Chapter 15: Where the Sunlight Doesn't Reach
Rainbow and Applejack had been running for some time now. It was very dark and cold. They could feel the dampness in the air go inside their noses and spread across their body. The air was very stiff and they couldn't run very well because of the terrain. They tripped and fell here and there with holes, roots and rocks. Applejack had her mane loose for a long time now, both hair bands gone a long time ago in a tree's branches.
Streaks of light poured here and there from small gaps so it wasn't that hard to see. Rainbow's mane got stuck once or twice and her hooves started to ache. They needed to outrun it and escape to the farthest place they could go as long as it didn't catch them. If they could only lose it they'd at least slow down. That didn't seem to be the case. The screeching got louder as it came nearer and nearer. They found a small ditch and cowered in there. Rainbow realized Applejack was chewing on her hair as it waited for the enormous bird to get away. Time seemed to pass eternally. It may as well had been two seconds or a thousand years. How much time passed by, no one knew, but it seemed like it was now gone, at least, for now. They got up and ran towards wherever their hooves took them as they spotted some light pouring between an opening. They got closer and closer as they exited the darkness.
As they stepped out into a clearing, their gaze went upwards. It seemed like the Garkarog had given up and flown away. Applejack cleaned the sweat in her forehead with her hoof. As she did it, she realized her Stetson was gone. She turned everywhere in search for it, but it was useless. Her hat was nowhere to be seen. She sighed and then gasped as she took a look at the landscape before her.
It was beautiful. A vast clearing three times the size of a rodeo, everything covered with grass and flowers growing everywhere. The clearing was divided in two sections. One had a grassy field (AJ couldn't wait to run through it), the other had a lake. The lake was flanked by dirt on the farthest end from where the mares stood, and the other had a steep rock that could easily serve as a diving point. Who knew something so beautiful was hiding deep inside the Everfree Forest?
"Wow!" exclaimed Rainbow.
"Well, let's get a rest, shall we?" proposed Rainbow.
"Rest? How do ya know that Gark-rug won't come back?"
"Then why aren't we takin' the precautions?"
"AJ, just shut up."
The orange earth pony was taken aback by the sudden rudeness in Rainbow's statement.
"Say what now?" Applejack angrily asked
"I can't think while you keep talking" she answered.
"Well, that's not how ya ask fer someone ta keep their mouth shut."
"Well, maybe if you shut up I could figure something out."
"Well, ya know what? Maybe if ya weren't such a cocky pony we wouldn't be in this problem at all."
"What? What are you implying?"
"Ah'm sayin' that this is all yer fault!"
"Oh, where do ah begin?" said Applejack as she took a step closer to Rainbow. The cyan mare, in turn, took a step back for every step her friend took.
"Ya show off an' get all cocky, ya tease me an' took me ta the most dangerous place in all of Equestria! Tell me, was it yer idea ta get me ta the farthest and most deserted place in that beach?"
"W-well, yeah. But"
"See? Ah was right! 't was you all along! Ya got a giant bird followin' our tails, almost got ourselves suffocated while we avoided the crowds in the alleys and almost got mahself killed!"
"Hey! Don't take the place of the innocent mare! You were the one who was OK to hide in here. Also, you didn't complain when we passed through the crowds."
"Maybe, but if ya would have taken a second ta look instead of just thinkin' with yer wings, we might have been safer in town rather than be here! Who knows how deep in the forest we are, an' there's nothin' ta indicate where the nearest exit is!" Applejack said. Tears began to fill her eyes from the huge amount of anger she was feeling. Then she said something she would regret. "Yer the worst friend ah could ever ask for."
Rainbow had said nothing during all the time her friend had been yelling at her. This was not the best weekend of her life. First Pinkie, then Rarity and now Applejack: all of them yelling at her for things that weren't really her fault. Rainbow could've just stayed there motionless at the mention of those heart breaking words. However, as she took yet another step back, she lost her balance and fell. In the middle of their argument, neither of them had realized that they had climbed the rock facing the lake, and Rainbow had just fallen over the edge. Applejack's anger had not subsided one bit, not even after she saw her friend fall. She looked over the edge and waited. She expected her friend to just surface back, definitely not laughing, but at least with a sad face on her. However, Dash had taken too long to swim back to the surface and Applejack was beginning to worry.
"Dash?" she asked. No answer. The water was now back to its flat mirror image. "Dash?! DASH!" She could not hold it anymore and threw herself into the water.
She fell from a high distance, but couldn't feel the splash. The fall was so high it had practically knocked her unconscious, she could barely see anything and what small things were visible had turned into a blurry mess. Her friends didn't like her and her best friend had rejected her. Maybe this was the best, to not go back and stay here forever. The tears she had welled up inside her were now flowing freely from her face. Good. They could blend themselves with the water around her.
'Goodbye, everypony' she thought.
Applejack splashed through the water as she dived in to bring Rainbow back. She squinted as she tried to make a picture out of the huge blur in front of her. The lake was surprisingly dark.
