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The Apple Family Maze (Castle)


SteelEagle
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Apple Bloom was so excited she could burst! Nightmare Night was always one of the most fun day of the year and for her an integral part of the whole deal was the traditional Apple family maze. It had been a part of Ponyville's celebration since long before Apple Bloom was born and if the success of it was any indication, it would continue to be around long after she left. It was such a nice, simple concept and something the whole family could enjoy. And who could blame them? There was something fun and exciting about mazes. And farms, as far as she was concerned, and farms with mazes were simply the most exciting thing you could do during Nightmare Night, and perish any thought against that!

 

And this year would be no different, even if the maze was a little more on theme. In keeping with its family friendly atmosphere and the need to be part of this year's Nightmare Moon theme, this year's maze was somewhat easier to navigate. Ponies were going to find their way through it if they applied themselves ad even the dead ends were better than normal, with little treats and prizes at the end. Even the underground section, while still the scariest, didn't have the level of spooks. And at the very end of it was a huge pile of candy that Granny Smith oversaw. She'd give you a happy hooffull and send you on your way, whether that is to the castle to turn your candy in or just go home and snog it all up.

Of course there were new challenges this year thanks to Lunar Guards and other scary things, but they weren't so bad!

 

Apple Bloom had made a concerted effort to not find out what was going on in the maze and what twists and turns to take. This way when she ran into others she couldn't be used to help'm get their way through the maze all easy like. That just wouldn't be very sporting! It also gave her time to go down to Masquerade's and give her some business. This little dragon costume was really nice! Like all of Masquerade's costumes they fit like a glove, and feeling Apple Bloom's very own 'scales' was pretty funky.

 

She wandered into the maze, bouncing joyfully as the sun set and other ponies took their dive. This year she didn't head in with her friends, even if she would like to see them before the night was over. Instead she was just gonna wander a bit, hopefully meeting ponies new and old, and seeing just how many treats she could pick up before the night was over. All in all, a rather perfect start to the season!

Rules:
1- You may spend as much time in the maze as you like, exploring all the nooks and crannies.
2- Candy collected can be used for Nightmare Moon.

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If his friend ended up not being able to make it, he was going to be sorely disappointed. 

 

Mostly for her sake, because holy buck she would be missing out.

 

True to Ponyville fashion, the town had somehow managed to scramble enough bits together to thrown one Taurtarus of a Nightmare Night festival. A real bucking miracle, considering how much damage had been inflicted on the town not too long ago. Magical mayhem and all that. Nothing which had slowed the town down, as far as Inkbrand could tell, leaving the grey stallion to figuratively - and at times, literally - gape at the amount of effort that had been put into event. 

 

Because sure, Manehatten decorated itself with pumpkins and scarecrows and the like, but the idea of a city-wide festival was near mind-boggling. Maybe it was Ponyville's relatively small size and simplicity that allowed events like this in the first place. A city like Manehatten couldn't well afford to completely shut down traffic in order to allow ponies to roam the streets and booths freely, now could it? But a town like Ponyville, where every one walked around on their own four hooves anyways, could partition and section off and pretty much turn the whole town into one giant Nightmare Night themed amusement park.

 

Which was bucking epic.

 

Inkbrand wasn't surprised to find that Sweet Apple Acres had been included in the festivities, either - though the scope of it was a bit surprising. He wouldn't have thought farmers would want rambunctious foals and equally rambunctious adults messing around their orchards. Still, the maze looked sweet as, and who knew - maybe he'd run into a pretty little mare scared out of her mind and utterly lost in the unending madness of the maze, and the two of them could spend the rest of the evening cowering in fear, completely secluded and alone. 

 

And by cowering, he meant holding each other tight. 

 

And by holding each other tight, he meant - that wasn't important right now.

 

What was important was getting his candy on, prompting the grey Earth Pony to charge recklessly into the somewhat darkened maze, immediately losing all sense of direction as he plowed onwards, heedless of which turns he was taking. Though, it wasn't long until he came across the first little gem the maze had to offer - which, it turned out, wasn't a gem at all, but another maze goer.

 

...Maybe?

 

"Ai, little hatchlet," Inkbrand drawled as he approached the small figure, because that was a young dragon standing off yonder. Didn't see too many dragons in Ponyville...or anywhere, really, but here one was, apparently enjoying Nightmare Night as much as the next colt or filly. "You get lost already? Don't worry," the tattoo-clad stallion said archly, rubbing the back of one hoof against his chest plate, "Commander Shepard's gonna get you out of here." 

 

He seriously doubted a little dragon would get the reference to the three-part Bridleway saga, but that was fine, because that didn't change the fact that Commander Shepard was a bad flank

 

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Sunrise was quite proud of herself for this one. The designer was smiling to herself as she trotted down the lane. She had heard there was a maze in this direction, and that seemed as wonderful a spot to start her evening as any other in the town. She would have stayed home for the night, but she had heard of the large celebration Ponyville threw and she was inspired by some monster movie, which in combination lead to her creating her costume and making her way to the town.

 

The costume in question was a black suit with a red shirt, a black cape completing that portion of the outfit with a red inside lining. Thanks to a combination of makeup and magic, her coat was a very pale orange, and her eyes were a much more piercing red thanks to colored contacts. Her mane was the same red as always, though it was styled so that part of it hung down to obscure one of her eyes, leaving the one nearest her tattoo uncovered. The tattoo itself remained untouched, remaining the same color and taking the same path across her body. If one were to look closely at her mouth, they would see two fangs poking out from her top lip, which would only become more obvious if she were to smile.

 

The vampire mare arrived at the entrance to the maze, and went right in after not seeing anyone running the place from the entrance. She walked carefully, not entirely sure where she was headed, but she soon heard a familiar voice and began heading in that direction. After a few more moments of trying to navigate through the twists and turns of the maze, she spotted the stallion in an equally impressive costume, as well as a small dragon. The designer slowed herself, attempting to sneak up on the two. If she got close enough without either addressing her, she would grab Inkbrand's tail while crying out "Boo!".

