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Running of the Leaves: Stage Five- The Rearing Ravine (Closed: See OOC Topic)


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Stage 5- The Rearing Ravine

Challenging the racers is the most dangerous part of an otherwise safe forest, the Rearing Ravine. High and heavily forested, it can be hard to see if you're about to fall off of the side of a cliff and the trails are small and zigzag up and down. The trail ends at a rickety wooden bridge with missing steps that seems to taunt you as you draw near. Have courage, because if worst comes to worse, coordinator pegasi and unicorns are at the bottom of the ravine to ensure your safety. Hopefully it won't come to that.

OOC- There is only one bonus and it is only for a near-perfect score, die roll going to top point getter of the round. Anything other than that, however, has a dice roll chance at deductions aimed either at activity or RP quality.

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[colour=#000000]Applejack ran further into the forest. The crowd of ponies began to thin out, as the endurance of the ponies began to spread them out, and the size of the trail kept them from running side by side. It got dark, and it got scary at times. Applejack had run this before though. She knew where the turns were. She knew where the trail splits into a non-course section. She knew what to do. But her hoof steps began to feel isolated as she made her way through the trees, controlling her weight to send vibrations from her legs to the tree trunks.

She could see that feathered rival up ahead, faintly though, as Gilda seemed to fade into the fog. The creeks and croaks of the forest began to increase in volume, and the moisture in the grove swelled from the trees that hung low enough to block pony's view of the race. Applejack would smash through the low branches, more for the reason of knocking the leaves off than to clear her view.

As she continued, she could see Gilda fading away in front of her, if not for her pulling away, but for the forest becoming more and more dense. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Gilda! Wait up!" [/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack shouted with her southern drawl. She knew that Gilda would probably just speed up if she did in fact hear Applejack's plea. But for Applejack, she just wanted assurance as to where she was running. She started losing her vision, and she feared that she might take a wrong turn. On top of that, Applejack started daydreaming on the possibilities of creepy critters coming out of the darkened forest to attack her. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]Gotta think positive, Applejack.[/colour]


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The tree trunks once again enclosed on her. As she followed the track, she couldn't help noticing that it's slowly becoming thinner and thinner. Star managed to pass a few ponies during her gallop earlier, but it didn't give her a single hint about the position she was currently holding. Not mentioning she didn't have a chance to see anypony for a longer period of time already. Could she be first? Impossible... Of course, it was all about the tradition, but the fact she practiced for this event somehow made her subconsciously hope for a satisfactory position at the finish line. Yet, that wasn't her greatest reason to worry about right now. The forest around her was becoming increasingly dense lately. It already blocked out most of the sun rays, casting shadows and limiting one's vision. She had to bow her head in order to avoid being struck with the tree branches.

At a certain point, the track, or what was left of it at least, started leading on higher ground. The tall mare was puzzled as she made her way up. She clearly couldn't remember that part of track on the maps. There was a farm, a stream... [colour=#0000ff]" 'Stream', HA! That's a good one..."[/colour] ...plains and... right. Wasn't there supposed to be yet another part of the woods? But somehow she couldn't remember any kind of terrain height alterations. Risi shrugged mentally and continued her run. She risked a quick glance behind, and regretted that immediately. Everything looked alike. It seemed as the track existed in front of her, but it vanished behind, there was no way she could make her way back only by using her memory. Doubts started to gather in her mind.

After a few minutes of fighting her way through the branches, she finally noticed the top of the hill. What she failed to spot, was that something was... off with it. There were no trees in distance, no shadows, only open sky between the flora around her. If Star followed logic, she could probably envisage what dangers lurked in front of her. But she was following her intuition throughout her entire life. And so did she this time as well.

As she rushed past the last trees around, she expected a flat ground or a path leading onto lower parts of hill. But she made a terrifying discovery, as there was nothing similar to her expectations at the top. In fact, there was nothing at all. She gazed into the open space, the hills covered with thick forest in the distance, same thick forest somewhere below and a rocky cliff right under her hooves. She instantly ordered herself to stop, even if it meant crashing on the ground, managing to turn around by 180 degree. Unfortunately her reflexes were too slow. Her momentum was too high, what made her slip past the cliff edge. The sudden wave of heat overwhelmed her as she let out a prolonged scream: [colour=#0000ff]"Noooooo!!..."[/colour] She extended a hoof up in dramatic gesture, observing the coronas of trees disappearing beyond the ledge...

The time have stopped for her. She lost vision of anything around her, feeling the heart pounding inside her chest. She started falling... but to her yet another surprise, in the following moment Risi felt the impact at her belly. To her greatest luck it turned out that the hillside was simply steep. She continued to slide down for a second or two until she felt an impact upon her hind legs, followed by a loud: [colour=#0000ff]"Ooof."[/colour] Trying not to move, she looked around and evaluated her situation. Star found herself on a wide, rocky ledge. The ground below wasn't too far, but the height was enough to prove extremely dangerous. Looking above she noticed that she fell about five or six heights of an average pony. Still, it was so steep that it would be a foolishness to try climbing up by herself.

As she gathered herself up and approached the ledge, with her heart pounding insanely and a heavy breath, she noticed nothing but woods. She thought she saw the original race track disappearing somewhere behind the cliff to her left. It was unbelievable, her first attempt in the race and she made such a mistake... There was nothing but one last thing to do now... [colour=#0000ff]"A-Som-"[/colour] - mare had to regain the power of her voice first - [colour=#0000ff]"Somepony... yes..."[/colour] - she tried once again, panting. After clearing her throat she exclaimed forward: [colour=#0000ff]"Somepony, HELP!"[/colour] - her strong, filled with panic voice loomed over the woods, scaring away few birds. An echo returned to her... [colour=#0000ff]"elp ... lp ... p ..."[/colour] An extremely loose, small rock to her left gave up to the vibrations and started rolling down, creating a small avalanche behind. Risi raised a hoof ready to jump away from the danger, but there was nothing to fear for her. That, unfortunately didn't apply to anypony who'd find themselves directly below. Risi started circling along the ledge, hoping that his foalishness wouldn't pose a threat to the others...

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Reaching the end of the Glade,[colour=#006400] Greenshot Apple[/colour] took a short glimpse back at the wonders he missed out on, at least he got to snack on the scrumptious grass. Looking at Earth Writer who was next to him, Greenshot just thought about what could’ve happened if he had taken the bridge instead. He seemed to have gotten ahead of most of them by not taking the bridge though. Either way, he was going to fall behind and glanced over at Earth Writer. “[colour=#008000]I’m still sorry for holding you back, even if the story is so..great.[/colour]”

Looking at his right hoof, the bandages seemed to be staying in tack and the spling wasn’t much of a bother. He was getting used to each step and decided that he did not need to get more assistance and will keep on racing with the bandages Skybright had put on his hoof. Trot limping into what looking like the Rearing Ravine, Greenshot’s eyes widened as he had forgotten about this part of the forest. He had to stop to gather his thoughts. His train ride from Canterlot was his strategy time and the Ravine was the one area he had studied the most, but now the bigger challenge was to figure out how to get through with a bandaged up hoof.

