The cavern began to tremble and shake as the earth began to move. "An earthquake?" Storm Chaser said, rocks beginning to fall from their unstable nesting's. Sky Fall watched as Ink took to his knees and Firefly tumble against the pathways wall. Her own legs shook under her as she braced herself. Storm Chaser too managed to remain on his hooves. The two made eye contact momentarily before Sky suddenly was sent falling to the ground. The small purple filly let out a yelp as Sky Fall nearly avoided falling upon her. The light blue pegasus looked to Rhythm who met her gaze and quickly scampered up against her chest.
Debris fell around them and Sky Fall pulled the filly in close, resting her head above her and shielding Rhythm with her forehooves. The rumbling subsided and the last bits of dirt and rock spilled to the ground. The pegasus slowly raised her head, her eyes squinting through the dust filled air. Rhythm too raised her head, coughing a few times as she began to look around. Sky Fall was silent as she pulled herself to her hooves and walked over to the tunnels entrance.
"Sky?" The filly called, lightly.
The mare said nothing as she put a hoof up against the large stone boulders that now encased the path. The chill of the rocks seemed to pass across her hoof and through her form. Her eyes narrowed as she stared at the stone silently.
Sky Fall turned, her blue mane falling to cover her eyes as she looked down upon Rhythm. Her stance stiffened and her wings twitched, trying to flare out completely but still frozen in place. Her gaze shifted towards the upper path. It's our only way, she thought.
"Climb onto my back," Sky said, leaning forward. The filly looked at Sky strangely before complying with the older mare's wishes. The teal eyed filly snuggled tightly in between Sky Fall's broken wings, careful not to push upon them too hard. The pegasus stood up from her crouched position and turned towards the upper path's entrance. The steep walls of the cavern hinted at a small rocky path leading up towards the high opening, the rocks slick from the humid air.
Sky Fall's brow furrowed and carefully she placed her hoof upon the pathway and took a step. Another step followed, her hooves threatening to slip away. The air was heavy, filled with the sounds of flowing water and the stiff pants of the pegasus. Within minutes her hooves had reached the stable ledge that jutted from the open pathway, the slick mossy slope being left behind.
Rhythm shivered. "Are... are we really goin' in there?"
Sky Fall looked back at the filly and nodded. "We can't stay here, it's not safe."
I hope I'm doing the right thing... Sky thought, her injured wings tightening ever so slightly against the purple filly.
The first few steps into the passage took the longest, the pegasus fearing what may be residing within, but the warmth of the young mare upon her back gave her the will to press on. Sky Fall's steps echoed lightly as the two ponies vanished into the depths of the darkness before them.
Storm Chaser's hoof fell hard against the stone as he hit the barrier with all his strength. The blue colt gritted his teeth. "Celestia," he swore, his temper rising. "We should have moved quicker," he snarled. "If we had just stuck closer together then we--"
If I had just stayed...
"Then we what, Storm? Would have watched Sky and Rhythm get crushed by the wall of rocks? They're lucky they were dragging behind!" Ink snapped at the yellow eyed colt suddenly. "It's no pony's fault what happened. All we can do now is figure out how to find them, not sit around and be pissed off!"
Storm Chaser blinked, taken aback. Firefly remained silent, unsure of what to say to the once calm but now aggravated unicorn. "Ink, I..." the pegasus began.
"Forget it," Ink said, turning away. "I'm sorry, let's just get going. I want to make sure that they're alright."
Firefly placed a hoof upon Storm's shoulder. Storm Chaser looked at Firefly with a sheepish gaze. "I didn't mean to get angry like that."
"I know, it's okay," she said. "I just hope that Ink is alright..."
Storm managed a slight nod and started walking after the black maned unicorn with Firefly at his side. I wonder what's gotten into him... the pegasus wondered.
"Hey Sky, look at this!" Rhythm called from up ahead.
Sky trotted up to where the filly had stopped and looked at what the filly had found. Rhythm had grown fidgety after a while, determined to act like a big pony. The pegasus had let her down off her back and within moments the filly had begun to explore the pathway a little distance ahead of the older mare. Sky smiled at Rhythm's bravery, giggling when the filly would run back to hide behind her from a passing bug.
The passage that they had taken wasn't a dark one at all. The walls glowed lightly from bioluminescent moss that grew through the cracks in the stone. Without the light from Ink's spells, the natural beauty of the cave came into view. The cave walls almost glimmered in the low light from the mist they were covered in, the water reflecting the glow. Along the base of the walls grew small weeds and the occasional mushroom; mushrooms that Rhythm now proudly showed off finding.
"This one's a lot larger than the others," she said. "Can we eat it? I'm getting really hungry..."
"I'm getting hungry too but I'm not sure if it's safe to eat. I've never seen a mushroom like that before," the pegasus said, staring at its odd colors. The filly looked up at her with bright eyes. "Erm... well if you want to we can take it along with us but don't eat it until we know it's safe, alright?"
