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Nightmare

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Moveset:

Gender: Male

Species: Evil Spirit/Sword

Game Series: Soul Series

First Appearance: Soul Edge (1995)

Health: 1,050,000 HP Points

Voice Actor: Patrick Ryan

Power Ranking (Out of 7)

Intelligence: 3
Strength: 7
Speed: 5
Stamina: 5
Energy Projection: 5
Fighting Ability: 7

Assist Alpha: Soul Edge Guillotine (Direct, Tilt Down)
Assist HC: Soul Explosion
Assist Beta: Soul Edge Spear (Direct, Front)
Assist HC: Soul Explosion
Assist Gamma: Soul Wave (Direct, Instant)
Assist HC: Soul Explosion

Description:

There was a time when a man named Siegfried Schtauffen took control of the Soul Edge, becoming powerless under the power of the blade. He eventually was able to retrieve his mentality and used the power of the holy blade Soul Calibur in order to save his body. He was separated from his Nightmare form and became the new wielder of Soul Calibur, while Inferno made a pact with Zasalmel, who made him a new body of his own. Thus…Nightmare was born.

Entrance: Nightmare will have his back turned to his opponent. Then, swinging Soul Edge over his head, he'll turn around and get into his fighting stance.

Entrance Quotes:

#1: Give in to the Dark Abyss of Despair!

#2: Taste Fear!!~

#3: Tremble within my Darkness!!

#4: Your soul will soon become mine!

#5: My Power is absolute!

Against Ryu: Warrior of Legend…your soul shall be mine!

Against Akuma: Your soul is like that of my own…

Against Sentinel/Zero: Soulless being, be gone from my Sight!

Moves:

Attack Layout:

Ground Level

Standing Light: Sword Handle (51,000)

Standing Medium: High Kick (64,000)

Standing Light: Nightmare Gauntlet (80,000)

Standing Special: Soul Edge Upper Swing (90,000)

Crouched

Crouching Light: Low Kick (49,000)

Crouching Medium: Low Gauntlet (65,000)

Crouching Hard: Low Soul Edge Sweep (78,000)

Air Attacks

Air Light: Straight Kick (57,000)

Air Medium: Soul Edge Slash (70,000)

Air Hard: Soul Edge Slash #2 (80,000)

Air Special: Soul Edge Axe (90,000)

Unique Moves

Straight Stab (F + H) (85,000)

Nightmare Smash (F + M) (70,000)

Special Moves

NightMare Punch (Qcf + L) (90,000)

Charged with the powers of Soul Edge, Nightmare will do a straight punch charged with dark energy. The attack can stop fireballs if timed properly.

Soul Edge Guillotine (Qcf + M) (100,000)

Nightmare will bring down his Soul Edge on the opponent, the attack causing an OTG bounce and can stop projectiles.

Soul Edge Spear (Qcf + H) (110,000)

Nightmare's reach at its best. Nightmare will stick out his sword straight at the opponent. This attack can smash through any projectile in the game and takes up 2/3 of the screen in distance.

Knight Crusher (Dp + A) (140,000)

His standing Mashing Y/Triangle combo from SC4, Nightmare will smash down his sword a total of three times, the first two times causing a possible hit decay while the third strike causes a ground bounce.

Soul Crusher Side Slash (Qcb + L) (95,000)

Charged with electric blue soul power, Nightmare will swing his sword sideways, sending the opponent flying back. The attack can cancel out fireballs.

Soul Crusher Uppercut Slash (Qcb + M) (115,000)

Charged with electric blue soul power, Nightmare will uppercut his sword and the opponent with it. This attack can be air comboed into if the attack is timed right.

Soul Crusher Drop Kick (Qcb + H) (120,000)

Charged with electric blue soul power, Nightmare will do a double leg drop kick at the opponent, causing a wall bounce upon connecting with them.

Soul Wave (Down + Down + A) (100,000)

Nightmare will build up a large amount of energy within his body, then expelling it outward in a barrier-like burst. This attack causes an instant Wall bounce upon contact, even from the other side of the screen.

Hyper Combos

Flaming Souls (Qcf + AA) (300,000)

A quick one-hit armored Hyper combo, Nightmare will take Soul Edge in both hands and the blade will alight on fire. Nightmare will then lunge forward and uppercut it into the air, This attack has 2 hits of hyper armor and the flame lengthens the amount of distance on the hyper combo. This attack cancels out all projectile attacks and can even cancel out high priority hyper combos like C.Viper's Emergency Combination.

Soul Explosion (Dp + AA) (285,000)

Nightmare will charge Soul Edge with negative energy and do a lance stab with the sword, large amounts of dark energy flying around the sword as he does so, causing a large amount of combo damage.

Soul Destroyer (Down + Down + AA) (280,000)

A counter hyper combo, Nightmare will charge up a very large amount of energy within his body. If the opponent attacks him as he does so, he'll expel the energy outward in a shockwave, sending the opponent flying and causing a wall bounce.

Level 3: Critical Finish (Qcb + AA) (450,000)

Nightmare's Critical Finish from  is now his level 3 Hyper combo. The attack begins with an uppercut sword slash. If the attack connects with the opponent, Nightmare will throw his sword up into the air, which will air combo the opponent before bringing them back down into the ground. Soul Edge will then cause a giant area of dark energy to appear around the opponent as it combos them and explodes, ending the hyper combo.

Victory Pose:

Nightmare will take the Soul Edge in both hands, then raising it above his head, the sword shooting off Red Lightning from its tip into the air.

Victory Quotes:

#1: The Nightmare…will NEVER END!!

#2: Blood…Darkness…Come Unto Me!!

#3: Your souls…were rather good!

#4: Your Meager Souls are WORTHLESS!!!

#5: The Darkness is everlasting!!

#6: The End...is near!

Against Ryu/Akuma/Wolverine: Warrior…your soul shall surely satisfy me!

Assist Quotes:

Call Partner:

"Destroy!"

Switch-Out:

"Tremble in Fear!"

Last Person Switch Out:

"The Darkness is coming for you!!"

Color Scheme:

#1: Dark Blue

#2: Black

#3: Dark Red

#4: Dark Green

#5: Dark Brown

#6: Dark Purple

I hereby give Capcom full rights over this moveset and are welcome to use this in any way/shape/form that they desire.
"TREMBLE IN MY DARKNESS!!"

*Ahem* Well...I've been playing alot of Soul Calibur 4 lately and...well...I was tempted to make a moveset for possibly one of the best and coolest game villains ever, Nightmare from the Soul Calibur . This guy is one of the reasons I hope they expand to Namco vs. Capcom after Street Fighter X Tekken is done, for I'd use a team of Felicia and Nightmare (And Wesker if it's 3 vs 3) and be completely unstoppable! >8D

Anyways...enjoy everyone. :3
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Living, breathing, organic life.
Warriors, blood, death sacrifice.
Pain, wounds, tears, and scars.
Love, strength, courage, will.
Swords, guns, fists, and speed.
Kalee, homeworld.
Sheelal, dreamer.
Practice, battles, victories, triumph.
Kummaar, friend.
Close, protect, heal, sense.
Beach, death, shock.
Sadness, denial, depression, heartbroken.
Dillusion, grief.
Anger, rage.
Hide.

Jedi.      Separatists.

Return, different.
changed.
Scarred.
Disturbed, vengeful.
Negotiation, agreement.
work exchange, aid.
Dishonor, unfaithful.
Plans, tactics.
Loyalty, permanent, bomb

Mission, shuttle, martyr.
Boarding, unaware.
Preparation.

Explosion.
Fading.
Blur.
Numb.

Taken, separatist, kept alive.
Surge, unconcious.
Tank, floating.
No arms, no legs, no mouth.
Life support, table, robotics.
Lifeless, careless, blunt.
Blood, slaughter, guts.
Body parts, replacements.
Transferred, tampered, tortured.
Grotesque, cruel.
Wires, drills, parts.
Cold, lifeless, metal.
Deformed.
Brainwashed, controlled, used.
Cheated, lied.

Rise, reborn, new.
Loyal, general.
Droid, cyborg.
Empty, shame, disgrace.

Broken.

Lessons, teachings, combat.
Lightsabers.

Formidable, dangerous, evil, malevolent.

Anger, hate, rage, revenge, personal.
Sadness, change, memories.

             Grievous

Eyes, organs, stomach.
Remains, plated.
Faceplate, chestplate, talons.
Cape, symbols, bodyguards.
           
            Difference.

             No honor.
             No thoughts.
             No feelings.

        Half-life, respirator, wheezing, coughing.

                  Grievous.

                  Reflection.
This is the life of General Grievous told through...uh.....poetry, I guess.
Most likely. Well, it was reeeaaallllly easy for me to write this, and I enjoyed writing it too.

Did this last night on my iPhone.

I try to find the raw emotion that can express the pain that Grievous went through.

I might do more of this for other characters in SW and maybe some from POTC.
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(Requested by Dekler :3)
Fleet waited.
And waited.
And waited.

....

She opened her eyes, and saw that the Enderman had backed away slightly, and was now holding out a hand to help her up. The blond stared. What... Why on earth? In utter confusion, she grabbed it's hand and let out a yelp as it hoisted her to her feet with ease and held out the diamond block she'd abandoned when she'd run away. But why? Fleet tilted her head and took the block, looking into the Enderman's eyes. It stared back and seemed to quiver a little, but it could still move. Why? Just... Why?

The answer was because it liked those big bright blue eyes, and the shiny hair. The Enderman wondered whether or not the hair was soft. Fleet didn't understand why it was staring at her hair... Did it want to pet her or someth- Her question was answered as it raised it's hand to her head and ran it through her short hair. It sent a small shock through her, jolting her body. It was indeed soft, and the Enderman could detect a faint sugary scent wafting from the pretty locks. Fleet on the other hand just felt sort of awkward. This was sorta weird... A faint blush appeared on her cheeks, because she was so confused and embarrassed. Did this tall gangly thing just follow her to her house to pet her, or what?

She looked at the floor, down at the Enderman's feet. The second she did, she saw him take a step forward and looked up in surprise- SURPRISE! Much to her absolute confusion, she'd looked up and locked lips with the Enderman. Almost immediately, she took a step away. However, the Enderman just wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close again. He liked her. He liked her a lot. He liked the feelings his tummy had when he looked into her eyes, and he especially liked the feeling that he'd had just now. Fleet's face was bright red... This was so awkward. Did this beast.. No, this person have no idea what was coursing through her mind right now? In all honesty, it was like it had a crush on her or something... Oh god. Oh god. Her eye's widened, and she looked up at the tall, dark shadow she was being hugged by. Despite being rather naive when it came to love, she knew what she saw in those eyes. Infatuation. Curiosity. But no lust. That was interesting. But still awkward. Here she was being apparently courted by him, even though he'd just been terrifying the hell out of her a few minutes ago. What. The. Heck? She thought, unconsciously leaning her head onto his chest.

The Enderman let out a gleeful whisper and hugged her tighter, wishing it could speak to her. But it couldn't, not in this realm. In this realm, he was paralyzed by the stares of everyone until they looked away. And for some reason, after they stopped looking at him, he would attack most of them. He didn't understand why, though. Nor did he understand how this girl was any different, other than the fact that he liked her a lot. But he didn't know if she knew. What if... he took her to his realm, to The End? After all, he couldn't court her correctly, otherwise. When Endermen found mates, they went to the Great and wise Enderdragon and asked for a scale with which to propose to their mate. The dragon would give them the scale, and they in turn would give the scale to the lucky Enderman/woman. Or, in this case, Human. The idea in his head felt great, so the Enderman went with it. He let go of Fleet, who'd been sort of comfortable for a while there and tore one of her heavy curtains from the window, draping it over himself. It was daytime now, so they needed to make a break towards the portal.

Fleet stared, not really happy with him for ripping her curtains off of their hinges, even if it was probably to protect him from the light. However, she had no time to say anything about it, because the Enderman grabbed her by the hand after wrapping himself tight with the curtain and threw one of his Enderpearls to the ground. Fleet let out a yelp of surprise- Not the first one today- as they were instantly warped to the inside of a Stronghold, in front of a large glowing square with lava below it. Fleet had no idea what it was, she only knew that the seemingly suicidal Enderman was pulling her along with him into the portal, straight towards the lava. "Are you crazy?!" She screamed in total horror, not wanting to die today. However, they didn't die. The bright portal blocks caught them instead, and they fazed away instantly. Fleet blinked.

Then unblinked. Suddenly, the two of them were in a strange world, where there were Ender people everywhere. They looked up with interest, seeing one of their brethren covered in a strange cloth, and him holding hands with a pale skinned girl. One of the female Enderman came up to him and asked, "What is this?" In a whispery voice. She wasn't mean about it, just inquisitive. Another one came up. "A ghost?" He suggested, tilting his head. Fleet's Enderman shook his head. "No... Human." He stated, smiling. Within the actual realm of The End, one could actually see an Enderman's features quite well. Fleet was confused. "Umm.." She murmured, tilting her head. The Enderwoman looked up in surprise. "You can... Speak?" She asked innocently, so much so that Fleet had to crack a smile. "Well, yeah. But... Um... Where are we?" She asked, tilting her head. The Enderwoman smiled back and giggled. "In The End, of course. Ec'e Has brought you here, for reasons we don't know..." She explained, reaching up suddenly to run a hand through Fleet's golden hair. It shone brightly within the dim light of The End, making her truly seem like a ghost. Fleet blushed a little, not used to so much attention. However, she turned to Ec'e, the Enderman who had brought her here, and whom she'd seemed to develop a small attachment to. "Why did you bring me here... Ec'e?" The young woman asked, tilting her head. Ec'e Looked away slightly, and a tinge of purple came to his cheeks. "I can't ask you until I go get something." He explained, then turned to the Enderwoman who was busy petting Fleet. "Eun'e, can you maybe show her around while I go do something?" He asked, and Eun'e nodded. She knew exactly what was going on. But first, she looked at Fleet, who had a look of confusion plastered onto her pretty face. "What's your name?" She asked, smiling as she led her off towards god knows where. "I'm Fleet. Nice to meet you." She said happily. Eun'e's smile widened. "I am Eun'e, as you know. Nice to meet you as well, Fleet. I'm Ec'e's sister, by the way." The two walked off, with a few other Enderpeople following along to question the Human about her world. In the meantime, it was up to Ec'e to get a scale from the Almighty Enderdragon.

It wasn't all that hard to scale the islands of Whitestone to get to the Enderdragon. What was hard was getting him to give him permission to become lifemates with the human girl, Fleet. The dragon simply did not understand. "You..." It rumbled in it's deep voice, which still had an echoey tone to it, "Wish to take a human. Not from this realm, not even your own species... That's interesting. But why do you wish to do so?  Is it because she's a shiny new toy, to show off to all the others?" It asked, tilting it's head as it inspected it's huge claws. Ec'e shook his head, but had trouble finding the words to speak. The dragon smirking and leaned in close, until his large snout was a mere inch away from Ec'e's face. "So. You don't want to show the human off. I can see into your mind, why you like this human. No Enderperson has ever caught your eye, but when you saw the human today, you felt a flipping in your stomach, didn't you? Something new, special, pretty, full of wonder and life. Something you could fall in love with." It murmured, making Ec'e's face go dark purple. That was exactly how he felt. But the way the Great Enderdragon had put it, it sounded like it was shallow and not even real love.

Suddenly, the dragon turned away and let out a great, laughing, roar. He plucked a scale from his hide and turned around, handing it to Ec'e. "Go now, little Enderman. Just go." He ordered, still chuckling. Ec'e booked it off the mountain, grinning like a madman. He was going to get Fleet, and take her. They would be each others. As long as she accepted the scale.

And you now what?

She did.
xD Ending requested by :icondekler:
I fail at cute endings, so it's really super duper uber sappy. xD
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It was the summer of 1957, and the night was calm and warm.  The storm clouds from earlier were now just a few harmless puffs on the horizon, but the air still held a faint scent of sweet rain.  A light breeze danced through the woods just outside of town, rustling the leaves of the oaks and maples and birches.  And within these woods were two travelers, seemingly following some unseen path through the growth.

“Come on, it’s just a little bit farther,” called the man in the lead.  He had short, scruffy, sandy brown hair and wore large, squarish glasses over his big sky blue eyes. He picked his way through the thick underbrush with an air of someone who had done it many time before.  The woman behind him, however, wasn’t having the same amount of luck.

“I sure hope this it worth it, Will!” shouted the petite Asian woman as she pulled her shirt free of another branch.  “I don’t know how much longer my clothes can last out here.”  She paused to untangle a strand of red-highlighted hair from a bush. “Or my hair.”

The man scoffed. “Pfft. It’s not like you don’t have enough clothes.  And besides, we’re here.”  Then he stepped out into a small clearing.

The woman followed him, glad to be rid of those pesky branches at last.  She swept her blouse and skirt free of any remaining leaves, then looked up at her surroundings.  And her heart leaped into her throat when she saw what was growing in the clearing.

“Happy Birthday, Cyphae,” said the man happily.

