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Running of the Leaves: Stage Four- Galloping Glade (Closed: See OOC Topic)


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Stage 4- The Galloping Glade

Clear weather reveals a beautiful, wide-open area that hasn't tasted the nasty storm that flooded the brook. This semi-permanent clearing is obstacle free and beautiful, with deer and other wildlife burrowing close by and yet far away from the trail. They will be witnesses to the racers finally having the space to strut their stuff.

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Star's nerves were in disrepair as the memories of Bubbling Brook crossing lingered in her mind. She was more than certain they'd haunt her in nearing days, perhaps even weeks. Moreover, the pain in her front right leg was slowly starting to become unbearable. Pink mare was worried not to overexert it. And, if that wasn't enough yet, she felt the first signs of tiredness actually. It seemed that her mental condition was deeply connected with the physical one as well and influenced it heavily.

Risi was still whole covered in droplets of water, but at least she managed to get out of the rainy area. It was a relief and plain pleasure to feel the rays of sun once more. For few short moments she could yet observe the wet trees, but finally even those were left behind. Trotting forward carefully she eventually stumbled across an opening: wide and wild grasslands. A slight sigh of awe was released as she noticed the contrast between such a peaceful, charming area and the brute, magnificent force of raging stream. It was exactly what she was dreaming of right now, a cherry on top of her wishes.

Star slowly walked off from the track and made it a few meters into the grasslands. She lied down on the green carpet, turning her backs at the road and gazing into distance. A simple alternation of levitation spell allowed her to give herself a magical massage of bad leg, currently covered in sparkling azure aura. A short break was just what she had required, both to dry up and regain clear senses. Pink mare allowed her thoughts to drift away slowly, observing the wildlife somewhere in front of her. The leaves won't run away either way... And right now she just needed to relax after the trauma. She could still feel her limbs shaking from time to time...

It was just a shame Imperio couldn't be here with her. She kinda missed talking to the little guy. [colour=#0000ff]"Little."[/colour] - she laughed joyfully at that silly remark - [colour=#0000ff]"He's like the size of my head at least."[/colour] - the feeling of loneliness made Star think of her sister. She couldn't resist feeling she should have dragged the second Star along into the event. Least she'd have company...

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Having fallen behind at the brook, Lyra noted the wide open space and decided she needed to make up some time. After taing a quick swig of her water she picked up the pace to a gallop, just for a few minutes. She was still soggy from the rain and that slowed her down a little, but she was determined to catch up and not be distracted.

Moments later Lyra had slowed to a canter to watch some bunnies frollicking off to the side of the trail. [colour=#00cc99]"Awwww, cute little critters!"[/colour] she remarked. [colour=#00cc99]"No, wait! I'm #1! I'm the champ! I'm supposed to be in the lead!"[/colour] she quickly reminded herself.

She got back to her gallop and tried to focus dead ahead, but her mind began to wander. Her victory last year wasn't a fluke... was it? Maybe she'd put on too much weight since then?

[colour=#00cc99]"No matter what, I'll do my best."[/colour] she murmured.

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After all the problems ensued from back by the waters, Greenshot Apple had no more weather poncho on, but still had his number 27 itching at his flank. With this and the pain in his front right hoof. His thoughts were going all over the place as he spoke aloud to himself. "[colour=#008000]What if this is a serious sprain? What if I can't finish the race? I have no chance in winning this, but I want to at least finish. Be proud of something you know? Ughh..stupid rock, I'll get my revenge on you when I get home to Canterlot and practice with my slingshot oww.[/colour]" Greenshot knew nothing about healing, so he couldn't just fix it himself. Each step his right hoof took was more painful then the one before. Having walking into the glade, least the beautiful scenery was something to be thankful for. After a while, Greenshot had to go to the side where the grass looked comfortable and sat down. Playing with his right hoof by shaking it about and poking the ground with it. The pain would just come when he put pressure on it as he noticed racers going by more frequently.

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Despite his rather unpleasant adventure at the Brook and the little scare he'd had on his way away from it, Clockwise's spirit began to recover as his steady trot finally brought him out of the storm. Still wet but not as much as he might have been if it weren't for his waterproofed blanket, he paused to shake himself, nearly losing his sopping hat with the vigor of the action. Though far from dry, his tangled, curly red mane and tail had already begun to frizz. Unbeknownst to Clockwise, his startled gallop had driven him up the ranks considerably, and so he found himself almost alone.

Breathing a little harder than he might have liked, the lanky pony took a few extra moments to gingerly relax his aching knees and rest a muddy hind hoof; he even shut his eyes, enjoying the gentle warmth of the sunbeams in the wake of the cold brook and cruel rain.

However, they soon opened again in surprise at the feeling of subtle contact. The stallion's limp ears slowly perked, just as his brows lifted, and he blinked cross-eyed at the pale butterfly that had landed on his nose. A butterfly, indeed? Awareness began to trickle in, and Clockwise turned his attention to what lay behind the delicate little thing that had mistaken him for a flower.

And, why, it was beautiful! The storm that grumbled in the distance behind him, the terror of the rushing brook and even the nasty griffon were all but forgotten as Clockwise surveyed the inviting clearing that sprawled ahead, verdant and lush despite the season. It reminded him fondly of dear, green Fet Loch, from the brilliant sky to the trail that ran through it.

As though sensing a rising desire, or perhaps having finally ascertained that the purple unicorn wasn't just a really big flower after all, the butterfly flitted away, and Clockwise picked up his trot again with fresh, sprightly vigor. The earth here was much more forgiving to an old stallion's hooves, soft and hollow-sounding rather than slick, mucky and treacherous. The trot quickly graduated into a canter, and the unkempt professor even emitted a short, shrill little whinny of a laugh as the bell on his hat began to ring again with each coltish step. This was what he had come to Ponyville for!

