Procrastination is magic.
I said I'd get a new chapter out today, and today only has 12 minutes left. So sorry to my dA watchers and other viewers who only follow Survivor Shy on this website, because a FIVE THOUSAND WORD CHAPTER is going to occupy this description box very soon. Why? Because this is the only illustration in the entire chapter, and I don't want to break my tradition of including every found on FimFic on here too. As result, I STRONGLY advise you save your scrolling finger the pain and utilise the bar on the side, or click your middle mouse button down to scroll without the muscle cramps.
I spent a ridiculous amount of time on this, partly due to laziness, and partly because I've been busying myself with drawing challenges as of late (you can view that stuff on my Tumblr - link below). That said, I haven't been slacking off on quality. This picture meets my personal standards, and the new chapter is probably the most proofread chapter yet.
If you can make it to the bottom of the description box, I would love a comment from you to tell me what you think!
Survivor Shy Gallery: [link]
Survivor Shy on FimFiction: [link]
My Tumblr (SFW): [link]
WARNING: 5k words ahead. Please do yourself a favour and use the scroll bar on the side of your browser. I'd hate to be the cause of you hurting your digits.
I was burning. The heat was unbearable and soaring higher and higher. In moments I had been pulled out of my nightmare and back into reality, straight into fever and nausea. Panting and sore, I dragged myself over to Zecora’s bed, moving away from the firepit’s warmth. I buried my face in the blankets, hiding my eyes away from the room that wouldn’t stop spinning around me. I tried to hold on - clinging onto the bed and holding onto every breath I took. It was no use; I could feel the inevitable coming in my gut.
My head shot upright as I gagged, my lungs burning. I fumbled off to the side, pulling an empty pot in front of me, just as my sickness reared itself. A few moments later, I pushed the pot aside and leant against Zecora’s bed. Every breath scratched at my throat and lungs, the horrible, bitter taste lingering on my tongue. I collected up my canteens, only to find a few drops in each. My throat was being rubbed by sandpaper, I needed water. I needed it more than anything.
A spigot caught my eye; it was connected to a large barrel that was fed by a pipe leading outside through a hole in the ceiling. Before I really considered it, I was already leaning against the barrel, twisting the valve open. Clear, cool water poured out, splashing down onto the floor. I leant down and started drinking as much water as I could, eventually just dropping into the puddle and lying underneath the steady stream of water. The water soaked into my coat, whisking away the sticky sweat and dirt, chilling the burning sting of my scabs. The feeling couldn’t last though; I was wasting drinking water – and it didn’t even belong to me. Ashamed, I closed the valve, but continued to lie in the puddle of water on the floor, wishing it would stay cool until I felt better.
The pain started to flare up in no time at all. I gurgled in the puddle and rolled onto my back, and raised my hooves in the air to see the cuts on them. Some had scabbed over without any problems, but the larger wounds were still open, slowly oozing out blood and gunk I didn’t want to think hard about. Carefully, I pored over the rest of my body. Why I was sick was no mystery. My head rolled to the side, casting my gaze to my saddlebags. It was a bit late for it, but I needed to treat the wounds to stop them from getting any worse.
It was an automatic process; unpack the sanitizing wipes, brace for the sting, clean the wounds, apply a bandage. Repeat. While I worked, my thoughts carried me over to the nightmare I had. This was the second dream of its kind. The world was shrouded in smoke and darkness, and somepony or something was there, stalking me, chiding me, and saying the things I didn’t want to hear. It was horrible for talking about everyone that way. Why was it saying those things? How I could I stop it? It was a bad dream; I couldn’t do anything to stop them from happening. The best I could do was not let them get to me. After all,
my thoughts echoed. Nightmares can’t hurt me.
The worst of my cuts now on the road to recovery, I started to unravel the dirty bandage on my foreleg. It had been days since I had checked how my foreleg was healing, and I was expecting the worst because of it. A wave of relief flowed over me when I saw that the cut was fine. It hadn’t been disturbed or harmed over the past few days, and didn’t appear to have reopened at all while I went to and from Canterlot. Curiously, I prodded it with my hoof, and bit my tongue when searing flames shot up my leg. Okay, so it hadn’t quite miraculously healed. Taking a fresh roll of bandages, I wrapped up my leg once more, and packed my kit away.