Peonies. Hundreds of beautiful white peonies were nestled in that tiny clearing in the middle of the woods.  The moonlight shone down in shafts between the tree branches, making the flowers seem to glow in the night.  The scene was absolutely beautiful to her; almost too good to be true.

She had never seen so many flowers in one place before.  Her eyes moved across the space, trying to take it all in.  “Did… did you do all this?” she whispered, afraid that anything louder would break the magic and send all the flowers blowing away.

Will smiled.  “Yeah.  I know peonies are your favorites, so I just thought it might make a nice small present for my best friend’s birthday.  It took a while to find a spot far enough away from town so no one would steal the flowers, and it took a long time to save up to buy all the flowers, but it was worth it.  I know it’s not much, but - ”

He was suddenly cut off by a tight hug from Cyphae.  “Don’t be ridiculous.  It’s the most beautiful birthday present ever.”  Her violet eyes sparkled with joy.

Will beamed and returned the hug.  “C’mon, I got a couple of Cokes hidden in the bushes.  They’re not cold or anything, but I couldn’t exactly plug a fridge in out here, could I?”

Cyphae chuckled and joined him for a soda.

They sat amongst the flowers and talked for about an hour.  Then Cyphae sighed and laid back in the grass, basking in the moonlight.  Will followed suit, and they both laid there and gazed at the stars for a while.

“I’m so happy I met you, Will,” Cyphae said suddenly.  “My people don’t make many friends apart from other members of our… ah… species.” She paused at the last word like it was a curse word.  A short silence followed before she continued.  “They say that humans are dangerous, and that we’re better off sticking to ourselves.  But I don’t care.  I know that you’d never do anything to hurt me.” She smiled as she finished that sentence, her violet eyes beaming as well.

“Of course I wouldn’t, Cyphae!” Will responded quickly.  “Let your family say what they will.  Eventually they’ll see that I mean you and your people no harm.”

Cyphae smiled contently.  “Will… Promise me that we’ll be friends forever. Even when we’re old and have our own husbands and wives and kids, promise that we’ll always stay friends.”

“I promise, Cyphae,” the man answered.  “Even when we’re old,” he finished with a quirky smile.  Then he picked off a nearby peony and sniffed it, taking in the scent.  “Even after all these flowers die.”

Suddenly, a voice broke through the trees.  “Well, I’m terribly sorry to burst in on this sweet moment, but I have some important business to attend to with that young lady there.”

Cyphae and Will sat up and looked around for the source of the voice.  Soon enough, a man in his mid-30’s stepped out into the open.  He had sleek black hair, a square jaw, he wore a gray suit that looked more suited for a business meeting than the middle of the woods, and held a black cane in his left hand.  It was obvious he didn’t need it.  The words “vanity cane” suddenly sprang to mind.

“Who are you?” Will asked as he and Cyphae got to their feet. “And what do you want with Cyphae?”

The man chuckled lightly.  “Oh Will, you of all people should know why I’m here for her.  After all, you know her secret.”  He paused for a moment. “As do I.”

The woman’s eyes suddenly widened with fear.  Will didn’t… He couldn’t have! He swore he wouldn’t tell anyone!

The man continued speaking.  “But let’s not dilly-dally any more.  I simply want to take what I want and then I’ll get out of your hair.  Just don’t try to run, Cyphae…” He dropped his voice to an almost inaudible whisper.  “My little dragon.”

Then there were men everywhere around them.  They ran silently from the dark woods, carrying ropes and chains and knives.  And they were all headed towards Cyphae.

Cyphae’s body suddenly began to glow and shift.  She seemed to become a tiny white star, glowing bright as the sun.  She got brighter and brighter as her body continued to change.  And then, less than a second later, the star faded to reveal a sleek silver Eastern dragon.

The dragon instantly took to the air, out of the men’s reach.  “Will!” she shouted. She looked around for her friend so she could snatch him up and take him with her to safety.  Her eyes quickly scanned the area, searching desperately for him.  But Will was nowhere in the tiny clearing.

Then she felt something around her tail pull her downwards.  She realized it was one of the ropes and tried to fly back upwards, roaring in defiance. But as soon as she was back within the humans’ reach, more ropes and chains followed, sailing over her back and pulling her closer and closer to the ground.  She was soon pinned to the dirt, struggling and growling menacingly against her restraints.  But the men that held her were strong and held the ropes fast.  One man sat on the back of her head and managed to duct tape her jaws together like a crocodile’s.

Her eyes were still searching wildly for Will when the man in the gray suit stepped forward and kneeled by her head.

“Looking for your friend?” the man shook his head.  “Tsk tsk.  My dear, didn’t you realize? It was your friend that led us here in the first place.  He’s long gone by now. Probably to go pick up that hefty reward we left him for your capture.  But don’t worry. I told you we’d let you go once I got what I wanted.”  

He pulled out a vicious-looking hunting knife from inside his jacket.

“I’m sorry to have spoiled your birthday, my dear,” the man said with no sympathy in his voice.  He raised the knife above Cyphae’s head.  “But it looks like checkmate for you.”