'I need to find Rainbow!' she thought.
The darkness was like a huge black blob ready to consume every living thing it could find, the cold draped itself on her body and threatened to enter through her own skin and turn her white bones into ice. She could feel the pressure start to suffocate her, but she needed to be strong. She needed to go faster. She could barely see Rainbow a few feet below her as the seaweed surrounded her body and tied her up. Tie her up?
'Those aren't seaweeds.'
She dove madly to try and rescue her friend just as the bottom of the lake opened itself up and sucked in a small amount of water. A huge clam lay on the bottom of the lake, and its octopus-like tentacles were now grabbing Dash by her limbs as the pegasus tried to fight back. She tried to free herself from the tentacle grabbing her neck, but she found it useless as she was now suffocating herself with her own hooves.
'No!' thought Applejack. 'I need to get her!'
Just as she dove deeper into the water, small snakes appeared from holes in the clamp's upper half. Eels. Electric eels were now trying to reach Dash to numb her. Applejack dove just in time to punch a few of them away from her friend. As she fought the eels away, Dash who was now definitely unconscious was now deeper into the water and almost at the grasp of the clam.
'I need to go deeper' ―she thought. She kept diving and reached out her hoof for Rainbow to hold.
'Almost there. Al
there' she was reaching it. 'Just a few feet more. C'mon... C'mon!'
She groaned, and felt herself pulled backwards.
'No! I will not permit this! I need to make this! I won't. I won't!' She flapped her forehooves and dove more desperately. She tried to scream, but her jaw was clutched tight from both the effort and the cold. Even still she (hardly) managed to open it and let out a single word.
"RAINBOW!!" she screamed as the water made it sound muffled.
'Stupid stupid pony' she nagged at herself. She had wasted precious air with her stupid scream. Still, nothing could hold her back. With all the time spent with Rainbow, she felt that her friends had all been there for her when she needed it. Now she needed to pay back the favor for Rainbow. Her experience had taught her that sometimes the Elements of Harmony were switching themselves with the others, acting like one and all: sometimes Rarity was generous, but sometimes she held proudly Rainbow's loyalty, or Applejack's honesty, or Fluttershy's kindness. Now Applejack needed to be loyal to Rainbow. She dove deeper and reacted in time as an eel prepared itself to shock her. Instead, she punched it back into the clam's insides as it shocked it instead. The clam winced in pain and retracted its tentacles freeing Rainbow. Applejack wasted no opportunity and grabbed her as she dove to the surface.
She broke through the water and gasped for air. Applejack began to cough while she tried to pull Rainbow back into the opposite shore. She dragged the pegasus with her body and placed her on the grass.
"Ah'm sorry, Dash. Ah'm so sorry!" she said.
"No. No. No, Dash! No! NO!"
Applejack was growing desperate. Tears trickled down her face as she nudged the limp pegasus.
"C'mon, sugarcube! Wake up! Wake up! Up and at 'em!"
Rainbow was still not moving. Then something lit in the back of AJ's mind as she placed her forehooves on the multicolored pony's chest.
You can do this
You can do this
Come on! Yer the Iron Pony, you can certainly do this!"
She pumped with the rhythm she had been taught as a filly years ago as she put her medical experience to practice for the first time. Finally, her hooves pumped hard enough to make Rainbow cough out the water she had held in her lungs.
"Cough cough cough!"
"Atta girl" Applejack said in a kind tone. She then relaxed her muscles and calmed down. As the adrenaline began to dim away from her body, Applejack began to feel cold. She stood up and turned around, then winced in pain as she remembered her injuries on her leg.
'To the hay with that! Rainbow's the top priority.'
She galloped back to the part from whence she came and grabbed her saddlebags. She inspected Rainbow's contents and could not find a single useful thing aside from the blanket inside. The rest (Wonderbolts figurines, money and some saddles and a scarf) were useless junk that the farm mare left behind, including the saddlebag itself.
The orange earth pony returned to the injured pegasus's side and began to attend her. Applejack then noticed the several burns on Rainbow's coat, probably a side-effect from the clam's tentacles. The cold air draped her coat and Applejack realized that it was now night and the moon illuminated everything with its glow.
"Oh, sweet Celestia. Where should we go now?" asked Applejack to nobody.
'Look at the sky and take a good look. The star seems to point to three stars: one above it and two to its bottom right. The star above it makes sort of a line. That's where the north is. The bottom right stars helped our sailors get back home.'
"Of course!" AJ remembered. She turned her gaze upwards and searched. Sure as sugar, there it was: Alioth and its three nearby stars. "But
" What was the better option? They could either both go back to Cape Howl and risk getting caught by the Garkarog, or they could take the long way out and head to Ponyville. Well, AJ certainly didn't want to become bird food, so she grabbed her saddlebags and put them in her back, then reached down and carried the cyan pegasus with her shoulders.
"C'mon, RD. Let's get going" said Applejack as she slowly made her way east back to Ponyville and into the sharp underbrush of the Everfree Forest.