Town Hall Exit
Cheerilee stood next to the wooden door that led outside. The guards moved aside and she opened the door. Lukewarm winter sunshine flooded the tunnel. After hours underground, it was almost too bright. Everypony had to look away and wait until their eyes adjusted.
Margot wondered how dilated her pupils were.
Far said with excitement. "Once we get outside, follow me and gallop! There is not much that can catch a galloping pony. Well at least until we get to the Shatterleg Wastes." He stepped out into the street followed by Skybreeze.
Margot was behind her and the SHC brought up the rear.
Cheerilee waved and whispered, "Good Luck" as the shadow of the closing door covered her face.
The team galloped through a maze of buildings. Many of them were just shells with one or two intact walls. Margot thought she saw a unicorn pony skeleton in a doorway of a building but she was not sure. Who was that poor pony?
After a few minutes, the devastated town was behind them. Margot glanced at the grass in the new area, it was yellowish green. She figured that something was leeching the health out of it.
Nopony bothered to talk, galloping seemed to take all of their concentration.
One hour later, Far called for a break.
Margot was glad, her legs were starting to ache.
Far advised while looking around. "We are getting close to the Shatterleg Wastes and I want everypony to know what to do. The ground is uneven and filled with holes. I will tell you more when we get there. Be on the lookout for a crater."
A half hour later, the group looked down into a partial shadowed crater that seemed to go on forever.
Margot got a chill looking at the rough brown ground, low lying fog and shadows The smell of dry rotting flesh wafted up from the edge of the sunken area.
"My, what a charming place with such a lovely aroma," Skybreeze quipped.
Even the SHC had looks of dismay on their faces.
"How are we going to get down there?" Margot asked while checking out the sheer cliff walls on the sides.
Far said with confidence while he pointed into the crater. "There are rockfalls all over the place that will allow us to get to the crater floor. I will fly around and find them. Remember, I used to be with the supply caravans and they always managed to get through."
Shaking her head no, Apple Bloom said,"Except for nao."
Scootaloo asked with a smile. "Skybreeze, you learned all sorts of magic. Can't you teleport us down there?"
"Teleportation magic takes a lot of magical power and--" Skybreeze started to explain but was cut off by Sweetie Belle.
"You don't know that spell," Sweetie stated.
Far announced before taking off. "Hay! I am going to find a way down. Stay alert,"
For a few minutes, the SHC took a break and curled up in the yellowish grass. Margot and Skybreeze kept a wary eye open for threats.
Skybreeze walked up to Margot and pointed to the Shatterleg scenery with her left hoof. “I certainly will find traveling through that less than pleasant.”
Margot nodded yes.
This will be a nightmare to traverse even if nothing is chasing us. I do not want to think about running in that jumbled up hidden hole place. What would happen to me if I broke a leg?
The sun slowly sank in the west while shadows gathered in the Shatterleg before Far came back.
"Wake up Everypony! We need to move fast. I do not want to be at the edge of the Shatterleg at nightfall," Far trumpeted to the annoyance of the SHC who were enjoying a game of tag.
"This might sound strange but we will be better off in the Shatterleg than messing about at the edge," Far said.
Skybreeze asked with disbelief. "Really?"
“Would you like to run in the dark with steep cliffs at your back?” Far asked with an annoyed tone.
Skybreeze looked at the Shatterleg and back at Far.
"I figured that. Lets go!" Far said with excitement.
He led them to a steep incline made by several rockslides.
While Margot struggled down the steep incline, she imagined that it would be pretty difficult on two legs, she was having problems and she had four.
Eventually the group made it to the hard and rocky floor of the crater.
Far had the two unicorns, Sweetie and Skybreeze use their telekinesis to probe the ground ahead of them for holes.
Skybreeze probed the ground ahead of her and it was stable. Sweetie probed beyond Skybreeze's area and a pit revealed itself.
Margot walked up to see what happened. She thought she saw the gleam of bones down at the bottom.
After that, the lead ponies crept along.
"Ah will be glad to be out of here," Apple Bloom said while she looked around at the dead skeletal trees.
"I bet this place does not get any better when the sun goes down," Scootaloo said with a fearful voice.