And then the dragon roared in pain and betrayal as the blade was brought down across her left eye.

~~~

When the sun came up the next morning, both the men and the dragon were gone.  

All that was left as evidence of the night before were hundreds of white peonies, trampled and covered with blood.
And so it begins!

I decided that I had enough of a solid story to begin writing it. =) So I spurted this out last night at 1 in the morning. I was surprised that I still liked it in the morning. xD

I'm pretty excited to finally begin writing this. The story's changed a bit since I wrote the "Sneek Peek" scene though, so don't expect things to match up with that.

I like picturing Will as a stereotypical-looking nerd with freckles. It amuses me. ^_^

Oh, and I've had that logo figured out for two years now.
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A carpet of silence crept over the jungle as Fang delicatly perched herself on a tree branch, the Jugle Goddess resting herself after her earlier ordeal. What was supposed to be a simple check on a troop of apes turned into an utter riot as a rival troop attacked without warning and as far as Fang saw it, without cause. She rubbed the deep scratches on her well toned arm as she thought about the issue from a philosophical prospective, trying to understand the need for such wanton violence in her jungle. The thought was lost on her, but not the irony, afterall she did resort to such extreme measures to bring the now uneasy peace that would last as long as she was around. That last realisation brought a  slight smile to her crimson lips, while it may seem hyprocritical, Fang was at ease with herself; she did not condone violence but knew it had its place. Having endured the deafening shriek of the fight, the resting Godess began to enjoy the silence, yet her selfless side began to grow concerned; her owl like hearing could not make out a howel of a primate or even a single bird song. Fang was the this jungle's sacred protector, while she could not interfere with life's natural cylce, this silence was anything but natural. However just as concerning was Fang's location, she couldn't pinpoint her position, could she be lost? Indeed this jungle was vast but having spent life times here she knew almost every tree, at least she thought she did. Curiosity began to mix with concern as Fang dismounted from the branch, dislaying the finesse and grace of the most felixable feline as her lithe body landed with but a rustle of leaves. The jungle seemed far darker here, as if a foreboding presence was trying to ward her away. As a Goddess Fang was beyond any mortal, but she did share some human weaknesses; afterall this was her jungle and with that thought Fang's arrogance got the better of her. She continued to glide through the thick undergrowth like a ghost, trying her best not to disturb whatever lay here.

The uneasy feeling that Fnag had experienced was seemingly amplified by the lingering silence as she ventured ever deeper into the unknown. Her arrogance was soon humbled and subdued as the Goddess respected that whatever was here was not meant to be disturbed, but her curiosity kept her going; the more it drove her away the more she wanted to know what it was. Her eyes suddenly widened as she felt a faint near by presence, her finely tuned senses detecting what was most likely something hostile. Her muscles tensed as she readied herself for a confrontation, her injuries from the incident with the apes were light, and would be of no consequence to her fighting ability. Afterall it was logical, true the palpable unease was a formidable defense in its own right, but there had to be something else, prehaps this was responsible for the silence. Distracted by her thought, Fang lost track of the faint presence, with her sight blocked by undergrowth she had to rely on her enhanced hearing and sense of smell; but there was nothing. No, Fang was certain she detected something with her, were her senses being dulled? Before she could think of anything else, the beautiful Jungle Goddess spun around on the spot as the presence she had felt momments earlier was now behind her. Already expecting a fight, Fang ducked as a massive object raced above her head, obviously trying to lung at her. As she leaned heavily to the side, her long black hair wisped against the dark smooth form of her assailant; a giant python. This was nothing new to Fang, afterall her companion was such, though like so many others this one obviously had a hostile intent.  As Fang side stepped the striking constriction she uttered a stern warning that she was not to be trifled with, but there was no reply from the snake. Thinking she had put enough distance between herself and the python, Fang was caught by surprise as she felt the cool scales of the snake against her bare back. There was nowhere for the Goddess to move to as a foot  thick coil quickly rolled istelf around her torso, pushing itself under her amble chest  as it squeezed her ribcage and well toned stomach. The sudden squeeze forced a grone from between Fang's lips, to her shock her arms were pinned to her sides; the vice like grip giving her no room to even wriggle. The python's head slowly turned to face her as it replied to the warning she gave only a second before. The python did not seem to be phased at all, its voice was calm and from what Fang could tell, female, but the theat was one of death. The Goddess looked on as a second coil quickly slipped around her waist and hips, there was no malice in the python's voice, no evil intent, only truth. As Fang tired to make out what has happening the python squeezed her again, with only two contractions of her coils, this python proved far stronger than anynoe the Goddess had perviously encountered. Even Violet's unnatural strength was no real comparison. The python repeated her threat in the same calm tone as she kept squeezing and Fang was begining to believe it, her breasts were pushed up uncomfortably as the coil beneath them corkscrewed inwards around her ribcage, grinding against her. The huge snake effortlessly lifted Fang into the air, entwining and embracing her shapely legs in two thick coils of scaled muscle. Physically resiting this serpent was proving impossible, not helped by the fact her arms were securely clamped against her sides. Fang began to plede to her attacker, wanting to at least know what crime she had been found guilty of to deserve this treatment. Usually the Goddess would use force to triumph such perils, but she had to now rely on diplomacy and her skills as a negociator. It was obvious this python had no intention of devouring her, so to Fang she could be reasoned with, but the relentless constriction made concentration difficult. Huffing and panting the Goddess began to process of explainging herself, hoping the python would listen, at first the only answer was another round of squeezing as the coils wrapped so firmly around her inched inward. Not knowing how long she could sustain this kind of pressure, Fang doubled her efforts and to her relief the python faced her as she began to listen.

Fang grimaced as she clenched her ribs, though she was extremely greatful to have survived her most recent ordeal, her pain ridden face soon easing to a relived smile. It was not everyday Fang encounted a being as old as herself, or as powerful; yet what impressed Fang the most was that the guardian was willing to listen to reason rather than just mindlessly killing her. The only disapointment was her curiosity remained wanting, while her position as a Goddess of this jungle was enough for the guardian to spare her, it was not enough for fang to learn of whatever secret lurked in that forbiden zone. Despite the lingering questions Fang would honor this satus quo, afterall not keeping her word would go against everything she stood for. Yet somehow Fang was happy how things turned out, yes she was Goddess of the jungle, but this humbling experince gave her a perspective that the jungle, her home, demanded her greatest respect.
A short story and long over due for :iconzorzathir: featuring his character the Jungle Goddess Fang.

I don't really have much to say about this one as the plot mainly came from the top of my head. Though I do hope I followed :iconzorzathir:'s guidelines I did want to put Fang into a situation where she couldn't rely on force alone. Plus everyone enjoys reading about a buxom jungle girl, well Goddess, getting a nice tight squeeze. :XD:

Fang belongs to :iconzorzathir:
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Rarity sat huddled on the dressing room floor, sniffling as she beheld the task before her. On one side of her were the shoulder pads with their frayed tassels, the diamond-studded buttons and a single, chipped ruby. With them were over two dozen pieces of torn fabric, sewed together and arranged in a way that they were beginning to resemble a sleeve. Rarity found some solace in the fact the gold thread helped her know where to start, like the round edges of a jigsaw puzzle.

But it was of little comfort, as the other side of her showed; there lay the rest of the suit, haphazardly piled. She levitated two pieces from the pile and brought them in front of her, bringing them together. She looked at them intently (or as well as she could, given her eyes would water still), swapping their positions, rotating them in place, going through every possible combination. When it became clear they didn't fit with one another, she groaned in a small, miserable voice, and threw one of the pieces back into the pile, before choosing another torn fabric that might fit.

It had been half-an-hour since Mort had come and gone from the boutique, leaving behind an absolutely crushed spirit. Rarity could handle clients who were disappointed with her designs. Even when her friends had a lukewarm reaction to their Gala dresses, she was able to take it mostly in stride, and work on "improving" them. While that had almost been a career-killing disaster, the point was she could handle criticism. And even if the clients didn't like a dress, she could; she had yet to sew anything she did not absolutely adore. (Five, particular dresses aside, that she wished everyday would disappear into the pages of fashion history and become little more than an urban myth.)

What she couldn't handle, though, was the sight of her work—a product of much study, effort and heart—being torn to utter shreds, and mere minutes after being displayed for the first time. Seeing Mort encircled in the remains of the suit was like watching her heart get torn our and stomped on, over and over again. Looking at the remains once everypony left, she couldn't bear to throw it all away, and instead went about trying to restore it.

A small, rational voice in the back of her mind was telling her that she should stop. That even if she could manage to find the exact location that each shred would need to be, and somehow sew it all back together, the result would never be satisfactory, nor worth all the time and effort required. But every time she even thought of stopping, she would remember how pristine the suit looked, how proud and sure she was of it, and then go right back to trying to repair it, unable to part with something she had worked so hard on.

Making matters worse, she couldn't stop thinking about why it happened, and it lead to her getting distracted from her current task constantly. Sneaking in like she did was cheeky and, she admitted, rude of her, but did it really call for doing this? Wrinkling it, maybe ripping a sleeve to get  it off...but destroying it so utterly? Part of her couldn't stop thinking that it wasn't an accident from hiding his appearance; that instead, he had felt so disgusted by the suit he couldn't even bear to look at it, much less be seen in it. Or that it was some sort of punishment for trying to get a peek at him.

It would be incredibly cruel, if true, but it wasn't an image she could reconcile with what she knew of Mort, as little as it was. And Celestia certainly couldn't be friends with a pony of such brutish behavior. But how could such destruction possibly be anything but intentional...?

Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the dressing room door. "Uh, Rarity? Are ya doin' okay in there?" a voice drawled.

Rarity sighed, and took a moment to collect herself, wiping away fresh moisture from her eyes. Putting the fabrics down, she got up and strode towards the dressing room door. She stopped just in front of it, and used her horn to crack it open. She was met with Applejack's green eyes, staring leveling at her.

"Well?" the orange mare asked, arching a brow.

Rarity hmphed. "I am just fine, Applejack, just as I've told you every, other time you asked! I must insist that you leave me in peace."

Applejack rolled her eyes. "Rarity, you gone and locked yerself up for nearly an hour now! You ain't plannin' on stayin' inside all day, now are you?"

"No! Well, maybe...I-I just don't know!" she admitted lamely. "It...just depends on how long this will take."

"How long what will take?" Applejack's eyes glanced away from Rarity, trying to look behind the unicorn. Rarity slid to block her view, and continued to maneuver herself to keep the apple farmer from looking in.

After a minute of this, Applejack groaned and facehoofed. "Rarity, what in tarnations are ya doin' in there?"

"It's none of your business!" Rarity said, curtly, flipping her mane with a wave of her head. "And I doubt you'd understand, anyway."

Without taking her eyes off her, the farmer deadpanned, "Yer stitchin' that suit back together, ain't ya?"

Rarity let out a tight, little gasp. "How did you know?!"

"Ah know ya a bit better then ya might think, missy." Applejack shrugged, and with a smirk said, "Not to mention ya just told me, anyway."

Rarity bristled slightly, her face flushing with embarrassment. Utterly foalish, and she fell for it.

"Now can Ah come in?" the earth pony asked, sounding exasperated.

Rarity thought of shooing her back outside, but she didn't see the point. If she kept her out, Applejack would just keep pounding on the door while berating about what she was doing, and the farmer could easily be heard from behind the door if she wanted to. If she let her in, though, Applejack wouldn't have to keep raising her voice, she wouldn't have a door to pound on, and she might give Rarity a little silence if she saw how concentrated the fashionista was.

She sighed tiredly, and stood back, opening the door the rest of the way. Applejack gave her a courteous nod, and wasted no time trotting in, making a beeline for where the remains of the suit were. Rarity felt her fur stand on end as Applejack got closer to her work, and in an instant was across the room, barring the earth pony from going any further.

"Ah ah ah! Not one step further, Applejack!" she admonished. "You're going to disturb some very delicate work here!"

Applejack glanced down at the work area, and shook her head. "As it is, Rarity, Ah don't I could do much more to that get up than what's been done already." She sighed, and Rarity couldn't help but feel a little irritated by it. "For pity's sake, Rarity, yer goin' to be in here forever trying to make somethin' from all that! You barely got a sleeve!"

"For your information, I'm confident I'll be piecing a shoulder together very soon!" It took a moment for her rash reply to sink in, and Rarity's face turned even redder than before. Seething between her teeth, she said, "Just let me do this, Applejack! The act of dress making—or in this case, suit making," she said, under her breath, "is an art! How could I so callously abandon something I've put my very heart and soul into?" She couldn't help but add the theatrical flare at the end.

"Well, it's mighty easy, actually!" Applejack responded, simply. She walked around the bewildered beauty and took the sewn sleeve into her mouth. "All ya godda do is-"

"Applejack, you spit that sleeve out right this minute!" In a flash Rarity bit down on the frayed end, trying to pull it away from the earth pony, but Applejack simply tugged in the opposite direction. Rarity responded in kind, and soon the two of them were involved in a tug-of-war using a tattered sleeve.

"'Et go 'is insan!" Rarity mumbled through the fabric, glaring daggers at the farmer. She should have known Applejack would pull something something like this.

"Es a 'aste o' 'ime!" Applejack responded in kind, almost dragging the unicorn with each tug.

The two of them kept at it, rotating in circles as they tried to get the upper hoof. Applejack may have been one of the strongest ponies in the town, but Rarity wasn't a pushover by any means, and she wasn't about to let Applejack get her way. For every gain Applejack got from sheer force, Rarity got it back by pulling in a direction that almost made the earth pony stumble.

She wasn't going to find out which of them would give, though, because the sleeve gave first.

With a mighty rip the stitches finally gave out, and the two of them went rolling in opposite directions. Applejack collided with a rack of dresses, tipping it over on top of herself and bringing with it nearly a dozen hat boxes that were stacked on top.

Rarity didn't have time to feel mortified about what happened to those dresses. She was too preoccupied with the lancing pain she felt when her flank landed right on top of her pin cushion. She squealed in pain, and sat up quickly, shooting a smoldering look at the pin cushion that clung to her like a prickly seed. Her horn flared and she pried it off, gritting her teeth as she did so. She dropped it on the ground, and rubbed her sore flank.

Her eyes fell on the sleeve that was now how it was when she started: torn to pieces. She barely suppressed a growl as she floated the remains to her eyes. She shot a withering glare at the topsized clothes rack.

"Well, I hope you're happy!" she snapped, marching towards it. "Now I have to start all over again! You could be be so...so uncouth, Applejack!"

She stood there, waiting for the apple farmer to rise from the now wrinkled and maybe torn dresses, offering a similar retort. Instead the pile of clothes remained motionless, with not the faintest hint of movement going on underneath.

"Applejack?" Rarity bit her lip, feeling her earlier anger drain. Now that she thought about it, those racks could be awful heavy sometimes, and as many dresses as there were, they all weren't too thick. They wouldn't offer too much protection from something heavy falling down.

"A-Applejack?" Concern made its way into her voice, and she got closer to the pile, getting more anxious as time went by with no sound from the farmer. "Are you okay, dear?" She reached out tentative hoof. "C-come now, say something al-"

She scooted back in fright as the clothes suddenly erupted upward, sending dresses every which way. Something crawled out from the garment pile, and the sight of it made Rarity's jaw drop.

It was Applejack, but it was Applejack in one of Rarity's most bombastically frilly, jewel encrusted, ribbon covered, flowery and yellow gowns. It hid nearly every aspect of Applejack, save her forelegs and her head, the latter of which that was also sporting a large, wide brimmed hat that was practically overrun with flowers on top.

The earth pony wobbled on her hooves in a daze, before clearing the stars out of her head with a shake. Her eyes rolled up, finally taking notice of the hat's rim that nearly shadowed her face, and was soon discovering what else she wore. She let out a little yelp in shock, staring at the frilly dress in utter bafflement, before turning to look at Rarity.

The sight of Applejack in the dress, and her reaction to it, had an immediate effect. Rarity's earlier shock was quickly replaced by an uncontrollable mirth. A snort grew into a snicker, which then grew into full blow laughter as the unicorn collapsed on her knees, barely able to catch her breath.

"A-A-Applejack," she gasped out, barely able to get a word out, "o-oh my goodness! You're s-so...so..." Rarity tried to suppress another round of laughter, but only succeeded in holding back a moment longer before succumbing again, tears beginning to trickle down her cheeks.

She caught sight of the farmer glaring daggers at her, and for a moment she felt a pang of guilt about the earlier guffaw. But a moment later Applejack's face softened, and she smiled back.

"Heh." Applejack smiled in embarrassment. "Ah guess I look a little ridiculous, huh...?"

"A l-little," Rarity replied, finally bringing herself back up under control as she got back on her hooves. Yellow just wasn't a good color with that fur, and there plenty of other styles that worked so much better with her.

Applejack whipped the large hat off, and scrounged through the pile of clothing until she found her farmer's hat, which she put on with evident relief. She looked down at where she had dug it up, and her eyes caught something. She reached down and used a hoof to scoop up one half of the torn sleeve.

"Welp, Ah guess that makes two of us, huh?" she retorted, slyly.

Rarity felt a momentary flare of indignation, but the earlier mirth she felt had cleared her mind and wafted away the bit of misery she had been feeling until then. Looking at the torn cloth made her reevaluate just what she had been doing until now.

"I guess it does," she conceded with a sigh, and returned her own embarrassed smile. "I'm so sorry about all that, Applejack. When it comes to my work I tend to...well, lose my head."

"Happens to the best of us, Rarity," Applejack said, with a dismissive hoof wave. "Ah'm just glad we didn't have to get Opal in a tree this time."

Rarity giggled at the memory. Her horn lit up as she lifted the torn sleeve off of Applejack's hoof, and threw it behind her, towards where the rest lay. Watching it flutter to the ground, she again felt a longing to see the suit back to its pristine state, but it wasn't as strong as before.

"So," she started, trotting up to where the torn fabric was, "what am I to do with you now?"