Rhythm hopped a bit. "Mmkay." Carefully she plucked the mushroom from its stem with her hooves and then balanced it on her back. Taking a few test steps she smiled, satisfied that her new mushroom companion wouldn't fall off while she walked.
"Come along Mister Mushroom, we're off on an adventure."
Sky Fall watched Rhythm with an endearing gaze.
"Come on Mister Goldie, time to get going.
Ink walked quietly, scolding himself for letting his anger get the best of him. How could I have yelled at Storm Chaser like that? he thought, sighing. You just need to calm down, Ink. That's all. Stop letting everything get to you.
His eyes narrowed. You just got a bit upset, calm down and apologize to Storm. Everything will be alright...
He took a breath and turned back to the colt behind him. "Storm, I um..." Ink's sentence was cut short as he suddenly stumbled forward, catching himself from falling. Broken shop carts sat strewn all across the ground, fruits and vegetables lying in piles amongst the rubble. Firefly trotted up, eyes wide with gleam, Storm in tow.
"Wow," Firefly said. "there's so much." Storm picked an apple from its perch at took a bite, the crunching sound of the juicy apple making the other ponies mouth's water. He nodded in approval and the two others spared no time in picking up their own treats, biting into the delicious red fruits.
"I can't believe this is all here," she continued, taking another apple.
"This was probably the vendor site," Storm said, looking upwards at the gap far above them, revealing a sliver of the night sky. He looked down after a quick thought and let his eyes wander the area.
Ink leaned down, picking up a tattered saddlebag decorated with the trademark apple family design. He held it carefully in his hoof before putting upon his own back and using his magic to place the better looking fruits and vegetables inside.
"Well hey there, I was beginnin' to think that ya wouldn't show up."
"It's a bit strange, don't you think?" Storm Chaser asked. Ink looked up, his magic still levitating apples into the saddlebag.
"Hm?" The gray unicorn questioned. "What's strange?"
"That this is the vendor site and there are all these broken carts and fruits and vegetables lying around," Storm said. "But there aren't any ponies."
The unicorn's magic dispersed and an apple fell to the ground with a hard thud. Firefly's loud chewing quieted and the pegasus adjusted his stance.
"Something isn't right," the yellow eyed colt warned. "Not everypony could have survived the fall just like the area we were in," he said, pausing. "and it's not like they chance to abandon their stalls so there should be somepony here..."
"Storm," Firefly bit at him. "It's almost as if you're saying you wish that some of our friends lay here."
"I'm not saying that," the pegasus quickly retorted with a defensive tone. "I'm just saying it's weird, that's all."
Firefly snorted, stomping away from Storm Chaser and returning to her small stockpile of carrots and apples. Ink walked slowly up to the dark blue colt. "As much as I didn't wish any of this had happened," he spoke, softly. "I think you're right, there should have been somepony here."
Ink thought for a moment. "But, if everypony had survived... why would they give up all this food?"
The last part of the sentence caught Storm's attention. "There wasn't anything wrong with the apples that we ate."
Ink nodded his head in agreement. "Yeah, everything that we've eaten or picked up is fine. So why abandon it?"
Storm Chaser's head shook. "Not sure, though I don't know if I want to stick around and find out."
Ink's eyes narrowed as his voice lowered. "You think it was that dragon?"
Storm leaned in close to Ink. "No pony can say for sure but it might be the only explanation for why all of this food was abandoned and why...," he paused. Ink gave him a questioning gaze and the pegasus hesitatingly continued.. "and why there aren't any ponies here."
"We can't be late Mister Goldie, we just can't." the little blue filly said, scampering around the room. "Miss Redheart will be so mad at us."
The mare tossed her saddle bag on, adorned with the image of a falling comet. Carefully she lifted the small glass bowl from her dresser and peered in at the tiny goldfish. "Do you have everything?" she asked the fish. The fish burped a few bubbles in reply. "Great, then let's go. Hold on tight."
With that, the blue maned filly placed the bowl into a small wagon. Stepping into the harness, the pegasus tightened the straps, wiggling around to make sure it was on properly. Once she was sure everything was set she took off running out the door, the cart trailing behind her carrying the now terrified goldfish.
"Morning, Bolt," she called over to a yellow pegasus colt that also ran with a cart in tow, goldfish bowl strapped in tight.
"Hey there Sky Fall, you ready for today's test?" Bolt called back.
"I'm gonna ace it," she said. "I'll even beat you again!"
The white maned colt laughed. "Nuh-uh, I'm totally going to beat you this time, Sky!"
The two laughed as they ran side by side, heading off towards the hospital.
Panting and out of breath, the pegasai pulled up in front of the hospital, stopping at the feet of the white earth pony. Her pink mane was pulled up into a tight bun, white cap bearing the red cross design.
"Hurry along, we're just about to start," she said with a calm voice, gesturing towards the rest of the fillies that were already lined up.
"Yes, Miss Redheart," both of them said in unison.
They quickly joined the rest of their classmates who had positioned themselves at the beginning of the trail line, Miss Redheart trotting behind them.
"Late on testing day, Sky?" Star Streaker mocked. Sky Fall glared at the green coated mare. "You'll never be given any transporting jobs if you're always late."
