noontime
  53. >and there's mud on your hooves
  54. >it's not the first time something like this has happened to you
  55. >and it won't be the last
  56. >and this isn't your story
  57. >it's...
  58. >where did she go?
  59. >you see only four ponies asleep on the forest floor
  60. >none of them are purple
  61. >you stand on all fours
  62. >and wheel around
  63. >looking in all directions
  64. >but a hoof gently lands on your shoulder
  65. <"Rarity."
  66. >oh
  67. >there she is
  68. <"It's my turn to stand guard. Get some sleep."
  69. >you sigh
  70. "Thank you."
  71.  
  72. ~"Rise and shine, ladies! It's mornin' time now!"
  73. >Applejack quints her eyes in the dim starlight
  74. ~"Er, uh, probably. Maybe. Jus' gettup, y'all."
  75. >you've learned the art of packing lightly
  76. >just an ordinary pair of saddlebags seated on your rump
  77. >they're bulging and heavy
  78. >but if this had happened a year or two ago, you'd be pulling a wagon loaded high with frivoloties
  79. >this is about as minimalist as you're going to get
  80. >even now, you can see the sillhouette of one of your friends stooping to take a mouthful of grass
  81. >don't they know creatures step on that?
  82. >sometimes they even… do other things on that
  83. >it's much too icky to think about at this time of day
  84. >or… night?
  85. >fortunately, you don't have to worry about it
  86. >with the blue glow of your magic, you whisk a scone out of your saddlebag
  87. >you make quick, yet polite, work of it
  88. >pretty soon the six of you are trudging through the near total-darkness once again
  89. >except for hornlight, of course
  90. >the magenta of Twilight's horn compliments the blue of your own in a way that fascninates you here in the dark forest
  91. >maybe you can copy this effect in some of your works when you return
  92. >it's a sort of introspective feeling
  93. >too introspective
  94. >you'd go so far as to call this silence somewhat grim
  95. "Oh, Twilight."
  96. <"Hm? Yes?"
  97. "Doesn't this feel… poetic?"
  98. <"What do you mean?"
  99. "You're a unicorn, the Princess is in danger, Equestria is threatened with eternal darkness, and here the six of us are adventuring through the Everfree Forest once more. Doesn't it all sort of… rhyme?"
  100. <"Uh…"
  101. >a bounding figure appears at Twilight's side
  102. >awash in the pink glow of magic, you'd almost imagine that she was actually white
  103. /"Yeah! It's like destiny!"
  104. >Twilight sighs
  105. <"Pinkie, be quiet. This is serious. We don't know what could be out there listening for us."
  106. >well
  107. >just because it's true doesn't mean you can just out and say it like that
  108. >they say that an artist's creations are only an outlet for the art she cannot live herself
  109. >someone who actually lives art won't have much of an appreciation for it
  110. >the thought makes you want to groan
  111. >Twilight extinguishes her horn
  112. >then looks at you and silently bids you to do the same
  113. >the forest is dark once more
  114. /"Whoah! Who turned out the-"
  115. <"Quiet. Something is coming."
  116. >sure enough, up in the canopy
  117. >an orange light grows closer
  118. >the forest grows imperceptably warmer
  119. >as the sound of firey wings grows nearer
  120. >somehow, you're not really worried about it
  121. >it's much too early in the story for anything truly horrific
  122. >indeed, when the creature comes into view, you feel
  123. >at peace
  124. >and you know that you're right when you hear Fluttershy squeal
  125. _"Philomena!"
  126. <"It is Philomena!"
  127. >"And Spike!"
  128. >yes, there he is
  129. >dangling from the claws of the majestic phoenix
  130. <"What? Spike!"
  131. >"You didn't think you could just leave me behind, did you?"
  132. <"I-, errr, this is dangerous!"
  133. >"Relax, I've been on tons of adventures with you guys. Besides, the Princess wanted me to bring you this."
