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Stage Five: Roundbottom Hills! Over the Hills and FAR AWAY!?

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Stage 5- Roundbottom Hills
 

The Running of the Leaves takes in a new route this year, as the leaves on the trees in the hills and in the underground forest in the Roundbottom Range have lacked care for years. This hilly terrain is far from as dangerous as the Ravine, but steep inclines and declines at times going over the hills can tire you out, while the distraction of seeing Baltimare and Canterlot as you turn your head is a real threat! 


Or maybe you decide to head into the hills themselves, where large underground forests languish in darkness, with only faint rays of light and the few magical lamps set up by race coordinators for coverage of the giant caverns the forest impossibly thrives in. This route is much shorter, but can you navigate the confines and the darkness without issue or will you get lost, slam into trees, or even eaten by a strange creature that you didn't even know was there?!

 

Likely not, but the dark is always terrifying...
 

OOC:  Say which path you are taking, over the hills or through them. If you are heading over the hills, one of your posts must involve the steep inclines and declines. Each pony who takes the top route must declare in bold their 'strategy' for dealing with the hilly nature, and the best gains bonus points. If you go through the hills you must contend with the dark and terrifying nature of the location. The pony with the best 'solution' will gain bonus points. As before, state what the strategy is in bold before, during, or after the main body of the post. Whether you gain bonus points or not will depend on how you handle these problems.

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Strong Copper

Through the Dark Woods

 

When the path split again, Strong Copper had found himself... near the front of the pack from the looks of it. It appeared that the gamble to run through the rain of rocks had somewhat paid off. With the same degree of bravery that he had crossed a bridge and risked broken bones in a rock slide, he didn't hesitate when it came from running into the darkness of the underground forest.

 

Most ponies would have been frightened of going into a dark forest alone. For Strong Copper, it was just a way of life. Going into the dark corners of the world and occasionally finding the things that tended to lurk there that no one else wanted to. He wasn't going to let down his guard just because he had done stuff like this before; Complacency was likely to get you killed in this kind of life style after all.  There were some tricks that he had picked up through for this situation. Some unicorns would have lit up their horns to provide more like but Strong Copper... didn't.

 

Instead he slowed down a little as he followed the path and picked up a rather large looking leaf as he walked along. When dealing with areas of low lighting like this where there is a chance that something was lurking in the shadows, adjusting to the low light was actually safer when it came to avoiding being detected or discovery rather then trying to light the place up. Letting his eyes adjust to the low light, whenever he passed close to one of the sources that might mess his developing night vision up he would position the leaf to shield his eyes and keep them in the shade. Adjusting to the dark would take time of course, thus why he had slowed down in order to walk down the path; Easier to hear, easier to detect problems underhoof without them spilling over into a dangerous situation... and the more time he had for his eyes to adjust properly to the darkness. Sure this path seemed shorter then trying to hoof it up and down a steep hill, but it was still a forest. Who knew how long the trek here was going to be?

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Through the hills

 

Tempest was getting… Tired. This race was maybe just a hint longer than she thinked it was going to be. Maybe she needed to read better… Not her fault she was self trained and can’t read big words. OK maybe just did not read much about this at all. But between all the running, dodging falling rocks and other mess she was feeling it. She really was not in the same shape she was three or four years ago. So seeing all the sharp hills and their strong inclines put her down even more. Her legs were sore all ready! She was not about to run up and down hills now. So around them she’d go sticking to the shady dark valleys. 

 

 She used to be scared of the dark. When she was younger and alone in the world, exploring without a clue. Slowing to a speedy trot she followed the old trails and let her mind wander to a place long ago. A filly lost in the wods, scared and alone. Wanting to go home. Sleep in her own bed. Wash in a warm bath. Fresh food on a table. Yet she was to far away with no map or hope of remembering the way back. How long was she lost in woods like this? She did not know in truth. It felt like a lifetime for her back then and even now she is unsure of how many days or weeks it was. It was just by luck she got out before winter came. 