I wiped the sweat off of my brow and shivered. Sleepily, I stood up onto my hooves and wandered across the room, feeding the firepit another log. I stared outside through a window, trying to see the sky. The canopy however, completely blocked away the sky, and I couldn’t tell if the dim light outside was due to night or a cloudy day. Drearily, I rested my head on the cold glass, closing my eyes and listening to the sounds of the forest all around me.
Birds and little critters scurried around, enjoying the fresh air and nice weather. Squirrels scampered in the tall grass, gathering acorns before the cold weather was scheduled to arrive. And bunnies hopped along the banks of a full and flowing stream of fresh water. Summer was gone in Equestria, and autumn was overseeing the preparations for winter. The season, while it meant I would have to say goodbye to most of my little friends until next spring, was a beautiful time of year. There was no other time that the landscape could be painted in lovely shades of gold, orange and brilliant red, and the skies full with flocks of birds flying south.
I was hovering above a wide clearing in Whitetail Wood, helping a family of chipmunks gather up food. The Running of the Leaves was coming soon, but the forest was happily raining down shimmers of jeweled leaves ahead of the stampede.
Gathering up a dozen nuts, I floated down to the ground, leaving them in a small pile for the busy chipmunks to claim and take with them. I heard a few small cheers from the trees, the little critters thanking me, and began walking home.
A rumble of thunder echoed overhead, and I frowned at the greying skies. I didn’t know it was supposed to rain today, did I miss a memo?
The tone of the forest changed; concerned squeaks and calls rang out, and in moments the critters were rushing out of the trees and seeking shelter on the forest floor. A massive crash exploded nearby, and a tree to my right exploded from a bolt of lightning. I squealed in shock hid behind a fallen tree trunk, and peered over the edge at the charred tree. A terrible chill of horror ran up my spine, and I darted into the air and over to the burnt birch. Frantically, I searched for anyone who had been hurt, pushing fallen limbs aside and scouring the ground around me. Alarmed cries called for me, and my ears pointed me to them. The chipmunks were telling me to get out of the open and that the lightning was going to strike me. I looked up at the sky, and froze in place as a thunderhead unleashed a pure bolt of electricity straight into me.
My body jolted backwards, and I stumbled on my hind legs and fell onto the floor. My heart was racing, and my chest felt like it was locked up tight. I stared up at the ceiling, wondering why it was spinning, and what had just happened. I couldn’t take it anymore. I clambered onto my hooves, and rushed over to the pot I had used earlier.
There were more bad dreams after that. And more often than not, I woke up dizzy and nauseated. A storm raged outside, but I couldn’t remember when it had started or how long it had been going for. Somehow I had drunk down all of the cough medicine I had, hoping it would give some sort of relief to the fever burning across my forehead. My pain pills were still left over, but I avoided taking them just in case it wasn’t safe for another dose. How much time had passed while I slept? How long had it been since I left Canterlot? The leafy ceiling of the Everfree Forest made it difficult to know, and the dark shadow that the storm cast from above made it seem like day didn’t exist anymore.
After another frightening but forgettable dream, I didn’t want to go back to sleep. Trying to rest only left me kicking and screaming myself awake, and it only made my sickness grow worse and tire me more. I needed to relax and pass the time until I felt safe enough to go back to sleep. For a little while, I tried to focus on going back to Canterlot; what I would have to do to not be chased and hunted, and how I would get out of the city when it was time to go. If Philomena’s warning was correct, it would be too risky to catch a strong wind current out of the city again, because the wind could be much more powerful – too much for me to handle. Following the road down the mountain would be safer, but if I have to escape Diamond Dogs or Dragons, it would be too easy for them to find me. Why couldn’t I be a strong flier like Rainbow Dash? She would’ve been up and down that mountain in no time, and would’ve been more than ready to face the worst headwinds the mountain could throw at her. Me? I would be thrown everywhere. Attitude, altitude – all blended and confused. I’d be thrown into a corkscrew! Spinning and swirling and…
The familiar bitter taste in my mouth made itself known and I bolted upright, the head rush leaving me feeling incredibly dizzy. Without a second thought I leant over the side of the bed and held myself over the pot I had left on the floor. This is unbearable,
I thought as I hurried back indoors with an empty - and rinsed - pot. A quick glance through the gaps in the canopy revealed that it was daylight, but darkened by the stormy skies. While it was worth knowing, going outside like this was dangerous. Even though I was careful and quick, I was barely able to trot in a straight line. It was easy for anything out there to catch me, but for some reason I had been left alone. Maybe the scary monsters of the Everfree Forest don’t eat sick ponies?