  134. <"A… nut?"
  135. >"Yeah, I don't really get it either. But the Princess said you'd find it useful…"
  136. >their conversation turns to background noise when something fuzzy lands on your neck
  137. >oh, ew! is it a bug?!
  138. >it's a…
  139. >a feather?
  140. >yes, what you've grabbed off of your neck is a feather
  141. >it's glowing a soft orange
  142. >like a sunset
  143. >or like coals in the dark
  144. >Philomena is perched on a branch above you
  145. >staring at you
  146. >if you didn't know any better, you'd say she winked at you
  147. >but you don't have time to tell for sure before she takes wing and disappears
  148. >"Hey, wait! Philomena! You're my ride!"
  149. ~"Oh? I thought you wanted ta come along."
  150. >"I-I do, it's just…"
  151. >giggles
  152. >you study the feather in your hoof
  153. >it's very lovely
  154. >you stick it in your bag
  155. >maybe you'll be able to weave it into a piece after you get back
  156.  
  157. _"Ah! What was that?"
  158. ~"It's nothin'. Pipe down already."
  159. >Rainbow Dash coughs
  160. #"Isn't it kind of weird that we've been wandering abound the Everfree Forest for so long and still haven't met anything that wants to eat us?"
  161. /"But why would we want to meet anything that wants to eat us?"
  162. <"Rainbow's not saying she wants to meet any monsters. She's just saying it's strange that we haven't. And she's right. It's almost as if-"
  163. *"-As if I was right behind you this whole time?"
  164. #"Ha! Knew it!"
  165. >from behind, a section of the woods lights up as bright as day
  166. >and in the light stands a shadow
  167. >a unicorn mare, a bit too tall to be perfectly ordinary
  168. >her coat is glossy black like ebony
  169. >her mane is a flowing mass of gold, emitting light like the Sun
  170. >hm, yellow on black…
  171. >it's eye-popping to be sure…
  172. >but it's so unorthodox as to be jarring
  173. >there's no way those are her natural colors
  174. >there's no mistaking it
  175. >this menacing figure is the maniac of the week
  176. >now what was her name again…?
  177. <"Idun!"
  178. >right
  179. >Idun
  180. <"Give us back the apples!"
  181. >Idun laughs
  182. *"Why? So you can have them? No, I think I can put them to much better use."
  183. >Twilight's horn lights up with arcane power
  184. <"Then we'll have to take them."
  185. >Idun laughs again
  186. >why do they all laugh?
  187. >always the same laugh, too
  188. *"I own more magical artifacts than you own tiaras, princess. Did you really think I'd come unprepared? Be a good girl now and settle down. I'd hate to do anything drastic before you've led me to the Elements of Harmony."
  189. <"You want the Elements?"
  190. #"Never!"
  191. >a blue blur races toward Idun at face-smashing speed
  192. >but it never connects
  193. >where did that sceptre come from?
  194. >what was that noise?
  195. >it's pitch black now
  196. >and windy
  197. >are you… falling?
  198. >something hurts
  199. >and then…
  200. >nothing
  201.  
  202. >the first thing you see is green on the ground
  203. >is the Sun back up?
  204. >did you sleep through the whole adventure already?
  205. >ah, no, if only
  206. >the green is, in fact, not grass, but dragonfire
  207. >a burning branch held aloft in Spike's claw is casting an eerie glow through what seems to be some sort of cave
  208. >"Rarity! Guys, she's waking up!"
  209. _"Oh, Rarity, thank goodness!"
  210. /"Have a good nap, silly-head?"
  211. >hm
  212. >Spike, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie are crowding around you
  213. >but where are the others?
  214. "Mm, indeed not. I'd say it was a very dreadful nap indeed. Where is everyone else?"
  215. >the cavern wall speaks
  216. <"We're over here, on the other side. Now that you're awake, we can work on moving forward and regrouping."