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Apple Bloom was having a blast by herself, what with all sorts of ponies running to and fro throughout the maze, scarin' the heck out of one another and enjoying all the work that went into the maze. It was sort of fun to jump out and put a little boo into them every once in a while, or a crackle because of the immensely accurate costume. she really had to hoof it to Masquerade, he knocked it out of the park. And it was comfy too, so all of her walking and waddling about didn't do much to her except make her more excited about the possibilities of the day.

 

Especially when Commander Shepherd from the three part Bridleway play Mares Effect showed up. She had to stifle a fanfilly squeal of delight when she saw him. Why, Mares Effect was one of the few Bridleway plays to get recorded and sent to Ponyville for projector shows! It didn't feel the same as being there live, but Celestia knows it was fun nonetheless. It was such an awesome costume too! She wondered how much something like that would cost but then she realized that coming from a pony with a lifelike dragon costume, it came across as silly to think about. "Why, yer Commander Shep and this is yer favorite maze in all of'a Equestria!" Apple Bloom chuckled before waving to the maze, "be a mighty shame if I was that lost on mah own farm!"

 

And as she said said that she saw somepony coming behind Inkbrand, slinking in inch by inch. Was some sort of vampire pony. Nice costume! And the spook would be pretty good too. Just had to keep the hero focused. "So, like mah costume? Pretty realistic, huh? Masquerade makes real good ones!" She said, trying to keep the attention squarely placed on her. After all, Nightmare Night wasn't all that special without some scares and when somepony put so much effort in to be spooky, she didn't want anything to take away from it.

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For one heart-stopping moment, Inkbrand forgot how to breathe. 

 

Luckily the moment didn't last long, so the bad flank that was Commander Shepard didn't come off looking like a little foal. But holy buck, that had been a close one, because he had been this close to losing his rot from the moment the little dra - filly had opened her mouth. The accent, the size and stature, had all thrown him back to Apples so violently that he'd suffered a genuine moment of panic and guilt and all sorts of other emotions that had nothing to do with a terrifyingly good time on Nightmare Night. 

 

But no, the longer she spoke, the more obvious it became that it wasn't Apples in a little dragon costume - and double holy buck, that costume was good. Only now, up close and actually looking for it, could he see the barest hint of a seam along the shoulders, but for the life of him, that costume looked like it had literally been glued onto the small filly. Or painted on.

 

Or both?

 

Either way, the confirmation of 'mah own farm' made it clear that this was the youngest Apple sister, one he had met very briefly in a bakery - and one who, now that he could focus on her words, had completely caught the reference of his costume. Less surprising than a dragon hatchling knowing the Bridleway that the character was from, but still surprising. Hay, less than a year ago, he wouldn't have known who the buck a Commander Shepard was, entirely put out to be dragged by his friend to Part I in Manehatten. But the lore building that Bridleway had had...bucking rot, it had blown him away. The sheer imagination of it, of an Equestria where Pegasi and Earth Ponies had unlocked the ability to traverse space, only to find Unicorns and magic-faring species in deep space and several thousands of years old, had been mind-boggling. 

 

Not to mention the utter bad flankery that had been Jenny 'Fur' Bale's depiction of the leading protagonist. The romance had been a bit of a grind to watch, stretched out over three parts as it was, but it had been well worth it for, again. Bad flankery.

 

"Buck me, I'll say," Inkbrand commented, having recovered from both the brief shock and shared appreciation as he studied the small filly more closely. "I swear, I couldn't tell you from the real deal even if you stood side by side with one," he commended. Masquerade, huh? If his, or her, costumes were any indication, this Masquerade was a master of design...though, Inkbrand was sure there was some bucking Unicorn magic thrown in there. A costume of that realism and conformity would be impossible, without it.

 

Buck Unicorn magic. There was enough of that in his life without rubbing it all over his body. 

 

And on that pleasant thought, came the second shock of his evening. 

 

In truth, the sudden yank on his tail and hissed words were less of a shock than the horrifying thought of an age-reverted Applejack running loose and rampant on Nightmare Night, but they were still enough to startle a gasp of surprise from the stallion, followed by a good-natured roll of his eyes as he caught sight of the culprit. Which, in turn, was another bit of surprise. "Sunrise Skies, here to light up my skies, tonight?" Inkbrand crooned, flicking his tail out of the Unicorn's grasp even his immediately bypassed her rather realistic costume to rest possessively on the tattoo curled around her neck and around her left eye...the sight of which caused a grin filled with self-satisfaction to spread across his face.

 

Buck he remembered that. That had been pretty bucking impressive of the orange mare, getting a tattoo like that. And there it sat, all pretty and marked. 

 

"You're going to pay for that, later," the tattoo-clad stallion promised darkly, grin taking on a slightly more worrisome turn as his newly freed tail lightly swiped at the mare's flank, though he let up after that, taking in the filly-turned-dragon again. "But we need to get well and lost, beforehoof." Never mind that he was already well and lost, having kept exactly zero track of where he had been going throughout the maze. "C'mon!" Inkbrand commanded, already beginning to lead the way down a path chosen at random as he assumed the other two would follow. Where were they going? Who the buck knew. As long as there was candy at the end of it though, that was all that mattered.

 

That, or a pretty mare to cuddle with. Mare or candy. He could work with either.

 

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Free candy was always a staple of the Frightnight spirit. That, and dressing up. It was no mistake that crime was always rampant around this night. Foals tping houses that didn’t give them candy. Break ins. Or just plain out spooks. Some would say that Detective Hard Boiled was just acting as a courtesy officer tonight. Roaming around and making sure things stay safe and harmless.

But what would he say? He was in it for the candy. Raised on fruit and nector, he’s always had a bit of a sweet tooth. If that wasn’t present from the fact that he always had one of his favorite custom made suckers in his jaws.

