“You know,” Pinkie said, “a lot of ponies are afraid to go in here. Not me though. Me and my friends used to be scared but then we had to come here to face Nightmare Moon and then we had to save Applebloom from Zecora but she didn't actually need saving because Zecora doesn't actually eat ponies. It was all a big misunderstanding and we all were poisoned by the poison joke and now everyone likes Zecora. I even have a song, two songs even. One for Zecora and one for the forest but I don't sing the one about Zecora anymore. Wanna hear the one about being afraid?” Pinkie took a deep breath to begin singing before she was interrupted.
“I see.” Court answered. “I sup pose there are still myths of the dan gers of the for est e ven to day.”
“Myths? The forest is still really dangerous. I mean, there's dragons, hydras, Ursa Majors and Minors, and I heard that there was a cockatrice around here awhile ago too, but I've got my Pinkie sense and you have your knife here so I'm sure we'll be fine.”
“If there are still dan gers like that a round then my girls have not been working hard. I have been gone too long. They al ways nee ded an eye on them.”
“Working hard? Oh, you mean keeping the forest safe. Well that's got to be hard work because the forest is so big and dark and spooky and super weird.”
“Yes. That may be it. I have been gone too long.” He said again.
“Well how long have you been gone?” Pinkie asked.
“Near ly a year. I sent them gifts once each two weeks when I traveled but I could not. They have got ten noth ing from me and that is why I bring them this cake my self.”
“I'm sure they'll love it, but how old are they and who takes care of them when you're away.”
“They are one year old er than they were when I last saw them. I do not know their age. No po ny takes care of them. They can take care of them selves. Be fore I be frien ded them they were thought to be dan ger ous but now they help po nies in trou ble.”
“Oh, Grannie Pie used to tell me stories about that sort of thing. Ghostly spirits in the forest that saved little lost fillies who'd gotten lost in the woods.”
“Yes. They would like o ther fil lies.” He sighed deeply. “They are al ways so hap py to see me. I think they get lone ly here. I will not leave them a gain.” Court lifted his head and walked resolutely forward. Pinkie hopped along behind him, easily keeping up with the other earth pony who, despite showing know signs of trouble with the massive load on his back, was moving rather slowly.
Twilight had been knocking on the door to the Carousel Boutique for several minutes when the door finally swung open to reveal a small, white haired, purple and pink maned unicorn. “Good morning Sweetie Belle, you're up early.” Twilight said to the yawning unicorn.
“Morning Twilight.” Sweetie said. “What are you doing here this early?”
“I need to talk to your sister, may I come in?”
“Yeah. She's in her studio. I have to get ready for school so you-” she yawned again, “you can find her.” Sweetie walked off and Spike finally let lose the yawn he had been trying to hold in.
“School? Doesn't she know it's Saturday?”
“I'm sure she'll figure it out later Spike, we have bigger problems than some filly who can't remember what day it is.” She walked back through the house and opened the door into the boutique where Rarity was measuring out long lengths of silver fabric. “Rarity, it's time.”
“Hardly, darling.”Rarity laughed. “I still have at least seven hours before my appointment at the spa.”
“That's not what I'm talking about.” Twilight insisted.
“Oh.” Rarity shrugged and continued with the measuring. “Then what is it time for, may I ask?”
“To save Ponyville and maybe even all of Equestria.”
“What? Again? Well why didn't you say so? Is it Discord, some new threat to ponydom?”
“No, I just received a letter from the Princess. It says that a dangerous stallion is on his way to Ponyville. She doesn't know when he's going to arrive but that we need to be prepared.”
“Oh my. Well we have to get all of us together to defend against this threat. Now I'm honored you came to me first but why me, wouldn't Rainbow be better at looking for him?”
“Rainbow Dash is good at scouting I guess, but the Princess also said the stallion is wearing diamond armor. You're closest to me and I thought your talent would be great at hunting him down.”
“Diamonds on armor? Talk about tacky. Well it shouldn't be too hard to find him, and I certainly doubt he can be all that inconspicuous with an outfit like that.”