  217. "Oh, dear. However did we get separated?"
  218. <"Another one of Idun's toys. I knew she had an extensive collection of artifacts, but I never guessed that she had the Staff of Sysyphus."
  219. "The staff of who now, darling?"
  220. <"The Staff of Sysyphus. It transports the victims to a monstrous underground realm."
  221. "Oh, that's wonderful. How do we get out?"
  222. <"As long as the victims are in the underground realm, the caster has to be there too. Idun is down here somewhere with us. If we can find her and get the Staff, we can go home."
  223. "And I suppose you already have a plan?"
  224. <"Well, it's not much of a plan, but we only really have one option. On either side of this wall, there's only one way to go: forward."
  225. "So we just move along and hope for the best then?"
  226. <"More or less. There's probably a junction somewhere further down where our tunnels come together. It might even lead us straight to Idun."
  227. "And if, instead, we come across winding and treacherous paths that separate us?"
  228. >Twilight pauses
  229. <"We'll figure that out if we come to it. But there's really no choice but to keep moving until we find each other and then Idun."
  230. "Well, in that case, I'm about as ready to be done with this week's adventure as you are. Let us proceed."
  231. <"Agreed, let's go. Rarity, you're in charge over there."
  232. "What? Me?"
  233. <"Who else?"
  234. >oh
  235. >Twilight
  236. >Applejack
  237. >Rainbow Dash
  238. >they're all on the other side of that wall
  239. >oh, dear
  240. >for all the adventures these friends of yours have gotten you caught up in
  241. >this is one thing that's never happened before
  242.  
  243. >beyond the combined light of your horn and Spike's makeshift torch, the darkness is impenetrable
  244. >pop
  245.  
  246. >the solid wall of black obscures the origins of a thousand subtle noises
  247. >pop
  248. >indeed, Twilight had called this place a "monstrous realm", and what monsters could be lurking just out of sight is a question you dare not imagine the answer to
  249. >pop
  250. >a sound of moving air could be merely a draft, or it could be the breath of some massive abomination
  251. >pop
  252. >a sound of dripping water could simply be  a leaky aquifer, or it could be the drool of a horrific creature
  253. >poppop
  254. "Pinkie Pie!"
  255. /"Whaaaat?"
  256. "Stop that!"
  257. /"But it's soooo quiet down here!"
  258. _"T-too quiet…"
  259. <"Quiet over there! I think I hear something!"
  260. >you hold your breath
  261. #"Aw, come on, it was noth-"
  262. >the cavern
  263. >trembles
  264. <"There it is!"
  265. ~"Hwat in tarnation!"
  266. "Twilight! What's happening over there? How can we-"
  267. >you're cut short by a very, very un-subtle noise
  268. >some sort of roaring shriek, presumably from whatever the girls on the other side of that wall are seeing
  269. <"Rarity! Keep moving forward! Try to stay near this wall, but staying out of harm's way is your number one priority. If you see any monsters, r-uagh!"
  270. >"Twilight! Twilight!"
  271. >a large chunk of boulder is loosed from the cavern wall and lands mere inches away from you
  272. >you don't need to be told twice
  273. >unceremoniously, you toss the panicking Spike onto your back
  274. >then you shove the frozen Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy
  275. >and the three of you run
  276. >as fast as you can
  277.  
  278. >all
  279. >is quiet
  280. >gone are the drips
  281. >the winds
  282. >the subtle clackings in the distance
  283. >even the suggestion of a constant roar in the background has given way to an oppressive wall of silence
  284. >even your own hoofsteps have been muffled to the faintest sound of shuffling as the cave floor has graduated from rocky to earthen
  285. >the path, at least, has been fairly straight
  286. >your plan right now is to come to a point where your side of the cave merges with Twilight's
  287. >and to wait
  288. >and hope
  289. _"You really think…"
  290. >Fluttershy hesitates
  291. >as though she's unsure if she really wants to break the silence
  292. _"… they're okay?"