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For about fifteen minutes after her encounter with the disgruntled griffoness, a cantering Sugar Apple kept a speedy pace as she transversed the countryside. Left alone to her thoughts, the pegasus tried her best to block out all previous negativity from her mind. Dwelling on her less-than-favorable meeting, Sugar Apple slightly began to regret her choice of words back at the Bubbling Brook. True, that griffon had no excuse doing what she did to the ponies back at the stream, but that was no reason for the pegasus to lose her cool and began an argument. Sugar Apple was better than that; maybe if she spotted the griffon again, the mare would try better to be less confrontational.

To Sugar Apple’s relief, the formerly-relentless torrent of rain lessened its onslaught as she drew further away from the brook... as did the mud. Her eyesight no longer obstructed by veils of precipitation, Sugar Apple’s heart warmed as the storm clouds broke up and permitted beams of sunlight to shine upon the Whitetail Woods. For the first time in the race, the mare actually beheld the vibrant colours of the autumn-time forest. Leaves of red and yellow swayed in the breeze as Sugar Apple, still covered in brownish grime, let herself slow down to a canter to enjoy the scenery. Perhaps she was wrong to assume that the Running of the Leaves would come down to a battle between Mare and Nature.

So focused on sightseeing was Sugar Apple that it took her several more minutes to realize that she still couldn’t see her cousin Applejack in front of her. Sugar Apple knew full-well that her cousin from Ponyville was one of the most athletic ponies in her entire family, but nopony had the strength to gallop so far away from the pack without suffering from exhaustion. Failing to see an orange hat-wearing pony in any direction, Sugar Apple guessed that Applejack indeed fell behind somewhere. If correct, that meant the pegasus was now the leading member of the Apple family in the race.

Sugar Apple didn’t know what that meant for her; should she keep enjoying nature at her relatively-leisurely pace and hope Applejack will come by sooner or later? Should she try to remain in her commanding position as much as she could to give her family a shot at winning the race… or at the very least, keep that griffon from winning? The pegasus wasn’t exactly one of the most athletically-cutthroat ponies out there, having never made serious efforts to win competitions before. Failing to anticipate just how well she’d be doing in her first-ever running, Sugar Apple now wondered if in fact she had what it took to win the whole thing, and even beat her very own cousin if the process?

In was in this state of mind that Sugar Apple came upon a forest clearing, illuminated by a massive sunbeam from the dissipating cloud cover. Something about the sight before her eyes struck the pegasus as something straight out an old pony tale, as if the very spot had a mystical quality to it. Treading slowly to survey her surroundings, Sugar Apple half-wondered if some sort of magic artifact laid hidden within the glade’s confines. Sugar Apple quickly dismissed the thought; usually, the legends placed such resting places in better-hidden clearings than this one here.

Without warning, the bushes off to the clearing’s edge loudly shook. Instinctively jolting her head towards the disturbance, Sugar Apple couldn’t make out what had caused the sound. Whatever it was, it chose to hide in the tree-covered shadows beyond the glade. Maybe it was one of the kingdom-renowned deer that called Whitetail Wood their home? As Sugar Apple never saw a wild deer in her life before (having not gone on barely any vacations of a naturalist flavor), the prospect of encountering one made curiosity get the better of the mare. Momentarily forgetting about the race, Sugar Apple carefully snuck her way to the clearing’s rim for a glimpse of the apparently-shy creature.

After a minute, Sugar Apple spotted the vague shape of a four-legged creature standing still under the trees. Trying to make out what the thing was, the pegasus failed to notice the approach of a purple, oddly-dressed unicorn loudly blundering his way towards the clearing.....

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Motion Paradox shook her hooves dry as she reached the open spaces of Galloping Glade, the sun was already beginning to dry the rest of her but the slimy feeling of river clay on her hooves was one she desperately wanted to be rid of. Though she still had a fair amount of ground to cover she had fared better in the previous leg than many of the other competitors and was determined to seize her chance to make a bit more progress while the others took a moment to catch their breath. As she continued to make her way through the glade she saw several other competitors lying in the grass taking a moment to rest their sore muscles or walking at a much slower pace than before, as tempting as the grass and prospect of sight seeing were she decided to press on, just like in that story; if she was the tortoise to their hare then this would be her time to shine.

As she carried on she noticed a green Stallion sitting off to the side as she neared him she saw that he seemed to be testing his hoof, wincing every time he put weight on it. The pink Unicorn paused for a moment, passing by Ponies who were taking a moment to relax didn't bother her but this Pony didn't seem to want to rest, just leaving him would be poor sports-mareship but she knew next to nothing about physical medicine and trying to help by herself could just make the injury worse. Still, getting somepony that can fix a problem would count as helping just as much as if she solved it herself....

When she reached the injured Stallion Motion Paradox pulled a length of bandage out of the small water-proof saddle bag she had for her water and a few other supplies, levitated the biggest stick she could find, finally she tied the bandage to the stick and planted it in the ground. "Here" she said as she sent sparks from her horn "I just signaled for one of the volunteers to come help you, but you need something to make you easier to find, since your coat blends in with the grass" and with that she continued to press on through the glade, and hopefully closer to victory

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The little detour Earth Writer had taken for safety had, predictably, cut into his time. It wasn't much, but it was enough for him to have dropped from the bottom of the top pack to the top of the middle. [colour=#8b4513]*Not a bad phrase, though; the article progresses, as does the race.*[/colour]

Well, whatever hurdles would come later for the reporter, the biggest hurdle in the race, the weather, seemed to have passed. Or one could say that the ponies had passed the bad weather, that he would leave up to the editor.