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[colour=#8b4513]*Now with the peaceful glade behind us, we the racers enter the deep woods, where treacherous landscapes lurk behind heavy tree cover, and one false step may lead to disaster...*[/colour]

Once again, Earth Writer was composing the story in his head. He was actually quite grateful for the leisurely pace enforced by his accompanying of the injured Greenshot; it gave him the luxury to think while trotting, while still leaving him time to react to any change in the path.

And quite a lot of changes there were! Earth Writer was geographically knowledgeable, in a general sense, but once again he found himself indebted to Greenshot's studying of the local terrain, which he expressed vocally.

[colour=#8b4513]"Don't worry about it! This isn't the sort of place I'd like to go through alone myself, four good hooves or no."[/colour] The unicorn gave a nervous look around him, nickering softly. [colour=#8b4513] "There's a huge ravine somewhere near, but the woods grow right up to the edge of it. We must be vigilant, else-"[/colour]

He paused in his talking, cocking his head to listen. [colour=#8b4513]"Though I heard somepony cry out..."[/colour] He shook his head. [colour=#8b4513]"I can't see anypony from here, but they could be right in front of us. Keep a look out, just in case they've fallen into trouble." [/colour]Earth Writer remained silent after that, still listening out for any voice.

The silence gave him time to reflect on the advantages of bringing up the rear. Not being focused on winning meant that he could focus on his work, true, but it also gave other opportunities. If the more athletically focused pushed on ahead, ignoring any cries for help, the rearguard had a chance to be heroes! And, of course, there was always the reason for the whole "Running of the Leaves" in the first place.

Some of the trees still had stubborn foliage clinging to them as the pair of unicorns passed. Earth Writer gave one a kick, dislodging the last of its leaves. As he did so, he caught an echoing cry, clearer than the last time.

"[colour=#000080]Somepony, help-elp-elp..[/colour]."

That was unmistakeable. Earth Writer turned to his racing partner. "[colour=#8b4513]That's coming from over the hill up there.[/colour]" He nodded forward. [colour=#8b4513]"If we step carefully, we may be in time to render assistance." [/colour]No sooner said than done, he was leading Greenshot in a careful climb to a vantage point, calling ahead. "[colour=#8b4513]We're coming! Hold on![/colour]"

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Clockwise, unfortunately, was one pony that had entered the Running on a whim, and the treachery of the Rearing Ravine was all but unknown to him until he realized that the path was rising and losing its width. Had he taken a wrong turn? Surely the race didn't go through here? Though he hardly took notice of it (and would have been most surprised, if he had), Clockwise was somewhere at the front of the stream of racers, and so had very little to go off of, and nopony close enough to follow in the absent-minded way he employed in hallways and on streets.

Slowing substantially in acknowledgement of the uncertain possibility of having to turn around, the stallion chuffed quietly with a flick of his matted tail. His ears twisted towards every subtle sound that was there to hear, funneling noises that caused him to jump, which they did only because they were noises at all. It was lonely here, soft and silent but for the whistle of breezes through the leaves.

In nervousness, his eyed roved the frightfully sheer rock faces that tumbled down from the edges of the meandering path like hard, cracked curtains, and then anxiously combed the trees to shed the gathering shapes from the shadows. Wait a minute--leaves? Of course! There were, indeed, still leaves on these branches, and surely they had to be knocked off as certainly as those on the oaks and elms in the gentler folds of the Heartland's rolling hills. Perhaps the race went through here after all.

Well, there was a conclusion to the question at hoof, but it wasn't a very encouraging one. It was fortune and blessing that he had gotten so far and overcame so many odds; how long would this unusual bout of luck last?

Perhaps only a trot... besides, there would surely be some excellent views.

Encouraged by this meager thought, the unicorn started again with some trepidation, only to stop dead once more with his ears perked straight up at the sound of an echo carried towards him on a breeze.

It sounded much like a voice.

In that moment, every old fairy tale flooded immediately to Clockwise's mind, and he reared briefly before dashing forward onto the narrow path in a spray of pebbles, clattering down the steep ribs of the rock with a sound like chattering teeth, as though the removal of the cloak of leaves had given the earth a shiver.

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For a momentous race such as the Running of the Leaves, there were numerous things that inexperienced runners had to watch out for. A good number of ponies each year believe that they have what it takes to get first place, even if they haven’t done any long-distance galloping or cantering in their entire lives. Without the proper conditioning beforehand, these ambitious ponies often end up utterly exhausted and even aching when they finally cross the finish line. Heck, sometimes they need a coordinator pegasi to carry them back to Ponyville.

Such a dreadful scenario was beginning to be the case for Sugar Apple. While she did her best to prepare for the Running of the Leaves, she now started to feel that her efforts were not enough. After she left the vicinity of the Galloping Glade, a throbbing soreness developed in her legs… probably a result of that show-off gallop the pegasus gave to her racing companions. Additionally, the exhausted and sweaty Sugar Apple couldn’t stop panting; clearly, her leg muscles weren’t as tough and tested as her wings were.

Hence did a couple of better-fit ponies overtake Sugar Apple by as she slowed back down to a canter. Which she might as well, as the forest closed in around the pathway as it led towards the infamous section known as the Rearing Ravine. One careless misstep was all it took for most ponies to fall off the trail and into the foreboding gully. Sugar Apple wasn’t one such pony thought; she was a pegasus, which provided the option of flying upwards back towards the road should the mare have a mishap. To her good fortune, Sugar Apple’s commitment to honor the rules of the race meant that her wings were very much rested and wouldn’t give out on her should an emergency arise… that is, if the aching of her legs didn’t overwhelm her.

Such thoughts comforted Sugar Apple little as she trekked the zigzag pathway the narrow trail followed, meandering up and down the ravine face with seemingly little rhyme or reason. The pegasus wondered who would actually blaze such a deathtrap of a road. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to simply keep it up at the cliff top and chop down any trees that got in the way of paving the road? Preserving nature was fine and dandy in Sugar Apple’s book, but did it override the bigger priority of keeping everypony safe?

As if to vindicate Sugar Apple’s safety concerns, the pegasus heard a loud scream coming up from above her. Bending her head upwards, the pegasus witnessed a pale pink unicorn who previously passed her by fall onto a ledge somewhere below the upper portion of the road. Her instincts at helping others taking a foothold, Sugar Apple immediately attempted to fly upwards… only to be brought down back to earth from the pain in her legs. For a few moments, Sugar Apple simply laid there on the trail while the other distressed pony kept shouting for help.

Sugar Apple couldn’t bear to keep that pony hanging; [colour=#800080]“Don’t ya’ do anythin foolish now!”[/colour] the pegasus cried out; [colour=#800080]“Ah’ll be thar in a jiffy!”[/colour] Through sheer force of will, the pegasus attempted to ignore her leg aches and fly up towards the trapped pony. Instead, Sugar Apple took off straight into the path of an incoming avalanche of rocks and other debris. [colour=#800080]“AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!”[/colour] the mare screamed in terror as the avalanche captured her in its web of destruction. Tossing, tumbling, and getting struck with rubble, Sugar Apple kept on screaming until the landslide ran its course.