  293. >you take a few silent steps before answering
  294. "Of course, darling. Twilight, Applejack, Rainbow Dash… they're all… very, very strong."
  295. >the worst thing about the silence?
  296. >Pinkie Pie is the number one source of it
  297. >you regret telling her to stop making annoying sounds earlier
  298. >you wish she'd tell her silly little jokes
  299. >or do that bouncing-walk thing she always does
  300. >or something
  301. >claws wrap around your neck
  302. >"Hold up, Rarity. It looks like the path splits off here."
  303. >you stop looking forward for a second and see what's in front of you for once
  304. >the path to your right would keep you nearest to the dividing wall that's separated you from the others
  305. >but…
  306. >it's strange
  307. >it feels as though…
  308. >it feels as though the silence is pouring out of that tunnel
  309. >it makes you feel uneasy
  310. >but a feeling is only a feeling
  311. >rationally, that's probably the wiser path to take
  312. "I suppose we'll have to-"
  313. _"Wait."
  314. "Hm?"
  315. _"Sh."
  316. >something like a lizard comes scampering out of the right-hoof tunnel
  317. >there's nothing monstrous about it
  318. >it's certainly small enough to be non-threatening
  319. >but where are its eyes?
  320. >Fluttershy crouches down in its path
  321. >and lets it smack into her face
  322. _"What's wrong, little guy?"
  323. >the creature lets out a panicked chattering sound
  324. _"Oh… my…"
  325. >the creature chatters some more
  326. >and then scampers past Fluttershy
  327. >and vanishes from sight
  328. _"Something down the right-hoof tunnel has been terrorizing the animals. Something has been…"
  329. >Fluttershy looks at her hooves
  330. "Something has been what, darling?"
  331. _"… hurting them."
  332. >the silence pouring out of the right-hoof tunnel intensifies
  333. >it feels like something is getting closer
  334. >it feels like something is only just out of sight
  335. >and you're starting to trust in feelings
  336. "We need to move. Down the left-hoof tunnel. Now, there isn't a moment to waste."
  337.  
  338. -"Rarity."
  339. >you press onward
  340. >quickly
  341. >panickedly
  342. >Spike is sitting on your back
  343. >whispering into your ear:
  344. -"Rarity."
  345. "What?"
  346. >"Something is following us."
  347. >you know
  348. "I don't hear anything behind us."
  349. >"I don't hear anything either. But I see it."
  350. "What do you see?"
  351. >"It's kinda hard to explain. You should look at it for yourself."
  352. "I can't very well stop and turn around if there's something frightening following us, now can I?"
  353. >"I didn't say it was frightening."
  354. "Is it not, then?"
  355. >"No, it is."
  356. "It's smiling at us, isn't it?"
  357. >"Yeah. How could you tell?"
  358. "I can feel it."
  359. -"Rarity."
  360. "Yes, Fluttershy?"
  361. _"Um… that wasn't… me…"
  362. >you know
  363. "Oh, wasn't it?"
  364. _"No."
  365. -"Rarity."
  366. "Pinkie Pie, darling, is that you?"
  367. >your eyes are trained straight forward
  368. >but you can feel PInkie Pie shake her head no
  369. -"Rarity."
  370. "Spike…"
  371. >"Rarity…"
  372. -"Rarity."
  373. >you're not listening
  374. -"Rarity."
  375. >can't
  376. -"Rarity."
  377. >hear
  378. -"Rarity."
  379. >you
  380. -"Rarity."
  381. >you wheel around as though having a fit
  382. >and you shout
  383. "What? What do you want?"
  384. >and it smiles
  385. >and it waves
  386. >and it says
  387. -"Hi."