 

And of course, if he was joining the festivities that means he has a costume, right? Well Rightly so.

The pony made use of his race’s already intimidating features, and brought them out much more. He’d cut some portions of his fur shorter than others to let deranged looking tufts to poke out just slightly to give his body more of an edge around the joints. His mane had been stylized to be messy while covering a good portion of his face. Fake horns poked out of his head, rivoted and broad at the base near his skull, and thining out as it curves back and behind his head. He also wore some clothing around portions of his body to give him more of a draconic… demon-esque look to go about. Complete with claws with red stains of course. Then finally… a cloak of thin and web like rags covered the barrel of his body and hung down to his hooves.

 

And today was a little extra special. It was his day off, and he could do as he pleases. His thought? Go to ponyville. He remembered hearing stories of the events while he was a foal in that cave. Just how all out these ponies could go for a single night. And boy did it show.

Hard boiled let out a low whistle as he quietly soared over the town. Whoever told him they went all out is a dirty liar. This was bucking natural to them. You don’t go all out, and be able to make everything look like it was done by a professional. No bucking way.

 

So he decided to try his luck with the maze first. He banked to the right and began a slow decent to the Apple family farm where he could see small lights dancing in the distance. He inhaled for a moment, and then something caught him by surprise by flying into his throat. His wings flapped haphazardly as he lost control of his flight. His hooves scratched at his throat trying to dislodge what ever it was.

A few moments later, the stallion touched down at the farm. All four hooves struck the dirt with a soft thump. His legs buckled in a bit to dampen the effects of gravity, and his wings were still flared open. After his brief recovery, he slowly rose up. His plum eyes seeming to illuminate in the dark as he said one word through a raspy voice.

“Happy Nightmare Night…” he practically growled. He made a soft hack, and spat out a firefly... that went on it's merry way.

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Sunrise smiled as she let go of Inkbrand's tail, watching his eyes travel from her costume and settle on her tattoo. Well, one is better than none, and the filly even helped her out with it by distracting him! And it wasn't like she could blame Inkbrand for his focus on her tattoo, he did put it on her and she completely understood the happiness one felt seeing their work being enjoyed by others.

 

"Perhaps, Inkbrand. Depends on how the night goes." She replied to his first words, raising an eyebrow as he spoke more. "Is that so? I suppose I shall have to keep an eye out for armored ponies straight out of plays." She added, teasing him with light knocks against his armor and giving a soft yelp as his tail whipped against her flank. She had not seen the actual play series itself, but she had read reviews and saw some promotional material that featured the main character of the story.

 

In any case, Inkbrand was now heading off down one of the paths, and Sunrise followed him after giving the young dragon a smile that showed off her fangs. "You both have marvelous costumes, very well done." She said, gesturing for the filly to follow if she so wished. She was following Inkbrand for now whether the filly came or not.

 

And that was the moment that a newcomer had decided to greet them by landing heavily near them. Sunrise stepped back a bit in surprise, looking over the stallion for a moment after recovering. 

 

"Greetings, Sir. Maybe it would be best to go to the entrance and start there? After all, one does not start in the middle of the maze." Sunrise suggested, blinking a little bit. "If you wish to continue as you are, then by all means. I hold no authority here."

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Apple Bloom couldn't believe the mouth on this fella! He was cussin' right in front of her, a little filly by adult reckoning. Good thing he couldn't see the deep shade of shame that sliced across her cheeks behind the costume. He had a potty mouth, a real bad potty mouth! Why, if she said...buck...Granny Smith would tan her hide. Applejack would stick the biggest bar of soap ever in her mouth, and Big Mac'd talk her head off. She had to giggle as he spoke. Oooh, was his mom around? Or were adults just allowed to talk that way no matter what? Probably that way. And even though she was a big pony she still wasn't an adult, so she couldn't talk like that. It was so scandalous! Just like Mares Effect. Not really suited for little fillies, but heck, what Applejack didn't know wouldn't hurt her. "Tehehehe, yeah, mah costume's real good. She even said Ah'd be able ta breathe fire, but Ah'm not gonna try that 'round a flammable maze," she said, her tone colored by no small part of regret.

 

Because breathing fire sure did sound pretty cool.

 

Speaking of, seemed like the stallion and mare knew one another. The stallion spoke to her as if they were friends and whipped her flank with his tail. Huh, he sure was talking to her funny. Normally you didn't talk to strangers that way, so she figured they had to be good friends have good, clean, safe talk in the maze. A bit silly though. Who the hay would want to get lost? The fun of the maze was trying to find the end and getting lost unintentionally. That silly stallion didn't know what he was on about! Still, she trotted alongside him. The mare's costume was pretty good too! Vampires were kinda cliche but that was because they were just so cool. She liked to spook ponies a bit, which was just as well on a night like tonight! "Ah like yers too. Vampires are pretty cool! Hey, Mister Shep, y'all don't wanna get lost in this maze! Why, you don't know what sorta spooky scary stuff might force y'all to stay too close for comfort!" Apple Bloom said, not understanding the hidden message that was being sent out.

 

Speaking of messages, the new arrival certainly sent one. His costume was a bit all over the place but still worked, seeing as demons and and draconic types were always scary with a healthy splattering of red and a bot of a messy, unfocused aura about it all. She wasn't sure just what he was trying to be exactly but bat ponies could get to this stage of fright a bit easier than other ponies could on account of their wings. She thought they looked pretty snazzy! Of course he landed and while his voice was gruff, talking about Nightmare Night just made it slightly less...gruffy! She smiled. "Well, yer get-up's not too shabby. Whatcha supposed ta be, Mister?" She asked, trotting alongside her friends for the night.

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A costume that breathed fire?

 

Well...hay. Flammable maze or not, that sounded bad flanked.