"Only thing you can do." Applejack moved towards the corner of the room, her teeth grasping something that had been leaning against it. She came back to Rarity, pushing across the floor a small trashcan, with a brush and dustpan held in her mouth. She stopped in front of Rarity, dropped the cleaning supplies in front of the unicorn, then nudged them forward with her snout. She stood back up to give Rarity a knowing look.

Rarity bit her lip, her eyes switching between the trash can and the remains of the suit. With reluctance, she levitated the brush and dustpan over to where the scraps of cloth were, and begun to sweep the remains up, each stroke of the brush carrying the same hesitation she felt when digging in the diamond dog mines.

A few, agonizing moments later, everything save the diamonds and jewels were piled high in the dustpan. She hovered it near the trashcan, and couldn't help but look pleadingly at Applejack, hoping perhaps the earth pony would change her mind, or encourage her to do something else. The farmer simply gave a firm shake of her head.

Swallowing hard, she moved it the final, few inches needed to get it over the can's mouth, and with a little whinny, she tilted it, the torn rags tumbling out and into the trashcan.

Releasing a shaky breath, Rarity returned the cleaning utensils and trashcan to where they were, and offered a weak smile to Applejack. The farmed nodded approvingly.

"Feelin' better?" she asked.

Rarity considered telling her she wasn't, but as she looked at the now clean floor, and the corner of the room where she put everything away, she realized that a weight she didn't realize she had wasn't there anymore.

"I...actually do," she said, somewhat astonished, and very relieved.

Applejack winked at her. "There, ya see? Ah know how ya are with yer dresses and everythin', Rarity, but they ain't nothin' to get so worked up over. Heck, you could probably sew something twice as good in half the time from scratch, now that ya got a stab at makin' them in the first place."

"Hmm..." Rarity tapped her chin in thought. "Well, to be honest I did have a couple of ideas-"

"That can wait until after today," Applejack interjected, quickly. "We still gotta be helpin' Twilight show Mort 'round, remember?"

Rarity gasped, suddenly remembering what had started the whole chain of event. "Oh my goodness, don't tell me they've all been waiting this entire time?"

"Nah, nah, don' worry, Ah had them go on ahead of us." She fidgeted in the gown, looking at it uncomfortably. "A good thing too, Ah think."

"Yes, I'd hate for these self-pity sessions of mine to put a halt to everyone's fun. We should..." She stopped herself, the image of Mort, surrounded by tatters, stuck in her head. "Uh...that is, you should go on ahead. I can just stay here and tidy up. Don't wait on my account."

Applejack tilted her head quizzically. "What about you?"

"Oh, well...I mean..." She tried to think of a good excuse, but the way Applejack bore into her made such a thing nearly impossible to do. Even the smallest fib would sound utterly weak under those eyes. She sighed in defeat, her head slumping forward. "I'm sorry, Applejack. I'm afraid my presence would only give rise to some...tension, with our guest."

"What, ya mean Mort?" Rarity nodded, and Applejack gave a little pfft in response. "You kiddin' me? That feller looked sorrier than Winoa when I catch her in my duds. He actually wanted to stick around 'cause of what happened."

"Really?" she said, in disbelieve. "But...I mean, after what I did, and after what he did to my suit, I would think..."

"Come on, now, Ah hardly think he meant to do anything like that. Ah just think ya just spooked the poor guy when ya came bargin' in. Unicorn magic can be a might crazy, after all."

Rarity stomped one hoof indignantly, feeling a little insulted. "Really, Applejack! We unicorns do have more than a modicum control over our magic! It's hardly 'crazy,' as you put it!"

"Now, now, Ah didn't mean anything by it!" Applejack said hastily, trying to simmer the unicorn. "Ah'm just sayin' it can sometimes be a bit, well, unpredictable. You 'member Twi' and Spike just poppin' out of thin air that one time in the library, right? After bein' chased all over town?"

"So you think it was just an accident?" Rarity considered the possibility briefly. Unicorn magic was usually at its most uncontrollable in early foalhood, and as unicorns grew older, their magic begun to stabilize more and more, and by then even the most frightening situations would barely elicit a spark.

Still, Applejack had a point: even Twilight Sparkle had exhibited uncontrolled spurts of magic at least a couple times, gifted as she was, and Mort seemed to be a rather panicky sort. He had so many issues to start with, poor horn control wouldn't be that hard to believe.

"I...suppose that makes sense," she said, finally. "Well, if that is the case, the best thing to do would be to apologize, wouldn't it? Staying here certainly wouldn't help."

"Now that's what Ah'm talkin' about!" Applejack got beside her and pattered her shoulder lightly. "So, how 'bout we head on out o' here and try to catch up? Ah think Fluttershy was goin' to take him over to her cottage later."

"Absolutely!" she said, getting ready to march on, but she was given pause as her eyes caught the rack that was still laying on the ground, along with a pile of dresses and a number of boxes and hats. "Uh, but first...I think we should clean up." She looked at Applejack, and barely stifled a giggle before adding, "And get you out of that gown!"

Applejack's eyes widened in realization, her hooves traveling over the gown to reaffirm its existence. Her cheeks went red, and she proceeded to take the gown off as Rarity started to hang the other dresses back up.

It had taken a while, if only because Rarity had to make sure the dresses and hats were properly organized by size and style, but eventually all had been put away. Rarity's attempts to have Applejack try on a sleeveless, blue dress she had found was met with strong, though not unexpected, resistance.

"We don't got time to be playin' dress up, Rarity," Applejack huffed as she walked out the front door of the boutique.

"Oh, but it wouldn't even take ten minutes, dear!" she called ahead, closing the boutique door behind her before chasing after Applejack. "It's quite a simple dress, not really all that 'frou-frou,' and I really think you could pull it off nicely. Orange and blue do make for a rather striking contrast."

"Contrast schmontrast, far as Ah'm concerned that get up I had filled out my dress quota for the month."

"I'm being serious, Applejack, you could really turn some-"

"HEADS UP!"

The two of them turned to the source, and heeded the warning just in time as a lavender pegasus with a golden yellow mane swooped over them, missing by a wingspan. The sudden gust took off Applejack's hat and disheveled Rarity's mane. The two of them shot a dirty look at the pegasus, and Rarity spotted the partially clouded sun that adorned the perpetrator's flank.

"Cloud Kicker!" she yelled up at her, bristling, "you should know better than to fly so close! Just look what you did to me!" Her horn flared, and she attempted to straighten her mane and tail back out as best she could. She would need to run back inside for a comb if she couldn't get it untangled.

"I'm sorry, Rarity!" the weatherpony replied regretfully, descending towards them and lowering her voice as she did so. "I was just in a hurry. Swoops like that help you go places, you know? I, uh, kinda overdid it this time and almost flew into that big tree over there. You're not hurt, are you?"

"Just a little frazzled, Kicker," Applejack told her, a hint of annoyance in her voice. She picked her hat back up, giving it a quick dust off before putting it back on. "Why you in such a rush, anyway?"

"Oh, well, I'm always in a rush when it comes to Pinkie Pie's parties," the pegasus replied with a smile.

The two friends looked at each other, sharing the same, anxious look. "Uh, Cloud Kicker," Rarity begun, trying to keep her voice level, "did you find out, er, why Pinkie Pie's throwing a party now?"

"Like she ever needed a real reason? Although..." The pegasus scratched her chin, her eyes looking upward in thought. "I'm pretty sure it had something to do with a new pony in town. I think it was something like...Wort? Tort? Port?"

"Mort," the two of them said, dejectedly.

"Oh, yeah! That's it!" Cloud Kicker exclaimed. "Anyway, Pinkie Pie's 'Welcome' parties are always the best! You two should swing by! See ya there!" Without another word, the pegasus took off, leaving the two of them in a heavy silence.

"She's...throwing the party?" she said finally in disbelief. "Now?"

"Er, Rarity?" Applejack asked, slowly. "Correct me if Ah'm wrong, but...weren't that party supposed to be later? Say, much later? To give the feller time to get used to everypony an' all that?"

"Oh, this is terrible!" Rarity exclaimed, clopping her cheeks. "Something must have gone terribly wrong for Pinkie Pie to do it now! I...I don't even want to think about what could've moved things up so quickly!" After Rarity, the schedule was to have Fluttershy introduce her animals, have lunch at Applejack's farm, let Rainbow Dash perform her aerial stunts, and then throw a party to finish it off. Applejack's part obviously couldn't be done with her at the boutique, but that still left Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. Something had to have happened with the two of them, but she couldn't imagine what in such a short time frame.

And that wasn't all. If Mort's magic had a tendency to destroy objects within his vicinity in a panic, she didn't want to think what sort of chaos might occur with dozens of ponies, tables, presents and foodstuffs surrounding him.

Applejack stomped her hoofs, frustration hanging on her every word. "Great! So Pinkie Pie's throwin' a party fer a pony that'll probably panic and go plum loco in the place! That's just perfect!"

Rarity's thoughts about the consequences were momentarily derailed, and she cocked an eyebrow at the earth pony. "I never knew you were one for alliteration, Applejack."

"Allita-what?"


*******

Rainbow Dash strained her eyes as she looked at the winding trails and green foliage below. She was flying at a pace that was, for her, agonizingly slow, but she had little choice in the matter. What she was searching for wasn't easy to find when moving at breakneck speeds. (Breakneck for non-pegasi, anyway.) And she definitely wasn't going to return to Fluttershy empty hoofed.

Fluttershy's mood had undergone a major shift between when Rainbow Dash talked to Twilight Sparkle, and when she caught up to the caretaker. She had thought the other pegasus was upset, but by the time they got to the cottage, that had been replaced by something bordering on anger and fear.

When Fluttershy had returned to her cottage with her decidedly less antagonistic, furry orchestra in tow, she had ordered them all to march inside. (Rainbow Dash could only remember a couple times Fluttershy had ordered anything. Even the red dragon from what seemed to be so long ago had received what was more of a severe scolding than actual commands.) After that she had proceeded, for some reason, to gather up all the animals she could, even the ones that had their own, little homes or pins outside, and place them indoors.

Fluttershy then told Rainbow Dash to go around and gather some of the further strays, and though Rainbow Dash was confused as to why she wanted to do so, the hard, almost desperate look she got from the pegasus had squashed any notion of questioning. Like a machine, she had zoomed across the woods, finding each and every critter Fluttershy requested, and depositing them on the cottage doorstep, where Fluttershy would usher them inside. Rainbow Dash had found each woodlander in the span of a few seconds.

Save one. And considering what it was, she was starting to get very irritated at her inability to find it.

Rather conveniently, her expository, mental recap of events had ended just as she found her quarry, racing across the dirt path below at a speed of 0.2 miles per hour. Smirking in triumph, she dropped out of the sky like a stone, and landed on all fours directly in front of her target, wanting to make an impression.

"Got ya!" she brayed loudly, smirking triumphantly at the creature.

The freshwater turtle stopped, one foot hovering off the ground, and took a moment to regard her with a blank, almost bored, expression. It blinked both eyes at her once, then went back to walking, this time altering course just enough that it would take him around the pegasus with the least amount of effort.

Rainbow Dash was a little taken back by the lukewarm response, and furrowing her brows, she leaped again in front of the turtle. "I said got ya!" she exclaimed again, a little louder.

After she came down, it inched itself a little to the right. The turtle didn't look at her, nor did it even pause. She frowned, feeling indignant that she was being ignored, though a moment later it turned into a little grin. She snickered, and inched to her left, bringing her head down low enough to be almost level with the turtle.

"You think you're hot stuff, huh?" she said, and with a hoof gently twirled the turtle until it was facing the opposite direction. It craned it's neck around to give her what might have been a disgruntled look. It surprised her, and she grinned apologetically at him.

"Aw, don't be like that," she cooed, then used both hoofs to lift the turtle up. She laid on her back, adjusting her wings to be comfortable, and held the turtle up above her. The turtle gave a cursory look around, and begun to move its legs like it was trying to walk. Or fly.

Rainbow Dash's grin grew wider. When she was looking for the hard shelled reptile, she kept imagining what it'd be like to be so slow, not to mention flightless. It would be a dull existence, and anything that lived like that would have to be pretty dull too, or so she thought. Watching the turtle persist in walking while hanging in the air was probably one of the cutest and most endearing things she had ever seen.

"Yer alright, squirt," she said, affectionately. Sitting back up, she carefully balanced the turtle on top of her rainbow-colored head, until it was laying flat against her skull. "Hey, how 'bout I give you a ride back to Fluttershy's? Just don't, y'know, pee on me."

The turtle, of course, didn't respond. Getting back on all four hooves, Rainbow Dash trotted leisurely back to Fluttershy's cottage, making sure to keep her head steady so the turtle wouldn't fall. One day, though, she wanted to show it real speed.

Fluttershy's cottage was quiet. Although far from a noisy place, given its curator,  on any other day, one could still hear the chirping of its birds, or the squeaks of its smaller animals. At the very least one could hear the sound of splashing water from the occasional, bathing woodlander, or the rustling of leaves or bushes as some creature moved through them.

Now, however, there wasn't a peep from anything. The animal haven had gone deathly silent, and it was beginning to give Rainbow Dash the creeps as she approached it. Not even the chickens had made a peep from their little hen house.

Approaching the front door cautiously, Rainbow Dash gave a few, quick knocks. "Fluttershy?" she called. She waited for a response, but heard nothing from the other side. She pressed an ear to the door, but could only make out an occasional chirp from some animal inside. Feeling more nervous than she thought she ought to be, she opened the door and walked in, but stopped in the doorway to stare at the scene before her.

Nearly every, square inch of Fluttershy's ground floor had been taken by one of the animals. A family of rabbits had taken to the couch, huddled together, sharing it with some ferrets, weasels and a couple skunks. Underneath the couch were some of the snakes, coiled around each other to make room for the porcupines. Birds were crowding around the birdhouses that hung from the ceilings, and the chipmunks and squirrels were sitting shoulder-to-shoulder along the tiny, flight of steps that spiraled towards their holes in the ceiling.

There were also chickens, racoons, possums, foxes, moles, mice, rats, a couple badgers and a plethora of other creatures that Rainbow Dash had no hope of picking out or distinguishing from their seemingly superficial cousins.

Most striking of all, of course, was the complete lack of Fluttershy.

She took the turtle from her head and lay him on the floor, never taking her eyes off the collection of animals all staring at her solemnly. The atmosphere of the room was subdued, and Rainbow Dash couldn't help but feel her own mood dampened at the same time.

"So, uh hey," she started, looking at the other occupants, "would any of you happen to know where Fluttershy is?"

There was silence. Then, a quiet, muffled sobbed was heard from above. Across the room, several dozen pairs of eyes glanced up towards the ceiling, where Fluttershy's bedroom would be.

"Yeah, I was afraid of that." Swallowing, Rainbow Dash made her way towards the staircase, the animals shuffling to the sides to form a makeshift path for her.

She went up the stairs, and at the top of the steps saw Angel. The was rabbit hiding behind one of the railings, peeking his head around to anxiously look at something in the room. Rainbow Dash had a good idea of what—or rather, who—it was.

When the rabbit took notice of her, he immediately hopped to the center of the top step, holding his arms out in an attempt to bar any entry into the room. He shot Rainbow Dash a fierce look (or at least, fierce for a bunny), and pointed back down the stairs where she came from.

Rainbow Dash frowned. The rabbit was crazy if he thought he was going to order the pegasus around, especially when he was the cause of this whole mess in the first place. She narrowed her eyes and took on a more rigid posture, making it clear she wasn't going anywhere.

The stand off between the two was broken by another sob from the bedroom. Angel looked towards the source, then back to Rainbow Dash, who continued to stare at him patiently. Angel balled his little fists, trying to outstare the young flier, but his composure kept faltering as his eyes kept darting between Rainbow Dash and the bedroom.

There was another choked sob, and that was it: the rabbit sagged in defeat, his ears flopping over his face, and moved aside, gesturing for the other pegasus to come in. Rainbow Dash gave a curt nod and walked up the rest of the stairway.

Unlike the ground level, the bedroom was completely devoid of any animal, and that was most likely because of the room's owner. Fluttershy lay curled up on the bed, her head buried in a large pillow that was getting wet with tears. Occasionally there would be a wheeze and more crying, and the yellow pegasus would hug the pillow tighter, as if to silence the sound.

It was a hard to watch, and Rainbow Dash felt her insides twisting around as the pegasus kept crying. This was something that she would never get used to. Swallowing nervouslly, she slowly approached the bed, and made sure to keep her voice low as she tried to speak.

"Uh..." Rainbow Dash cleared her throat. "Fluttershy? Are you okay?" The weatherpony winced slightly at her own question, knowing her friend was obviously not "okay." "What's wrong?"

Fluttershy lifted her head from the pillow, and wailed, "She's going to take them awaaay..." She shoved her face back into the pillow, crying with even more vigor.

Rainbow Dash forced a smile, and asked, "What are you talking about?" She hopped on Fluttershy's bed, and carefully sat on the foot of the bed. "Who's going to take who away?"

There was some sniffling, and Fluttershy pushed herself up, still clutching the pillow tightly between her forelegs. Her wings were hanging limply on her back and her normally straight mane was in complete disarray. Her eyes were red and puffy, the surrounding fur matted with moisture.

Choking back some sobs, she said, "C-Celestia. W-when she finds out what happened, she'll...s-she'll move all the animals out of Ponyville, o-or lock them in cages, or maybe make them go into to the Ever...free..." A fresh batch of tears pooled in her eyes and she brought the pillow up to her face, unleashing another round of sobs. "S-she just can't, Rainbow!" the yellow pegasus cried. "C-Coils and Rattle get cold so easily, Jennifur has to take special vitamins every night, Poe still has a bad wing..."

Fluttershy continued on about why the animals couldn't leave, citing everything from medical complications to social awkwardness. The rainbow pegasus scratched the back of her head, feeling more uncomfortable and lost with every passing moment. She was used to making ponies feeling better with tricks, stunts or standing up to their would be oppressors. There were no bullies this time, though, and what happened wasn't going to be swept away by her aerial feats. Fluttershy needed somepony to cheer her up, and Rainbow Dash felt completely out of her element.

Didn't mean she couldn't try, though.

She tentatively raised one foreleg, and wrapped it around Fluttershy in what she hoped was a reassuring manner. She rubbed back and forth over Fluttershy's shoulders, and after a few moments of this, it seemed to have the intended effect of calming her. She started to lean on Rainbow Dash, her crying becoming softer until it was just a few sniffles.

She looked up from her pillow again, sniffled, and offered a weak smile. "Thank you," she wheezed.

"Hey, no sweat," Rainbow Dash boasted, feeling she was on firmer ground than before. "That's what friends are for, right?" She cleared her throat. "Uh, you...feeling better?"

"Um...not really," she admitted, shaking Rainbow Dash's earlier confidence. She wiped some tears from her puffy eyes. "I-I mean, I'm glad you're here, and I feel a teensy bit better but..." Her body quivered, and she choked out, "I'm just so scared."

"Hey, come on," she started, enforcing an assured tone, "you keep making it sound like it's the end of the world or something. Thing's will be okay. Really!"