I sputtered out a raspy giggle; it was a silly thought, but funny anyway.
Placing the bedside pot back where it belonged, my dry throat started to itch. My canteens were right next to the pillow, but empty, so I took one over to Zecora’ s rainwater tank and filled it up. I fought the urge to let it spill onto the floor for me to roll in, and reluctantly closed the valve when the canteen was full. I sat down on my haunches, taking tiny and considerate sips. I hadn’t eaten in a long time, and my gut wasn’t too keen on water either, but it was important to drink water, even if it did nothing to sooth my headache and fever, or cure the horrible burning itch underneath my scabs.
I replaced the cap to my canteen, and set it down on the floor. The firepit was burning away on a log I had added a few hours ago, and the cauldron’s brew was filling the room with a floral aroma. What was it that she was making? Did she have a book open somewhere; a recipe for it, perhaps?
Slowly I stood back up onto my hooves, and started looking over the zebra’s small collection of books and her stored potions and ingredients. Curiously, I took a closer look at some of the labels. Enaroot Bone Repair; D.D.T. – Draught for Damaged Teeth; Teal Fern Wound Treatment – there seemed to be a potion or remedy for every condition! I looked down onto the table, reading the names of several books. A few seemed very old, and were written with words I didn’t recognise, but one of them was very familiar. It was Zecora’s copy of Supernaturals
, the book that had the cure for Poison Joke.
With nothing else to do except wait out my sickness and the storm, I took the book and settled down to read it on Zecora’s bed. Inside were more than just recipes for herbal remedies and useful brews, but a small guide on every ingredient the book found a use for. A strange stinging plant called a “Nettle” apparently made a good tea or stew, while also being a good anaesthetic; there were also pages for Phoenix feathers and Timberwolf bark, describing each item’s unique properties and uses.
I turned a few more pages, stopping on a recipe for a fever- relieving medicine. The corner of the page had been folded over, and a few drops had stained the pages in the past. Maybe Zecora brewed these often? My eyes widened at the potential, and I quickly read through the list of ingredients. I glanced across the room, looking over the selection of ingredients Zecora had stored. I looked back and forth between the book and what I could see in her shelves and hanging from her ceiling. Clambering out of bed, I trotted over to a table and reopened the book on the relevant page. Scanning over the many herbs, I flicked through the book, looking up the ingredients and comparing their descriptions and illustrations. I could feel a small joy cheer in my chest; every ingredient was in the hut, right down to the yarrow growing in a window sill. Pain pills were not meant to soothe fevers, and my cough medicine was long gone, trying my hoof at brewing wouldn’t hurt, would it? But none of the ingredients belong to me. It would be stealing to use them.
I stopped what I was doing. It was true; even though the ingredients would perish in another week, I should still ask permission before taking them, but…
I slumped onto the floor, burying my face in my hooves. This wasn’t just stealing; this was grave robbing. How could I do that? Even with how horrible things are, how does that give me the right to steal? What happened to Equestria doesn’t give the Diamond Dogs or Dragons the right to take what they want, so how is my situation different?
“I have a need for it…” I murmured, wiping my eyes and brow. “I don’t want to steal, but I need to get well. I need to have a place to sleep and water to drink.” I tipped my head back, barely speaking louder than a whisper. “You… You would understand that, right?”
The silence in the room said ‘yes’.
I looked down at the floor, and closed my eyes. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. I have to survive. I can’t let my namesake get in the way of that.