Trapped under a pile of rocks, bushes, and other wreckage of a natural nature, a reeling Sugar Apple lacked the strength to climb her way out of her latest impromptu prison. Her body aching in pain, all the mare could manage was to holler out for somepony. [colour=#800080]“ANYPONY THAR?”[/colour] Sugar Apple desperately cried out; [colour=#800080]“CAN ANYPONY HELP ME! AH’M TRAPPED DOWN HYAR!”[/colour]

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Risi stood dangerously close to the ledge, observing the dust rising behind the falling avalanche. The force she observed started innocently with just a small rock, but right now it was somewhere close to being unstoppable. She couldn't have imagined worse scenario than anypony being caught in this deadly rubble. She shook her head in disbelief, cursing herself for acting like a filly oblivious of the consequences of her deeds. She sighed heavily and began turning back to evaluate her chances of escaping the trap again, when she heard a voice piercing through all the rumble from someplace below her. Star immediately found herself peeking beyond the ledge, only to catch a glimpse of a light purple Pegasus mare being burrowed under it. Risi's face became a mask of terror when she realized it's all her fault. Her mane fell in front of her eyes, rendering her partially blind, but she couldn't even move a single muscle to remove it. She was thoroughly paralyzed with the sight she just witnessed.

The voice coming from under the rubble after a brief delay allowed her to breathe again. She was already near of bursting in tears. [colour=#800080]“ANYPONY THAR?[/colour] [colour=#800080]CAN ANYPONY HELP ME! AH’M TRAPPED DOWN HYAR!” [/colour]- shivers flown through her body as she responded - [colour=#0000ff]"Are y-"[/colour] - her voice cracked up. The feeling of guilt overwhelmed her, disallowing her to take command of her own voice. Risi reached for her last line of defense she kept for moments like this, determination. It was her fault, they might both be stuck here for hours if not longer. It was her duty to act. Mare gathered up her strengths: [colour=#0000ff]"HANG ON!"[/colour] - she exclaimed in hope that Pegasus could hear her somehow. Star picked herself up at her shaky legs and approached the further edge of her prison. Her hopes proved to be futile though. The chances that she'd make her way down the steep cliff were nearly minimal.

Mare's senses were extremely sharpened as she kept wondering what were her options intensively. Her magic was too weak to help in this situation. In this very moment she truly regretted not attending to Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. Perhaps she'd be able to act then... She was about to surrender to the ridiculous idea of attempting leaving the ledge when she thought like she heard yet another voice coming from unknown direction. Risi caught and held to this small flame of hope with all her strengths:[colour=#0000ff] "Hello!? Here, at the cliff wall! Hurry! Anypony out there!?"[/colour] - it was the best she could have done right now. Staring back at the base of mentioned cliff, she saw dust already settling down. The unlucky mare was nowhere to be seen. Star couldn't believe in what had happened. Her status didn't matter right now, the only concern for her was if her savior-to-be wasn't injured. She kept trotting in place, not able to contain her nervousness. The race... was nowhere close of being pleasant for her.

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Earth Writer was determined not to leave his partner behind, which was why his progress to the top of the hill was painstakingly slow. Neither stallion was able to see what was going on, which left them at a bit of a blank as to what they would do when they arrived. They hadn't any rope with them, unlike Hoss back at the brook, and would probably be relying on raw magic to fish anypony out of trouble. [colour=#8b4513]*And that will be exhausting.* [/colour]In fact, it was doubtful if they'd be able to finish the race after expending that much energy.

Any regrets the unicorn might have had about that, however, were dispelled when he heard the sound of Sugar Apple's voice... and her scream as she was caught in the rockslide. It went straight through his ears like a blade right down into his core, and it was all he could do to keep from galloping like a madpony to the crest of the hill. [colour=#8b4513]"Easy, easy,[/colour]" he said to himself. [colour=#8b4513]"Don't get caught yourself; you can't help anypony if you pitch off the ledge."[/colour]

Earth Writer called ahead again, a little softer so as not to cause another landslide. [colour=#8b4513]"I'm here. What happened?"[/colour]

By now he'd reached the crest of the hill, and the sight that met his eyes was a grim one indeed. One pale pink unicorn mare, one the journalist hadn't met yet, was trapped on a ledge just over the hill. Sugar Apple was nowhere in sight, but down at the bottom of the ravine- "[colour=#8b4513]Oh, no...[/colour]" Earth Writer was starting to hyperventilate with worry, and had to take deep, gulping breaths to keep in control.

"[colour=#8b4513]Right."[/colour] He called down to Risi in as firm a voice as he could muster. "[colour=#8b4513]We're going to help you shift the rubble. We're going to have to go carefully, we don't want the pile to crash down on Sugar and..."[/colour] A few more deep breaths. "[colour=#8b4513]Anyway, I've got another unicorn with me, her cousin. We'll get you both out, alright?"[/colour]

The stallion couldn't have said if he was as confident as he sounded, but right now he had to be the calming influence. It was the first time he was really in any position like this, and the thought scared him a little. So much was riding on him now-

[colour=#8b4513]*But I'm not alone right now.* [/colour]He nodded, clearing his head. It was time to get to work. Reaching out with his magic, he began to carefully and methodically disassemble the pile of rubble that trapped Sugar Apple beneath it.

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The Rearing Ravine. This was where stuff got real. No longer was this a race for lame babies; only the strong would persevere from here. Gilda was confident she was the strongest around. Exiting the Galloping Glade with confidence and speed, she was pretty sure she was set to prove it. She was winning this race. This stretch of rough and rugged terrain sure wasn't going to beat her. Neither was a single one of these lame ponies.

[colour=#000000] [/colour][colour=#FF0000]"Gilda! Wait up!"[/colour]

Gilda was surprised to hear her name. She hadn't bothered to give it to one of these stupid ponies. Who then? One of the ponies from last year? Dash? Pathfinder? Ignition? No, that thick rural drawl ruled out those. That Apple pegasus from earlier spoke like that, but Gilda hadn't even considered bothering to give that pony her name... though perhaps that other pegasus had said it back there... Still seemed unlikely and the voice wasn't quite the same anyway. Gilda normally wouldn't concern herself with a pony calling after her, but she had to admit she was curious.

Gilda glanced back, but it was hard to see much for all the fog that she was currently running through. Despite herself, she slowed down until this pony was in sight. She gave a groan as she recognized it to be that pony in the hat she had noticed before. Great... Combining the fact that she looked familiar and she knew Gilda's name, there was no doubt about it. This was one of Dash's lame little Ponyville friends. Gilda sighed. At least it wasn't that painfully irritating pink one.