 

Stopping she took in the trail, the darkness. The forest was thick and old. Untouched save for a few magical lamps. Walking over to one she inspected it, then ripped it out of the tree it was nailed into after some pulling. Being strong as an earth pony had some upsides when you can’t use magic! Holding it by her muzzle she pushed onwards keeping to her speedy trot to allow herself some rest. She hasn't seen others yet, hopefully they were ok from rockslide…

 

This trail was nice. She’d have to come back later when she was not racing. Maybe take Glitters for a more peaceful walk? Old woods like this were peaceful places. To think she used to fear them and was funny in a way. Now it just felt like an old home. Safe and peaceful from the rush of towns and cities… And in a way from the rush of the race. A much needed moment to take a breath and relax.

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Underground Forest

 

To Hou's great irritation, earth pony filly leapt to her hooves as soon as she answered the first question. Uhhhhgggrrrr! This will be a real test of her patience isn't it?

"You saw or guess....? Hey! I am talking to....!" 'Jade' protested, but the filly already darted off.

".....To answer your question Miss Punch....I can't really tell because patient refused to cooperate! Is EVERY pony in her family so audacious and stubborn?!" she asked the purple mare.

Shuren made a show of showing her irritation, but inside she was giggling. Pride. Good, good! This is something she could exploit in the future. If her sister shared the same traits, all the better!

That said, she had to made sure that the foolish child doesn't doom herself in her arrogance! That would put premature end to any potential scheming Hou may do in the future, involving the Honesty. And that would be...such a waste, isn't it?

 

"We have to follow her. See if she shows symptoms, and restrain this kid if necessary. She may seem and proclaim she feels fine now, but it may be just adrenaline talking." unicorn mare explained, while recommending the next logical course of action ,before giving chase herself.

 

Of course the fact that they were keeping watchful eye on some unruly filly, didn't meant that they couldn't exchange some basic....courtesies.

"Well hoofsome....it appears you caught this Dr. Jade Beaker...." she ' introduced' herself....while conjuring hoof shaped lights pointing at her for emphasis. "....Or was it me who caught you? Ha! Who cares about details?! Especially after return kiss like that." Shuren said while fluttering her eyelids behind the glasses. "So....will I get name to go with the image...? Or should I keep going with hunk, hottie etc. ?" she asked.

 

Soon enough the three o them faced yet another dilemma. So go over the hill or through them. Worse yes, Applebloom was nowhere to be seen. Well wasn't that just great.

"Well aren't we in a pickle. Judging from her bravado, she could have gone either way....." she said, before pondering for a minute over this choice.

"Well I don't know about You but I choosing the forest. If she's gone through it, great, we won't let her shake us off. But if she gone over and around it...Well, we can bar her path when the routes rejoin if that is the case! Unless you want to really, really be sure....." she said as she ran towards the darkness.

"Either way, strain your ears for sound of throwing up. This would mean she really got a concussion. Ta-ta!" she advised before waving at Berry and Midnight.

 

Unlike others, 'Jade' charged into shadows with seemingly reckless abandon. And why wouldn't she? Darkness and shadows  were her domain! She could tell her way as well, as if it was Unyasi noon! And any potential locators of this underground forest....? Well, they will have to step aside.....for a monster greater and more terrible then them has entered those dark woods! Speaking of denizens of the dark...

 

'Oh, what's this?' Hou sensed the soul of the creature. Unlike others, sorceress could tell precisely where and how far this being was. The question was...would it be stupid enough to bar her path? And what exactly it was? The 'scent' seemed familiar but it was simply so long ago, that Shuren couldn't pin it down.....

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Goin' OVER the Hills

 

"Hmm - these must be the Roundbottom Hills." TT thought to herself as she trotted along, "We're more than halfway done !  All that is left is Whitetail Woods, then the home stretch to Ponyville."


She came to full stop and sat down, in order to plan her next course of action.


"Those are some rather steep inclines for hills.  Still better than that ravine, since you can run up and down inclines without worrying about something falling on you.


Let's see - we have a choice of going through the hills via the shorter but dark and foreboding path, or stay up here in the longer but sunlit path.


Aaaaand it looks like the front of the pack chose the short, shadowy path." she mused as she watched Tempest, Strong Copper and that Jade Beaker mare head straight for it.


"Well, since nothing I do from this point on is going to make much difference, might as well take the longer path over the hills.


But how to do that ...." she mused as she scooped up the dirt to make a series of ridges.


"Now, if the hills were corrugated like this - zero degrees from my path -  the best idea is to stay in the valleys.  In this case, going up any hills would be a bad idea !"