 

Inkbrand didn't have much time to explain all the nuances of getting lost in creepy places on Nightmare Night to Apple Bloom, though, nor did he get a chance to respond to or even return Sunrise's compliments on their outfits. No, all of his attention was pretty much finagled by the Aerion who landed right out from the sky in front of them, like some apparition of doom, causing Inkbrand to rear back slightly at the sudden and shocking entrance. The Aerion looked positively deranged, though the simplicity of the costume gave it appeal. Unlike the hyper realistic costumes he'd seen so far in the night - case in point, little dragon walking beside him - the sense of almost normal, broken up by tufts of disheveled fur and splotches of blood-mimicking effects, was almost unnerving. 

 

Almost, unnerving, if he had been a little filly that jumped at her own shadow. But probably more than unnerving enough for the average stomach.

 

"Monster demon, maybe?" Inkbrand guessed, in response to Apple Bloom's query, "here to suck out your so-o-oul and send you to the pits of Taurtarus in his place!" A bit of warbling in his voice attempted to mimic the standard cries of ghosts and haunts as the grey stallion loomed slightly over the filly - though, the effect at a cheap scare was broken by his rot-eating grin, before Inkbrand turned back towards the newcomer. "Seriously though, she's got a point," the tattoo-clad stallion extrapolated, with a sharp tilt of his head towards Sunrise, "kinda defeats the purpose of a maze to drop off in the middle." 

 

And to spit out bugs, but that was probably a whole plethora of issues the Aerion needed to work through on his own. 

 

In all honesty though, he could have cared less if the Aerion had flown over the maze to drop himself off at the very end. Maybe if there had been some competitive prizes involved, sure, but for a casual romp through a maze to get some candy? If a stallion wanted to skip particulars to get straight to the goods, who the buck cared? It was bucking Nightmare Night! "But whatever flaps your wings," Inkbrand shrugged, toothy grin on his face as he turned back around towards the direction he had been set to traverse, "doesn't matter to us. Happy Nightmare Night!" It also didn't matter if the Aerion decided he wanted to tag along with their little rag-tag group, either, because -

 

Again. Bucking, Nightmare Night. 

 

And speaking of nightmares...

 

"Buck me, is this an underground section?" Inkbrand questioned, more talking out loud than really asking, because the stairs leading underneath the hedges was very clearly a basement area of some sort. Though, was it actually part of the maze, or a part of the Apple farm that the family had forgotten to close off before the festivities began? "Think we can find anything good down there?" the grey Earth Pony questioned, a sly smile tilting his lips as he glanced at Sunrise and Apple Bloom, "maybe a ghost or two?" 

 

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Nightmare Night huh? What an interesting holiday! Ponies and griffons and all kinds of creatures dressed up as one another, monsters from fiction, or even their favourite book or film characters. Celebration and merriment were the flavour of the night it seemed, along with candy. Gratuitous amounts of candy! Prince Lián was more than a bit impressed by the grandiose nature of the large event set in such a seemingly small town. But one supposed if the Princesses were involved, it should be no surprise that everything was spectacular.

 

Back in Long Guo they didn't have a holiday quite like Nightmare Night, so it took a bit of explaining to quite understand. But once he did boy was he all for getting into the spirit of it. After all doesn't the saying go 'When in Roam'? Sure maybe it wasn't Roam but the quote still stood. While choosing to take part in the festivities was an easy enough decision, the hardest part had proven to be finding a costume. Sure, he could go with something simple and cliche like some martial artist's gi, or a sages robe or something. But how boring would that be? The costume shop in Ponyville was more than willing to help the Prince even if it was only a night before the event at the time.

 

The full body costumes that the store had, while absolutely stunning to be sure, weren't quite what he was looking for. He was already somewhere that not many knew who he was, a full and proper disguise wouldn't be the best of choices. It took some pondering and rummaging between the two stallions before the shop owner had an idea. Running into his back room, the unicorn wheeled out what appeared to be a nearly finished costume...or rather a nearly finished suit of armor if someone didn't know any better! To call it immaculate would not do it justice, the 'metal' was a pristine silvery-white and seemed to glisten in the light. Embedded across the top of the chest were four red gemstones, likely very polished rubies. But dead center of the chest was an orb that had been made to appear like the eye of a dragon, just as red, never blinking.


The left foreleg of the armor was much more guarded than the rest, with a large plate jutting up from the shoulder. Upon closer inspection it looked like a cannon, which the shopkeeper assured him that while yes it was, no it did not function. The only thing that seemed to be missing and left unfinished on the costume were the wings. Six bits jutting from the back of the costume stood there, but nothing within them to make them appear like wings. The unicorn had explained that he had ordered a shipment of shimmersilk to finish the wings to make them appear as flowing light once he had placed the proper enchantments on them, but being how in demand and expensive it was, he was unsure when the shipment would arrive. But he was more than willing to let Lián use the costume so long as he didn't mind it being unfinished.


As fate would have it however, Lián had brought gifts along with him to present to the Elements of Harmony. Among those was shimmersilk for Rarity, though he had brought more than enough which afforded him a chance to help the stallion finish the costume. His hoofmaiden was quick to fetch one of the spare bolts and return...stunningly so, she was good at that. With everything settled and the cloth given to the costume maker, all that was left to do was wait!...


All that wasleft to do. The night of the festivities was nearly there, and Lián had long since made his way to the costume shop once more, just before closing. The costume was...admittedly a bit difficult to get on, but once it was it felt lighter than a feather and the wings seemed to flair to life, the shimmersilk rustling and billowing with a dim glow. When he did finally make his way into the streets of Ponyville, he turned more than a few heads. Perhaps it was a bit flashy, but what better night than tonight to do so?

 

Though one thing was left up in the air...Where to go? There was clearly quite a lot to do, dunk tanks and haunted houses, the costume contest would be an interesting sight even if he couldn't enter it. Oh! Of course, the Maze! The qilin remembered hearing mention that the Apple family would have a maze set up to wander through and find candy in. It sounded like a great time! That would be his destination for the time!