[colour=#996699]"You better make this good, pony. I have little time to waste on dweebs like you,"[/colour] Gilda said as she let the pony gain on her some, somehow rejecting the binding urge to instead increase speed. [colour=#996699]"And especially not when I intend to win this thing!"[/colour]
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The tattered echoes of more voices began to sound towards Clockwise, though he couldn't pinpoint the direction. The thickening fog dampened his senses. He whipped his head this way and that, his slow, frightened hooffalls growing less measured and more jumpy. What was that? Where was it coming from?

No, wait--there was urgency in those strange cries, though the wind had distorted them. The unicorn carefully approached the edge of the twisting, treacherous path, willing himself not to startle into a fall should anything unexpected occur, and surveyed the ledges that curled and swerved downwards.

There, again! He heard words, that time, tossed carelessly on a breeze:

"[colour=#800080]...ANYPONY HELP ME! AH’M TRAP[/colour][colour=#800080]PE[/colour][colour=#800080]D DOWN HYAR![/colour]"

".[colour=#0000ff]..the cliff wall![/colour][colour=#0000ff] Hurry! Anypony out there!?[/colour]"

Those were ponies, and they had met trouble more substantial than the flitting shadows and sudden cracks that had been providing fodder for paranoia to Clockwise's mind. He couldn't stand idly by! What if he was the only one that had heard them?

Suddenly panicking for entirely different reasons, the stallion hopped back and forth on his forehooves in worry before gathering his addled senses and weakly trotting back in the direction he had come from. The harsh angles of the path where it grew steep had left a dull, throbbing ache in his knees and sore hooves, and going downwards made him feel it more acutely, reducing him quickly to more of a hobble.

Blurry colours suddenly grew visible through the thinning grey veil, and they didn't belong to trees. Even with his glasses, though, Clockwise's vision was not the best, and he couldn't decipher their circumstances. He could make out only that there were four of them, two on the far side of the winding path, and two that seemed to be below.

"He--h-hello?!" the unicorn whinnied breathlessly across the gap. The echo mocked his stutter. "Hello? C-can you--can you h-hear me?! I-I'm--I'm coming!"

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Sugar Apple never thought it would end like this; crushed by a freak rockslide in the middle of a supposedly-peaceful hoof race. Trying her very best not to let terror get the better of her, the pegasus tried to weakly move her limbs to she if she could dig herself out. Aside from the expected aching, Sugar Apple’s efforts were also rewarded with an acute sting wing her left wing. One of the rocks must have struck it the wrong way… just enough to break one of the bones housed within the wing. On reflex, Sugar Apple cried out in pain feeling sharp sensation; the only thing she could possibly be glad about was that nothing else seemed to have been broken. To their credit, ponies are very hardy creatures.

The mare’s ears still worked too, as Sugar Apple heard the sound of a somewhat-unknown mare crying out for help. The pegasus recognized the voice as that of the trapped unicorn mare from earlier; right now, Sugar Apple felt very sorry for her. That unicorn didn’t deserve to be anguished like this… not only stuck on a ledge but also potentially believing that she was responsible for the avalanche. On the contrary, Sugar Apple blamed herself for this entire mess. If only the pegasus stuck to being a passive racer like almost everypony else, she would she have missed the rockslide and easily fly the distressed mare to safety. Not only that, but she could have also done more to help Clockwise and cousin Greenshot when they needed it instead of getting herself all distracted by a silly mission for first place.

[colour=#800080]~Who knows… maybe ah deserve whut ah’m gettin…~[/colour]

A couple of minutes later, Sugar Apple heard a fainter voice through the rubble… one however that seemed more familiar! Could it be Earth Writer? [colour=#800080]“Earth Writer!”[/colour] she cried out, but not as strongly as before;[colour=#800080] “Is thet ya up thar!?”[/colour] Just then, a rogue group of dust particles fell into Sugar’s mouth, prompting a brief but loud fit of coughing. Her body throbbing in almost every place imaginable, Sugar Apple hoped somepony or two would dig her out of the debris quick. Saddened that she probably couldn’t finish the race in her condition, the mare paid little attention to how the crushing weight above her started to lessen thanks to the efforts of Earth Writer & Company.....

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To Hoss' surprise, he ran into mist.

He had known the next section was thickly forested, but had flown over the course without bothering to actually walk the new sections beyond the bad spots he could see from above. This was about to bite him in the tail big time.

If he had walked this entire section, he would have realized it was thick with moisture to provide patches of mist.

[colour=#0000ff]"Oh great! Not only is the foliage too thick to see where the ravine is, we got mist! Why do I get the feeling a lot of ponies are going to find it the hard way?"[/colour]

He picked up his trot, adding a bit of spring into it to shake the leaves and buck at the mist to break it up.

Drifts of leaves swirled across his face as he headed down the path, or so he hoped.

He suddenly stopped short of running into a tree.

Looking around bewildered, he realized he had gotten turned onto a deer trail. [colour=#0000ff]"Agh! Why does everything look so different from GROUND level?!"[/colour]

Snorting, he snapped a kick at the offending tree, and was rewarded with every leaf on the tree coming down on him at once.

[colour=#0000ff]"OH COME ON!"[/colour]

After a moment to free himself, he shook most of the leaves out of his mane and pulled out a compass, trying to find his way back on course.

Before he could get his bearings. he heard shouting to his right, muffled by the thick foliage.

[colour=#0000ff]"O.K., that way works..." [/colour]

Hoss turned to head in the direction of the shouting when a loud roll of thunder came... no, not thunder, too solid! The ground was shaking a bit from it.

"[colour=#0000ff]Avalanch!" [/colour]Quickly the stallion kicked and jumped his way through the trees, making his way to the ravine.

"[colour=#800080]...ANYPONY HELP ME! AH’M TRAP[/colour][colour=#800080]PE[/colour][colour=#800080]D DOWN HYAR![/colour]"

".[colour=#0000ff]..the cliff wall![/colour][colour=#0000ff] Hurry! Anypony out there!?[/colour]"

Hoss jumped over a log "I'm coming!", and almost went over the edge himself. Only an instinctive flap of his wings kept him from an embarrassing tumble off the edge.

Looking around, he saw Earth Writer and Greenshot were a furlong away to his left on the trail, while ClockWise appeared out of the trees on the other side. (OOC; correct me if I have that wrong)

The bay pegasus might have been a bit wild looking with leaves and vines stuck all over him. its not hard to guess he had gotten lost... [colour=#0000cd]"Hay! Earth Writer! Greenshot! ClockWise! Thank Luna I found you guys!" [/colour]

Hoss trotted on over and peered over the edge, seeing a mare who's name he had caught earlier in the Sweet Apple Acres section.

Risi was on a ledge partway down and below her under the rocks was Sugar Apple. The look of one of her wings as the rocks were levitated made him flinch involentarily.