The unicorn shook as he entered the clearing, partly from the chills coming from the water evaporating off his skin, and partly because he could finally shake off the volume of rainwater that had collected in his mane and tail. [colour=#8b4513] *Oh, sweet Celestia, to be dry again!* [/colour]Indeed, the sun had come out, and the stallion now was entering the forest clearing, where he could feel the full strength of the rays. For at least a few minutes, he felt no fatigue, so great was the relief.

As his hooves pounded along the trail, he heard the ringing of a little bell, which momentarily confused him until he encountered a purple unicorn, wearing a hat with a bell. Not the most athletic of wear, but then this unicorn didn't look the most athletic of ponies. Then Earth Writer recognized him; this was the unicorn who'd fallen into the brook! He cantered over to the rescuee, calling out, [colour=#8b4513]"Oy, glad to see you're doing alright after that little spill, Mr...?[/colour]" He trailed off expectantly, to give enough time for the stallion to give his name. [colour=#8b4513]"Would you mind telling me about the experience? I'm a reporter, and I'm looking to make a story out of this event."[/colour]

It was but a minute before the pair of unicorns encountered the pair of Apple cousins. "[colour=#8b4513]Hello, Sugar! Glad to see you made it over the bridge alright! Oh..."[/colour] Earth Writer hailed the pegasus, before seeing the green unicorn laid out on the ground. [colour=#8b4513]"Ouch, sprained your ankle, eh? Are you going to sit the rest of the race out, or try to push through after the helper bandages you?"[/colour] There was concern in his voice as he approached, though a part of his mind was still documenting all of this for his article.

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Greenshot Apple had an clear expression of disappointment on his face. He himself wasn't even sure how far he could go and if he would even be able to finish the Running of the Leaves. Looking over at racers seeming to be resting of exhaustion, Greenshot wanted to get back in the race, he will not be put down because of the rock while pushing down on his hoof once more made him wince again. Noticing that a pink unicorn was coming towards him, he didn't know why until he saw her horn glow and the objects floating out from the bag on her back. A soft smile then formed on his face watching what she was doing to help him out the best she could in the crisis he was in. "[colour=#008000]Thank..you. I really appreciate your help. Good luck in the race and stay safe. Don't go spraining an ankle like I did ya hear?[/colour]" Greenshot said just as she walked away. Chuckling as he did blend in with the grass then looked at the tan pony from earlier back in the Apple Acres area. "[colour=#008000]Howdy Do again. Of course I'm going to push through and get back into this race. There is no way I'm going down this easy especially since I have a goal set to finish this race. I'm Greenshot Apple. You should get back into the race though, you'll get passed up and fall more behind the lead pack. Tell Sugar Apple to win it for the Apple family if you ever see her again alright?[/colour]" Greenshot said softly as he looked at the bandaged stick waiting for assistance. His yellow, green striped tail swatting against the blades of grass trying not to get impatient.

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Hoss quickly gained ground scrambling out of the woods after making sure his number, 22, was still in place over his Cutie Marks.

As he ran, he could sense the edge of the stormfront before he reached it.

Passing out of the last stand of trees before the Galloping Glade was like passing through a curtain as the rain suddenly ended right there.

Sighing in relief, he decided a moment for his own health was needed even if it cost hm time.

He slowed down and went a little ways off the road to spread his wings as wide as possible and shake himself like a dog, sending a great spray of water for over 10 feet around him.

Immediately after, he flopped down on the thickest part of the grass and rolled like a foal to dry off, ignoring the giggles of nearby fawns at seeing a pony act so much like them.

After a good healthy bout of rolling around, he stood up and shook the lose grass off and trotted back to the road, angling his path to come back to the road further along the path.

To his surprise, there was the green unicorn he had heard in passing was another Apple, sitting with an injured leg.

As he trotted on up, Motion Paradox left bandages and shot off a signal for race officials to help, then got back to the race.

Already Clockwise and Sugar Apple were trotting by as he reached the green unicorn.

The unicorn, Earth writer also stopped just before him and was asking questions of GreenShot.

Hoss looked around and did not see a helper in sight just yet.

He sighed in obvious good humor as he was about to have another minor delay, since Weather Team are often reguarded as a default First Responder because they are often the only ones already there in the aftermath when taking apart bad weather.

[colour=#0000cd]"Hello there. Greenshot, is it? I'm good with first aid since me and sis are often alone in the back of beyond, whether we are doing weather by day or astronomy by night. Mind if I patch you up real quick?"[/colour]

He hoped he could give the help quickly enough to keep ahead of Gilda..

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With his yellow, green striped tail still swatting at the blades of grass. Greenshot Apple looked over at Hoss who was talking to him as well. Greenshot wondered why so many ponies were coming to assist him. This was a surprise as Greenshot nodded at Hoss. "[colour=#008000]Yes,Greenshot,.... Greenshot Apple.. You are? Though If you wish to patch my here right hoof up. That would be very generous and kind of you, but I will not be the blame if I am the cause of you not winning the Running of the Leaves.. just so you know that. You don't have to help me either if you want to get back into the race[/colour]." Greenshot said softly as he brought his right hoof out enough to be worked on.

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Hoss whinnied and lifted his left wing, dipping into his other pouch for the compact first aid kit so he would have a way of fastening things. He spoke as he got out the fasteners for bandages and sat on his haunches to work with his black-banded wingtips.