"You watch and see," Sky laughed. "Oh wait, you won't because you'll be eating my dust."
Star Streaker's eyes narrowed. "Hmph," she snorted. "Whatever."
"Now, now everypony. Calm down. Is everyone ready to begin?" Nurse Redheart asked gently, walking up to the front of starting line.
Each pegasus began to check their harnesses, making sure that nothing would slip as they ran. Sky turned back, smiling at her goldfish. "Ready to show them our stuff, Goldie?" The goldfish let a few bubbles escape its mouth. Sky grinned. "Time to put all our practicing to use."
"Well if nopony has any issues, shall we begin?" The nurse asked.
"Yes, Miss Redheart," her class replied.
"Then let's get started. Everypony knows the rules, so stick by them. Remember, no pushing, shoving or getting in another pony's path. And don't forget, if your goldfish doesn't make it safely to the end point, then you're disqualified. Everypony on your mark," Nurse Redheart began, holding up a small red flag.
The ponies all set themselves up, wriggling slightly as they leaned forward, hooves digging at the ground in anticipation.
Sky Fall exchanged a glance with Bolt, flaring her wings and grinning. The yellow colt grinned back, trotting in place slightly. She turned her gaze forwards, looking off into the distance and down the open pathway lined by newly blooming spring trees. The scent of apple blossoms filled the air and a light breeze rustled the leaves. Sky flexed her shoulders, eyes fixed on the road before her. Let's do this, she thought. for dad.
Ink shivered, his hooves shuffling upon the dirty stone floor.
"We should get out of here," Storm Chaser said, quietly. "grab as much as we can and move on, you know?"
Ink nodded at him. "Try and see if there are any more saddlebags lying around like this one," the unicorn said, levitating up the green one that he had already filled. "it'll make hauling everything easier."
Storm gave a distinct nod then trotted off, digging through debris with his hooves and searching the area. The sound of broken wood and glass creaking and falling came as Storm followed his quest, settling slowly back into place as he moved on.
"Firefly," Ink called to the white mare. Her head rose slightly as she looked back with an orange gaze. "You should try and find a saddlebag too, for all the food you have," he said, referring to her stockpile. The earth pony only leaned down and brought a basket into view, lifting it up. "Well... I mean a saddle bag might be easier to carry and...," Ink's voice trailed off as Firefly turned away and began filling the basket despite his words. The unicorn let out a sigh and levitated the green, apple filled saddlebag to his back. He flexed a bit as the weight of the apples tweaked his center of balance. Trotting lightly, he settled into the weight of his passengers.
A muffled voice caught his attention, head glancing upwards towards the gray and white maned pegasus who grinned triumphantly at his newly discovered yellow saddlebag. Throwing it upon his haunches, the pegasus began filling its pouches with the red and green fruits, sunflower décor marking the sides.
Ink gazed upwards for a moment. The dark blue wash of the sky was broken by the dots of blazing stars, whisps of white sweeping clouds flowing past. Head still raised, his purple eyes dropped to catch a glimpse of the blue pegasus, one wing still flared awkwardly. Casually, the folded wing flared then tucked itself tightly against the colt's form once more.
The purple orbs rose to view the stars again.
Will we ever get home?
Rhythm hopped along in front of the pegasus, mushroom safely traveling upon her back. Sky Fall walked slowly, her stomach rumbling. She let her head drop.
We have to find some food soon or...
"Hm...?" the blue mare hummed, eyes turning up at the filly's excited voice. Sky Fall raised an eyebrow at the green apple that lay in the middle of the path ahead of them.
"Mister Mushroom, we found food!" the filly yelped, happily. Rhythm began to trot over to the apple but Sky was quick to pull the filly back by her yellow tail.
"Hey, what gives?"
"Rhythm, think about it for a moment," Sky said, nervously. "there aren't any trees around and we're far underground. How in Equestria is there an apple on this path?"
Sky Fall's tone seemed off, her growling stomach beginning to affect more than her aching body.
"Pssh, who cares?" Rhythm giggled. "It's food and I'm starving."
Sky once again pulled back Rhythm by her yellow tail. The filly snorted and crossed her hooves across her chest, sitting awkwardly upon the ground.
"Let me go first," Sky said.
"Promise not to eat all of it?" Rhythm asked, her expression softened.
Sky Fall trotted carefully up to the shiny green apple lying upon the path. She eyed it cautiously before reaching out a hoof and tapping it. The apple swayed back and forth before becoming still. The filly leaned forward, steps behind the pegasus, watching with wide eyes. Tapping the fruit again the pegasus let out a sigh and gave a smile to the filly.
"Seems good," she called, Rhythm trotting up.
"I must have dropped it right around here," a voice called, hoofbeats prancing up from the darkness.
A yellow colt emerged from the darkness, a green coated colt following. They both stopped in their tracks at the sight of Sky Fall and Rhythm hovering above the apple. Sky's head rose slowly, her dark blue mane falling back behind her. The yellow colt stepped forward, wings opening and flaring.