"Hay, don't forget we got faith in Oonte! She will see us through! All of us!" Sweetie Belle crowed.
Margot watched as Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom did a high hoof. Nice.
Far looked around and said,"This looks like a good place to camp. Everypony stay together. Watches last four hours. I will take the first watch, Margot will take the second watch and so on down the line until morning."
The sun had set but there was enough light from the sky to see.
Scootaloo and Apple Bloom collected wood for the fire. Once they had a nice pile of branches, Skybreeze set it on fire using a spell.
Instead of feeling like they were in a wasteland surrounded by enemies, it felt like a camping trip.
Margot got to satisfy her curiosity about the food bars. They tasted like granola bars with dried grass. It sounded boring but the bars tasted pretty good. The ingredients meshed nicely and it was not too sweet.
"Who wants to tell ghost stories?" Scootaloo asked with a smile after they ate some of the food bars.
Far and Skybreeze exchanged glances.
"How about a story about the Train?" Scootaloo asked, her large purple eyes lit by orange firelight.
Sweetie and Apple Bloom moved closer in anticipation of a scary tale.
"I think that story might be too scary for young fillies. You will have more than enough problems sleeping," Far advised.
“This story could be too scary for older mares," Skybreeze whispered.
Apple Bloom still wanted a story,"How about one on the Headless Horse?"
Far shook his head no."I think we should get ready for sleep. There is a lot to do tomorrow. Margot will you take the first watch?"
"Sure but how will I know when four hours have passed?" Margot asked. How do these ponies keep track of time without watches?
"Don't worry, I can feel when its four hours. You will not be up all night," Far replied.
"You are no fun, Far," Scootaloo said sadly as she prepared to go to sleep.
"When we are in a safer place, I will tell you the story of the Train," Far offered.
Margot watched as the ponies went to sleep. The stars slowly wheeled in the dark blue sky while she stood guard. Other than the crackling of the fire and the occasional sound of a pony moving in its sleep, it was pretty quiet. Sometimes the wind would blow making the dead trees creak and claw at the sky.
After a while, Far came and relieved Margot. She curled up next to Skybreeze and went to sleep.
Dawn could not come fast enough for Margot. Her dreams were murky and filled with fear. A quick look around showed that the other ponies did not sleep any better.
Well, except for Far.
"Good Morning Trottingham!" Far crowed with a smile on his face.
Skybreeze grimaced at Far's good spirits while Margot had a stoic look on her face.
"Y'all ready for more adventuring?" Apple Bloom asked.
The wide smiles on her crusader counterpart's faces was a good enough answer. After a quick breakfast, the group was off.
The monotonous scenery changed from beige rock, dark brown leafless tree to grayish brown rock and dark brownish gray tree. The ponies slowly plodded through the almost monochromatic wasteland.
To relieve the boredom, Far told a story about the Train. "You asked about the Train. Now, I will tell you what I have heard. When the Gleaners started to attack Equestria, a bunch of ponies escaped Ponyville by taking the train. They planned to go to Canterlot. Halfway there, the train was attacked by gleaners and Foulshaper, a powerful gleaner lord. Foulshaper lives in the center of Stifle Swamp. In better times, that area was called Saddle Brook," Far paused to see if any pony wanted to know more.
"Come on Far, we wanna hear the rest!" Apple Bloom screamed.
"Foulshaper took some of the refugees and bound them to the train. Now its a half mechanical, half remnant monster that hungers for life and emotions. It stays near or on the tracks but sometimes it ranges far from them. Some nights if you listen closely, you can hear its whoo hoo scream," Far said with a nervous laugh.
"Simply dreadful. I doubt that anything like that is possible," Skybreeze said in a dismissive tone.
Margot said nothing, she has seen some strange things in her travels..
"Where did you hear this terrible story?" Skybreeze asked.
Far looked away and looked back at her,"I heard it from caravan leaders. They are not the sort to just make stuff up and say its real."
At that second, there was a scream of pain that seemed to come from a pony’s throat.
Everypony looked around to see what or who made the sound but the rocks and trees blocked their view.
Far pointed off to the west, "The sound is coming from there."
The group slowly followed Far. Margot hoped that they would get there in time to save somepony. Just around the bend, the group saw who was screaming. It was a buglike pony being chased by a greyish brown stumbling pony. One of the changeling's wings was bent at a strange angle.