Getting there was certainly the easy part, signs around the town pointed wherever an attraction for the night would be, and the trickling influx of ponies going to and fro from there was enough to point him in the right direction. The hard part was actually getting into the maze. It wasn't as though it was obscenely crowded, it was more the fact the wings of his costume were too wide for him to fit through the entrance! Turning sideways didn't seem to help, nor did trying to get in at an angle. Frustration and disappointment had nearly sat in when the wings suddenly folded shut with a little snap. A few brief moments of confusion gripped Lián until he remembered the costumes were magic, and would obviously act how they were supposed to act, he only need to think of closing 'his' wings!


With that out of the way, the Prince was finally able to make his way into the maze! About time. Once inside Lián relaxed, and meandered through at a leisurely stroll. The Apples must have put a great deal of effort into getting this all sat up. He remembered something about mazes that he was taught, to follow the left wall, it was a sure fire way to find your way out even if it took some time to do so! But getting lost in something like this was half the fun, and wandering aimlessly would make things way more interesting.


And so off into the great blue...er...great hay yonder! Occasionally the prince would pass by other ponies making their way through the maze as well and exchange pleasantries. Some would recognize him from the gala, while others hand no idea who he might be. Both were enjoyable in different ways. It was a small time later through his stroll that Lián happened upon a small gathering of ponies...and a dragon too at that! They didn't seem to be in costume though, how curious. The one who stood out costume wise though was clearly the stallion with red mane, Commander Shepard from Mares Effect if he remembered correctly, he only half watched that play a time ago.


Clearing his throat to announce his arrival and not startle anyone...which was ironic given that Nightmare Night seemed to be ALL about spooking and startling, the qilin spoke. "Excuse me, sorry if I'm intruding on anything private, I can easily just keep going if so."

((Costume's kinda like this just fancier. I suck at describing things well so sorry for that...and the length of the post <.<))

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Hard Boiled wasn’t quite surprised by the reception. He hadn’t actually tried to scare any pony… though a tattooed cladded one did seem to be taken aback by it. But what really didn’t surprise him was the fact that he was receiving a passive aggressive chastisement for crash landing in the maze instead of at the finish line.

Suppose no one knew that the best way to get lost in a maze was to land somewhere in the middle and risk finding the wrong exit.

The stallion let out a soft grunt, in response before dipping a wing’s claw into one of his hidden pockets and drawing out a sucker. He remove the wrapping with a deft flick before flicking the hard candy in the air and catching it in his jaws.

“The creature is called ‘Harvester’. A favorite legend back in the caves when I was a foal. Thing did not mess around in the stories. And it definitely had no mercy.”

 

He swirled the stick along in his jaws, and allowed it to the rest on the opposite corner of his mouth before looking down to the little filly. He really couldn't tell the age on the filly, but he was pretty sure the that the larger stallion was no relative. No, he could recognize the difference between a country born lass and a rough city boy any day. Though that didn't discourage the thought of assuming that he's some distant cousin or something. Buck appeared to have known the filly for some time, or is likely acting as a guardian. Was ponyvile even the place for such a thing? Who knows... the crime rate in ponyville has always been low. But the amount of random junk that goes on? All time high.

 

"And I kinda just dropped in. If I fly now, I’d get a good look at this maze from above. And that ain't right for  anyone else, am I right?”

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((I hope i am not intruding on the bonanza))

 

The night has progressed, rather slowly, for this he was thankful for. The Spirit of Chaos had collected a great deal of candy by now, but it wasn't enough! While his primary goal was to collect enough pieces to attempt and usurp Nightmare Moon, and show off, in truth he was having fun. More than he would have liked to openly admit. The silly games had entertained him and the odd flip of personalities. He had become curious of the other events outside of the castle's walls. This far he has planted forty-two of his one thousand enchanted gourds. How he hid so many was -- ingenious, if he could say so himself. And believe you me: he would. He was not sure if it was in the spirit of the holiday, or the ponies being too deep into character, but the Mane had not yet exposed him, nor did that Longma that he had met once before. Though was it, rightly, a good idea to really betray a real monster hiding among ponies? Perhaps not... He was not evil, but he was a troublemaker and could make winning just a sprint to losing if he was feeling particularly naughty that day. The grey pony decided to head along.

 

His pail of candy rest atop his hood, which seemed to resemble a Timberwolf. It was not long before he felt the need to add to his costume. As he walked among the crowds most, if not the majority, of the Ponyville residents and visitors were decked head to hoof in lavish outfits. He ruby eyes followed the crowed before his horn lit up. As he pranced across the streets and crossed just behind a large tree his outfit was given additional parts. Little hoofcovers that resembled leaf-toed paws of wood and a cloak of sticks gave him a more full-bodied look. Of course it did look a bit silly that his horn poked out from the hood but it was what kept his candy pail stable! The bucket of treats was pumpkin shaped and its mouth and eyes had a faint, white glow to them that seemed to further illuminate the more treats he got. Why was that though? Well perhaps it was just part of the game!?

 

As he wandered around the castle grounds it wouldn't take long for him to come upon the curiosity of the maze. He was little aware of the Apple Family Traditions and only occasionally interfered with their crops by painting the apples fantastic colors that sometimes boosted sales while he could advance his own ego. His short tail gave a flick as he tilted his head. It didn't take him long to approach the rather fantastic looking attraction. It was decorated extravagantly and also seemed to be run by a draconic version of one of the Crusaders. His muzzle pulled back as he grinned. Others appeared to be gathering. But -- he had never participated, so was quite unaware of just what one did at a maze, or that it was even a maze! he pushed forward. A number of ponies about. He came to a stop at the tail-end of the crowd and put his hoof to his chin, the twig-leafy Timberwolf 'paws' stroking the greying stubble.