  388. >and you see it for what it is
  389. >it's the criminal who commits unthinkable crimes
  390. >but it's also the nasty little school filly who annoys her teacher
  391. >what you see is Cruelty
  392. >you look at Fluttershy
  393. >she sees it too
  394. >and she knows what to do
  395. >Fluttershy takes one step toward Cruelty
  396. >Cruelty's smile falters
  397. >how little did Cruelty expect to find its natural predator in a place like this
  398. >Kindness embraces Cruelty in the sweetest hug you've ever had the privilege of witnessing
  399. >and Cruelty whithers away pathetically
  400. >Fluttershy giggles
  401. >as though she's just witnessed a foal make a silly mistake.
  402. _"Let's keep moving on."
  403.  
  404. >Fluttershy is glowing
  405. >not literally, of course
  406. >ever since Spike's torch went out, the only thing that's been glowing down here has been your horn
  407. >but Fluttershy is standing a little taller
  408. >walking forward with a quiet confidence
  409. >Pinkie Pie, however…
  410. >for lack of a better way of putting it
  411. >she's still in a bit of a funk
  412. >eyes downcast
  413. >mouth closed shut
  414. >all in all, she's being very un-Pinkie-like
  415. >it's not so hard to understand
  416. >Pinkie Pie develops very strong affections for almost everyone she knows even incidentally
  417. >and she knows Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack much more than incidentally
  418. >more than likely, the fact that the last she's heard from them was the three of you…
  419. >well…
  420. >abandoning them to some sort of giant moster
  421. >that's probably what's got her feeling so gloomy
  422. >truth be told, you're more than a little uneasy about the fate of your friends yourself
  423. >your sense of reason is trying to tell you the three of them can more than handle most monsters
  424. >but you've got a bad feeling
  425. >and bad feelings can't be reasoned with
  426. _"Why hello there, little one."
  427. >hm?
  428. >oh, you've been lost in thought again
  429. >Fluttershy is crouching down to smile at…
  430. >a little blue filly?
  431. "Um, Fluttershy, I'm not sure that's quite a good idea…"
  432. >the child begins to sniffle
  433. _"Oh, don't say that, Rarity. You're hurting her feelings."
  434. "Um…"
  435. >the filly opens her mouth
  436. >and begins to wail in earnest
  437. _"Oh, there, there. Are you lost? We'll-"
  438. >a stone strikes Fluttershy in the head
  439. >a laurel of stars and birds whirls around your poor dazed friend
  440. >and she stumbles her way back to you
  441. _"I may need a moment to rest."
  442.  
  443. >the situation as far as you can tell:
  444. >the little blue earth pony crying on the cave floor before you probably isn't, strictly, speaking an earth pony
  445. >you say this because her crying seems to be causing rocks to fly about in the air
  446. >your immediate reaction would be to turn around and try to go down the other side of that fork in the path you came to earlier
  447. >however
  448. >Fluttershy is dazed and confused from being hit with a rock
  449. >she's currently leaning against the cave wall, her head swaying and her knees shaking
  450. >she's not exactly in any shape to be making a speedy escape
  451. >Spike is sitting on your back and screaming into your ear
  452. >and if Pinkie Pie has any ideas, she certainly isn't voicing them
  453. >that little filly needs to be cheered up
  454. >you duck your head and barely dodge a stone that would have probably ruined your facial
  455. >she needs to be cheered up immediately
  456. >you use your magic to rummage about your saddlebags
  457. >you should still have a few…
  458. >pastries!
  459. >this muffin should do the trick
  460. "Ah, excuse me. Little filly? Are you hungry? I've got a nice banana nut muffin here for you, if you'll be a dear and stop crying for a moment."
  461. >and for a moment
  462. >she stops crying
  463. >she looks at the muffin for a moment
  464. >and then
  465. >an ear-piercing wail
  466. >and the rocks come flying again
  467. >and for an instant everything is white
  468. >and then everything is blurry
  469. >and your head hurts
  470. >you groan
  471. "Ah, I'm sorry… You must be watching your weight…"
  472. >you stumble over near Fluttershy
  473. >did Spike fall off of your back?