"Changeling? Lets leave it to its fate," Skybreeze said with barely hidden hatred.
"No, its a pony too. We must save it!" Apple Bloom announced.
Far flew up and dive bombed the gray pony. It was no contest, he hit the enemy’s head with a hind hoof. With a loud crack, the undead pony’s head was crushed. The body collapsed to the ground.
"That is what Remnants look like," Far said as he hovered and then landed next to the group.
"Thank you for saving Nga'Devro," The hungry changeling said with gratitude.
Skybreeze looked away. Margot watched the changeling carefully. If it was not for them she would be back home and human.
"Mah name is Apple Bloom. Do ya'll need food and water, friend Nga'Devro?" Apple Bloom asked.
"Nga'Devro would be grateful for the smallest amount of food and water," Nga'Devro said while bowing.
Sweetie opened up her saddlebag and gave the poor changeling a food bar.
Nga'Devro used his telekinesis to pick up the bar. He nibbled on it.
The rest of the ponies introduced themselves except Skybreeze and Margot.
"Nga'Devro, can you tell me how you ended up here in this Celestia forsaken place?" Far asked.
"Nga'Devro will share all he knows," Nga'Devro replied while he ate. After a few bites, the bar was gone.
Margot noticed that the poor creature was almost skin and bones. It was probably a while before it had a good meal.
"Why are your people attacking malls?" Margot asked pointedly.
Confusion covered Nga'Devro's face,"What is a mall?"
Even Far looked confused.
Margot asked with more anger,"Several of your people had bombs and they killed several people in a mall!"
"Nga'Devro has not been back to the Hive. When the Love pony caused my brothers and sisters to be cast away, I decided not to go back to the Hive. I wanted to get my own emotions. I do not know what was happening in the Hive," Nga'Devro explained.
"So you have been roaming around Equestria and draining ponies?" Skybreeze asked with a tone of voice that promised violence.
Far stepped between the changeling and the angry unicorn.
Skybreeze started to charge up her horn.
Nga'Devro's horn started to glow greenly.
Margot saw a bright blue flash and Skybreeze toppled over in the grayish brown dirt.
"Is she?" Margot asked.
"No, she is just resting. Oonte will not tolerate ponies fighting each other," Sweetie Belle said in a serious tone of voice.
"Nga'Devro, you must promise not to steal emotions from ponies anymore," Scootaloo said while walking up to the surprised changeling.
"Nga'Devro thinks you are asking for a difficult thing. It might be--" The changeling was interrupted by a blue glow that covered his body. He fell to his knees.
Margot watched as a blue glowing Scootaloo stepped back from the changeling.
She also slumped to the ground.
Sweetie and Apple Bloom ran up to Scootaloo's unconscious body.
The changeling stood up. The nice ponies had fed him but he was still hungry for a tasty emotion. When the orange pegasus filly walked up to him and cast a spell on him, the hunger faded and then was gone. Nga'Devro remembered the terrible things he had done to feed his desire for emotions, now he was free.
"Nga'Devro is filled with unbounded gratitude for what you have done. My life is yours," Nga'Devro said.
"Fine, we can discuss that later. Can you tell me what you saw when you entered the Shatterleg?" Far asked while glancing at Skybreeze and Scootaloo.
Both of them were still lying on the ground.
“By the way, that is Skybreeze and that is Margot,” Far said and pointed to Skybreeze and Margot.
"Before Nga'Devro's right wing was bent, he saw mostly that," Nga'Devro waved a hoof at the scenery.
"Later on, Nga'Devro saw a caravan of Remnants. Some were pulling carts while others had saddlebags. I think they were carrying supplies," Nga'Devro explained.
"Too bad for those ponies but the supplies could be still useful. We need to get those supplies," Far asserted.
Skybreeze opened her eyes and got up.
Apple Bloom left Scootaloo's side and walked between Margot and Skybreeze.
"Y'all know that the changeling Nga'Devro is under our protection," Apple Bloom said while looking Margot and Skybreeze in the eye.
"Fine but I still need to know why changelings are attacking my world," Margot said pointedly.