[colour=#0000ff]"I'm Star Skybright, Hoss to my friends. It's okay, I'd never hear the end of it from my family if they knew I'd left a pony hanging. At least Weather Pony training keeps me and Sis safe at night with our Astronomy duties too."[/colour]

Working quickly with hooves and wingtips, he checked the sprain and used one bandage by itself to keep the swelling under control. Hoss then braced it with a splint and used a second bandage to tie it in place, securing it all snugly so it would not pop open and unwind.

[colour=#0000cd]"This isn't one of my better ones, but it should get you to the next bunch of race officials since they have full medical kits on hoof. Can you move okay with that?"[/colour]

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"Don't worry, I'll be careful! I hope your ankle gets better soon!" Motion Paradox called to Greenshot Apple as she left, and carried on her way. After a few minutes she paused a moment to look back and saw a few Ponies had stopped to assist the injured Unicorn which made her smile, she was glad that he seemed to be getting the help he needed now and would be able to finish the race.

As she reached what seemed to be the half way point she took a quick sip of her water and a mouthful of grass, she usually didn't enjoy grass very much and some types she couldn't stand at all, but the type that grew here was an exception; it had a nice texture and a wonderful sweetness that she enjoyed, it was definitely better than the over powering taste that she usually associated with raw grass. Besides, it would be best if she could save the supplies she brought whenever possible, she still had half of the course to run through and didn't want to risk running out of cookies or water too far from the finish line.

The Unicorn Mare sighed happily as she continued to trot through the glade, by now she was completely dry and warm sun felt fantastic against her coat. She was still determined not to take a break during this leg of the race, but she could still enjoy the scenery without slowing down. She saw several birds and rabbits playing happily near the trees as if they were having their own race, anypony who loved nature or animals would definitely be in their element here! However there was one creature that she hoped she could catch a glimpse of while running here; most of her Mother's family came from this part of Equestria and according to the family lore there was a bit of Deer in her ancestry, if she was very lucky maybe she would be able to see one for herself. Perhaps a distant cousin was watching her right now! The thought put a little bit of bounce in her step causing her to pick up her pace slightly, this part of the race had been the best one so far and she had a good feeling about the rest of it.

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[colour=#8B4513]"Oy, glad to see you're doing alright after that little spill, Mr...?[/colour][colour=#282828]" [/colour]


The sudden voice surprised Clockwise into performing a small, startled jump between the measured steps of his trot, though the sound of the other unicorn's hooves ought to have prepared him for the possibility. His ears quickly went from flattened to perked, and he turned his head to look at the other pony with something bordering on astonishment, as though amazed to have been asked his name. "I, er--uh--C-Clockwise, sir, I-I think," he supplied, leaving off his credentials... a good move, perhaps, though the dusky stallion would be too absent-minded to note it as such, and certainly hadn't made the omission consciously. "Uh, I mean, I'm--I-I'm quite sure!"

To Earth Writer's second inquiry, the lanky stallion's expression became a baffled one. "Oh," he said again, "Well, well... w-with all due respect, why sh-should you ever want to, er, do such a thing? I-I mean, um, do... do ponies... like to read about--a-about other ponies falling into... i-into rivers?" The question was clearly a genuine, honest one, if quite naïve. To be expected, maybe! If Clockwise's unusual manner was anything to go by, perhaps the lines along which he thought were a tad eccentric, too.

Regardless, it would appear that the awkward, stuttering unicorn wasn't terribly good at doing two things at the same time, or, at least, not these particular two things, these being talking and running--two activities that he didn't do very often, and hardly ever together. So engrossed was he in the impromptu conversation that he quite forgot to pay attention to what was in front of his nose rather than in front of his mind, and a rather key bit of awareness grew a tad tardy as a result.


Fortunately for Sugar Apple, Clockwise was hardly what one could call substantial, even by the relatively low standards of unicorns. Unfortunately for her, whatever she was trying to steal a peek at probably would have run off at the clumsy pony's less-than-graceful arrival.

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[colour=#8b4513]"Right-o, then, Clockwise."[/colour] It wasn't so much absent-mindedness as it was genuine unconsciousness that led Earth Writer to not press the purple unicorn for his credentials. After all, they were hardly relevant to his place in the race. As for the awkward stallion's other question, he had a ready answer.

[colour=#8b4513]"They all like good stories. Dramatic rescues always make good copy, especially if the pony rescued doesn't let his spill discourage him, you know? Pluck and perseverance, that's the ticket!" [/colour]The unicorn noticed with bemusement just how much his patterns of speech had been affected by his few years in Canterlot. You'd have hardly believed he grew up in the same town as, say, Applejack.

He winced sympathetically as Clockwise crashed into Sugar Apple, but his attention was currently taken by the Apple cousin that had a relatively more severe injury. "Don't worry about me," He was telling the concerned Greenshot. [colour=#8b4513]"I'm not here to win the race, I'm here to get a story for the papers. And this is a great angle! Injured pony refusing to let circumstances force him to surrender, tying it into a loyalty to tradition and family..." [/colour]The reporter gave a whistle. "[colour=#8b4513]Yeah, I'm not missing out on that.[/colour]"

He watched as Hoss gave a temporary bandaging to Greenshot's injured leg, not leaving the scene just yet. [colour=#8b4513]"You know, if you're running the rest of this three-legged, it would really help if you had someone to lean against. Tell you what; I'll stick with you, just in case we run into some other obstacle like the river. You'll probably need the help then." [/colour]

He nodded towards Sugar Apple. [colour=#8b4513]"Don't worry about me; someone's got to make sure they got all the leaves down. Just get a view from the front of the line, OK Sugar? I'll pick it up when I meet you at the finish."[/colour] He gave a wink to the Pegasus as he assisted the green unicorn in getting to his hooves.