 

Vanishing the spirit appeared next to little Apple Bloom, his jaws pulled back in that frightening grin. "My, my. The littlest of the Apples running this attraction? Impressive." He did not want to infer that he didn't know anything about it. He had to be slick about it. "Curious, Are you sure you know how to run this all on your own? I mean you do have the rules of the event memorized, right? I bet you had to write down your little speech." He motioned his hoof as he sat on his rump.

 

After all why would a master of time and space not know how to do a maze? Well -- to be frank, well actually he's a Timberwolf, but the point stands back in his day they labyrinths, as they are properly known, were far more horrifying and a might more dangerous. Also more stony and more undergroudny. Most of these events seemed rather tame to their more adventurous counterparts. How many gourds could he hide in there? Looking amongst the arrivals there seemed to be more curious ponies from here to the Far East. Strange creatures they were -- really.

 

He was in a pot-calling-kettle-black mood....

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"Thank you, darling. I thought so too." Sunrise replied to the filly, giggling slightly at her words before turning back to the Aerion. Inkbrand made a good point that it was his choice in the end, but it seemed to defeat the purpose if you were to skip part of the maze. Ponies were free to do as they wished though, she supposed, especially in this case, so there was no point in making a big deal about it. 

 

She had been about to speak when even more newcomers arrived from the winding pathways, one a qilin in fancy armor and one a stallion dressed as a timberwolf. Well, their group was getting a bit large, wasn't it?

 

"Greetings to both of you, and wonderful costumes all around. You are not interrupting anything, sir." Sunrise said, giving the three males a friendly smile and directing the end as a response to the qilin. "I hate to say this, but perhaps we should split into smaller groups? Six ponies seems to be a tad big for this maze. If you three wish to stay with us though, by all means, I am not attempting to stand in the way of your fun." She added, still smiling a little bit while leaving Inkbrand's comment for Apple Bloom to respond to. 

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small.580a3de234b50_ScootalooasDaringDo.\

 

The night was going well for Scootaloo. She already had a few events under her wing, but if there was one thing she wanted to accomplish it was visiting her friend, Apple Bloom's farm. The Apple Family always did a great job putting on events like mazes or haunted hay rides. Perhaps it was the size of the farm or the years of the family creating events. Whatever the reason, this year the filly was amazed at the sheer size of the maze and the promise of frights and sweets! As she wandered through the halls, she saw Apple Bloom chatting with a stallion who was dressed rather impressively as a futuristic soldier. 

 

"Hi Apple Bloom! Nice maze you got this year. I ran into a few dead ends, but that's ok because I found some candy!" 

 

She then turned to the stallion and said, "Hey, nice costume. You're suppose to be a space soldier or something?"

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Wow, Inkbrand's mouth sure didn't stop. Apple Bloom had to get over it and stop herself from allowing a few curses to escape because her luck would have Big Mac rounding the corner just when she uttered something. It was just as well also because the little group of theirs grew several ponies too big for her to comfortable with cursing anyway. And what an- umm, eclectic? Yeah, eclectic- little group they had! Commander Shep, he was here, partying it up with a monster-demon thing, a dragon, and an aerion. Well, this was starting to turn into a really bad fanfic or the next Bridleway play for the Commander.

 

"Well, if a Demon-Monster is here ta suck out my soo-oooul, it better like seitan enchilidas, 'cause AH just had some and Ah'm pretty sure Ah taste like it," she said, remaking a joke Pinkie once told. To crickets. Well okay, "yeah, y'all don't wanna get lost here! Why, thar's spooky spooks everywhere! Y'all just don't know when terrifting were-timberwolves will leap out at ya, or tha pony eating super rabbits with sharp teeth that go rarr rarr rarr will appear outta nowehere! Very dangerous!" She said with practiced alarm. Hopefully ponies bought it! Or not, it was a relaxed year.

 

The Demon-Monster was soon correcting its designation, known as a Harvester. Well, she supposed that was fine. Not everypony could have amazing costumes or even costumes most knew about. This one was unique enough if a bit cluttered and he seemed into it, though as always it was a bit hard to decipher motives for landing in the middle rather than at the start. Then you could experience the whole thing! "Yeah, best not ta fly all tha way there. That wouldn't be very sportin'!" she said matter of factly, eager to see him join the growing group.Speaking of the growing group, what was it that the Vampire mentioned? "Six?" She looked around. Four and then the newish fella.

 

He was an older pony in a Timberwolf getup, though a bit...umm, askew. Not that she knew this at first as he had gotten the drop om her, and his breath so close made her 'scales' grow cold and weird and she gave a small "Yelp!" before laughing, as she tuned around. Yep, a strange getup. He knew her, but more importantly he thought she was running this. "Haha, runnin' it? Naw, not really. Granny Smith is running it! I helped put some of this together of course on account of Applejack building up that pirate ship on yonder, but Ah didn't memorize tha layout, honest. 'Cause thar ain't no fun in that!" She said proudly. But there was still the last-

 

-Oh pony feathers.

 

Lands sakes.

 

Bucking buck.

 

The Prince was here! Ponyville not Long Guo!

 

He was so handsome his costume was so silly but he was so handsome. She met him at the Gala, and he was even handsomer here. The handsomest colt there ever was.

 

"Y-yeah underground, very, ahh, ahh spooky hahaha," she whispered, one 'claw' idly fanning herself lightly. She felt like she was burning up! Good thing she was in a costume or else somepony might mistake her for the sun. She was so smitten that she hardly noticed Scoots. "Howdy. Howdy Scootaloo," She said, almost hovering towards the Prince.

 

"Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh howdy, Prince. Prince Lee-Ann, umm, howdy. Hi. Welcome ta, ha, ta, umm, mah farm. I Ponyville. During Nightmare Nights."

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5NUsOcG.png

 

...What exactly did that remind him of?

 

...Oh, buck, of course. It was like watching another Applejack bumble her way through introductions towards a hot-flanked Rarity, complete with the stutters, blushes, and sudden inability to do anything other than stare and catch some flies. 

 

First fashionistas, now Qun-Lins. The Apple family's taste ran in every which direction, it seemed.