Fluttershy gave her a doubtful look, a frown permeating her face.

Not ready to give up yet, Rainbow Dash pushed on. "I mean, it's not like they hurt Mort all that much. He wasn't even limping the last time I saw him."

"It doesn't matter if he wasn't," Fluttershy mumbled miserably. "They attacked him, and it was just...awful. He didn't even do anything, Rainbow! Nothing I did was stopping them, and..." Fluttershy whimpered pitifully, and once again there seemed to be a fresh line of moisture building in her eyes.

Determined not to let Fluttershy become even more miserable, Rainbow Dash quickly tried to think of something else to say. Her mind reeled all the way back to the original attack, remembering how the rabbit had acted when he was brought close to Mort. Now that she thought about it, he looked...

"Um, hey!" she said, quickly. "I just had a thought! Maybe, uh...maybe they only attacked him because they were really...scared of him, or something!"

"Scared?" Fluttershy whispered, just short of crying again.

"Y-yeah, scared!" the flier answered, now just starting to see where she wanted to go. "Think about it! It's not like they went after him because they went mean or anything, they just got freaked out!"

"A-and...?"

"Well...I mean, it's kinda important if they were just scared," Rainbow Dash asked, hiding her own uncertainty. "You can't blame them if they did something because they got spooked or anything. The mayor didn't do anything to the rabbits that one time they stampeded, right?"

"Um, no," Fluttershy conceded, looking a little calmer than before. "I...I just told her that they got frightened by Applejack and Winona."

"Exactly!" Rainbow Dash interjected. "And...well, yeah, they were just baby rabbits, but they still ate a lot of food and tore up a bunch of gardens and the like. But they never came down on you at all for that."

"I...guess so," Fluttershy said, slowly.

"So what about Angel and the others? They were kinda scared too, right?"

"Um..." Fluttershy tilted forward to look around Rainbow Dash. The cyan pegasus leaned back and followed her eyes, seeing Angel standing by the stairway, keeping his own eyes locked on his feet. "I...did try to ask Angel what had happened, but I had a hard time understanding him. He did sound a little scared."

"Well, there you have it," Rainbow Dash confirmed.

"But I don't see why...?"

"Well, Mort just...comes off like that," Rainbow Dash said, after a pause. "Remember when he got here? I...er, I mean, you were kinda scared too, right?" she asked, hoping Fluttershy didn't notice her verbal slip.

"Uh...yes," Fluttershy said, embarrassed. Although she sounded meek as always, she at least didn't sound like she was on the verge of breaking down again. Rainbow Dash felt a little relief at the progress she was making. "But...he's really not that scary."

"Well, yeah, we know that because we've been hanging out with him." Not to mention watching him stumble around in his robe and with his words. He was as awkward as Fluttershy was all that time ago in flight camp. "But they've never seen him before. Maybe they were just nervous because of how he looked. Or because he was a colt."

"Why would that matter?" she asked, honestly curious.

"Well, y'know, maybe they thought he was gonna steal 'momma' Fluttershy away." She opened her mouth to explain, when a better idea sprung to mind. Something that might lighten the mood enough to break her out of this. Shooting Fluttershy a playful look, she dramatically cleared her throat, and begun to imitate Mort's scrawny voice.

"Ooh, I am Mort!" she started menacingly (or as menacingly as one could with a voice like that), drawing a small grin from the other pegasus. "I'm hear to take Fluttershy away from ALL you mangy animals and do all sorts of unspeakable things! Like, like..." She feigned uncertainty and begun to dig her hooves around her body in mid air, as if searching for something. "Oh, where did those cards go? I know I had them somewh-oof!" She lost her balance and fell forward on her chin, eliciting a startled gasp from Fluttershy. Thinking quickly, and trying to ignore the soreness in her own chin, Rainbow Dash quickly added, "Oh, dumb cloak! Why did I make you so long?"

Fluttershy looked at blankly, and Rainbow Dash feared she might have taken it too far, but then the yellow pegasus broke into a smile and begun to laugh, trying to muffle the sound with her pillow.

"R-Rainbow, that's just mean!" she said, before breaking into giggles. "Y-you shoudn't talk like that about ponies behind their b-back..."

"Aw, come on, it's just a bit of fun," Rainbow Dash said, getting back on her hooves. She glanced at Angel, and saw the rabbit giving her an incredibly sour look, obviously unamused. "And I couldn't help myself! Now imagine Mort doing that, but with a long, curly mustache."

Fluttershy broke into even bigger laughter, and Rainbow Dash followed suit shortly after, the image of Mort evilly twirling a long, black mustache taking up her imagination.

"W-with..." Fluttershy abandoned the pillow, trying to suppress the chuckles and giggles forcing their way out. "M-maybe, if he did it with a big, top hat..."

"Oh geeze, that's perfect!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed, losing control and rolling on the floor, her eyes tearing up. She begun to belt out laugh after laugh, and Fluttershy followed in her own, graceful manner.

It kept going like this for a few minutes, though to Rainbow Dash it felt much longer. By the time she became to breathless to laugh, she pulled herself up and looked expectantly at Fluttershy. Like she hoped, Fluttershy was looking much happier, and any tears she had were from the earlier, ludicrous images.

"So, like I was saying," she said, after taking a deep breath, "you shouldn't have to worry so much. I mean, okay, so what if Celestia did find out? She's pretty cool! Think of all the times we did something that we thought for sure was going to get us banished or thrown in some dingy, old dungeon. And every single time, we barely ruffled one feather on her!"

She walked over to a dresser, searching for and finding a lone hairbrush that she grabbed in her teeth and brought back over to the bed. "Inne'ay..." Rainbow Dash grumbled and spat the brush out next to Fluttershy. "Anyway, I bet the princess is a good judge of character. If she likes a pony, they have to be cool, right? So Mort's cool!" Though obviously not in the manner Rainbow Dash was most familiar with. "I bet he's over it already."

"I don't know," she said, uncertainly. Eying the hairbrush, Fluttershy grasped Rainbow Dash's intent and bent down grab it in her mouth, where she proceeded to brush her disheveled mane. "'E in't 'ook oo ha'y..."

"Well," Rainbow Dash started, drawing the word out, "if he isn't happy, then somepony's gotta set the record straight about Angel and the others, right?"

"Oh, yes!" Fluttershy dropped the brush onto the bed and slid off. "I don't want him getting the wrong idea or anything! They're really sweet!"

"Right! It's just a little misunderstanding. I'm sure he'll understand. Especially if you're the one who explains it to him."

"I...yes, I think you're right!" Fluttershy said, excitedly. "So what are we waiting for? I have to get this all cleared up and make it up to him somehow!"

Rainbow Dash breathed a sigh of relief, the knots she felt inside finally loosening up. It was the same sort of relief she felt whenever she had completed any sort of high-stakes race or competition. It felt liberating, and cheering up Fluttershy gave it a pleasant tingling as well.

"Okay!" she said, a spring in her step as she trotted towards the stairs. "Let's find everypony and meet up with them. After that, you can talk to Mort and we can-"

There was a scrabbling of paws, and Rainbow Dash saw with some disdain that Angel had moved himself in front of the steps again, his arms spread wide in another attempt to bar them.

"Oh for crying out loud! Get out of the way, Angel!" She poked his stomach, but Angel stood firm, his steely gaze making it clear he wasn't going to move this time. "What's yer problem?!"

"Angel Bunny," Fluttershy said, coming up beside Rainbow Dash, her tone soft but firm, "I don't know what's gotten into you all of a sudden, but I have to leave and explain that it was all a misunderstanding. I'm doing it for all our sakes."

The rabbit shook his head fiercely, and to Rainbow Dash's shock, he got on its knees and shot a pleadingly, desperate look at Fluttershy, his black eyes wavering.

Fluttershy was taken back by the action. "Angel, I don't understand. Is it really that bad if I go?" The rabbit nodded quickly. "Are you still upset with Mort?" Another nod, even more intense than the last.

The cyan pegasus groaned, rolling her eyes. "Alright, let's hear it straight from the rabbit's mouth. Why shouldn't we go?"

Angel suddenly dashed from his spot, racing towards a desk on the other side of the room, where he begun to dig through its numerous drawers. Rainbow Dash had half a mind to take advantage of the distraction and head downstairs, but she was curious as to what had been driving the snowy animal so crazy the past hour.

When Angel came back, he was carrying a piece of paper and a pencil. Slapping the paper down, he begun to scribble, one eye winked close as the lead raced over the page. A moment later, he put the pencil down and lifted the paper up.

Rainbow Dash had to tilt her head and squint her eyes at the dark splotch, unable to decipher what the rabbit was trying to draw.

"Oh, is that supposed to Mort?" Fluttershy asked. Rainbow Dash blinked, and realized that, given the shape, the picture could be the cloaked pony, though incredibly simplified given the artist.

The rabbit nodded quickly, and brought the paper down to draw on it even more. Not long after he put the pencil down again and showed the same picture, but this time with a cartoonish, pony skull off to the side, and an arrow coming from it to the dark splotch that was Mort.

"Uh..." Rainbow Dash scratched her head, momentarily confused. "Mort's...bad?" Angel nodded his head, looking pleased. "Uh, okay, but why is he bad?"

Angel looked at her like she grew two heads, slapped his face, then brought the pencil out, drawing something quick. When he pulled the paper out, the cartoon skull had been amended with crude crossbones, and even more arrows.

"Uh...he's really bad?" Fluttershy ventured, doubtfully.

Angel gritted his teeth, steam almost coming out of his ears, and he drew several circles around the skull and crossbones, using the pencil to tap between the two drawings repeatedly.

"Ugh," Rainbow Dash muttered with a roll of her eyes, reaching the limit of what little patience she already had. "Just forget it, Fluttershy. He's just being paranoid now. Come on."

Angel threw and pencil and paper away, and once again held his tiny arms out in an attempt to stop her. Rainbow Dash circumvented him the way she should've done in the first place: by stepping over him. She shot a satisfied smirk at the stunned rabbit and proceeded down the stairs, with Fluttershy following her lead.

Once they were halfway down the steps, every pair of eyes in the room turned to look at Fluttershy. The yellow pegasus was startled for a moment, but then smiled bashfully, her cheeks turning pink.

"O-oh, I'm so sorry, everyone," she said. "I didn't mean to worry you all like that. Anyway, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Everything's going to be okay now!"

No sooner had she said that, Angel suddenly bounded down the stairs underneath the pegasi, and once at the bottom, he begun to hop up and down, emitting a stream of panicked squeaks.

The effect was instantaneous: a cacophony of animal sounds erupted from across the room, and the once still animals suddenly rushed in, crowding all around and forming a fuzzy, impeding wall.

"What the hay!" Rainbow Dash shouted, ducking to avoid several birds who were chirping madly around Fluttershy's head. "What the heck did he say to them?!"

"I-I don't know! Oh, e-everyone please calm down. Ow! Elizabeak, I see you just fine! Hissy, you're squeezing my leg too tight, oh, ooh..." Fluttershy's words descended into indistinguishable mumbling, her eyes darting from one animal to the other.

Rainbow Dash couldn't help but take a few steps back, her wings beginning to unfurl out of anxiety. Subconscious instinct was telling her to fly out of there and take Fluttershy with her, but all the flying creatures had clouded up the airspace. As the noise grew, sweat begun to bead down her forehead, and the animals only came closer and closer...

"ENOUGH!"

Her head snapped towards Fluttershy, and she felt her blood go cold when she caught a glimpse of two wide and pitiless eyes. Even when one wasn't looking at them directly, Fluttershy's "Stare" had the power to make one feel like a little foal, whose hoof had just been caught in the cookie jar.

Every animal in the hut went dead silent, their eyes locked on Fluttershy's own. Anything that was flying quickly landed on any available furniture or animal body. Anything that had been clutching to Fluttershy had retreated back into the crowd, unable to look away from her.

"I am sorry," she said, sternly. "I hate to raise my voice like that, but I have to go now because you might have hurt a pony, and I need to make sure he's okay. I also need to explain what happened so he understands that you're not bad animals. So be good, and let me and Rainbow Dash leave."

Nothing happened at first, but then with great reluctance, the animals begun to back away, forming a path not unlike the one they made for Rainbow Dash. Even then, Fluttershy kept her Stare going, making sure she had eye contact with as many animals as she could as she walked towards the door.

"Come on, Rainbow Dash," she said, and the young flier realized she had been crouched into a ball the entire time, too scared to move.

"Y-yes ma'am!" she squeaked, and quickly followed Fluttershy, watching the despaired looks she got from the other animals as she passed. It created an uneasy feeling in her in her gut, and she kept wondering what Angel had said to made them all so terrified.

As she neared the door with Fluttershy, Angel suddenly sprung forward, clutching his caretaker's tail in his paws, and tugged as if to pull her back in. Fluttershy turned the Stare on Angel, and while the rabbit flinched under it, his quaking paws were still wrapped in Fluttershy's tail.

"Angel Bunny," she said, in a soft voice that was edged with steel, "I'm glad you want to look out for me, but I'm a grown mare, and I'm free to make friends with who I want. I'm sorry you don't like Mort. I'd like you to be friends with him, but I can't force you. Just like you can't force me not to be friends with him."

Angel gulped audibly, his body shaking as he struggled to keep a hold on their tail, and to Rainbow Dash it looked as if he was close to tears.

"I'm only going to ask once," Fluttershy told him, and if it were possible, the Stare only intensified even further, to the point Rainbow Dash half-expected heat to leap our of her pupils. "Please. Let. Go."

The rabbit choked back a sob and, unable to resist any further, released the tail, his little body slumping over, looking absolutely pitiful. Fluttershy blinked once, and like that the Stare was gone, replaced with her usual, gentle eyes.

"That's a good bunny," she said, patting him on the head. The rabbit only moaned miserably in response. Fluttershy smiled sympathetically, and turned her eyes towards the rest of the defeated looking animals. "I'll back in a few hours, everyone. When you want to go back out, just ask Angel here."

With those last words, Fluttershy walked out the door, and Rainbow Dash followed, glancing one last time at the animals in the hut. Utter despair seemed to have claimed them, and more than a few seemed to be on the brink of tears. As if they thought this would be the last time they'd ever see them again.

Rainbow Dash had that uneasy feeling again, and for reason her mind went back to the skull that Angel drew. The more she thought about it, the more it bothered her. It felt like she was close to remembering something important, but it couldn't be anything more than a feeling.

Tired of the whole situation, she gave her head a good shake and focused again on the day ahead. They had lost time to make up for. She only hoped that Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie were fairing better than the others. In fact, so long as the two of them were together, they should be able to keep each other in balance without Mort getting too bored or terrified.

She closed the door behind her, stopping next to Fluttershy, who took a deep breath of the fresh air. She looked more and more like her old self again, practically emitting an aura of calm and gentleness.

Her smile broke briefly, and she asked, "You don't think I was too hard on them or anything, do you?"

"Nah, they'll be fine," Rainbow Dash assured her, confidently. "I'm sure they'll feel pretty silly when you come back safe and sound."

Fluttershy considered her words briefly, then nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I think you're right."

"Of course I'm right!" Rainbow Dash spread her wings, and with a single flap she was up in the air, looking down on a small-looking Fluttershy. "Come on! They shouldn't be that hard to find!"

In a few moments (that looked painfully slow to Rainbow Dash), Fluttershy was floating right next to her. Satisfied, Rainbow Dash took off towards Ponyville, making sure she moved just slow enough for Fluttershy to keep up.

It wasn't long before the bulk of Ponyville was beneath them, and Rainbow Dash begun to search for her friends, scanning the barren streets. "Huh."

"What's wrong?"

"Oh, well, nothing. I just thought Mort would stand out like an ink stain or something," Rainbow Dash
answered. "And you'd think he'd be easy to spot without everypony being around."

"That's strange," Fluttershy commented. "It's almost noon, isn't it? Shouldn't everypony be going out for lunch?"

Rainbow Dash nodded in agreement, realizing her friend was right. The roads should be filled with ponies going to and from the various restaurants. But nearly everyplace she knew of was empty of everything, save the tables or bored waiters.

"Weird," she said, "usually it's only this quiet when..."She trailed off as something caught her ears. The sound was rhythmic, kinda catchy, and was coming from...

"Oh no!" The sound, actually music, was coming from Sugarcube Corner, where even now a few ponies were trotting over to its entrance. Confetti and streamers would fly out the door every time it was opened, and the music would briefly get louder before the door closed again.

"Pinkie Pie's throwing a party?" Fluttershy asked, confused. "But, wasn't she supposed to be with Mort?"

"That's just it!" Rainbow Dash said, dragging down on her mane (which was the closest a pony could come to pulling at their hair, considering a lack of fingers). "I think she's throwing the party for Mort!"

"Huh? But...o-oh dear, I thought we were saving that for last?"

"Something must have gone really, really wrong while we were gone," Rainbow Dash despaired, imagining several scenarios involving Twilight Sparkle and some sort of chaotic, magical mishap. And now Mort was in a small, doubtlessly packed building, when just this morning he was nervous about being in comparatively open and less populated streets.

She looked at the pegasus next to her. "Alright, Fluttershy," Rainbow Dash said seriously, barely hiding her own nervousness, "if you were Mort, and you suddenly found yourself surrounded by just about every pony in Ponyville, what would you do?"

"Eep."

Fluttershy's eyes shrunk, and her wings froze rigidly in place. She fell wordlessly, forcing the cyan pegasus to rush after her in a panic.

A moment later, Rainbow Dash was flying towards Sugarcube Corner, her passenger still in shock from the imagined scenario.

"S-sorry about that," the yellow pegasus whispered, draped across Rainbow Dash's back.

"Don't worry about it," she replied, resisting a quip about Fluttershy's weight. She needed to fly more. "Just hang tight and we'll be there in a jiffy!" She spread her wings and begun to glide towards the confectionery shop, careful to avoid any maneuvers that might dislodge the pegasus on her back.

"Y-you don't think anything bad will happen, do you?" Fluttershy asked worriedly.

Rainbow Dash bit her lip. She could think of a dozen ways that things could go wrong, because that seemed to be the norm for today.

"Hey, you never know," she said, more to reassure herself than her friend. "They say third time's the charm, right...?"
This is was going to originally involve the consequences of Pinkie's party, but I soon found that the parts for the other four was much longer than I had anticipated.

As it is, the party for Mort will be shown in the next chapter, and he'll be meeting a few other residents as well...

To sate your appetite, a brief (and in-progress) look at the next chapter:


His eyes traveled along the walls until it stopped at an open window, its flower-patterned curtains tied to the sides. He drifted over to it and stuck his head out. The sun was beaming down from the great, blue expanse above. He could feel the back of his mind absorbing all the specifics about it—the brightness, the heat generation, the level of radiation, its specific position in relation to Equestria as a whole, among a host of other factors—that could easily be summed up with “it was a warm afternoon.”

He crossed his forelegs on the windowsill, looking unflinchingly at the sun. “So,” he started, “things haven't been going so well...” He paused, as if waiting for a response, though it was a silly thought. If Celestia could really hear or see everything with her own sun, the world would be a much different place, and the princess would probably have quite the persistent migraine. “But, it's not them, you know? It's me. This is just...a whole new thing for me. Put me in a plague infested town, and I could wrangle up everypony, no sweat. (Well, not that I sweat.) I mean, I'd be in my element, at least. I know what I'd be doing.