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[colour=#800080]“Ouuph!”[/colour] Sugar Apple didn’t expect something to softly bump her from behind, as she was far from the path. Swiftly jerking her head, the pegasus saw that a purple unicorn had accidently collided with her… and accompanying him was that Earth Writer fella! [colour=#800080]“HOWDY THAR…!”[/colour] Sugar Apple accidently shouted, who covered her mouth shut upon remembering that she was tracking a deer. Too late; the mare spied the shadowy shape ran off further into the woods. So much for deer spotting…

[colour=#800080]“Aw drats!”[/colour] pouted Sugar Apple; [colour=#800080]“Ah was hopin' to find me some deer t’watch.”[/colour] Not wanting to make Earth Writer and his new partner feel bad, Sugar Apple turned back to them and quickly added; [colour=#800080]“Don’t worry ‘bout it, y’all. Ah’ll just have t’take a trip hyre some other time.”[/colour]

Earth Writer was quick to greet Sugar Apple back and express his relief that the pegasus made it across that treacherous bridge. Smiling, Sugar Apple responded; [colour=#800080]“Ha, fo’ a moment back thar ah’d thought ah was a goner. Ya don’t happen t’know anythin’ ‘bout that griffon ya saw me with, do ya?”[/colour] Turning towards the stranger unicorn, Sugar Apple noted his mane seemed to have gotten way wetter than Earth Writer’s and bemusedly asked; [colour=#800080]“And who might ya be, hon? Ya look like yer’ve dumped a whole lota’ water on yer head!”[/colour]

It didn’t escape Sugar Apple’s attention that Earth Writer was distracted and worried by something else; twisting her head in the direction of what the reporter was looking at, the pegasus saw her injured cousin Greenshot being attended to by another pony closer to the forest trail. In fact, he was the same pony that the griffon from earlier was arguing with when Sugar Apple unceremoniously left them in her dust. If he was there, then that griffon couldn’t be far behind! The mare had no desire to encounter that irate racer again anytime soon.

Before Sugar Apple could say anything, Earth Writer assured her to not worry and that she oughta’ win the race. Sugar Apple wasn’t sure if it would be honorable of her to abandon cousin Greenshot to his leg injury. Considering that Applejack was still a no-show however, the pegasus didn’t want to see her family leave win-less from the Running of the Leaves again. Sugar Apple knew that cousin AJ could be proud to a fault, but the pegasus reckoned that her Ponyville relative wouldn't be as mopy about losing if somepony else from the family got in first place. Plus, Sugar didn’t want to let her new reporter friend down; Earth Writer obviously thought the best story outcome was for Sugar Apple to win the race, and so the resolute Sugar would provide him the headline he (and now she) wanted.

Trotting back towards the glade, Sugar Apple stretched out her wings while warming up her legs. [colour=#800080]“Ah won’t let ya down, hon,”[/colour] she reassured Earth Writer while giving him a playful wink. [colour=#800080]“As for you, Greenshot;”[/colour] the pegasus turned towards her green-coated cousin;[colour=#800080] “Stay outta more trouble, ya hear me? If ya see AJ, tell her ah’ll be winnin’ the race for us Apples.”[/colour] Now pumped up to win it all, Sugar Apple first proudly reared her forelegs and gave a primal-sounding neigh before setting off with a fast gallop back towards the road. Sugar Apple knew she couldn’t maintain a breakneck speed for long, but she figured that Greenshot and Earth Writer deserved a proper farewell that would let them know that she was now in it to get first place.....

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Picking up some of the grass that he had not been laying on, [colour=#006400]Greenshot Apple[/colour] decided it seemed like a good time for a snack. Picking up some grass with his left hoof while he felt Skybright’s wingtips and hooves work on his injured right hoof. The grass was quite delicious. This grass was good as the grass back in Canterlot. Looking at his right hoof, Greenshot was listening to what the reporter was saying to him. He had only been in the paper once in Canterlot when his mother’s shop was in the paper for having won a pastry competition. That was long ago though. Greenshot could now see Skybright wrapping the bandages around the splint that was pressed against his first bandage layer and gave his hoof another layer of bandages to keep the splint in place. His hoof felt constricted, but the real test was yet to come. His ears went back as he began to motion his hoof slowly in the air then pressed it against the ground. It didn’t hurt as much as it did before. “[colour=#008000]Thank you so much Skybright err… Hoss, for assisting me.[/colour]”

Greenshot nodded lightly as he looked back at the reporter then began to make his way back onto his four hooves when he heard Sugar Apple speaking towards him. “[colour=#008000]Don’t you worry about me, I’ll let Applejack know If I see her. Didn’t know she was in this race either. The odds are in the favour of the Apple family. Do your very best and win this for the Apples Woot!! owwww![/colour]” Greenshot accidently put too much force on his right hoof when he stomped in on the ground. Greenshot then looked back at the reporter and spoke in a noticeable Canterlot tone, “[colour=#008000]I appreciate your helpfulness, but I can continue walking without having to lean on anypony though you can stay close. In case something does happen along the ways.[/colour]” Bowing his head a bit in a apologetic manner for being such a nuisance to the ponies who were racing to come out of their way to check on him.

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Hoss nickers and smiles at Greenshot [colour=#0000cd]"You are welcome, Greenshot."[/colour]

He tucks his compact 1st aid kit back into the pouch strapped under his left wing.