I rose back onto all four hooves, and started reading the recipe off, hoping it would be worth the crime in the long run. “Thank you…” I whispered, staining the recipe page with a couple of tears.
My hoof poked at the smoldering pile of ash in the center of the room. The fire had long since burnt out, and there were no more logs indoors to feed it. A growl escaped my stomach on cue. It was time to move on, not just to find food, but to get back to Canterlot.
I stretched out my wings and legs, feeling a gentle tug on each scab on my dirty, yellow coat. Maybe another night wouldn’t hurt?
I wondered. The sickness I had recovered from had really thrown me through a loop, but the blur of melded days reminded me that I couldn’t spend another day resting. I needed to beat the winter front to Canterlot. If a freezing storm moved in while I scoured the city, then I would be up against more than just the vicious invaders there. Would there be a city left to visit now, though? What about the mean Dragons and cruel Diamond Dogs? My wings shivered at the thought.
Glancing around Zecora’s home, I quickly made sure I had everything I needed, and had left a note for Zecora – just in case I was wrong about her... being gone. There was an accusing pang in my head, but I knew that I was taking what I needed, not what I wanted. I held onto that thought, long enough until the guilt eased. It didn’t completely go away though.
I opened up my saddlebags one more time, checking on the glass bottles inside. Each bottle was filled with a variety of medicines, all providing treatment to fevers and wounds and even broken bones. I noted Zecora’s copy of Supernaturals
nestled among the potions – with Philomena’s feather wedged inside a bookmark. I muttered that I needed to take good care of the book, as it would be my guide for finding replacement herbs for the ones I took, and for the potions I was absconding with. The remedies inside the pages could also become a life saver in the future, if not a way to take my mind off of bad things, like theft. I shook my head, it’s not stealing.
I closed the bags up and made sure they were secure. The small hole in one of the bags caught my eye once more, but I decided to leave it for now; I didn’t have much daylight left today to gather food and leave the forest.
Quietly, I approached the door. Instinctively, my mind focused on the muffled sounds of the outdoors, and my ears twitched in anticipation. Some birds were chirping, insects buzzing, but nothing unusual for the Everfree Forest; home of the most unusual – and dangerous – creatures. Maybe the stormy weather had driven the much more frightening creatures deeper into the forest, or at least away from here.
A sharp, nervous breath escaped me. My hoof reached for the door, quivering in frayed excitement. Even outside of the Everfree Forest, the land was going to be dangerous place. Equestria had become a shadow of the home I once knew. The thoughts had lurked in my fevered head for days now, tainting my dreams. My friends… No. I couldn’t think about that. Not the bad things, only good things.
There was only one good thing to think about though, one thing to stay focused on; the peace I would feel for bringing the Elements of Harmony back together. My friends would appreciate that.
The deadbolt slid aside with a scrape and clunk, and slowly I lifted the latch and eased the door open. The busy sounds of the wildlife poured into my ears, either unafraid or unaware of what could be hiding nearby. I swung the door open, and cautiously inched outside, scanning the trees and bushes. The damp soil and rejuvenated plants clouded my head; the rain had refreshed life in the Everfree, and coaxed me out from the stale and dry air indoors. I took a deep breath.
That was when I smelled it; Timberwolves. I whirled around in place, feeling every muscle in my body lock up at the sight of the lumbering beast dropping down from above. The Timberwolf landed between the doorway and me, and slowly approached. I turned again, this time to run, only to see more wolves had joined. My eyes darted around in a panic. There had to be an escape, a gap I could run though – anything! The wolves had formed a circle around me, where could I run? I stared up at the thick canopy, spying a tiny gap allowing sunlight to pass through. Without another second, I threw myself upward, forcing my wings to lift me up as high as they could. At the same time, two wolves pounced after me. They narrowly missed me, and instead crashed into each other and fell into dozens of pieces. Desperately, I pumped my stiff wings to lift me further from their reach, but I could not squeeze through the branches and leaves keeping me from the sky. I dived down and through the tree line, escaping the circle the wolves had created. Not wanting to give up so quickly, their barks and growls soon followed me, announcing the chase.