“But this is just...it's happening so fast.” He averted his eyes, once again that silly notion that he was actually speaking to Celestia, and didn't want to look her in the eye. “I mean, I hardly know what to talk about, or what to do. I can't talk about anything I
actually know, or they'll start asking a lot of questions, and I keep slipping up when I answer them. They're going to figure something's fishy, if they haven't already. And if they did figure it all out...” He sighed, resting his head on his forelegs. “Maybe this was a mistake.”

“It most definitely was.”

“Well gee, don't agree with me all at once,” he muttered miserably. “I was kinda hoping you would tell me I was...” He stopped himself, his body freezing as it registered with him that someone was speaking to him. Someone with a very familiar voice.

His looked down, and saw the black mare staring up at him from within the shadows of several trees, only able to make out the most token of shapes. The only thing that really stood out were her yellow eyes, that glowed like lanterns in the night.

The mare's voice was frigid and powerful, like a glacier. “I did try to warn you, shade.”
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Optimus Prime:
Function: Emperor of Destruction
"All sentient beings are free to follow me. Refusal means destruction!"
Strength: 9
Intelligence: 8
Speed: 5
Endurance: 9
Rank: 10
Courage: 8
Firepower: 8
Skill: 9
During Cybertron's Golden Age of peace, an elite few served as the guardians of Cybertron's accumulated knowledge. Among these data clerks was Optronix. A low-level operator who sought to replace those above him, Optronix turned his research skills to finding methods of manipulation. Eventually, he rose to prominence; however, when his activities were uncovered, he was removed from service and left purposeless. Deep in his Ember though, Optronix believed he was best fit to lead Cybertron. He hungered for power and through his studies, he determined that military might was the only way to achieve his goals. Preaching a philosophy of destruction and conquest, he eventually began re-engineering his body as well as taking on a new name: Optimus Prime. He then began refashioning the bodies of his followers into weapons as well. Armed with weapons and a uniting philosophy, he declared his warriors autonomous from the rest of Cybertron and thus named them the Autobots!


Jazz:
Function: Bodyguard / Special Operations
"Destroy it with style or don't bother destroying it at all!"
Strength: 8
Intelligence: 7
Speed: 7
Endurance: 9
Rank: 9
Courage: 8
Firepower: 8
Skill: 8
Autobot Jazz and his brother Ricochet serve as Optimus Prime's powerful and merciless bodyguards. While the Seeker unit is designed to hunt down and destroy targets, Jazz and Ricochet stay with Optimus Prime to protect him against any and all threats. Jazz is one of Optimus Prime's most loyal and trusted aides. He only wishes to serve the glorious future that Optimus laid out for the Autobots and he is completely convinced of his cause. Recently, Jazz intercepted a series of transmissions from a planet called Earth. While garbled, he managed to decode and translate enough to become enamored with the planet's culture. As a result, he gave himself a new design pattern with his own special modifications. Everything he does has to be with style, from talking to simply transforming. While Optimus Prime finds this behavior strange, he allows Jazz some latitude from standard Autobot military practice as long as he remains loyal to him.

Goldbug:
Function: Espionage
Strength: 6
Intelligence: 8
Speed: 9
Endurance:  6
Rank: 8
Courage: 9
Firepower: 7
Skill: 9
Goldbug was once a young Cybertronian drifter known as Bumblebee. He survived on the streets of Polyhex with no real purpose. Over time, he became skilled at sneaking around, stealing, eavesdropping and blackmailing. When he heard of a new cause being led by Optimus Prime, he eagerly joined the Autobots n hopes of finding a place to belong and where his unsavory activities would be tolerated. When the war began, Bumblebee showed extreme bravery in battle and often sought ways to be noticed by command. In time, he worked his way up the ranks of the Autobots and when the Autobot Seeker Drench was destroyed, Bumblebee was offered an upgraded form and a new identity as Goldbug, to take his place. Although he holds a high position in the Autobot hierarchy, he is paranoid that someone will one day try to betray him and take his place as he has done to so many others in the past.

Grimlock:
Function: Berserker
"Total victory requires total destruction."
Strength: 9
Intelligence: 1
Speed: 7
Endurance: 9
Rank: 1
Courage: 9
Firepower: 6
Skill: 1
Grimlock is a tragic figure. He was originally developed by the Decepticons as a soldier whose sentience would be based on artificial intelligence rather than a Ember. However, his violent subroutines overrode his logic programming causing him to destroy the facility that created him. Megatron was able to deactivate him and he was stored away, never to be used again. However, when Optimus Prime learned of this creation, he stole Grimlock and reactivated him. Offered a chance to revel in his violent tendencies, Grimlock eagerly joined Optimus Prime and serves as his most potent warrior. Grimlock will not stop tearing through the enemy ranks until they are all destroyed or he can no longer move. He simply cannot feel mercy and has little self control. "I wish I had a thousand more like him!" says Autobot leader Optimus Prime. Fortunately for the Decepticons, he doesn't.

Rodimus:
Function: Warrior
"To the victor go the profits."
Strength: 7
Intelligence: 7
Speed: 8
Endurance: 8
Rank: 8
Courage: 9
Firepower: 7
Skill: 8
Rodimus was once a mercenary who commanded a team of fellow mercenaries known as "The Wreckers". They plundered resources across Cybertron and preyed upon the weak. While Rodimus always believed in Optimus Prime's vision of conquest, he did not want to be a follower. During the battle of Praxus-Delta, Optimus Prime hired Rodimus' team to bolster his own forces. In the battle, the Decepticons managed to destroy every member of the Wreckers except for Rodimus. Despite the heavy losses, Rodimus wanted to fulfill his contract with Optimus, so he fought on. As a result, the Autobots were able to retreat that day without further casualties. Optimus Prime was impressed with Rodimus' fighting ability and asked him to join the Autobots. Rodimus agreed. He is determined to eventually take leadership for himself and turn the Autobot forces into the largest mercenary group the galaxy has ever seen!

Ricochet:
Function:  Bodyguard
"Shoot first, why bother with questions."
Strength: 8
Intelligence: 7
Speed: 7
Endurance: 9
Rank: 8
Courage: 8
Firepower: 8
Skill: 8
Ricochet, the twin brother of Autobot Jazz, is the result of Prime's experiment in splitting an Ember in two and joining each with a new body. Though Ricochet and Jazz were activated seconds apart, the two couldn't be more different. Trained by Prime to serve as one of his elite bodyguards, Ricochet is known for his wild attitude, acting first and asking questions later. Many times this leaves the Autobots without a hostage or serves to eliminate anyone who plans to usurp Ricochet and take his position by Prime's side. Ricochet works extra hard to betray others first, believing that those around him are out to sabotage him. Much to his annoyance, his twin brother Jazz has always been Prime's favorite. Though Ricochet only "acts" crazy from time to time, some fear that this knowledge will lead to it no longer being an act.

Blurr:
Function:  Data Interceptor
"The smarter I am, the faster you die."
Strength: 8
Intelligence: 9
Speed: 10
Endurance: 6
Rank: 8
Courage: 8
Firepower: 8
Skill: 9
Before he was recruited by Prime, Blurr was an eloquent and well-groomed lecturer. Though his demeanor hasn't changed, Blurr looks more like a battle hardened warrior rather than the soft spoken robot he is. Yet, Prime uses Blurr as an information hub first, and a soldier second. Constantly on the move, Blurr is well equipped to intercept messages from enemy couriers such as his heroic renegade cousin, Crasher. Though no longer on the lecture circuit, Blurr now finds himself trading information and unreleased protoform images with other archivists, desperate to get an upper hand on his opponents. He often seeks to add any vital information to his data banks in order to provide eloquent strategic infiltration plans to his Autobot comrades. In vehicle mode, he can travel faster than most Decepticons, speeding past them to the point where their microcircuits fuse together, leaving them helpless. Once disabled, Blurr meticulously disassembles their processors, slowly explaining the entire process in excruciating detail to each victim.

Beachcomber:
Function: Jailer
“Contain conflict within and order will follow.”
Strength: 9
Intelligence:  7
Speed:  7
Endurance: 9
Rank: 8
Courage: 7
Firepower: 8
Skill: 8
Beachcomber is one of the most emotionally detached Cybertronians that have ever served in Optimus Prime’s forces.  He cannot be bribed, baited or deceived; and for this reason he has been placed in charge of Cybertron’s largest prison for dangerous offenders: the Cybertropolis Penetentiary.  He takes great pride that there have not been one escape to date.  He keeps a strict regime over the staff and inmates and has no problem executing any of them if they are found causing trouble.  He disdains fighting, it is too chaotic for his liking; that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have the means to defend himself though.  He is physically large and knows several Cybertronian martial arts, many of the great sensei masters are imprisoned in his facility, scheduled for execution.

Huffer:
Function: Saboteur
“If you can’t laugh at your enemy, what’s the point?”
Strength: 6
Intelligence:  7
Speed:  5
Endurance: 6
Rank: 5
Courage: 7
Firepower: 6
Skill: 8
If there’s one Autobot in Prime’s army that thoroughly loves his job, it’s Huffer.  He just doesn’t love blowing things up, he enjoys setting the charges, planning the demolition, even driving to the job site.  His most favourite though is watching Decepticons’ expressions just before the explosion.  Huffer’s can-do attitude is something many Autobots lack, and it’s all part of Huffer’s plan to climb up the chain of command.  It’s not power he seeks, just the additional leniency one gets from being anything than a normal grunt, leniency which Huffer would use to work on new explosive mixtures.  Optimus Prime has only just heard of Huffer’s achievements, and is watching him very closely for promotion or execution; depending on how Huffer decides to climb the ranks.

Windcharger:
Function: Tactician
“Victory without careful planning is an empty one”
Strength: 6
Intelligence: 8
Speed:  4
Endurance: 6
Rank: 7
Courage: 6
Firepower: 6
Skill: 9
Windcharger used to be a philosopher, debating the meaning of life, embers and other ideas that Optimus Prime never cared about.  Windcharger chose the side of the Autobots after careful deliberation.  He believes that Optimus Prime will win the war, but will not stay sane much longer after the war is over, leaving room for a more broadly-focused commander that would let Windcharger get back to thinking.  In the meantime though, Windcharger puts his brain to work planning Autobot offensives into Decepticon territory.  He spends the days pouring over strategy maps and troop deployments looking for the Autobots’ next move.  He also does it because it hides his contempt for battle.  Windcharger prefers being as far away from the laser blasts as possible.

Ultra Magnus:
Function: Grunt
“Pain felt inside must be taken out on those nearby”
Strength: 10
Intelligence: 4
Speed:  6
Endurance: 10
Rank: 4
Courage: 9
Firepower: 10
Skill: 6
Ultra Magnus came into being when Optimus Prime attempted to transfer his ember into a more powerful body.  The process failed and Prime’s ember nearly fizzled out, causing the end of the experiment and the scientists’ lives.  A small portion of the ember survived in the new host body and over time grew into something beyond a normal ember; Autobot scientists call it a torch and all attempts to replicate it have failed.  The torch allows Ultra Magnus greater physical strength and firepower capabilities.  It comes at a price though, Ultra Magnus never gained true sanity; most of the time he is in great pain and would be a rampaging berserker if it wasn’t for the control gear Optimus Prime has installed.  During his periods of clarity, Ultra Magnus is allowed to experience life without the control gear activated and is pleasant, if somewhat gruff.  Once he loses his sanity though, the gear is activated or he is turned loose on poor Decepticons for Prime’s amusement.

Jetfire:
Function: Air Destroyer
“The key to victory is to have more weapons than your foe.”
Strength: 7
Intelligence: 6
Speed:  10
Endurance: 8
Rank: 6
Courage: 9
Firepower: 9
Skill: 7
Jetfire was never one to think things through, nor was he the sentimental type.  It was this behaviour that caused him to grow distant from his long time friend, Starscream.  Jetfire was slowly won over to the Autobot Cause with the promise of power and abilities far beyond his current design.  Of course the real reason Optimus Prime recruited Jetfire was that he had failed to recruit Starscream and with Jetfire on his side, Optimus now controlled one of the most powerful fliers on Cybertron.  Jetfire doesn’t mind being manipulated into this role.  All he craves now is bigger weapons to cause more damage to Decepticons.  As for his friendship with Starscream; it is as shattered as Crystal City where they both resided.

Seaspray:
Function:  Waste Disposal
“The unyielding force of aggression will cause enemies to fall”
Strength: 5
Intelligence: 4
Speed:  6
Endurance: 5
Rank: 3
Courage: 8
Firepower: 6
Skill: 7
There is no one meaner in the Autobot ranks than Seaspray.  Sure there are those who are capable of far more damage and combat capabilities, however Seaspray outmatches them all when it comes to seething hatred and the will to do deeds that even Optimus Prime would think twice about condoning.  It is also the reason that almost the entire Autobot army outranks Seaspray, and it only adds to his anger.  Seaspray cannot be trusted by anyone for he will use whatever means necessary to rise up the chain of command, he is repulsive and arrogant and Optimus has sentenced him to taking out the trash for the next millennia or until he rusts, whichever comes last.  The Rust Sea on Cybertron makes the perfect dumping ground for Autobot refuse; it is also where Prime hoped Seaspray’s chassis would rot.  Instead Seaspray salvaged enough galvanized titanium to build some defences against the corrosive vapors.  Now he uses The Rust Sea as his own personal fortress while he plots his eventual overthrow of Optimus Prime!

Star Saber:
Function:  Enforcer
“Live by the rules or die breaking them”
Strength: 6
Intelligence: 7
Speed:  8
Endurance: 7
Rank: 6
Courage: 8
Firepower: 7
Skill: 9
A former law enforcement official of the small state of Kalis, Star Saber enjoyed a degree of latitude enforcing the state’s laws.  He certainly enjoyed his job, busting up crime rings and smugglers, dealing with them as he saw fit.  This latitude lead him to start delivering harsher street sentences, eventually leading to him killing those that broke the harsher laws.  When Optimus Prime took over, he saw the madness deep within Star Saber’s ember and nurtured it into the twisted shadow of law and justice that it is today.  Now Star Saber makes up the laws as he goes along, changing them on a whim.  He sees himself as above all those that he “protects.”  He’s paranoid, arrogant and sees himself as far more intelligent than he really is.  When he and his loyal pet Dread Leo are seen prowling the streets, all who aren’t Autobots run and hide.

Dread Leo:
Function:  Predator
“Only things that make sense are the scents.”
Strength: 8
Intelligence: 3
Speed:  8
Endurance: 8
Rank: 4
Courage: 8
Firepower: 9
Skill: 8
Originally built by the mad scientist Wheeljack, Dread Leo was programmed to seek out Decepticon hide-outs without endangering Autobot lives.  Dread Leo however, thought it would be much more fun to trash the lab, maul his creator and flee into the city.  Star Saber was tasked to terminate its existence, but instead formed a bond with the creature.  Now Dread Leo acts as Star Saber’s personal bodyguard, and only further intimidates those that his master incarcerates.  He lacks a true ember but has developed a primitive personality.  He hates all Decepticons but has a special loathing for the Predacons.

Side Burn:
Function:  Fire Warrior
“There’s nothing that a little fire can’t fix.  Bigger fires will fix everything faster.”
Strength: 5
Intelligence: 5
Speed:  8
Endurance: 5
Rank: 5
Courage: 7
Firepower: 6
Skill: 7
Side Burn is a passionate warrior who truly loves what he does.  However what he loves changes on a day-by-day basis.  One day he’s a wanna-be martial artist, the next he’s dogging at Perceptor’s heels wanting to be a scientist.  The only thing that survives the personality shifts is his love for fire and watching things burn.  He’s been known to torch an entire town just because he was shunned at a drinking establishment.  This unpredictable warrior is part of the Seekers and is held in strict control by Rodimus, who has made it very clear that as long as Side Burn does whatever he says, Rodimus will not take away his flame throwers.

Mirage:
Function:  Hunter
“The better the hunt, the better the victory.”
Strength: 5
Intelligence: 9
Speed:  8
Endurance: 7
Rank: 6
Courage: 8
Firepower: 7
Skill: 10
Mirage is used to the life of luxury.  It is said that his mansion is second only to Optimus Prime’s in terms of size and amenities.  However his inherited wealth leaves him bored all the time, so he passes the time by hunting.  First it was small game such as turbofoxes, however soon he bored of that too and moved to more challenging prey such as cyberox beasts of the South Pole and techophants of the Vox peninsula.  It wasn’t long until he had hunted all beasts on Cybertron, some to extinction.  Optimus Prime had marvelled at Mirage’s skills and approached him with a new trophy, one that would always provide a different hunt experience: Decepticon prisoners.  Now in between wild parties for Cybertron’s elite, Mirage sneaks through the underbelly of Cybertron, hunting Decepticons, and openly displaying their heads in his mansion.

Kup:
Function:  Gladiator
“The fighting stops when champion falls.  I’m still standing.”
Strength: 8
Intelligence: 5
Speed:  6
Endurance: 10
Rank: 4
Courage: 8
Firepower: 8
Skill: 9
A long time fighter in the gladiator rings in Cybertron’s less than savoury circles, Kup was approached by Optimus Prime as one of the first to join his cause.  He proudly wore the Autobot insignia into the ring and pummelled the scrap out of his foes, all the time advertising the Autobot brand.  He’s taken far too many hits to the processor in his millennia-long lifetime and can’t remember much.  He often starts telling stories to the new mechs, then forgets; and then starts beating their chassis out of shape for no other reason than it’s what he knows best.  He’s gone through upgrade after upgrade and the only thing that is still original is his ember, which shows no sign of flickering out.

Wheelie:
Function:  Barbarian
“Smash, trash and crash!”
Strength: 7
Intelligence: 4
Speed:  7
Endurance: 10
Rank: 4
Courage: 10
Firepower: 6
Skill: 8
Wheelie is an enigmatic little mechanoid.  He was found in the wastes of Xarn amongst the shattered remains of several unknown aquatic-type mechs.  He’s a savage, primal force who prefers ripping his enemies apart with his bare hands while shouting obscenities.  He possesses strength far beyond what an average Autobot should have, but all attempts to capture him to dissect him have failed.  For now Optimus Prime is content leaving Wheelie to roam on his own.  He did put a signal beacon on the little terror just so that his Autobot forces don’t have a nasty run in.

Scoop:
Function:  Warrior
“What was that sound?”
Strength: 8
Intelligence: 5
Speed:  4
Endurance: 5
Rank: 4
Courage: 3
Firepower: 5
Skill: 6
Poor Scoop.  He tries very hard to impress Optimus Prime and his commanders; however he’s just too frightened to fully act on his ambitions.  He has a very twitchy trigger finger, which often causes him to clean up the damage he causes when he fires prematurely in the completely wrong direction.  He’s a very frustrated warrior; deep within his ember lies a berserk rage which is triggered when his self embarrassment reaches a certain point.  If that triggers, then he doesn’t remember anything afterwards, but has a lot of mess to clean up afterwards.  He is often paired with far more brave and competent warriors to make up for these weaknesses, or perhaps to push Scoop over his breaking point and turn a losing battle into a winning one.
This is an expanded roster of characters I have in my Shattered Glass figures collection. For those of you who don't know; Shattered Glass was the theme for Botcon 2008, the biggest Transformers convention in North America. Shattered Glass was their take on the Mirror Universe theme that was made famous by Star Trek. Autobots are evil and Decepticons are good. I loved the concept, bought a few other figs that would fit the theme and now I have a small force for each side.

***PLEASE NOTE***
I did not write the bios for Optimus Prime, Jazz, Goldbug, Grimlock, Rodimus, Ricochet or Blurr. Those were written by Hasbro and/or Fun Publications. I included them only for completeness sake. They are already available to the public via sites like seibertron.com, tfu.info and tfw2005.com and several others

Figures that I used:
Beachcomber - Energon Cliffjumper
Huffer - Movie Armorhide
Windcharger - Movie Clocker
Ultra Magnus - Nemesis Prime w/Shadow Commander Armor