After seeing Greenshots pleased face at the taste of the grass, he grabs some himself and munches on it before speaking again. "[colour=#0000ff]Well, If ClockWise and Sugar Apple are around, Gilda must be too. I'd better get going since Earth Writer will be with you. See you later in the race and good luck."[/colour]

Hoss rears and whinnies in a burst of high spirits and gallops off down the tail, keeping an eye out for Gilda. Surely she cant have gone around him already?

The bay pegasus looks at the glade around hm, waving a wing when some more fawns wave at the passing ponies.

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(Double posting for Stage 3 and Stage 4)

[colour=#ff0000]"What? Oh yes! Not to worry, I jus took a little detour. I had to make sure mah trees were taken care of. I'm Applejack, and I run Sweet Apple Acres."[/colour]

[colour=#ff8c00]Well, that was a coincidence! Topaz had just been thinking of the Apple sisters back in Tiny Apple Valley, then she had, almost literally, run into one of the local Apple family here. "A pleasure, Miss Applejack! Topaz Tremor, geologist," she replied in greeting. "I recently purchased supplies from Misses Caramel Apple and Apple Bumpkin. I believe they are relations of yours?"

Shortly after the pair passed out of the apple orchard, the threatening clouds really began to pour. The rain streaking Topaz's lenses made it nearly impossible to see the road ahead of her. What kind of incompetent weather ponies did they had around here anyway?! Topaz had half a mind to... write a sternly worded letter to the local weather authorities! As she mentally composed said letter, Topaz very nearly collided with a pony blocking the road! Stumbling to a halt, she took a moment to wipe her glasses with a fetlock. In the distance, she could now make out a bridge over a stream. The rain had raised the level of the stream enough that the bridge was now impassible. The race authorities were directing the runners to an alternate path.

Topaz followed Applejack down the side path, then came to a sudden halt. She could see other racers using some kind of a rope swing to cross to the other side of the raging water. While some of the ponies appeared to be enjoying the ride. Topaz's eyes shrunk down to pinpoints and she began stepping away backwards. "They... they want us to use THAT?" she stuttered. The swing only cleared the surface of the water by a couple of hooves, but Topaz's phobia made it appear that it was much higher. "I, I think I'll g-g-go back and take my chances with the bridge...." she started.[/colour]


[colour=#ff0000]"Don't fret, Sugarcube. You can do it. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]Tell ya what, I'll help you across. Just grab my tail."[/colour][/colour]

[colour=#ff8c00]Topaz was taken aback by this offer. Not by the fact that she was offering to help, but because... "I beg your pardon... you want me to grab WHAT?" The farm mare seemed perfectly serious though. With a nervous shrug, Topaz took Applejack's tail in her mouth. "Are you crite sure about thish Mish?" said between her clenched teeth, but Applejack was already swinging. Topaz had to suppress the urge to scream as the two orange ponies swung over the ravine. [/colour]

[colour=#ff8c00]The next few moments went by in a blur, but suddenly Topaz found herself belly down on the opposite side of the still rising creek. She stumbled to he hooves, then stood staring across the water. With a shiver, turned and began trotting up the path back the main road, vowing to herself to NEVER do something like that again...[/colour]

[colour=#ff8c00]By the time Topaz reached the road, her panic had calmed enough for her to begin running again. As she passed into a clearing, the rain finally let up. With a sigh of relief, she briefly moved to the side and wiped the water from her glasses. Now that she could see, she took a moment to appreciate the scenery. The trees all around the glade were full of many colours of leaves. As the racers passed by, those leaves fell in cascades, sometimes being spun and twirled by winds from the nearby storm. The wildlife of the forest now seemed to be watching the race, as though they knew the significance of this event. Topaz was so lost in thought that, before she know it, she was behind the pack again. Finding her determination again, the orange mare moved back into a gallop, focusing on the trees that still had some of their leaves after the bulk of the competitors had been through.[/colour]

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[colour=#808080]...the daylight was pouring in through the window into a lightly decorated bedroom. But the room was empty, as a certain pink unicorn was already downstairs. Rising Star opened the doors to her office, in which she greeted customers. She passed next to a row of cabinets, filled with photographs and old cameras. The bell wouldn't stop ringing, so she hurried herself. [/colour][colour=#0000ff]"I'm coming I'm coming, for Celestia's sake...!"[/colour][colour=#808080] She shouted as she approached the door and opened them. "[/colour][colour=#0000ff]What is-"[/colour][colour=#808080] - the words stuck in her throat as she saw Princess Celestia herself at the doorstep. Before she managed to reply, princess raised a hoof and poked her in nose. Confusion was reflected on Risi's face.[/colour][colour=#0000ff] "Uh... Your Maj-" [/colour][colour=#808080]- another poke was submitted, followed by yet another...[/colour]

...and another poke. Star blinked under her closed eyelids. She finally opened her eyes slowly halfway, noticing an irregular white shape in front of her. After yawning aloud and finally regaining the sharpness of her sight, she noticed a white bunny running away from her, probably startled by her sudden revival. She felt a tickling in her nose suddenly, what led her to a loud sneeze, which ended up with her waking up completely and removing a tiny dose of fur the bunny left on it. Mare flexed her legs, stretching them a bit this way and yawning once more with eyes closed. Upon finishing, she allowed herself to take a gaze at the area.