  474. >spinnking around, you catch a glimpse of Pinkie Pie
  475. >it looks like she's smiling again
  476. >that's… good…
  477. >the next few minutes are odd
  478. >you're definitely conscious
  479. >but you can't really focus on anything beyond keeping your hoof on the spot where the rock hit you
  480. >but you think you can hear…
  481. >laughter?
  482. >eventually, the pain dulls to tolerable levels
  483. >you find yourself facing into the tear-stricken face of Fluttershy
  484. >she's still cradling what looks like a nasty bruise on her forehead
  485. >you force your hoof to the cave floor
  486. >and you turn your body to see what's going on
  487. >the rocks are all strewn about, but all calm
  488. >Pinkie is sitting in the middle of them
  489. >and the sad little filly
  490. >not so sad anymore
  491. >is sitting between Pinkie's forelegs
  492. >giggling
  493. /"And I said, 'That's no racehorse, that's my mother!'"
  494. >the filly's laughter turns to squeals of delight
  495. >and then
  496. >she's gone
  497. >she leaves behind a fleeting echo of merriment
  498. >and that passes too
  499. >Pinkie Pie smiles and waves at you
  500. /"Hi, Rarity! Sorry I've been such a debbie-downer today. That joke you told earlier really cheered me up!"
  501. "Joke?"
  502. /"You know, the one about watching your weight."
  503. >you scoff in disbelief
  504. >then you grin
  505. >and then
  506. >you laugh
  507.  
  508. >maybe it was minutes ago
  509. >maybe it was hours ago
  510. >maybe it was yesterday
  511. >but at some point you started hitting forks in the path rather frequently
  512. >at the first fork there was something of a lengthy discussion as to which path to take
  513. >which one was most likely to lead to Twilight's group
  514. >which one had more air flowing from it
  515. >which one sounded like it might have monsters in it
  516. >which one looked the prettiest
  517. >the second fork had a rather similar discussion
  518. >the third might have as well
  519. >but at some point the discussions stopped
  520. >and at some point after that you lost track of how many paths you had to choose
  521. >maybe it's been dozens
  522. >maybe it's been over a hundred
  523. >somehow you're not worried about it
  524. >it's not that you've despaired of all hope
  525. >no, you feel quite hopeful that you'll be home quite soon
  526. >nor is it that you've lost your sense of reason
  527. >it's as though you're operating on a sense of reason operating on a different level from your conscious thought processes
  528. >the feeling of an arch in your back reminds of you of your cat, Opalescence, as she creeps toward an unfortunate pony's tail to claw at it
  529. >there's just something about this place
  530. >it makes you know exactly what to do, somehow, without telling you what exactly you need to do
  531. >this is a realm of beasts
  532. >and within it, you possess a beast's instinctual reason
  533. >you're on the prowl
  534. >you know that you've passed your last fork
  535. >and that just around this next bend is…
  536. "Idun!"
  537. >a tall, garishly colored unicorn sits upon a shining throne, and pulls her chin away from her hoof
  538. >she's seated in a vast chamber surrounded by what seems like hundreds of impressive magical artifacts
  539. >and she's laughing
  540. *"So it was you three who found me first. I'm so glad. I'll use you as hostages against the stronger three, and hopefully I can get my hooves on the Elements without anyone getting hurt."
  541. >"Uh, there are four of us."
  542. >Idun chuckles
  543. *"Even better. The four of you then, be dears and get in that cage over there."
  544. /"What?"
  545. >Pinkie Pie leaps to her hind hooves and jumps about in exaggerated mock-fisticuffs
  546. /"You think we're just gonna get in some cage and give up? What's with you? Most bad guys would at least do it themselves, you lazy-flank!"
  547. *"You'd be foolish not to. None of you have the strength that the others possess, and you couldn't hope to defeat me. I'd much prefer to do this the easy way, so that noone has to get hurt."