 

Inkbrand couldn't really offer anything more than a snakily raised eyebrow at the sudden shift in behavior, though, most notably because of the buckload of ponies that suddenly seemed to crop up from all different directions. How they had all managed to run into the exact same spot in a giant bucking maze was any one's guess - maybe the sound of talking voices had drawn them all here. 

 

That, or they were all just naturally gravitating towards the bad-flank that was Commander bucking Shepard. 

 

Either or, the introduction of a wide variety of ponies would have been enough to make any one's head roll for a few seconds. The most eye-catching was probably the Qun-Lin that had joined the party, decked out in a lavish costume that couldn't have been more fantasy-magic-whatthebuckisthis inspired if it had tried. Looked like some sort of warrior straight out of that one board game ponies talked about, though the reference was clearly lost on him. Judging from Apple Bloom's stuttered sentences, he was dressed as a prince from some sort of fantasy game or production. The elder-looking stallion decked out like a Timberwolf was more in sync with his knowledge...but like, why the pail balanced on top of his head? Suppose it was a good way to cart about his candy payload, maybe - along with another filly dressed in an outfit that Inkbrand felt like he should recognize, but simply didn't. 

 

...Seriously, how had all these ponies managed to converge onto this singular point in the middle of the bucking maze?

 

"Space soldier, please," Inkbrand scoffed, latching onto the newest arrival that provided the most semblance of conversation he could hold onto in the midst of the sudden hubbub. "I'm Commander Shepard. The first Earth Pony Spectre, Savior of the Citadel - you're talking to a legend here, kid." The line was ad-libbed from what he could remember from the Bridleway, but the grey stallion didn't really care if any one picked up on it...though Apple Bloom might, considering the filly's apparent like for the three-part epic. 

 

"And who're you suppose to be?" the tattoo-clad stallion questioned assertively, but not unkindly, as his golden eyes roved over the ranger-looking costume on the small filly. "In fact..." Inkbrand continued, his eyes moving onto all three of the new arrivals - two of which had spoken directly to Apple Bloom, while the third was clearly a Qun-Lin that the filly knew and was deeply in love with. "Friends of yours?" 

 

kafyBGS.jpg

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Perhaps this was the middle of the maze, or close to another entrance? That would easily explain why there were so darn many gathered in one area. By no means was it uncomfortably crowded, but if any more showed up...a sentiment the mare in the vampony costume seemed to share. "Thank you very much. Your costume is great as well...And perhaps so. Truthfully I was merely passing through, and I don't want to impose my company on anypony without reason ahah." he said with a little bow. A little bow, as anything more in this costume could possibly end up with him toppling in an undignified matter...Not that he was ever THE most dignified of nobles.


Now it was really just a matter of debating on if he should stay with a smaller group or just continue on as he was. The question in his head was at least partially answered by the approach of the dragon. When first Lián had saw the baby dragon he thought nothing of it, dragons were a common sight in Long Guo even if they weren't the same kind of dragon. But the voice that came from her was unmistakable, the twang, the awkward yet adorable way she pronounced his name, the faintest hint of seams along her 'scales' sealing the revelation for him. "Well ancestors, you sure have changed a lot Miss Apple Bloom. I hope that it wasn't just to impress me or something." he replied with a smile, kneeling down to be at eye level with his friend. "I see you visited Masquerade's store as well. It's wonderful to see you, how have you been? I haven't had a chance to see you since our last meeting at the Gala."

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Well that was...interesting. Normally Apple Bloom would be happy to see her friend. It was as if something, or more like somepony was distracting her.

 

"Space soldier, please. I'm Commander Shepard. The first Earth Pony Spectre, Savior of the Citadel - you're talking to a legend here, kid."

 

"A legend, huh? Err... sorry, but i never heard of you... err... Commander. Are you some futuristic Wonderbolt? Because if you are, then you should go talk to Rainbow Dash. She's a legend and a Wonderbolt!"

 

"And who're you suppose to be?"

 

"I'm Daring Do, famed relic hunter and tomb raider. I recover ancient magical artifacts so they don't fall into the wrong hooves. The temples and palaces I visited are full of danger like spike traps, alligators, and even quicksand!" 

 

Scootaloo happened to notice how Apple Bloom drifted towards the third with a very strange look in her eyes. 

 

"Uh... Apple Bloom? Are you alright? You have a weird look on your face. Kind of reminds me of when your brother and Miss Cheerilee..." 

 

It was then that the Pegasus's face contorted in horror. It all made sense: the way she acted and the costume.

 

"Oh dear Celestia!" Scootaloo said now feeling the odd pony out. 

 

"Friends of yours?" 

 

"Honestly this is the first time I met this Prince," Scootaloo said to the Commander, "but I think my friend here knows him maybe too well." 

 

 

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Dis-- ark Strife felt all these ponies were too energetic, but the chaotic form in which they gathered only drove his antics forward. It was almost enough to give him a power boost, send him flying into chaotic shenanigans. He rolled his eyes as Apple Bloom passed the -- bits, sort of speak, to Granny Smith on the responsibility of the maze. Even if that old nag was in charge, the littlest Apple was in the front lines dealing with this rowdy group. If ever he was fond of the trouble the Crusaders could draw in, he could not but grow fonder of their games. At the qilin's suggestion he allowed a Cheshire grin manifest beneath the shadow of his hood. He tilted his head, the glimmer of his ruby pupil glowing from beneath, a cackle pulled back into a seedy sounding chuckle. He cleared his throat, calming his rather rambunctious nature. It hardly could be helped given that, deep down, it amused him.