He shook his head and spoke to Earth Writer [colour=#0000cd]"Luna's Wings! What a race! I think everyone who makes it today should get the Royal Star Cluster for Bravery... Careful, I'll be going down there to help Sugar Apple."[/colour]

With that, he hopped over the edge, cupping his wings to glide on down a safe distance from the dusty mare before stepping closer to look her over and help dig her out. [colour=#0000ff]"Hello there Miss Apple, Are you hurt anyplace beside the wing?"[/colour]

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[colour=#000000]To Applejack's surprise the griffon ahead slowed her pace in order to allow her to catch up. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]Huh. Maybe Gilda's not such a bully after all.[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack had to recall the events of Pinkie's party for Gilda sometime last year. She remembered how poorly Gilda had reacted to the whole thing, and resented Rainbow Dash for even trying to be friends with her. But maybe that was just a bad day. Maybe Gilda was actually friendly in the place she comes from.

Applejack got within talking distance of Gilda, and maintained a steady pace as she spoke to her. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Oh good. I wasn't sure if you heard me. This forest is getting kinda dark, ain't it?"[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack tried to make friendly small talk. It was strangely fitting, at least for now. She smiled. [/colour][colour=#ff0000] "I hope we're going the right way. It wouldn't be good if we got..."[/colour]

[colour=#9966cc]You better make this good, pony. I have little time to waste on dweebs like you, and especially not when I intend to win this thing."[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Well that escalated quickly. Applejack defended. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Now hold on a second, that's not verah nice of you." [/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack wondered how someone could allow themselves to be so rude to others. "I was just wanting to make sure we're on the right path, cuz you know, it's awful humid and foggy in this ravine. It would sour our chances of being successful if we went off the wrong path."

Applejack walked up to a tree that appeared to have very stubborn leaves. The leaves on it were still green, which was very out of key in contrast with the rest of the trees around it. Applejack bucked the tree with her hind legs as she continued to talk to Gilda. [/colour][colour=#ff0000] "So you're in this event because you want to help the Princess with the leaves too? Cuz it's awful important. Why, I reckon this here forest would turn into an issue like the Everfree if we went just one year letting it rot by itself." [/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack hit the tree so hard, that it left her hoofmark dented into the tree. The loose branches and stubborn leaves fell to the command of the orange mare's strength. [/colour][colour=#ff0000] "Where is it your from anyways?"[/colour]


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The time was running out. The inability to act, inability to help, all this helplessness was a psychological torment for her. Patience was the last thing she could accuse herself of, but she stubbornly stared above the edge. The stress accompanying the situation stretched her nerves to the limits, but she wasn't imagining voices, of that there were no doubts about. Finally, she earned her long awaited reward, as a single head appeared above her announcing its arrival. It appeared to be a Unicorn, a tan stallion more precisely.

Her relief was even greater after it turned out he's bright as well. She didn't even manage to present the problem to him befoore he started assuring her that the situation is under control. It was truly calming that somepony was able to assess the situation much quicker than she initially did. Risi couldn't help noticing how his words had an odd pinch of... hesitation? Fear? She couldn't tell precisely. Still, it was a true miracle somepony appeared at all. "[colour=#8b4513]We're going to help you shift the rubble. We're going to have to go carefully, we don't want the pile to crash down on Sugar and..."[/colour] - shift the rubble? Mare stared at him as if he was out if his mind, completely failing to hear any of his further words. Was he really so foalish to attempt getting down there? Have she judged him wrongly?

[colour=#0000ff]"Like... how!?"[/colour] - she started in a high, dramatic voice and turned her head towards the pile of rocks below. [colour=#0000ff]"We can't get down there, it would be the most reckless idea to att-"[/colour] One of the rocks shook hesitantly. After a brief delay, it floated in air and was placed aside. Star kept observing this with her jaw dropped. She turned back to risk a quick glance at the stallion again. Concentration was reflecting itself on his face. [colour=#0000ff]"Of course!"[/colour] - she couldn't believe she didn't come up with this idea on her own. [colour=#0000ff]"Foal. Dumb, clueless foal!"[/colour] - Risi kept scolding herself, as she returned at the edge and focused on the rubble below. She was a Unicorn herself after all! Has she lost all of her mind in that single accident? Shame and stupidity of this situation was incomprehensible to her. Feeling the magic gather up, she directed its flow towards the stones at the base of the cliff.

It required a lot of concentration from her to even get a grasp at the rock, but she had no choice. The distance worked against her, but somehow the stallion above was able to do pull through. Perhaps she was just exhausted, both physically and mentally, and distracted by the sudden outcome of events. Finally, the rocks started moving away. Risi could hear other voices gathering around, but she didn't care. The mare's status was the only important issue for her right now. Star worked in greatest focus, never yet stretching her magical abilities to that extend. Finally, thanks to invaluable help coming from the stallion above, they've managed to uncover the wounded mare.

The effort required to remove the rubble connected with her fatal condition forced Star to fall down on her knees, breathing heavily and evoking a small cloud of dust. She never yet had to operate such weights on such a fair distance. Risi peered at the casualty of her actions and finally catching a breath exclaimed towards her, although the voice was much weaker than she anticipated: [colour=#0000ff]"Can you hear me? You're okay!?"[/colour] - in that very moment a swift silhouette dived next to her, down the ravine. Pointing her sight at it, she recognized a Pegasus in it. [colour=#0000ff]"Thank Celestia! That was just what we needed. Somepony to take care of her."[/colour] Mare allowed herself for a short break, before shakily straightening up again. She stared up along the cliff, throwing a worried stare at the stallion. She still had no idea what to do right now. Her safety was still quite questionable, she had to admit. [colour=#0000ff]"Is there any way for getting me out of here?"[/colour] - the silent question, interrupted with continuous panting, was followed by yet another worried stare, this time turned towards the mare below. She couldn't imagine the moment in which she'll have to stand for her deeds which caused a jeopardy towards the participants. The emotions were ramming at the gates of her heart and consciousness, but she hardly had any strengths left not to become overwhelmed by them...

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“[colour=#008000]I would have to agree with ya there for we are headed towards the Rearing Ravine.[/colour]”[colour=#006400] Greenshot Apple[/colour] had said towards Earth Writer. Following alongside him until he paused suddenly, Greenshot heard a faint sound as well, but followed Earth Writer who seemed to be going ahead of him. When Greenhot heard the cry for help as well, his ears twitched and looked at Earth Writer with a nod of agreement. As they climbed up, Greenshot was using more power from his three useful legs and keeping his right hoof from doing much work. He had to be very cautious at what he was doing as they both slowly, but surely made their way up. Pausing for a moment, Greenshot then heard the cry of help that was more close to home that sounded just like Sugar Apple. Unlike Earth Writer, Greenshot began to push himself to climb harder as he went alongside Earth Writer. His hooves pushing into the ground, the adrenaline blocking the pain in his right hoof until he reached the top next to Earth Writer.