She must have fallen asleep by accident, there were no doubts about it. Mare observed the area, trying to figure out what was she doing here in the first place. Still, she couldn't concentrate on that task. The sight in front of her was beautiful. Raw nature... ever-green grasslands in between the seas of yellow-red forests, various birds flying above her and other critters playing far in the distance. She felt a tickling on her hoof, and as she lowered her eyes she saw a trail of ants treating her just like yet another obstacle in their daily routine. A gentle smile crawled up on her face, the one of kind which mother would give to her children while they were being silly about trivial matters.

Her idyll was not destined to last long though. The mare finally gave her second thoughts a chance to reach her. [colour=#0000ff]"The race!"[/colour] - she exclaimed after finally remembering what was she doing here yet again. In a matter of two seconds, Star was standing up again. Her sudden movements threw all the ants down, covering the grass with a little rain of small fellas'. She suddenly somehow remembered that, as she threw a swift apology towards them: [colour=#0000ff]"Oh, sorry~!"[/colour]. It was most unfortunate, how could she allow herself to fall asleep in the first place? [colour=#0000ff]"How long did I sleep...?"[/colour] - she kept thinking as she directed her hooves towards the track again in full gallop. [colour=#0000ff]"I must have fallen beh-"[/colour]

[colour=#800080]“HOWDY THAR…!”[/colour] - a distant echo of somepony's voice derailed her thoughts. Star slowed down for a second, trying to locate the source, but she wasn't able to do so. It was a relief to her, because it meant there's still somepony around. And the last thing she'd like to see is being left alone in the woods. Even though she knew the road she was supposed to run, that possibility and dangers associated with it loomed over her. Something caught her eye after a brief moment though. She could have sworn that just on the edge of her vision, somewhere at the border of woods, there was a movement. Risi pointed her eyes to that location, stopping and focusing on observing the place. After a second or two she could have yet again sworn that she saw a silhouette of a pony-sized creature passing in between the trees, but it vanished as soon as it appeared.

Risi stepped forward haltingly, walking in zig-zags for a moment before she launched herself in canter once more. [colour=#0000ff]"What kind of creatures live in this forest...?"[/colour] - she couldn't tell. Her knowledge concerning geography wasn't rather vast. Ask her about anything concerning the art, technology or sports and she'd be the first one to answer. But this time she had to depend on her intuition. And her intuition somehow whispered that she's not safe here. Maybe it was an aftermath of that traumatic incident she had while passing the river, but Star wasn't even thinking about this. She was just following her feelings. And she felt she should just run and don't get involved with the wildlife. Amusingly for her, that also seemed logical and reasonable, therefore she just continued along the track.

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Earth Writer gave an apologetic look for having disturbed the purple pegasus' nature watch, though he couldn't help but wonder why a racer would stop to deer watch in the middle of a race. He shrugged inwardly, it didn't really matter at this point. As she asked about the griffon which had barreled through her on the bridge, the reporter pursed his lips.

"[colour=#8b4513]I'm afraid I don't know much about her, so anything you can find out would be a help." [/colour]He then motioned a hoof to beckon his purple unicorn companion closer. [colour=#8b4513] "And this is Clockwise! He got knocked into the brook when that griffon charged through." [/colour]He briefly wondered if that would put him too much on the spot for his comfort, but then the stallion reflected that he was going to write his story into a newspaper article, which would be even more public. [colour=#8b4513]*Well, if he folds now, I'll see if I can't just edit out the account. I don't want to embarrass the poor fellow too much.*[/colour]

Sugar Apple, of course, couldn't stay long; after she gave her goodbyes, she galloped off, with Earth Writer shouting encouragement. [colour=#8b4513]"I know you'll make us proud!"[/colour]

Speaking of "us"... Earth Writer smiled as Greenshot indicated that he could walk unassisted. "[colour=#8b4513]No trouble at all! Glad to see you're walking under your own power, at least." [/colour]It would make progress a lot easier later, when less accommodating terrain could be expected. Hopefully, at any rate; overcoming obstacles would be what gave this story power! Filled with these happy thoughts, the journalist trotted easily alongside the hobbled Apple family member.

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"Oh, I-I-I beg your pardon! Ter--er--t-t-terribly, uh, terribly sorry!" the tall unicorn sputtered at Sugar Apple as he hastily backed away following the minor collision, straightening his glasses on his nose with a small spot of magic.

Filled with the urge to bolt off again, perhaps to avoid his embarrassment, Clockwise nonetheless stayed painfully still and allowed Earth Writer to introduce him to the purple pegasus, a little too rattled--and Clockwise was very easily made so--by the minor mishap to do anything of the sort for himself. He didn't say a single word the whole way through, only standing and smiling awkwardly, carefully avoiding eye contact. What silly foalishness, especially from a stallion his age! The reporter pony could make of that what he wished; the eccentric unicorn didn't exactly have the sort of logic that was simple to follow.

When Sugar Apple took off again, Clockwise hopped his front hooves briefly as though startled by a realization and called after her, "Er, uh--g-good--good luck!"

Perhaps he'd better get going, too.

"I, ah... w-well, er, I-I suppose I will, uh, s-see you at the linish fine--f-fin--finish line, sir--sirs," he said to Earth Writer, correcting the last word to include Greenshot. He dipped his head to them briefly, mysteriously wobbly-kneed, and then abruptly shot off down the path again with more little jingles.

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Gilda's strategy at the brook had paid off. Pushing through and taking the bridge as quickly as she was able to, before the storm could make it no longer an option, had allowed her to make up for her falling behind early in the race. Even with an annoying pegasus or two buzzing in her ear about nothing she cared about for a bit, Gilda had still recovered greatly and now wondered if she wasn't closer to the front of the pack. It was kind of hard to tell. There were still ponies in front of her at least, so she could still be pushing herself harder; she knew that much.