Bushes and branches whizzed past me, my gaze barely even registering them unless they were in my path. Where was I even going? Away from the Timberwolves, that’s all that mattered. I swerved around tree trunks, slipping between branches and bushes. The howls began to slowly fade in the distance, if I could just move a little faster…
My wings snarled up in some hanging vines, yanking my body into a backwards somersault. With a yelp I careened upwards, the whole forest being flipped upside down in an instant. The vines snapped and fell away, sending me flailing in the air and crashing through thin branches and twigs. I came down with a heavy thud, winding myself on a branch not far from the forest floor. I blindly clung onto it, my eyes seeing only greens and browns, my sore lungs begging for air.
The hunt was still on, and the hunters were closing in fast. Painfully I pulled myself further onto the tree limb, trying to get out of view. Two Timberwolves came charging out of the bushes below, skidding to a stop beneath me, their eyes focused ahead. I softened my breath, even though my lungs burned for more air, and watched the wolves sniff at the ground. They swiveled their gaze left and right for any sign of where I went, grumbling loudly in frustration. I held onto the branch for dear life, not making a peep. Please don’t look up, please don’t look up.
The Timberwolves circled around, trying to track their prey. They were growing impatient, and were losing their will to keep searching. Distant howls snaked through the trees, and the wolves responded with their own. They’re giving up!
My body started to slip off the branch under the weight of my saddlebags. Gritting my teeth, I quietly shifted and leant forward. Moments later, I saw a small bottle fall to the floor, shattering on a rock and scattering shards and pills all over. The wolves shot a glance over to the sound, and looked up into the branches, narrowing a furious glare at me. I glanced at my saddlebags, spotting the hole in them again, and offered the wolves a nervous giggle and shrug. This only made them snarl and leap up to attack. I hoisted myself up onto the branch, almost falling into the beast’s grasp, and shakily hugged the tree for balance. My eyes cast themselves downwards, straight into the maw of the vicious animals trying to catch me. I buried my face into the tree, whimpering and starting to cry.
The tree shook, and reluctantly I looked back down. A wolf was climbing up the tree. He reached a paw up, his claws physically fusing with the tree’s bark, and rapidly came up after me. I pushed away from the tree, fumbling along the branch as the climbing Timberwolf joined me. With barely enough balance, I launched off the branch, gliding down in a quick dive, landing not far in front of the waiting wolf below. He leapt at me, grazing my neck with his sharp claws, and chased me through the forest. My heart was working overtime, the only sounds reaching my head being the hard beats from my chest and the terrifying rattle of the wooden monster behind me.
In moments we broke out into the open, the stone ruins of the Old Castle revealing itself in the distance, and the massive gorge rushing up to me. With every ounce of strength I had, I jumped into the air, throwing my wings open to glide across. The Timberwolf leapt after me, grabbing me by the tail. I screamed and struggled to stay aloft, but the weight of the creature was pulling me down too fast. I slammed into the edge of the cliff, shaking off and shattering the predator against the wall. My forelegs flailed in front, digging in the ground for a stable hold, while my wings buzzed in frenzy. Soon I was on solid ground, but still far from safety. More wolves had shown up on the other side of the gorge, and one of them was hastily building itself up with fallen branches and sticks. I stumbled forwards, heading for the steps of the Old Castle. Behind me, a massive Timberwolf finished the construction of bigger version of itself, and stretched over the gorge with ease. The moment its front paws touched the other side, the giant creature deliberately collapsed with a crash, with the original wolf leaping from the carnage. The remaining logs and branches settled in place, forming a sturdy wooden bridge across the gap.
I gasped at the sight, have Timberwolves always been that powerful? Have they always been that clever too? The distraction took my eyes off the path, and I tripped over a rock sticking out of the soil. I fell head first into the dirt, and slumped onto the ground in a daze. The wolves closed in, their furious cries filling the air. Groggily, I focused on the wolves, and then spun my head around to the Old Castle. It was so close, but the wolves were almost on me. I pushed myself upright and made a final sprint for the ruins, my hooves barely tracing a straight line to them. I felt the ground change from dirt to stone, and I began to make my way up the first few steps of the ruins. The snarls and howling stopped.