"The Prophetess will have the answer," Apple Bloom replied.
"If you wake up with no emotions, it is upon your head. Keep the misbegotten spawn away from me! If it attacks, I will not step aside," Skybreeze said with menace in her voice.
"Enough! We have supplies to get. Nga'Devro will you help us recover the supplies?" Far asked.
"Yes," Nga'Devro replied and pointed to the north east.
“Why should we bother about these supplies? We have a mission to do,” Skybreeze opined.
“I know but at least if we know where they are, we can send someone back to get them,” Far answered.
“There is a chance that the supplies may be ruined,” Margot suggested.
Far looked down and thought a bit.
“The both of you have made good points but Cheerilee and Lower Canterlot need to know what happened. That summoned food will not last forever. We will need a new caravan for Ponyville,” Far replied with some vehemence then he looked up..
Margot replied,”Sounds good but we need to be careful.”
“Nga'Devro needs help with his bent wing, will someone help me?” Nga'Devro said and grimaced in pain.
Far looked at the changeling’s bent wing with a puzzled look on his face.
“What do I have do?” Far asked.
“Nga'Devro needs your help in bending my wing back to its former shape,” Nga'Devro replied.
Sweetie moved in closer to watch.
Far grabbed the wing in his hooves and twisted it up to the right, Nga'Devro shrieked in pain.
“Nga'Devro thanks you. The pain will fade slowly,” The changeling said with gratitude.
The group set out to find out the status of the missing supply caravan. Sweetie Belle took a break from probing and Nga'Devro took over for her.
It was late in the afternoon when the group found the supply caravan, well, what was left. Nga'Devro gave them good instructions so the group was able to get close enough to study the Remnants. The group hid behind a small pile of rocks and trees while the Remnants wandered aimlessly in front of them.
To Skybreeze’s chagrin, the wind shifted and brought the smell of dry dead flesh to their noses.
“That is definitely a foul stench,” Skybreeze complained.
“I think they are beyond caring,” Margot replied.
Unlike the first time, Margot had a bit more time to study Remnants. These ponies looked like they were put in a freeze dryer. Most of their fur was gone or converted to a grayish brown color. They were just stumbling around when something changed.
All of the Remnants stood still then they raised their heads.
“Manure! The wind must’ve shifted,” Far exclaimed.
The hungry enemies walked toward the hidden ponies. No more wandering now, the Remnants knew where to go now.
Margot noticed that three of the enemy still pulled supply carts while the other ones had full saddlebags. Maybe Far is right?
“Skybreeze, Nga'Devro and Sweetie Belle get ready to use your magic to put these things down!” Far said as he prepared to take off.Before he had a chance to take off, Far was hit by a blast of green energy from a Remnant unicorn that knocked him over.
Margot glanced at Far’s twitching body. I wish I could do something for him.
Skybreeze charged up her horn and blasted two of the enemy off of their hooves.
Sweetie used her telekinesis to grab small rocks to fling at the enemy. If they were fighting normal ponies, she would have knocked out some of them but the Remnants shrugged off the attacks.
Covered with a blue glow, Apple Bloom strode out to the Remnants. The creatures fired bursts of green energy at her but her shield blocked the shots.
Scootaloo followed closely behind with her own shield.
Sweetie Belle fired blasts of blue energy at the enemies from her horn. The Remnants recoiled from the shots like they were harmful.
Nga'Devro also fired away at the creatures too.
Margot wanted to help but she could not do any magic. A quick glance showed that Far had recovered from being hit but was tangled up in a grayish brown thicket.
“Margot, help me!” Far screamed.
Margot walked up to the thicket. How do I move this stuff without hands? Reluctantly, she put her mouth on one branch and pulled back the branch until it snapped off. The branch tasted sour like old regrets. Then Margot went for another nasty tasting branch and broke that one off too.
Far climbed out of his woody prison.
Margot noticed two bleeding scratches on his flanks.
He followed Margot’s gaze, “Don’t worry about that, I am fine.”
Far sprang into the darkening sky.
I have to help! Margot stood on her hind legs to try to do a martial arts move but she lost her balance. Her head hit a rock. Before she fell into darkness, Margot wondered what was going on back on Earth. Did Mark survive the explosion?