The griffoness was now racing through what the ponies called the Galloping Glade. It was a pretty apt name, as, with its abundant openness, this was the place to gallop ahead at full force. Even better, the storm raging back at the brook hadn't reached this part of the forest. It came as a bit of a gift to the runners; no obstacles to deal with save for each other, there was just a lot of open to sprint through with everything they had. Gilda wasn't about to not take advantage of it, especially when she did have quite a lot of stamina left.

As she ran with her all, Gilda kept her eyes open, darting after any useless pony who happened to catch her attention. That purple pegasus--what was her dweeb pony name, Apple Sugar?--was still making great time. Gilda had been right in pegging her as tough competition. It didn't matter though; after the bridge incident, she could also safely peg this pony as a loser. Likewise, the dork stallion Gilda had knocked in the brook had somehow caught up and was now toward the front. Interesting. Definitely worth watching, though Gilda wasn't convinced a pony dumb enough not to get out of her way was really worth worrying too much over.

The others out front with weren't so familiar with her. One of them was an orange mare in a hat that Gida could vaguely remember maybe being present for one of her less pleasant memories in recent history, but wasn't entirely sure. There was also some pink unicorn mare who was making good time in the race despite looking kind of ill-suited to a race like this and some other tan unicorn who seemed to know the apple pegasus. These ponies drew Gilda the most right then, but there was always a chance for an upset at this point in the game. Heh. Even that Skybright pegasus stood a chance, as lame as he was. Gilda had made gains, but that didn't mean she was gonna beat everypony here. The competition was too fierce. She wasn't going to get anywhere if she let herself get too cocky.

Having had enough sizing up her opponent, Gilda focused her eyes instead on the end of the Glade. She could still do this. She just needed to give it her all. Putting all her strength into her back legs, Gilda launched herself into a powerful leap over the heads of a number of startled ponies and then began to rush ahead. [colour=#996699]"I'm winning this thing!"[/colour] she declared boldly. [colour=#996699]"Let's see you lame ponies just try and stop me!"[/colour] she added with equal force as she reached the Glade's end.
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[colour=#000000]Applejack winced a little as Topaz bit her tail. She was a little surprised she decided to go ahead and follow her orders. She knew that if Topaz held on though, that they would cross the brook with no problem. Applejack and Topaz crash landed in some thick grass before getting up, shaking themselves to gain sense, and return to running the race.

The race came up to the Galloping Glade. Applejack knew this place well. It was an opening in the Whitetail Wood, a place where she and her sister enjoyed spending quality time together. Even Apple ponies needed time off of the farm. And when they decided to camp outside of Ponyville, this is usually where they went. The animals were friendly, the breeze drafted through to make summer days nice and cool, and the stubby tree-line that made the perimeter around the glade gave the realm a unmistakable fragrance of true nature. It was an experience that would return Applejack to some of her best times of relaxation, and give her the nostalgia of fun times with her sister she would remember forever.

However, she knew that the trees were still priority. She decided to choose the tree-line to the right of the path. A glad was nice to run through because there were no obstacles. But what good was a running of the leaves if all the trampling happened on open ground. Applejack made sure her route would hug the tree-line in order to knock leaves off of those trees. She would even weave through the tree-line in order to cover more ground of her trampling.

As she neared the end of the glade, her comfortable distance with the other competitors closed and the ponies began funneling into the next section of the race. Applejack was very happy that she was getting the job done this year, instead of filly-foalin' with her brother, or cheating against Rainbow Dash.[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack heard Gilda gloat in front of her. And she would have responded, but she decided to wait a little bit before letting some pony, or some griffon get the best of her.[/colour]


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((Super last second post. Sorry about that.))

A pair of rabbits skittered away as Ember Heart trotted on by. No doubt they were returning to their burrows to escape the weather and the pounding noise of hooves as they ran by. A trail of water droplets marked his passing as he trotted along at a steady pace. His drenched mane still hung over his face swaying back and forth as he constantly tried to blow it out of his eyes. His tail was a similar mess except it was also covered in think mud along with most of his flank and his back legs. His rugged appearance served as a reminded of the debacle at the bridge where he had to help a poor unicorn that had been knocked into the water. Madness is what it was and Ember Heart wondered if it was even worth it.

He was making it through this new section at his own pace happy that he was able to enjoy a little peace and quiet away from the commotion of the others. Several of the others were in eyesight, conversing, helping each other, or straight up competing. Ember Heart certainly didn’t want any of that now. Not while he was in such a lush beautiful area. He had heard before that it was known as the Galloping Glade. The clearing was free of debris or hazards and the harsh weather from earlier hadn’t come through this area yet. As always though, he had to keep his wits about him. This part was easy for a reason and whatever he had heard about the next part certainly didn’t sound all too appealing.

Ember Heart thought back to the incident at the bridge. He could hardly believe how reckless some of the competitors could be although he was relieved to know that there were a few runners that had a solid head on their shoulders. He had yet to see tail or beak of the griffon from earlier but could only assume that she was a good distance ahead. Perhaps one of the other runners had managed to catch up to her and give her a piece of their mind. He giggled at the idea of it; a pony telling off a griffon. What a treat that would have been to see. Not far ahead he noticed that some of the other ponies were beginning to speed up out of his current pace. With only a few segments left, he couldn’t afford to fall behind now. He kicked it up in to high gear as he galloped along the trail knocking up dirt and pebbles as he stormed along with the wind in face. It was a truly magical feeling that the glade attributed greatly to. Nothing could stop him now!

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