Despite the brilliant marble-white moon floating lazily overhead, no light reached the floor of the Everfree Forest. What shadows there were danced and flickered from the pale magenta glow of unicorn magic.
“Sorry I couldn’t teleport the three of us all the way back,” Twilight offered, her horn alit and her head held high. “I’ve been practicing long-distance teleportation but it’s still more draining than I’d like, and bringing us out here gave me a splitting headache. I think if I can recalibrate the…”
Applejack waved a hoof at her, losing a few haystalks from her overstuffed shirt in the process. “Aw shucks, Twi, it aint’ like we can’t walk a little ways. You magicked us out to Zecora’s, the least we can do is hoof it back.” She glanced around, her eyes a little wider than usual. “Would it get a little brighter if’n you took off yer Swirly-Star the Beardy hat?”
The unicorn mare grunted a little as she led the trio down an increasingly choked and indistinct path. “It’s Starswirl the Bearded! Does nopony recognize the robe? And sorry, AJ, this is about all the magic I have left until I get a little rest.” She paused to pant a little before glancing back at the earth pony who’d sidled somewhat closer to her in the darkness. “Fluttershy’s always a tree, of course. But any reason you’re a scarecrow again this year?”
“This here’s a practical costume, Ah’ll have ya know! Soon as Ah get done with it, it’ll go straight back into mah North Orchard. Ain’t never seen no need ta get all fancied-up with a costume like Rarity. What was she again, the Bride o’ Flankenstein?” A visible shiver passed through the mare and quickly stifled her attempt at a shaky laugh. “Uh, Twilight, does this here path look a little less like a path and more like a bramble thicket to you?”
The glow from Twilight’s horn wavered a little as she slowed her gait. “Now that you mention it, I don’t think we’re on the path at all. But don’t get anxious, you two, I’m sure if we stick together we’ll find our way back in no time.”
“Not that Ah’m nervous or anythin’, I’d just prefer we get back ta Ponyville ‘fore it gets too late,” mumbled the orange pony. “Wouldn’t want ta miss Nightmare Night,” she chuckled unconvincingly, “and you gotta get that Zebra medicine back to yer rabbit before he gets too sick to go out trick or treatin’, right, Shy?”
The two ponies’ cries barely echoed through the dank and crowding forest, blackened trunks and creeping vines deadening their calls of “Shy! Fluttershy! Where are ya, hon? Ain’t no time for jokes, Sugarcube!”
“Applejack, look!” cried Twilight, pointing a shaking hoof toward a dim golden glow peeking through the tangled undergrowth, from the direction of which they heard a faint “Eep!” . Ignoring thorns and branches tearing at them like the claws of ravenous wolves, they raced through the thicket until they ran headlong into a shivering tree, whose pink mane flowed lazily out of several knotholes.
“Fluttershy! We thought we’d lost you! Are you okay? We - “
The unicorn’s words were cut off as she followed the yellow pegasus’ quavering leaf-covered hoof. Across the clearing stood a magnificent oak tree, gnarled roots gripping the soil and great branches spreading into a canopy of yellowed leaves which glowed warmly in stark contrast to the unlit forest surrounding them. The three ponies sat transfixed, staring with open mouths and saucer-wide eyes as the great tree began to unfurl its limbs. Sounds of cracking branches and splitting logs shot through the copse as the massive creature stretched out a leafy bark-shod arm and scooped up the lavender mare in a motion as swift as the wind and as smooth as a spring breeze.
“Let me go! Put me down!” she wailed as the wooden arm drew her nearer to what could only be described as a shaggy, moss-covered face. Twilight’s horn lashed out with arcs of buzzing purple energy, each bolt exploding harmlessly off the tree-being’s trunk in showers of fading lilac sparks.
Drawing the struggling unicorn nearer, it spoke with a great bellowing voice, louder than Royal Canterlot but deep and rich like polished mahogany. “What manner of creature are you, who wanders this forest, as few others do?”
“Let ‘er go or yer gonna find out tha hard way,” came the reply from below. Applejack charged the thing’s trunk-like legs, planting her forehooves and giving it an apple-buck that would have made Big Macintosh himself proud. Instead her hooves stung painfully and she recoiled, wincing, as a second tree-hand reached down to hold her firmly in its wooden grip.
Again the great voice rang out, mellow yet insistent and booming. “You must both be ponies - now I see. I am afraid you will cause no fruit to drop from me. I am called Grand Oak by others who’ve seen; by some in this forest, I am known as Elder Tree. You have little business here, ponies, in this place you fear. Go far from me now, and return not near.”
From far below at the clearing’s edge came a feeble yet determined voice. “Put my friends down! Your rude behavior ends! We just want to go home, to see our friends.”
The Grand Oak strode across the clearing in a single stump-pulling step, kneeling to the sound of snapping twigs until its lichen-caked visage was even with the little Pegasus. “First one, then two, but now there are three. Tell me, little one, are you too a poet-tree?”
“Oh, um, well, maybe a little. Once a year. Usually I just hide . Um… can we go now, dear?”
Standing to its full height, glowing leaves illuminating the nighttime canopy, it took Fluttershy gently in the crook of its great bark-arm. “For you, little Sapling, I would comply. Please visit me again - hmm, was it, Fluttershy? I count you as a friend and will carry you home, for we are now too few. We are so rare these recent years, we talking trees, I and you.”
Norse Pony’s comments: Haha, that’s great. The ent in the Everfree is a really solid idea, and then to have him take a shine to Fluttershy because she makes a convincing tree is a brilliant take on it. The descriptions throughout were good, particularly your choices of sounds and your use of metaphor. I liked that a lot.