Jetfire - Universe 2008 Treadbolt
Seaspray - Movie Storm Surge
Star Saber - Robot Masters Black Star Saber
Dread Leo - Robot Masters Black Victory Leo
Side Burn - Robots in Disguise Red Side Burn
Mirage - Electrostatic Disruptor Ligier (Henkei Exclusive)
Kup - Cybertron Dirt Boss
Wheelie - Henkei Wheelie
Scoop - Movie Grindcore
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Part Two:  The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Much to Twilight's chagrin, Dewdrop Dazzle was not gone the next day. Nor the next. Not even the next. The new arrival had divided her time between constantly following Twilight about with a constant barrage of questions; and vanishing off into Ponyville without a word. Despite the peace and quiet, Twilight had found Dewdrop's absences to be even more worrying than when she was hanging about the house.

This was one such moment. Dewdrop had skipped out of the house at the earliest possible moment, not that Twilight had complained. However, the thought of what the strange blue pony could be up to had been gnawing away at Twilight's mind, and so she eventually decided to venture into the town to track down her 'guest'.

The sky was still littered with grey clouds, but patches of blue was breaking through, and the air was fresh and crisp as Twilight wandered through Ponyville. Dewdrop was nowhere to be found. Perhaps she –

"Howdy Twilight!"

Twilight gave a smile as she saw one of her actual friends. "Applejack, hey!" She galloped happily up to the orange pony. "How are you? Don't worry, I've not forgotten I was going to help you with the apple bucking this week! It's just been busy busy back at mine!"

"Ah..." Applejack pulled a face and glanced away. "Don't worry Twilight, it's all done now. There's always next time though!"

"Oh." Twilight's face drooped. Though apple bucking was hard work, she did always enjoy helping out her friends. "I suppose Rainbow Dash dropped in to do it? I did mean to I promise..."

She trailed off, a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach as Applejack replied. "No, your friend Dewdrop Dazzle popped by yesterday. She was great, managed to pick way more apples than I could'a managed! Hope you don't mind!"

"Of course I don't mind!" lied Twilight. "Why would I mind, it's your orchard, it's all in a good cause! Besides, it's for the best, I've got a lot on this week! I promised Cheerilee I'd teach a class on magic at the schoolhouse some time!"

"Well that's mighty odd!" Applejack retorted. "Apple Bloom said they'd had a class on magic just the other day. I guess they're really pushing that curriculum, eh?"

Twilight's eyes narrowed into slits, glaring at Applejack as if this was her fault. "I don't suppose a certain pink and blue unicorn was teaching it?" she hissed.

Applejack seemed to miss any malice in Twilight's voice, and just nodded brightly. "Yup! Your friend is certainly turning out to be quite helpful about town! She's a goon 'un!"

Twilight stomped the ground with a hoof, feeling the twitching in her eye returning. "But... but that was MY class!" she hissed. "I was supposed to do that, she's copying me!"

Applejack gave a look of concern as Twilight became more and more agitated. "Now sugarcube, don't be getting' all jealous an' all, it's good to have friends with similar interests!" But it was no use. Twilight had already turned to gallop off. She had to find out what else Dewdrop Dazzle had been getting up to.


***


"But Spike, I'm me! I've put a lot of work into being me!" Twilight sat angrily glowering in her front room, staring at her little friend who didn't seem to realise the gravity of the situation. She had spent the remainder of the day racing around Ponyville, to discover that Dewdrop Dazzle had somehow already completed every single task she was about to carry out. "She took my place helping out Rarity with her dress making, she'd already helped Fluttershy to feed all the rabbits before I arrived, and she's been reading you bedtime stories!" This last sentence was said with a slight hiss at Spike, as if 'bedtime stories' rhymed with 'traitor'.

Spike sighed heavily. "You're being ridiculous Twilight. She's just being friendly. Besides, you hate reading me stories!"

Twilight huffed. "That's beside the point Spike, it's still what I do! She's trying to take over, why can't anyone see it but me? It's not right!" Paranoid thoughts started to swirl in her mind. "And how does she know what I'm planning? She's got to be spying on me! How else could she know?"

Spike shook his head admonishingly. "You could just talk to her you know, rather than being all passive-aggressive about it. Perhaps she doesn't realise what she's doing?"

"Oh, she knows!" Twilight hissed. "And I'm not being passive-aggressive! Now help me with this!" Twilight motioned to the front door, which was covered in planks of wood which were haphazardly nailed across it. With a few knocks of her hammer, she fixed the final bar in place. "Let's see DewDRIP DRIZZLE get in now!" Twilight rubbed her hooves together, a wicked grin on her face.

"Hello Twilight!" said Dewdrop Dazzle, clambering in through the window, smiling happily as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

"Hello Dewdrop," Twilight growled darkly, "wonderful to see you."

Dewdrop simply nodded brightly. "Thanks! I've had a wonderful day with all my Ponyville friends, and I'm just off to see Zecora to get some tea! Did you want anything?"

Twilight looked as if she was about to leap at Dewdrop. Luckily Spike had grabbed her hooves to restrain the tetchy unicorn. "No, I'm good thanks" she snapped, struggling in Spike's grip. "Good luck, be careful of the Everfree forest, it's very dang-." She paused. "No, wait, scratch that."

"Twilight!" Spike gave a disappointed cry at his friend, before calling after Dewdrop. "Look after yourself Dewdrop!" But Dewdrop had already scrambled out of the window.

Twilight was already inspecting the window. "We could bar the window, and... no; she'd find a way through. She could tunnel in! Spike, fetch me some concrete!"

Spike shook his head. "No!" he said in the most rebellious tone he could muster. "Twilight, you're getting carried away again. She just wants to be your friend; besides, ponies are allowed to have friends that aren't you!"

"Yes, yes, you're right!" Twilight had stopped trying to work out ways to barricade the house, and was now pacing up and down. "It's just... it feels like she's trying to take over! I like being me, I don't want someone else to be me! And I'm spending so much time worrying about it that I'm falling behind on my work, I've not even sent a friendship report to Princess Celestia in over a week! I hope I won't get in trouble."

"Eh-heh." Spike coughed at this, scratching the back of his neck, eyes darting about the room, trying to look anywhere but at Twilight.

Twilight stared at Spike. "Spike? What's the matter?"

"Nothing!" Spike blurted out. "Nothing's the matter, it's all fine!" At that very moment, fate took an inopportune hand in events, and Spike found himself belching out a plume of green magical flame. A scroll with the royal seal appeared from the ether, but before Spike's little hands could grab it, Twilight used her magic to snatch it away.

She looked at the scroll in concern. "It's from the Princess!" she gasped, opening it. "I bet she's wondering why my report is delayed! I'll have to get working right away..." She trailed off as she began to read, a horrible, cold sinking feeling in her belly.


My faithful student,

I must admit that I feared you had been neglecting your studies; that your latest reports had lacked the insight and depth to which I had become accustomed to. I was worried you would not reach the heights of your potential. I must apologise profusely for these thoughts.

The report you sent last night was so rich and deep in its insight about the nature of friendship that I was taken aback. It is truly gratifying that your studies have at last borne fruit, and I look forward to hearing more in the coming weeks.

Your devoted teacher,
Princess Celestia



Twilight stared at the letter for what seemed to be an eternity. She rolled around the words in her head. "Last night..." she muttered, and then her gaze snapped up at Spike, who was cowering in the corner, arms splayed in front of his face as if to protect himself. "Spike..." she growled, steam starting to rise from her ears. "Spike... would you care to explain?"

Spike coughed. "It's like this Twilight..." He trailed off as he ran as fast as he could for the door. Unfortunately the door was still nailed shut, and he slammed into it, falling back in a giddy heap. He started to fidget wildly and then blurted out breathlessly: "Uh, I mentioned to Dewdrop you'd been having trouble thinking of a new report to send to the Princess, so she wrote one, it was really good and I didn't think you'd mind, and I'll go stand in the kitchen now!" Spike hung his head and trooped to the kitchen to stare at the sink for another hour, leaving Twilight alone and fuming.

Twilight just stood there, before sending a bolt of magic to combust the letter. "No! No! NO! That's MY job!" she shouted to the skies. "I'M the Princess's student, not her!"

Eventually, she settled down to spend the evening in a sulk, her thoughts full of a certain blue pony, and the ways in which she could get rid of her. Eventually, an idea surfaced.


***


Twilight stood in the bathroom brushing her teeth and staring at her reflection in the mirror. It was definitely her own reflection this time, she had checked.  The rumble of thunder echoed throughout the house as Ponyville was once more lashed by a ferocious storm.  Dewdrop hadn't returned from her trip to the Everfree Forest that evening; there was a part of Twilight that hoped she had run into some of the dangerous wildlife that lived there. It was a cruel thought, and Twilight buried it deep within her mind with a shudder.

Twilight's eyes darted about the bathroom. She hadn't noticed earlier, but there didn't seem to be any toiletries belonging to Dewdrop there. Perhaps the annoying blue unicorn had decided to leave already, perhaps...

"Hi Twilight!" Dewdrop chirped happily as her head bobbed round the corner. "Hey, you finished with that?" Her horn glowed, and Twilight's toothbrush was levitated out of her grasp and towards Dewdrop, who started to merrily brush her teeth.

Twilight's cheeks bulged as she suddenly felt rather sick. Tomorrow she would burn that toothbrush. Right now though, she had to put her gambit into play. She grinned at Dewdrop, who had finished brushing her teeth, and was happily combing her hair with Twilight's comb, whistling happily.

"So Dewdrop..." Twilight began with what she hoped was a friendly grin on her face. "You're planning on staying in Ponyville for a while, right?"

Dewdrop turned round, wide-eyed. "Oh! That's a great idea, I think I will!" she grinned merrily. "Thanks Twilight!"

"I... no, no..." Twilight trailed off in slight confusion. She shook her head and continued. "I mean, you can't stay here forever, can you." Dewdrop stared blankly back, and Twilight pressed the matter. "You need to get your own place."

Dewdrop shrugged her shoulders. "I'm okay here thanks" she replied.

Twilight stopped to think for a moment. This wasn't going as planned. "But Dewdrop..." she eventually stated. "If you don't have your own place... how could I come round and visit you?"

Dewdrop's mouth dropped into an 'o' shape, and she started hopping excitedly about the small bathroom. "Oooh yes, you're right! I need my own place so you can come over and we can have parties together and hang out."

Twilight gave Dewdrop a 'friendly' hoof-punch in the shoulder. "Yeah! And you should get a job too, so you can... help out Ponyville more." And, of course, Twilight noted to herself, keep Dewdrop busy and out of her way.

Dewdrop seemed very excited by these ideas, and so Twilight left the blue unicorn hopping about in a happy tizzy; returning to her bedroom and making sure to lock the door security. Twilight hadn't needed to use any locks before, but she had bought one especially. Actually, she had bought half a dozen, which were all fixed securely to her door frame to ensure her privacy. She turned around.

Someone was in her bed.

"Oh. Of course. The window" she glowered, glaring at Dewdrop. Dewdrop peeked out from under the bedcovers, having somehow made it from the bathroom to her room without her seeing, an impressive feat under any other circumstances.

Dewdrop nodded to the window. Outside the rain was pouring down, and lightning blazed through the sky. "Storms scare me!" she whispered hoarsely. "Do you mind if I sleep in here."

"Fine" Twilight stared back, unbolted the room, and walked out of the door.

"Twilight, where're you going?" Dewdrop called back after her a worried tone in her voice.

"It's a surprise, Dewdrop. A surprise." Twilight trotted slowly down the stairs. "Don't worry, I'll be back!"

Twilight spent the rest of the night lodged in the kitchen cupboard, with a saucepan for a pillow. It was the once place she was sure Dewdrop wouldn't think of looking.


***


Twilight rose happily the next morning. Sleeping in the cupboard was probably the best night's sleep she'd had all week, apart from the horrible crick in her neck. Dewdrop was once more nowhere to be seen; according to Spike she'd gone out at the crack of dawn to carry out the mission Twilight had given her. Twilight had promptly sent Spike upstairs to disinfect her room; she still hadn't forgotten about the little dragon's betrayal.

Twilight sighed in contentment as she sat down in her favourite chair to read her favourite book.  If Dewdrop managed to find a job and a place to live, then she could easily avoid her. Life could get back to normal and she'd never have to see Dewdrop again, barring a few chance meetings in the town square.

As if on cue, Dewdrop bounded back into the house, a look of giddy excitement on her face, beaming with pride. "Twilight, Twilight, guess what!" she called out joyfully. "I got myself a job here in Ponyville and a place to stay!"

Twilight's reply was for once, genuine. "Dewdrop, I'm so happy for you." A tear of joy fell down Twilight's cheek. "I can get Spike to pack your stuff up for you right now; it's no problem at all. I insist!" She was already starting to push Dewdrop out the door, as Dewdrop continued to speak.

"So I thought, how could I get a job that would help Twilight? See back in Canterlot, tales of your love of books had inspired me to take my library exam so I became a fully qualified librarian even though there weren't any library jobs going there, but I talked to Ponyville's Mayor and she said since you weren't a qualified librarian, I could run the town library as long as I was happy for you to live here too, and that's FINE because you're my best friend!" Dewdrop blurted this out breathlessly, and Twilight stopped pushing her, a look of horror and confusion on her face.

"What the... what?" Twilight gibbered, twitching, a cold sinking feeling deep within the pit of her stomach.

Dewdrop didn't seem to notice anything was wrong, cheerfully revealing a scroll with the official town seal, using her magic to float it over to Twilight and proudly display it. "Now we can work and live together and we'll have such fun!" She clapped her hooves happily. "Maybe we can have a party with all our friends to celebrate!"

Twilight's face started to turn red as barely restrained anger steadily built up. "Y-you're letting me live in my own house?" she stammered out.

Dewdrop nodded, as if completely missing the tension in Twilight's voice. "Yup! Of course! You're my bestest friend in the entire world!"

Twilight's hair had taken on a dishevelled look, her eyes bulged wildly, steam escaped from her ears with the sound of a kettle, and her face flushed bright red with rage as if it was about to pop. "W-wait right there!" she uttered, before racing into the kitchen and slamming the door.

There were smashing and crashing and screaming noises for a solid ten minutes.


***


That night, Twilight tossed and turned restlessly. Events were spiralling out of control and there was no telling where Dewdrop would stop. Would she be happy with just having Twilight's job and house and friends? Would she want to take over her life completely? Did she –

Her thoughts were interrupted by a scraping noise. Twilight looked up to see Dewdrop Dazzle pushing her bed across the landing into Twilight's room, cutting a gouge in the wooden floor as she did so.

"I thought I could put my bed in here so we could be roommates!" Dewdrop brightly remarked in the darkness. "I hope you don't mind!"

"Sure" Twilight bitterly retorted. "Go ahead. It's your house after all." She pulled the covers over her head and began to plot. Something had to be done to sort out Dewdrop Dazzle, and fast.
Part Two: The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Twilight finds the attention she is receiving from Dewdrop Dazzle to be more than she can bear. How much can Twilight be pushed before she starts to push back?

Part 1: [link]

Part 2: [link]

Part 3: [link]

Part 4: [link]
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Chapter One

Mera lay draped over a large tree branch enjoying the heat of the summer day.  Her tongue flicked lazily in and out and she sighed contentedly.  She had recently shed her old skin, and as she shimmered in the bright sunlight she flattered herself that there was not a better looking serpent in the jungle on this day.  Her belly was full as well, and there were few things that added more to her contentment than a recently ingested meal, especially one of this size.

"Mom!  Mom!  Where are you?" cried a voice from below.

A heavy and less contented sigh escaped Mera then.  She wondered if she could stay hidden up here, or if Sylla would find her?  Slowly she eased her head over the branch to survey the ground below.  With the new meal in her, Mera knew she'd be too slow to escape her adopted daughter this time.  She sighed again.

The past ten years had flown by...like a rock.  Her decision to adopt a human child had certainly been one of madness, and Mera had often wondered if she would not have been better off digesting the girl years before.  She still wondered if it would not be a good idea to have done with the whole business and consume her now.  The fact was, Sylla would make a wonderful meal at this time.  She had filled out nicely and there was plenty of good meat on those bones.  Unfortunately, Mera was too full to contemplate such a solution today, not that she ever seriously considered it.  At least, not often.

"Mom!  Are you hiding from me again?  You never seem to get tired of this game!" cried the voice from below, growing nearer.

No, Mera never did tire of this game.  It was not that she did not love her human daughter, for as capable as her species was of that emotion, she did bestow it upon Sylla.  But, well, Sylla was really quite a handful, and lacking those appendages as Mera did, that made raising her all the more difficult.  

It wasn't that Sylla was of a mean nature, as Mera had not encountered a kinder creature in the jungle.  In fact, Sylla could be kind to a fault.  It wasn't that Sylla was not an appreciative daughter, as Sylla had learned to hunt for them both as she had grown.  Additionally, she was always there to bathe her mother and wrestle with her when Mera was in the mood.  It wasn't that Sylla wasn't an attractive daughter, for as she had grown into adolescence she had blossomed wonderfully.  Mera knew that if she tried swallowing Sylla now, her jaws would need to unhinge to their limits to get around her daughter's hourglass figure.

No, for all these things Mera could be proud.  The problem with Sylla was that she was a catastrophe magnet.  Had Sylla's human parents been around, they would have nodded their heads in silent understanding.  Sylla simultaneously attracted and repelled danger.  Mera would never have believed any creature in this jungle could come near death on such a regular basis and still walk around intact.  The child was simply amazing.   The jungle was a dangerous place, and even under Mera's care it was hard to believe Sylla had survived.  Mera herself had led a far more adventurous life than she had ever desired or expected thanks to Sylla.  

"Mom!  There you are!" Sylla cried from almost directly below, and Mera hesitantly looked downward.

There was Sylla, standing with her hands on her hips and grinning up at Mera.  Her blonde hair had grown long, travelling like silver ivy down her back.  She wore the briefest of animal skin tops and a loin cloth, for though Sylla was beautiful, she was also quite immodest.  Mera believed this could easily have stemmed from the fact that Sylla had no human companions at this point and so had no concern there.  On the other hand, Mera had also seen more than one ape eyeing her appreciatively as she ran through the forest.

And yet, as pretty a picture as Sylla made below, Mera had to shake her head in dismay.  Mera had occasion to know that Sylla was fully as intelligent as she was beautiful.  The girl had a gift with languages for one thing, and could communicate readily with most forms of jungle life.  Yet for all her intelligence, her common sense seemed to be enjoying an extended vacation on the other side of the planet.  Mera had chosen this particular branch to occupy, believing it would keep Sylla from finding her.  She realized she should have known better, and the branch's location would not hinder Sylla, simply because Sylla would not have the good sense not to approach her there.

"Hello, Sylla dear," Mera called down, wondering when Sylla would notice.

"Hi, Mom!  You'll never guess where I've been today!"

"That's true, because I'm not going to even try."

Sylla laughed, a bright, cheerful sound.  "You're something else.  I know you want to know, even if you pretend otherwise."

Mera observed Sylla.  Amazing.  And she calls me something else.  Could Sylla really be that unobservant?