He couldn't help his nature, but it was appetizing to think that these ponies wanted to split up. The outfits they wore ranges from simplistic pieces of clothing tossed together to mimic a book character to quite complex ones of endearing magical vices and complicated folds to demand their presence as the character, rather than a simple mimicry. The creativity of ponies always did put him in a good mood. As a destroyer of the mundane, seeing ponies step from their comfort zones into the skin of somepony completely different gave the discordant demigod a sense of completion. Sitting beside Apple Bloom, feeling a bit less crowded by a pony he knew and recognized (even if he himself was currently a mystery) he could have a decent view of the goings on. It seemed Scoots hit the bean on the nose with Apple, the way she looked at the Qilin in question. A prince they said?

 

Hmm…

 

Well if you wouldn’t mind helping an old pony like me, I wouldn’t mind Apple Bloom on my team, and this here Qilin. Never seen one of you, and that is a pretty intense costume. I wouldn’t mind hearing more about it, what is it you called it?” What a plotting, troublesome spirit….

 

He limped toward the maze, candy pail rest on his back as he trotted along. He wouldn’t mind another pony or two split up with them, but perhaps he could cause an interesting interference between the two. He wasn’t out to destroy relationships or ruin friendships. But it would be fun to see them interact, if only to irritate them~ So she had a crush? How adorable. But it wouldn’t do if this prince would crush her spirits, right? He was eager to see this maze through.

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Apple Bloom was having considerable difficult with thinking much beyond just how outrageously handsome the Prince was and how his voice made her knees buckle. And then he bent down and it was a good thing that she was in her costume because her eyes fluttered ever briefly as she blushed, pretty sure this was the dream she had dreamt a dozen times since the gala. He was going to kiss her and make her an honest ma- oh, wait. Just talking. Hahaa, yeah that made way more sense. Luckily she couldn't get any more red and warm than she already was. But it also helped shatter the illusion that she was living in a spray of fantasy-in-reality, and she finally allowed herself to at least momentarily recenter herself. Sure he was still the sun that she was gonna orbit around, but she could be mindful of other celestial adornments in her personal constellation.

 

They were wanting to split up. The older fella wanted to go with her and the Prince. That was fine, but what about Scootaloo?


She wanted to spend some time with a fellow Crusader! She turned to her friend, pulling her eyes away from the Prince every briefly. "Ah don't wanna be separated from y'all, Scoots, 'specially not when yer costume game is so on point! Why if Ah didn't know better Ah'd swear that tha real Daring Do was right here in Ponyville!" She laughed, then leaned in, "okay, listen, we're gonn be split up but Ah left you a gift. Get yer group ta go left, left, right, straight four rows, then left, hang a right, then a left. Ya can't miss it!" She said excitedly, wondering if Scoots would like the gift. She turned to The Big Hero, Commander Shep. "Y'all watch out for this troublemaker, won'tcha?"

 

And with that- well, she sauntered on over to her team. The older fella in his weird getup, sure, a bit strange, but she'd saunter on over like no baby dragon had ever sauntered because the Prince. She exuded confidence. That or she was about to faint, hard to tell when you were this light headed. "So, Prince Lee-An, if you wanna, umm- well, wanna- Prince, hey, follow us! This, umm, gentle, old stallion feller could use yer big, strong, toned muscles!"

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It was no surprise to the Prince that Apple Bloom was keen to split up with him. The older pony however wasn't familiar to Lián but seemed to be familiar with Apple Bloom which was, of course, good enough for the qilin. "I wouldn't mind a bit, good sir." the prince said, giving the spirit in the sky disguise a polite bow. Not that the prince knew of his...impish nature. "It's actually the armour of what is called a 'Dragoon'. It comes from a play in Neighpon, as well as some books and the like, that I'm rather fond of. I was rather surprised to find the someone here had a costume of one, let alone one so high quality."


Apple Bloom's flattery, while not need to persuade the prince to join her group, was certainly just as sweet. "Of course, Miss Apple Bloom, and please you've no need to be so formal, Just Lián is fine!" he said with a small grin and a wink to the filly.

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Well… if Hard Boiled really was the Harvester, he’d definitely taste the enchiladas… though that’s not to say that the Harvester enjoyed souls. No… it’s tastes were more primitive and less metaphysical. The harvester was a carnivorous monstrosity from some off-world plane. Devious and crafty. And worse of all… it just loved to toy with it’s prey. Definitely one of the favorites in a cave that had Horror as a top genre.

 

And whatever the filly had to say… was soon met with unheard ears as Hard Boiled looked up… spotting a strange individual. His eyes first darted up to the pail of candy resting on his head. This definitely wasn’t anything odd… he’s seen plenty of ponies balance things on their heads or flanks.

His costume was pretty creative. He guessed it was supposed to be some sort of dog? But why in the buck would it be made of wood and leaves. Definitely seemed like something that would chafe in areas best yet left unmentioned.

But… there was something about that voice that caused Hard Boiled to tilt his head. He had never met this individual before, but that voice and mannerism sounded like a perfect fit for some of the psychopaths he had bagged and tossed into the slammer. One of whom was very persistent on making him open a box. Call him paranoid, but this bugger is one instincts are telling him to keep an eye on. Yes… perhaps he was just being paranoid. It’s not like the stallion is going to pull out a shovel from that bucket of candy and start decapitating ponies for some strange reason.

 

His attention was soon drawn away as more arrivals came in. One of whom was a prince it seems. And apparently a cute enough buck to make the little filly practically loose hold of herself. Though what is that costume!? For a prince this seemed to be beyond lavish, and charging clear through the wall of absurd.

 

There are so many pointy things on it, and plates that looks like it does not even let him move his body! Let’s not forget how ridiculous and impractical some of the weaponry looked on it.

With a wing, he removed his lolly pop from his jaws and gave his lips a light smack.


“Riight….” He said looking up to the one whom had been dressed as Shepherd. Oh… how his inner fan wants to come out to play on this one.

“What say you, Specter 7, that we leave the filly and her ah…. Friend… here some alone time,” He drawled as he began to make way to the cave. His eyes glanced back for a moment to look to the…. Shrubbery wolf (?) like he was going to pull that shovel out of his bucket in any moment.

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