His breathing was heavy, but just for a while as he looked down at the two ponies in distress. “[colour=#008000]Your…both going to be…Alright!. Stay calm and your fellow…racers will do our best to get to you both safe.[/colour]” Greenshot’s horn shined as he too began dislodging rocks from Sugar Apples rock collection below while Earth Writer helped the mare unicorn. He could hear another pony from across from them, but it was just faintly to him. Then, another pony that came up alongside him and Earth Writer while they focused below for Sugar Apple with a female Unicorn alongside. Used to using levitation, lifting up heavy rocks like the ones below was not too much trouble as we three unicorn helped lift the heavier ones. “[colour=#008000]Hey..Skybright, your help could be useful right now yup. What is your name down there Miss Unicorn.[/colour]”Greenshot asked while beginning to tire from the magic he was using up along with the energy from all the trotting. He could really use of boost of energy. If only he had brought along another apple or two or even some sandwiches. Seeing Hoss going down towards where Sugar Apple had been. From his point of view, can begin to see some colour within the rock pile as Writer and Greenshot began lifting out the rocks that seemed to cause Sugar Apple the most trouble.

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Sweat poured down Earth Writer's face as he strained to remove the rocks burying Sugar Apple at the bottom of the ravine. He soon abandoned lifting them outright; it was just too much energy to do so over so long a distance. It was much easier to roll them off to the side, or simply to scatter them when they were the wrong shape to roll. Greenshot and the pink unicorn on the ledge seemed to have also figured this out, sparing the stallion the effort of calling out instructions.

His silence allowed him to hear when pegasus mare called out from under the rubble. "[colour=#8b4513]Yes, I'm here, Sugar. Don't move yet, just wait and we'll get you clear.[/colour]" That was easier said than done, since all three of them were beginning to look exhausted. Only to be expected, of course; they'd all been running for the past few hours, and none of them were what you could call star atheletes.

Thankfully, reinforcements were soon to arrive. Earth Writer was breathing heavily when a jingling, stuttering unicorn arrived, offering what assistance he could, with a bay pegasus close on his hooves. With a rather tired wave, the journalist greeted them both. "[colour=#8b4513]By Celestia, am I ever glad to see you. Here, Clockwise, you can help us shift the last of the rubble. Hoss, you go down and see how bad Sugar's hurt. Do you think you'll be able to left the mares up?[/colour]" He hadn't forgotten Risi's predicament, though she was relatively in a better position.

It was but the work of a few moments more to uncover the purple pegasus, and all of the unicorns were glad of the break. While Hoss was checking Sugar Apple for injuries, Earth Writer was looking over his injured companion, who looked even more exhausted. Suddenly, the tan stallion remembered: He still had three of the apples from earlier in the race! After carrying them around in the race, they'd gotten quite bruised, but he felt that his companions wouldn't mind. He gave one to Greenshot, and floated the other down to Rising Star, keeping the last one for Sugar Apple when she was brought up. "[colour=#8b4513]Don't worry, we haven't forgotten about you.[/colour]" He called down to the pink unicorn, as he waited for the injury report from the bay pegasus below.

[colour=#8b4513]*What a story this is going to make. My editor's hardly going to believe it.*[/colour]

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Following Earth Writer’s disembodied advice, Sugar Apple made no further movement as she awaited rescue. After what seemed like an eternity of agony, she could finally the rocks entombing her glow in various colours and move off of her. The pegasus briefly closed her eyes shut, blinded by the sudden change in brightness. Slowly opening her eyelids again, Sugar Apple saw that she was lying on her back and that numerous ponies, including Earth Writer and cousin Greenshot, awaited her up above. Even Clockwise was lending a hoof it appeared, even though the pegasus had previously abandoned him to the Bubbling Brook to save her own hide on the bridge. She’ll have to make things up with Clockwise somehow.

A short moment after all the debris previously on top of Sugar Apple was cleared away, a pegasus glided down the ravine towards where the injured mare lay. The mare recognized this pony as the one who tended to Greenshot back at the Galloping Glade. Seeing the pegasus stallion come to her aid now, Sugar Apple wondered why he didn’t just sign up instead as a race coordinator. Just where were all the coordinators, anyway? Back when she first signed up for the Running of the Leaves, Sugar Apple was told that they’d be plenty of ponies about to make sure things remained safe for all participants. Heh, it’s too bad nopony like them was around when she needed their help the most. In fact, it seemed like they left it up to the runners to rescue themselves. Those good-for-nothing lazy-bones.....

Coughing for a little bit more to get rid of any further dust in her mouth, the shaken Sugar Apple finally responded to the other pegasus’s question. [colour=#800080]“Ugggggggggh...”[/colour] she groaned; [colour=#800080]“Ah feel like… ah’ve just been trampled on by a herd of cattle. Ah think mah lef’ wing hyar’s broken… but ev’rythin else is fine. Eff’n ya consider merely achin’… t’be fine n’ dandy.”[/colour] Sugar Apple tried getting up on her own power, only to find herself too weak and wobbly as she almost immediately collapsed. Right now, she wished she was instead a unicorn who could cast fancy healing spells on herself and get rid of all the throbbing.

As she buckled, Sugar Apple noticed a near-spherical object fall out of her mane and roll into her line of sight. It may have been covered in dust and grime, but it looked too round to be a rock… and it had a curious stem on it too… THE APPLE! Fighting off a wave of dizziness and headaches, Sugar Apple remembered just now that she had previously stashed a spare apple in her mane in case somepony she met needed a quick snack. Sadly it wouldn’t do any good now, having been coated in mud back from the brook incident and swathed in who knows what. In her moment of anguish, the mare would have loved nothing more than munch on a delicious apple (even the non-sugary kind) and let all her troubles dissolve away.

Well if she couldn’t get her apple, then Sugar Apple at least wanted to get back up to the path and join the others. Struggling to lift a foreleg in the other pegasus’s direction, the mare requested of him;[colour=#800080] “Eff’n ya’ don’t mind… could ya’ lift me back up thar? Be gentle now… ya’ hear.”[/colour] She may not be able to win the race all-beaten up, but Sugar Apple didn’t want to make it back to Ponyville without the company of her companions… no, soon-to-be friends. She’d thank them all for their efforts once she was all healed up and ready to soar through the skies again.

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As Sugar Apple moved to stand up, declaring she was ok other than her wing, something fell out of her mane.

He realized after a moment it was an apple, currently too filthy to eat and saw the mare look at it longingly.

Hoss looked at the wobbly mare as she raised a hoof.

[colour=#800080]“Eff’n ya’ don’t mind… could ya’ lift me back up thar? Be gentle now… ya’ hear.”[/colour]

He nickered and nodded, [colour=#0000ff]"Sure thing. I hope you don't mind, but this is the safest way to carry you at the moment. I just hope my Special Somepony understands..."[/colour]

Hoss quickly dipped his head under her and lifted her onto his back behind his wings. After a moment to be sure she was holding tight, he beat his wings and flew upward, turning into a curving climb when he began to stall from the extra weight.

After a moment he angled to land on the last upward curve right when he go to clifftop level, and eased her off his back.