  548. _"I don't want anyone to get hurt…"
  549. "Neither do I, but we aren't getting in any cage. Idun, I'll make a bargain with you."
  550. *"Oh?"
  551. >what are you saying?
  552. >you're rummaging about in your saddlebag, looking for…
  553. >a feather?
  554. >oh
  555. >oh!
  556. >a shining, scarlet feather floats in the air, surrounded by your sparkling, blue magic
  557. "This is the Feather of Philomena. With it, you may live forever just as surely as you could with Celestia's golden apples. I'd like to trade."
  558. >Idun is blinking
  559. *"The Feather… what? If it can make you live forever then why do you need the apples?… Is this a trick?"
  560. >you're staring into her eyes
  561. >and she's sweating
  562. *"I can just take it from you without any trade. How will you stop me?"
  563. "I'll trample this feather under my hoof, Idun, unless you give me the apples and send me and my friends home."
  564. *"You wouldn't! You can't just trample… I won't let you!"
  565. >the phoenix's feather is wrenched from your grasp
  566. >Idun is smelling it
  567. >rubbing it against her face
  568. >salivating over it
  569. "Idun. Will you let me have the apples now?"
  570. >Greed glares at you with hatred, and its horn shines with ominous power
  571. *"Of course not!"
  572. "Very well then."
  573. >with one hoof you grab Spike by the tail, and with the other by his neck
  574. >"Whoah, Rarity, what are you- gak!"
  575. >you yank on poor Spike's tail
  576. >and a stream of dragonfire hits the Feather of Philomena
  577. >and for a moment
  578. >everything is green…
  579.  
  580. >six mares stand in a nighted forest
  581. >with them is one baby dragon
  582. >one jar of golden apples
  583. >one magic staff
  584. >and one newborn foal, with a pink coat and a silver mane
  585. >you smirk
  586. >you knew her hair was dyed
  587. >Twilight's mane is mussed up and singed
  588. >Rainbow Dash is splattered with some sort of green substance across her chest
  589. >Applejack is breathing heavily and matted with sweat
  590. <"Huh? What? Who? Where? Rarity? Pinkie Pie? Fluttershy? Spike! What happened?"
  591. "Oh, nothing much, darling, I just defeated Idun for you."
  592. >"With some help…"
  593. <"What? You? But-"
  594. "Why, I get to be the hero sometimes, don't I?"
  595. >Twilight blinks
  596. <"What happened?"
  597. >you and your erstwhile companions explain the trials you all had to face
  598. >Fluttershy's encounter with Cruelty
  599. >Pinkie Pie's conquest of Tears
  600. >and how Idun, when you got right down to it, was Greed
  601. >and how you deafeated her
  602. >with Spike's help, of course
  603. >apparently, the adventure's of Twilight's group weren't nearly so poetic
  604. >they mostly just had to fight with giant monsters
  605. >Twilight scratches her chin with her hoof
  606. <"But… there's one thing I don't understand."
  607. "What's that?"
  608. <"The thing you did with the dragon fire and the phoenix feather. I've never heard of that. How did you know it would work?"
  609. >you shrug
  610. "I suppose I just had a feeling."
  611.  
  612. >after a trip to Canterlot, the Princesses are young again and the Sun graces the sky once more
  613. >after a train ride back to Ponyville, all you want to do is take a nap
  614. >folks always suppose that these stories end with a quip, or a group laugh, or even a musical number
  615. >but really, they end with about six additional hours of beauty rest
  616. >adventures are exhausting
  617. >you're about to push open the door to the Boutique when something tickles your neck
  618. >oh, ew! is it a bug?
  619. >it's a…
  620. >a feather?
  621. >you grin
  622. >perched on the sign displaying the name of your business is a majestic, orange bird
  623. >she winks at you
  624. >you giggle
  625. "Good night, Philomena."
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