“Well I hope we can put an end to this problem before it gets too out of hoof. We still need to get the others though. Pinkie isn't far, let's get her next.” Twilight said, motioning at the door.
“That sounds good. Let us go.”
The forest was dark despite it being mid-morning and Pinkie was starting to as if they were lost. She decided to bring up the matter tactfully. “Hey Court, are you sure you know where we're going because I've never been in this part of the woods and it's kind of weird to think your lost and I don't think you're lost but I'm lost and if I'm lost then you get lost we'll both be lost and nopony will be able to help the other get unlost.”
“It has been a while. I believe we are al most there. They should have shown up by now but may be they are sleep ing.” Court said, his voice free of doubt though Pinkie was starting to wonder how he was so sure that these girls of his were around here. She was about to voice her opinions when he stopped and spoke. “This is it.” He steeped up to a tree and turned toward Pinkie.
“That's a tree. I don't know many trees except Bloomberg. You know, Rainbow Dash, that's one of my friends said Fluttershy was a tree, Fluttershy is one of my friends too but she isn't a tree she's a pony. I don't know why Dash thought she was a tree because she doesn't look like a tree but I-” Court kicked the tree with a hind leg and a large part of the bark fell off the tree revealing a deep hole. “That's really neat.”
“I will go first. They know me.” Court said as he set down the cake. “Keep an eye on this. Do not let anything get to it.” Court stepped down into the dark hole and disappeared from Pinkie's view.
Pinkie sat outside the tree and hummed to herself while she waited by the tree. She thought Court was strange but that was no biggie, she knew all sorts of strange ponies. In fact, some of her friends would say she was strange but that was just silly. Her song was suddenly interrupted by a muffled but still quite loud shout from Court.
“Discord's black heart!”
“Are you OK?” Pinkie shouted and turned to go down the hole after him when her knee started to get pinchy.
“Stay back, don't come down here.” He ordered and she heard him charging up the dirt stairs. He burst up from the darkness and into green light of the forest floor. His armor and sword were coated in cobwebs and his gray speckled brown coat seemed to have turned nearly fully gray He slammed into Pinkie, knocking her to the ground. He stood over her and snarled. “How long has it been?” He roared. “How long?”
“I don't know. How long since what?” Pinkie said, now overcome by fear.
“How long has it been since the Elements were found and Discord fell?” He shouted and shoved Pinkie into the ground with one hoof.
“It's only been a few months I swear.” Her voice cracked and her eyes began to tear.
“I'm not lying. Me and Applejack and Rainbow and Rarity and Fluttershy and Twilight turned him back to stone with the elements.”
“What? What about Celestia and Luna? They had three of the elements when I was lost.”
“They don't have the elements anymore. Celestia passed them to us to fight Nightmare Moon, Luna, after she was imprisoned on the moon for a thousand years. Please, I'm telling the truth.” Pinkie cried and Court was struck by this. He pulled back and staggered back against a nearby tree.
“A thousand years? Luna? It feels like it's only been a few months since I joined the two on their hunt for the elements.” He shrugged off his sword and it fell to the ground beside him. “A thousand years and I've lost my girls.” He fought the sobs that tried to rise out of his chest and force him to his knees. Pinkie stood up slowly, her body bruised where she had hit the ground. She didn't know what to do. He had hurt her but something was wrong. She had been with Twilight when they had hunted for spells to go back in time, had this pony come forward in time? There was peace after Discord if she remembered her history correctly, a long time of peace before Luna became Nightmare Moon. That meant he had gone forward even further than a thousand years. It probably wasn't a good idea to mention it now though.
Pinkie wasn't sure if she should try to leave now in case he got angry again or try to comfort him. Court was holding his head against the ground and, though he wasn't making a sound, tears fell from his tightly closed eyes. Then something came out of the nearby brush and a quick flash of scales was all Pinkie saw before Court was sent flying into a tree a few yards away with a loud crack and thump as he fell back to earth. Stopping before her was a gigantic snake, larger than any snake Pinkie had ever seen before. “Save me.” she screamed and then it struck.