Quickly, Hoss pulled out his compact 1st aid kit and an apple from the pouches tucked under each wing. [colour=#0000ff]"I'll be back in a minute, and I think you need this apple more than I do..."[/colour]

With that, he took back off and looped over to cautiously land next to Risi. [colour=#0000ff]"Hello there, Star Skybright, or Hoss to friends. Any injuries I need to know about before I get you back up there?"[/colour]

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When Greenshot Apple noticed that Sugar Apple was out of her predicament, he sighed in relief and let down his magic. Laying down on the ground out of exhaustion now that he could relax and catch his breath. His hard breathing was noticeable and began to shaking his mane. He was sweating a bit and being from Canterlot, was a typical unicorn who did not enjoy his mane being unfashionable began shaking his head for a tad bit to make sure it didn't flop or stick up. Waving his tail towards his face like a fan to get some air.

He looked at Earth Writer and then towards everypony around with a smile on his face as Greenshot looked down at Risi, Hoss and Sugar. "[colour=#008000]I hope everything is okay down there. I hope there's a sandwich shop or even pit stops close by cause we could all use one I think ughh what I'd give for some apple blintzes or sandwiches right about now.[/colour]"

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Silent conversation coming from above turned her attention back to the group somewhere up high. For a moment she was left alone to her own thoughts, until a new face popped out from beyond the edge. It was yet another Unicorn, of green coating this time. The fact he attempted to ease her stress was most appreciable, but the inquiry concerning her name caught her a little off guard. Mare assessed the situation: She was trapped on the ledge with an injured pony somewhere below her, what obviously was her fault, and as it seems distracted a lot of ponies from the race... [colour=#0000ff]"Smooth Risi, really smooth. Great way of making acquaintances."[/colour] - these were her thoughts, but lips didn't follow the scheme: [colour=#0000ff]"Uh... Ri-Rising Star. Yes. That's correct..."[/colour] - she seemed to be a bit ruffled with the question.

A former Unicorn who found her first joined him after a second, ensuring her that she had not been forgotten. Of course, she didn't mind it. Seeing how she was somewhat safely standing on her legs versus the unknown condition of the Pegasus mare from below. Still, she could feel a dim smile creeping in on her face as she replied. She accompanied her response with a grotesque gesture which implied her observing the surrounding. [colour=#0000ff]"But take your time! It's not like I'm going anywhere."[/colour] - she laughed to herself feebly, pointing with hoof at the edges in a meaningful way. Without a warning an apple materialized in front of her. Star bottled out for a moment before she recognized the shape in front of her. She gulped aloud, switching her sight from apple to Unicorn, back and forth...

Her consciousness caught up with her again. An apple... seemingly just a fruit, for her it would become a symbol of this day. She couldn't even predict that from time to time, the sight of this delicious treat would invoke negative, perhaps traumatic memories. Unaware of what awaited her in the future, she thankfully grabbed the apple with her magic and took a bite out of it, throwing a disarming smile to the ponies above her in order to express her gratefulness. Chewing on the refreshment she turned her attention towards the cliff again. It was a small surprise for her to see that the Pegasus from before was already transporting the injured mare up the cliff. She must have skipped some events which happened below. Risi threw an anxious look towards her victim, staggering on her hooves lightly. She escorted them with her eyes until they disappeared over the edge.

She was once again left alone for herself, with only sounds of conversations coming somewhere from above her. Pink Unicorn stared at the apple floating in front of her blankly, awaiting patiently for the events to uncurl. She had already started spinning it around its axis in air when the Pegasus stallion landed next to her. His coating was of deep red... or was it mahogany brown? Well, one of these two at least, just a bit brighter. He for sure sounded quite confident of himself while speaking, even though Risi was a good head taller than any average pony and had to point her sight a bit lower each time she had a conversation. Back in Manehattan she was often placed in the frames of becoming a model. Her slim and elegant physique suited it perfectly, especially that she took great care of herself. Still, she never felt it was her call... Yet, the question coming from Pegasus surprised her. Star opened her mouth to respond and remained silent. [colour=#0000ff]"Am I... injured?"[/colour] - she somehow didn't have time to search for any wounds on herself. A quick diagnosis launched in her mind. Recurring pain in front leg, ailing pain in neck, sore chest, and a few bruises, with one on her flank being quite a serious one. She suddenly felt it all at once... [colour=#0000ff]"All in best order, I guarantee."[/colour] - she lied with a fake smile, trying to bear with sudden pain. Her words weren't true, but her eyes couldn't lie. Still, she hoped for pushing this information through. It was already enough problems coming from her side.

The green Unicorn appeared once more above them. "[colour=#008000]I hope everything is okay down there. I hope there's a sandwich shop or even pit stops close by cause we could all use one I think ughh what I'd give for some apple blintzes or sandwiches right about now.[/colour]" - she quickly turned towards him, thankful for not being forced to look into Skybright's eyes. [colour=#0000ff]"Everything is fine, don't worry."[/colour] - she threw freely, before turning back to the Pegasus. Star was careful not to catch an eye contact again. She didn't need anypony to recognize her exhaustion... [colour=#0000ff]"You think you're able of giving me a lift as well?"[/colour] - she asked, unsure if her physique didn't render her a bit too heavy - [colour=#0000ff]"Also, Rising Star. I guess you can refer to me as Star simply."[/colour]

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Earth Writer hadn't realized that he'd been holding his breath while Hoss was carrying Sugar Apple until he had finally brought her in for a safe landing. It all came out in a rush, then, leaving him lightheaded with relief. He stumbled over to her, still somewhat tired from his exertions, offering his last apple, only to find that Hoss had already given her one from his saddlebags. It stopped hims short, a nonplussed expression on his face.

"[colour=#8b4513]Oh, I was about to give you this...[/colour]" He held up the bruised apple with a weak smile, a blush already showing through the tan parts of his face. The unicorn shifted his look to her broken wing, and bit down on his lower lip. "[colour=#8b4513]Ouch, that's gotta hurt. I'm sorry I'm not a healer, I can't imagine where they are right now.[/colour]"

He sat down close to her, glad to just rest for now. He wasn't thinking about the race, the leaves, or even the story right now. He found himself just too tired to think of anything except what war right in front of him right now. All the momentum he'd built up during the course of the day had halted, leaving him painfully conscious of the fact that he'd gone into this thing with barely adequate preparation. He didn't even have a water bottle with him now.

[colour=#8b4513]*At least I have this apple.* [/colour] He smiled a bit at the thought, before biting into the bruised fruit.

Greenshot was currently with Rising Star and Hoss; it seemed the pink unicorn would soon be out of danger herself. Earth Writer smiled even wider, nodding towards Clockwise. "[colour=#8b4513]Good job, everypony. All in all a successful rescue operation.[/colour]" With a sigh, he lay back on the ground. Looking up, he could see the approach of the racing coordinators through the air. "[colour=#8b4513]About freaking time![/colour]" He shook his head, turning to look at the pegasus mare. "[colour=#8b4513]You think you'll be up to continue after they finish patching you up? You don't have to push yourself too far just for the sake of my journalism copy, you know.[/colour]" He had a slightly guilty look on his face as he said that.