"Sylla," Mera hissed, unable to restrain herself any longer.

Sylla's upturned face broke into a smile.  "What?"

"Sylla, dear, as you guessed, I would love to hear about your adventures today, but I do think we need to consider our priorities, don't you?"

Sylla appeared puzzled by that, her smile slipping somewhat.  "What?"

Mera sighed, pushing back the impulse to bang her head against the tree branch.  She only consoled herself with the reminder that Sylla was adopted and not her own flesh and blood.  That, at least, was some solace.

"Sylla, dear, I wonder at times how you have reached sixteen years.  Please look down for a moment."

Sylla did as directed.  Mera observed the top of her head for a moment before Sylla looked back up, a sheepish grin on her face.  "I did it again, huh?" Sylla commented weakly.

Mera shook her head in dismay.  

The quicksand Sylla had carelessly strolled into was now encircling her bare waist.  Mera wondered just how deep Sylla would have had to sink before she would have noticed something amiss on her own.  Mera would have liked to excuse Sylla's error on lack of experience, but this was the type of thing Sylla managed on a daily basis.  If Mera had possessed hair, she had no doubt it would be grey by now.  It was at times like this that Mera occasionally wondered if Sylla's parents hadn't intentionally arranged to be carried off by those locusts those many years ago.  

"So, are you going to help me, or am I supposed to begin practicing holding my breath?" Sylla asked.

Without further comment, Mera looped her tail about the trunk of the tree and slowly uncurled from the branch, drooping her head down towards Sylla.  She paused then, pulling out of reach of her daughter's outstretched hands.  Sylla frowned and rested her arms on the surface of the mud, now nearly up to her shoulders.  "What?" Sylla asked, bottom lip thrust out.  

"If I pull you out, will you promise not to fall into any more quicksand pits from now on?"

"Mother!  It's not like I do this every day!"

Mera raised an eyebrow in response.

"Well!   It isn't every day!   Besides, it's not like I do it on purpose exactly, I just am a little careless at times, that's all.  I was just excited to see you!"

"I am in no hurry.  I can wait all day for your promise.  Can you?" Mera asked.

The touch of the quicksand on the underside of her chin made the point clear for Sylla.  "Fine!  I promise!" she said, thankful that the quicksand was covering her hands so Mera could not see her fingers crossed.

Mera lowered her head down further and Sylla's hands broke the surface of the sticky sand and closed about Mera's neck.  Mera pulled back up the tree and Sylla followed her up and out of the bog.  Moments later, she was resting on the branch alongside Mera.

Sylla grabbed a handful of fronds from the branch and began wiping the mire off her legs.  "Thanks, Mom," she said, her smile back and her brush with potential disaster of seconds before apparently already forgotten.  "Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, you'll never guess where I was just now!"

"Up to your ears in quicksand?"

"Yes!  No!  Before that, silly!  Oh, I'll tell you anyway.  I was back at the old steel home!"

"Oh?" Mera responded, curious.

"Yes.  It's still in pretty good shape, really.  And I found all this weird stuff in there made out of some really hard stuff and it was really interesting."

"Hmm.  Doesn't it bother you to go back there and see those remnants from your old life?"

Sylla paused in her cleaning then and looked off into the jungle.  "Not really.  It's hard to miss something you know nothing about.  The jungle is my home."

"But you are not from here.  Certainly you sometimes wish for others of your kind?  I have tried to be a good parent to you, but I am not human."

Sylla looped an arm around Mera's neck and pulled her close, giving her a hug.  "You are my mother, Mom.  Sometimes I'm curious about what might have been, but I'm happy here.  The jungle is a beautiful place and so full of adventure."

"Especially when you are around," Mera hissed with a slight chuckle.

"Yeah.  But anyway, it was interesting in there, and I was thinking I might investigate it further, so maybe I could learn more about my parents and my background.  I mean, maybe I even had brothers and sisters!  Who knows?  Would that be okay with you?  You won't feel I love you less or anything ust because I'm curious, will you?"

Mera shook her head.  "No, daughter.  You have always been the curious one, and I have long wondered why you have not been more inquisitive about your origins before now.  You have my blessing to investigate this further.  But perhaps you could bring a couple of your friends along, just to keep you safe.  You know how you can lose track of your surroundings when something catches your attention."

Sylla rolled her eyes in mock exasperation.  "Oh, Mother!  You worry too much, but if it will make you feel better, maybe I can bring Dorita and Bimas along with me."

"Please do, dear.  Now, perhaps you'd better run along and do your chores.  The dishes from this morning still haven't been washed."

"I'll do them as soon as I talk to Dorita and Bimas about going out tomorrow," Sylla said eagerly.  "I promise.  Thanks, Mom."  She kissed her mother on the top of the head.  "See you," she then said, and jumped off the branch.

"No, Sylla!" Mera cried out and then shook her head in defeat.  The sound of adolescent flesh meeting quicksand reached her ears, followed by a timid, "Uh oh."  

Mera gave in to the impulse this time, and banged her head softly against the tree branch.



Sylla awoke early the next morning, not wishing to disturb Mera.  It wasn't that she was overly solicitous of her mother's needing sleep, it's just that she wasn't ready to hear another lecture regarding the dangers of the jungle.  Oh, the jungle could be a little messy at times, exciting certainly, but rarely truly dangerous.  At least not if you survived, and that was something for which Sylla had found she had a natural flair.

Dressing quietly, she slid down a vine from the tree in which they normally slept.  Landing softly on the damp jungle floor, she looked up to check on Mera.  The python lay draped across several branches, unmoving.  Sylla took a deep breath and let it out silently.  So far so good.  Tiptoeing, she moved out of the circle of trees that the two of them had made their home.  

She knew where she was heading, too.  Up until yesterday, it had been a long time since she'd been to the big metal home in which she'd arrived on this planet.  Mera had moved her out of there soon after her parents had been killed, although Sylla had never asked why.  Mera had never forbidden her to go there, which may have been why it hadn't really interested Sylla much in the past.  If it wasn't forbidden, it couldn't be all that exciting.  Sylla had stumbled across it from time to time as she had grown, but it had all the appeal of a pretty stone.  Interesting, for a moment, and then forgotten.

Yet she was older now, and when she had entered the old place yesterday, she found her curiosity aroused.  It pulled questions from her, and made her wonder more about who she really was.  Sylla had typically always been too active to engage in much introspection, but of late she found herself occasionally wondering about what her life might have been like had she not been stranded on this planet.  She didn't know why it was, but she knew that something had been changing in her over the past year or so.  She would often find herself staring up into the sky, late at night, gazing at the stars and feeling a very empty feeling in the pit of her stomach.  It was more than vertigo from being up in the trees while doing that staring.  Sylla wasn't quite as contented as she led her mother to believe.

For some reason, stepping into her old home yesterday had triggered a number of confusing feelings in her.  She had learned not to think much of her human parents over the years, as it had only made her sad at first.  Now, she could barely remember them, and she didn't entirely trust the memory.  Mera was her mother, and she did not want her feeling betrayed by Sylla's new interest in her human past, but Sylla couldn't help wondering about it.  In spite of her attempts to fit into the jungle, she knew she was different.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but she was the only human, for one thing.  Perhaps by understanding her origins, she might better be able to feel secure with her place on this planet.  Maybe there was a reason behind it all.

Her thoughts thus engaged, it was little wonder that she quickly triggered a simple snare set by one of the local tribes.  There was the smallest snapping sound, and then a vine tightened about her ankle, jerking her off balance and catapulting her up into the air.  She bounced upside down on the bungee-like vine for a moment before it settled down, leaving her suspended several body lengths from the jungle floor.

Sylla hung motionless, her arms and golden hair dangling towards the jungle floor.  She shook her head as if coming out of a trance, and looked about her.  It had been awhile since she'd taken the time to observe the jungle from this angle, and she found it rather amusing.  The sudden trap had shaken free the melancholic thoughts crowding in her head as she considered her more immediate situation.  It made her a little dizzy hanging upside down like this, and she found herself wondering how the local bats could sleep this way.  

Bending at the waist, she raised herself up towards her feet, and then relaxed again.  The motion set her moving, starting to swing back and forth in a slight arc.  "Wow," she said to herself, and repeated the action.  Soon, she was swinging back and forth on the branch, laughing to herself and having a merry old time.

Her enjoyment was interrupted a few minutes later by the sound of someone clearing her throat below Sylla.  Sylla tried slowing herself down so that she could see who it was.  However, by then she had some serious momentum going, and trying to focus as she simultaneously spun in circles while swinging back and forth was almost impossible.  She could see a dark shape poised almost directly below the branch to which she was attached, but she could not immediately discern who it was.  "Hello?"  she called back.  "Is somebody down there?"

"You are quite possibly the only creature in the jungle who could stumble into a trap and turn it into a source of amusement," a voice commented dryly from below.

"Dorita!" Sylla cried out, recognizing the voice of her best friend.  "You snuck up on me!"

"Not a difficult task, given you are making enough noise to awaken half the jungle and are too busy making a spectacle of yourself to notice a herd of elephants approaching."

"Herd of elephants?" Sylla asked.

"Sure, I've heard of elephants," Dorita replied.  "They're big, grey things, with long trunks.  But I thought we were talking about how I snuck up on you.  Still, I don't suppose you were truly interested, anyway."

Sylla had remained motionless since hearing Dorita speak, and the vine had stopped its swaying, allowing Sylla to stare down at her friend.  Sylla smiled and waved.  The chimp did not wave back.  Sylla gave an exasperated sigh.  That was just like Dorita.  Most of the chimps Sylla knew had a lively and carefree disposition.  They could be moody, for certain, but were generally a playful group.  Not Dorita.  She had been different from the moment Sylla had met her five years past.  At times, Sylla was not sure how the two of them had developed such a bond, given their quite different approaches to life.  Yet Sylla trusted Dorita like few other creatures of the jungle.

"So, what are you doing up so early this morning?" Sylla asked cheerfully, ignoring the fact that she was still dangling by one ankle from the branch of the tree.

"I couldn't sleep.  I had this dreadful premonition that one of my friends might be in danger.  Apparently, the main danger was that she would make a fool of herself.  People will never take you seriously, Sylla, as long as you continue to turn these situations into games," Dorita replied, picking a bug out of her dark coat before crunching it between her teeth.

"Hmm," Sylla responded, after seriously considering Dorita's comment.  "You might be right."  She gave an inverted shrug.  "Who says I want to be taken seriously?"

"Don't worry your blonde little head," Dorita replied.  "I don't think it's an issue that will be coming up anytime soon.  Now, are you planning to hang there all day?  Not that it matters to me, mind you, I'm simply curious."

"Just a minute," Sylla replied.  Unsheathing the stone knife strapped at her hip, Sylla pulled herself up.  Grabbing the vine with one hand, she sawed away at it with the other.  The material quickly parted, and Sylla hung by one hand to the vine as she replaced the knife in it's sheath.  "Be right down!"

"Thanks for the warning," Dorita cried back, shuffling out of the way, having had plenty of experience with the types of entrances Sylla could make.

Sylla let go and landed athletically on her feet.  She wiped away the tiny beads of sweat that had formed on her forehead.  Swinging back and forth had been quite a work out, and it was already clear it was going to be another steamer in the jungle today.  She sat down on the dark earth as Dorita ambled over.  "Come here," Sylla cried, sitting cross-legged.  "I'll groom you."

"Humph.  Well, as long as you promise not to trigger any more traps in the vicinity while you do so, I suppose that would be all right," Dorita grumbled as she moved next to Sylla.  Sylla smiled to herself.  She knew there were few things Dorita enjoyed more than being groomed.  

Sylla began running her fingers through Dorita's dark hair, looking for anything that might have gotten in that didn't belong.  There were tiny burrs, bits of wood, and occasionally a large and juicy bug which she would pass forward to her friend.  When Sylla was done, Dorita returned the favor, pulling out the jungle minutiae that had gathered in Sylla's long tresses over the past day.  Sylla, however, did not eat the bugs that Dorita passed her way, allowing her friend to enjoy them in her stead.  As Dorita worked on Sylla's mane, Sylla suddenly said, "Hey, I've got an idea, let's go find Bimas and see what he's up to.  I found something I'd like to show both of you."

Dorita stopped immediately, pulling her fingers from Sylla's hair.  She scrambled over Sylla's shoulder and onto her lap, eyes squinting as she stared up at Sylla.  "What have you got planned?  Don't act innocent with me, Sylla.  You're going to get us into trouble again, aren't you?"

"Absolutely not!" Sylla exclaimed.  "I wouldn't think of it!"

"No," Dorita agreed.  "That's exactly my point.  You don't need to think of it.  It just happens."

"Quit being such a worrywart.  I just want to explore my old steel home a little more.  I promised my mother I'd take you guys along.  She didn't want me exploring alone."

"Uh huh.  I suspected your mother didn't like me, but I never realized she was hoping for my early demise.  How she thinks we will protect you is quite beyond me."

"Me too," replied Sylla.  "But come on, maybe we'll find something interesting in there."

"I doubt it."

"Of course you do," Sylla replied, ruffling the hair on the top of Dorita's head.  "But you'll come along all the same."

Dorita showed her teeth in a sneer, but jumped into Sylla's arms as they moved off in search of Bimas.



By Kaol
And so the book begins proper, years after the prologue. This chapter features the first quicksand scene of several that will be found in this book. and in case it's not blatantly obvious, I chose the name of her chimp friend, Dorita, as a play on the chimp, Cheeta, from the Tarzan movies. (Cheetos=Doritos...get it?)

The preceding chapter is here: [link]
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Aliyah eyed the reticulated python curled up in cage in the corner of her room nervously; nervous because this was her first attempt at snake dancing, nervous because she'd heard the stories of how bad it could go, but most of all nervous because she could have sworn the massive constrictor was eyeing her back.  Its gaze sent shivers down her spine.

She'd been belly dancing for seven years now, and at the encouragement of a friend, had decided to one day try working a snake into her routine.  That day had come when she'd seen this particular python for sale.  The thing was practically being given away, and sure she would never see a deal like that again, Aliyah bought it without hesitation.  She still remained slightly apprehensive however.  The whole thing seemed just a little too good to be true.  Not to mention she was alone in the studio, but that was her own doing.  Though a professional belly dancer, Aliyah remained firmly self-conscious.  She didn't like anyone seeing her work until she was ready to show them.  She looked back over to the snake and the pile of coils before finally sighing.

"Not going to get anywhere by just sitting here, are we?" she asked it, standing up and walking over to the cage.  With a grunt, she hefted the massive snake up out of its cage.  It was longer than it had looked, and frighteningly thick.  After much struggling and maneuvering, she managed to drape the thing over her shoulders.  Its sinuous body drifted lazily around her; curling up against her legs, hugging her hips.  All in all though, it didn't seem very concerned or even interested, and she took that as a blessing.  Her steps a little unsteady under the weight on her shoulders, she made her way over to the CD player, flipping through the CDs until she found the one she wanted and popped it in, selecting the right song before returning to the center of the studio.  She turned to look into the mirror, at her petite figure surrounded by the powerful, writhing mass of coils, and took a deep breath.

"I love thisss sssong," the python suddenly hissed, sliding his head around in front of her, a wicked smile on his face.  Aliyah's eyes widened.  That was her first and probably last mistake.

"What?  You can...talk.....what..." she began to drawl, her speech slowing as she found herself suddenly enthralled by the swirling colors in the snake's eyes.  She blinked, slowly and deliberately, as if trying to clear her eyes of the dancing rings of color now reflected there.  It was as though the world was spinning, and those colors were the only stable thing left in it.  That was her last clear thought before her mind clouded over and the confused, frightened expression on her face relaxed.  Kaa chuckled, a sharp, staccato hiss, looking over his newest toy.

She certainly was a sight to behold.  She'd simply pulled her hair back into a bun for practice, but this must have been a dress rehearsal, as her olive skin was clothed in a beaded kiwi green bra and skirt.  "Well," Kaa said, admiring his prize.  "Don't jussst ssstand there, girlcub."  He titled his head, and she followed suit.  "Ssshow me what you can do."

Somehow, the music reached Aliyah through the haze of her mind, and she raised her arms.  They wove throw the air ahead of her, her hips and stomach moving as fluidly as the deadly serpent draped over her.  Even under Kaa's hypnosis, ever single movement was perfectly controlled, smooth and elegant.  Kaa smiled, his coils around the girl's hips rocking in time with her movements, dancing with her.  She mirrored every movement or his head, following his weaving eyes with her own, and as pair twisted their way around the empty rehearsal room, it quickly became unclear exactly who was leading who.

Her bare feet scraped against the woven mat as she pivoted slowly, unconsciously winding herself right into his coils.  Three thick bands of muscle wrapped her from waist to chest, but still she danced for her master, oblivious of the mortal danger she was in.  That is, right until the coils started to close.  She coughed as the air was pushed out of her lungs, blinking rapidly and drifting in and out of Kaa's trance.

"Awww," Kaa hissed teasingly, once again drifting around to stare into her eyes.  "Isss sssomeone fighting back?"  All Aliyah could manage in way of a response was a strangled gag, the coils corkscrewing tighter around her.  It didn't really matter to Kaa whether she broke free of his spell or not.  It wasn't like there was anything she could do now.  As it was, her hands shifted from their slow, elegant weave to grip the living corset around her.  Another powerful squeeze brought her to her knees, and the one after that sent her world spinning.

Aliyah tipped over slowly, landing on her back and into the cushion of coils.  She panted in quiet, hitched breaths, each exhale  drawing the coils in tighter around her.  She writhed slowly in Kaa's unbreakable grip, feet moving restlessly over woven mat.  Kaa's head slithered up to hers, his tongue darting out to taste the sweat on her cheeks, leaving behind a thin trailed of saliva.  Again, he let out a hissing chuckle, and slid up out of her field of vision.  Her eyelids fluttered as the coils cinched suddenly in rapid succession, forcing the last of the air from her lungs.  The last thing she felt before passing out was a wave of hot air against her face, and the strange sensation of the snake's mouth working it's way over her head.

Less than a few minutes later, there was no sign of the girl.  All that remained was her would-be dance partner, curled  comfortably up in one corner of the room, a large bulge in his stomach and a smug smile on his reptilian face.
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I fear it pretty much sucks. That's what I get for writing at 1:30am.
Apologies :(

EDIT: What song was she dancing to? BZAM! [link]
DOUBLE EDIT: Wait...should I mature this?
TRIPLE EDIT: Mwahaha...proof-read'd.
QUADRUPLE EDIT: Totally looking for critique, BTW. I'm pretty sure I kinda suck, so tips on fixing that from all you far more talented people would be awesome :)
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