Without stopping, I chanced a glimpse behind me. Half a dozen wolves stared back, all at the bottom of the stone steps, refusing to take a step further. The barked at me in defiance and turned away, retreating back into the forest. Distracted again, I ran into the wooden doors at the top of the stone stairs.
Groaning, I picked myself up again, and pushed opened one of the doors, slipping inside the old stone walls of the Old Castle. Seconds later the door was closed, and it’s wooden bar was slid into place in case the Timberwolves, or something else entirely, tried to follow.
Rubbing a growing lump on the side of my head, I placed my saddlebags on the floor of the main hall. It didn’t matter if was only a bump or a little scratch. I had learnt my lesson; putting off treatment was inviting a few days of illness. I didn’t want to go through that again. So out came the medical box. I made sure that I cleaned the bumps I had in case there were tiny cuts there, as well as took care of the scratches and splinters scattered all over. The bandage on my left foreleg was overdue for changing, and so I unraveled it. Underneath was a tender and sore spot that stung at the touch of fresh air. Gritting my teeth, I cleaned it with the last of the sanitizing wipes, and wrapped it up with the last clean bandage I had. Other than a box of adhesive bandages, the kit was empty, and with the last of my pain pills being lost in the forest, I only had Zecora’s potions to rely on for now.
With a great deal of care, I pulled each bottle out of my saddlebags, being careful to not get cut if there was any broken glass. Lucky for me, the selection of potions were unscathed, and nothing else had gone missing – the book, my scarf, my sewing kit, and the Princesses’ crowns.
My brow furrowed as I gazed at the crowns. I couldn’t take them everywhere I went. I was going to need to the space to store supplies and the each Element of Harmony. I needed to leave them somewhere where nothing else would think of looking. I looked around, my sight landing on the old display the Elements used to sit on, back when they were stone orbs. They had been there for hundreds of years before Twilight led us all to them, even though countless creatures lived in the forest. If there was a safe to keep the crowns, it would be here.
Maybe there was a reason the Elements had been left alone? After all, the Timberwolves that had chased me refused to follow me up the stairs. They seemed afraid to touch the stone, and quickly turned around and gave up. If there wasn’t something about the Castle keeping all the creatures at bay, then there was at least something in here that was keeping me safe from the wolves.
Quietly, I packed my saddlebags up, and picked up the lantern still stood by the door. I made my way to the throne room, pondering over what history this place could have, or what would make the Timberwolves behave so strangely. The truth was that I didn’t really know anything about either. I didn’t know this castle existed until I met Twilight, and my knowledge of animals didn’t have anything about the strange wooden creatures.
I trotted into the throne room. The whole space was bathed in orange light from the setting sun, bringing welcoming warmth through the windows. As I approached the steps to where the throne would have stood, I placed my unlit lantern on the floor and started to open my saddlebags. As I stopped at the steps, I pulled out Princess Luna’s crown, and gently lowered it to the steps. I did the same with Princess Celestia’s crown, resting it close the crown of her sister’s. It felt right to leave them here, sitting where the thrones would be. If the ruins proved to be a safe place to leave things here, then this would also be the best place to bring the Elements of Harmony. Leaving them in the same place we found them, the same place where my life changed into something truly wonderful.
I bowed my head and closed my eyes. I missed all of my friends. I missed the girls; I missed Spike, Angel, and Discord. What could I do for them? What could I do for the baby dragon and the old, reformed draconequus? Would I see Angel sometime in the future? The pets my friends kept? How about my little animal friends? I had a lot of friends; I should’ve spent more time with them.
Slowly, I turned around, and ambled over to the lantern, taking a moment to strike a match and light it. Dusk was giving way to the night, and it would be too risky to start heading for Canterlot tonight. I stretched my wings and legs out, feeling a gentle tug on the last few scabs I had. Another night wouldn’t hurt, huh Fluttershy?
I sat myself down by a window, and decided to repair the hole in my saddlebags as I waited for night to come, and for sleep to beckon shortly after.