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[colour=#FF0000]"Now hold on a second, that's not verah nice of you. I was just wanting to make sure we're on the right path, cuz you know, it's awful humid and foggy in this ravine. It would sour our chances of being successful if we went off the wrong path."[/colour]

Gilda considered bolting ahead just like that. She had little patience for seeing her time wasted. That said, Gilda would be lying worse than usual were she to say she didn't have concerns when it came to best navigating the twists and turns of the Rearing Ravine. It was a bit of a trap. Failing to find your way through its treacherous paths could cost a misfortunate griffon the entire race.. and as much as Gilda hated to admit it, luck so often wasn't on her side. She hadn't had to navigate the ravine the previous year, and the fog would make it difficult even if she had. Was listening to this pony, this pony who likely knew the lands well, actually the best call here? It sounded stupidly annoying... but if it's what it took to come out on top, wasn't it worth it?

[colour=#996699]"I'm listening pony, don't make me regret it,"[/colour] Gilda replied tersely. [colour=#996699]"If you're confident you know your way through this ravine, by all means show the way and I'll follow."[/colour]

[colour=#FF0000]"So you're in this event because you want to help the Princess with the leaves too? Cuz it's awful important. Why, I reckon this here forest would turn into an issue like the Everfree if we went just one year letting it rot by itself. [/colour][colour=#FF0000]Where is it your from anyways?"[/colour]

The pony said these annoying words as she started kicking some leaves from the trees. What was she doing? Gilda rolled her eyes. Already she was starting to regret this. [colour=#996699]"I can't say I honestly give two flying feathers about your dweeb pony princess and your lame pony rituals. It's no real concern of mine. I'm here for one thing and one thing only and that's to win! I'm a griffon who lives to compete, and I'm here to prove to every one of you that I am the best there is!"[/colour]

Gilda gave a huff and then shook her head. This pony really was trying to make with the casual conversation. Gilda struggled to see the point. Especially when she was gonna ask stupid questions like where she was from. She was from Aquelia, obviously. Well, she supposed there were some griffons born in Equestria these days, but she was Aquelia born through and through. Not that it mattered. Talonopolis, Aquelia wasn't any "home" to her. It was just another place that she was sick of. She felt no tie to there and wasn't gonna pretend that she did.

[colour=#996699]"As for where I'm from, it doesn't matter. Don't particularly care for that place, and especially not recently. Getting tied down to one place too long is for losers; this griffon makes her own place in the world,"[/colour] she said flippantly.

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Hoss watched as the mare thought over his words and seemed to be running a mental checklist of her elegant body.

After a moment, she definitely seemed to be in pain, just realizing it now. 'Hm, her adrenaline buzz seems to be wearing off..'

Of course, she tried to smoothly lie to him, but her eyes told the truth. At least there seemed nothing race-stopping wrong with her that he could see.

Hoss nodded [colour=#0000ff]"All right.."[/colour]

Just then, Greenshot called out from above, asking if things were OK and hoping food was ahead.

He looked up "[colour=#0000ff]Yes, just as she says. I've still got 2 apples from earlier if you need one!"[/colour]

When he turned back to the mare, he smirked playfully [colour=#0000ff]"Am I able? I should think so, pulling a loaded cart in the air from one end of Equestria to the other. As big as you are though, I am afraid you'll have to sit on my back instead of a foreleg carry if that's not a problem?"[/colour]

With that he knelt down and flared his wings for her..

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Sugar Apple suffered another spell of lightheadedness as the good Samaritan-pegasus lifted her onto his back. Getting as strong of a grip on the other pony as possible, the mare buried her face into the stallion’s coat as he took off. Sugar may be a natural flyer like most pegasi, but she didn’t want to risk a vertigo episode given her bad condition. Before she knew it, she was brought back onto the trail and was gently placed back onto the ground.

Resting on her belly this time, a still-reeling but grateful Sugar Apple smiled at the pegasus as he gave her an apple from his saddlebag. It looked like Sugar and Earth Writer were not the only racers who scavenged for the tasty fruit after all. [colour=#800080]“Uhhhggg… thanks fo’ ev’rnthin hon,”[/colour] the mare quietly thanked other pegasus as he took off again to assist the other trapped racer. Her bones and muscles ached, but nothing would stop Sugar from eating her new apple. Fighting the pain to keep her foreleg in place, the pegasus closed her eyes in bliss as she savored the sweet delicious taste of a Sweet Apple Acres apple.

As Sugar Apple munched on her fruit, she turned her head in Greenshot’s direction as he bemusedly expressed his hope to encounter a pit stop. Overhearing that quip lightened up the mare’s spirits, who giggled but otherwise bent on finishing her apple. Sugar was so focused on her treat that she didn’t catch Earth Writer’s abortive attempt to give her an apple of his own. Only when he spoke did the mare finally turn her head in the unicorn’s direction; gazing upon Earth Writer’s embarrassed face and his bruised apple, Sugar Apple failed to suppress a gentle laugh.

[colour=#800080]“Awww,”[/colour] the grinning pegasus cooed; [colour=#800080]“Ah reckon ya probably need thet apple too, liftin’ those rocks an’ all. Ah’ve heard thrt usin’ magic really takes a lot outa unicorns.”[/colour] Sugar Apple winced as Earth Writer expressed remorse over her wing; she really didn’t want to think about it now. [colour=#800080]“Don’t worry hon,”[/colour] the pegasus guaranteed; [colour=#800080]“Ah’m feelin’ a bit better already.”[/colour] There was a grain of truth in Sugar’s statement, as the aching went down just enough to make talking easier on her. Maybe it was the apple she thought; Mama had always claimed that any pain would go away with an apple, and the pegasus never questioned that folk wisdom even when ivory tower naysayers aimed to prove otherwise.

Finishing her snack, Sugar Apple watched as the close-by Earth Writer in front of her nibbled on his apple. Despite all the adversity that the Running of the Leaves threw in her face, the mare reflected on how her encounters with the unicorn reporter throughout the entire day were all pleasant… even this one. Showing a content look on her face, Sugar mentally told herself to ask Earth Writer after the race to mail her some of his other articles. What was she supposed to read in the hospital anyway; that same ole’ Daring Do book about the Sapphire Stone that every other infirmary stocked? As she heard from other co-workers’ complaints, those places never bothered ordering any later installments of that series.

Sugar Apple’s mind raced back to reality as Earth Writer, finishing congratulating the other ponies on their successful rescue, pointed out the arrival of pegasi coordinators. Staring intently at the unicorn, Sugar witnessed the sorrowful look in Mr. Writer’s eyes as he told her not to worry about his headline. She’d have none of that; nopony should feel sad no more… not even herself. Beckoning an assertive glance, Sugar Apple reached for the stallion’s foreleg with a wobbling one of her own and gently reminded him; [colour=#800080]“No, ah told ya not t’worry ‘bout me Earth Writer. Ah think ah can truck on back t’town… but ah may need ya’ to make sure ah don’t get ahaid of mahself ‘gain.”[/colour] Winking at Earth Writer, the smiling Sugar Apple took heed as a unicorn running in the opposite direction from everypony else arrived on the scene… another coordinator.....

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