She recrafted the ridges so they were perpendicular to their original direction.


"But if the hills are corrugated like this - ninety degrees from my path - the only way through is constantly trudging up and down the hills.
But that's assuming perfect corrugation ..."
she continued as she poked a few gaps into the ridges, "... and very few things in nature are THAT perfect !"


She sighed with a frown.  "But even in this case, staying in the valleys would increase the length of the run greatly.  Like make it four, five or MORE times as long !
And turn what should be a relatively straight run into a Drunkard's Walk simulation.


Sooooo - trudging up and down the hills it is." she groaned as she got up and started trotting along again at her usual level of effort.


"Maybe that not be such a bad idea at all." she realized, "I'm expending some amount of effort X to move forward at speed Y.  Going up an incline, some of that effort is used to go up, and what's left over goes to forward speed.  Conservation of energy.


So, by maintaining the same effort, my forward speed Y will drop, but I will not get as exhausted as those ponies that see a hill and 'attack it' !  Trying to maintain the same forward speed against an incline would exhaust me !


It is EFFORT that should be maintained, not speed !"


"You should let me take over." the Abomination offered, "The amount of effort I can maintain is easily a hundred times your pathetic attempts !"


"Bad idea times three." TT replied, "One : no magic allowed for the race.  YOU are magic.  Therefore, I can't use you.


Two : You may be able to provide the power, but would my body survive the strain invoked by using it ?  I sort of like my tendons intact, my hooves not beaten into dust and by bones not shattered into powder !


And three : No.  I am NOT giving you permission to use my body !"


"So you're really going to settle for middle of the pack when we could easily win ?


Are you a pigeon or a pegasus ?"


TT growled with rage, but quickly tamped it down.


"As I said before - I really don't care where I finish.  True, it would be nice to win, or even place highly, but I really don't see that as a real possibility.  Two of the best runners took the short route - if I took it too, they'd still be ahead.  There is no legal way to gain.


And this is my first race.  Why should anyone expect me to do really well ?"
 

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Through the dark woods
 

Tiger breathed a sigh of relief as the rocks stopped falling around him. He kept his slower pace for now, partly to catch his breath and partly in the hopes that Berry and the others would catch up. It would be cool if he won, but really he’d be happy just having a good time with new friends at this point. By the time he made it to the crossroads he was plenty rested, but still he had to stop and consider the options. The hills would be harder physically, at least on the way up, but the forest would be harder to navigate. Decisions decisions...

 

”Oh, hey guys, how was the shelter from the rocks?” He said, breaking out of his thoughts just in time to see Jade run off into the dark forest. Looking between Berry and Midnight, he couldn’t help but feel like he missed out on something, and something fun at that. Oh well though, he couldn’t change the past.
 

“Yo, Midnight? You can navigate that forest, right? Better than us, anyways. Would you mind if we tagged along?” He asked after a few moments, smiling at the two. “I’ll probably go either way, but figured we may as well help each other through, yeah?” He gave the two a wink before he got up and started making his way into the forest. If Midnight elected not to join them, he would take a lantern, but if he could leave the navigating to the other guard, he could pick up a fallen branch instead to fight off any creatures they may run into in there. 

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Berry Punch

"Is EVERY pony in her family so audacious and stubborn?!"  

 

Berry could only give a rueful smirk at the question.  "You ain't from 'round these parts, else you wouldn't ask."  Apple family members were notoriously stubborn, so much so that Berry had been surprised at the lack of mules that showed up at the first Apple family reunion she witnessed.  Of course, that was a stereotype that all modern Equestrians should move beyond blah, blah, blah.  She suspected that one of the reasons that the clan was spread so far and wide is that while all were... steadfast in their mental positions, they weren't always steadfast in the same direction, meaning that setting distance between those on opposite sides of the argument was the only way to give everypony involved peace in their house.

 

Ah, but what could one earth pony mare do?  Just keep running after the rockfall passed.  She could only agree with the "good" doctor that they had to keep going to have any hope of catching the filly, but that question grew more complicated once they hit the fork in the road.  Over the hills or through them?  Berry's pause in the nook had proven restful enough, but the pull of good company was proving to be greater than the repelling power of fear.  Especially now that Tiger Blood had rejoined the pack.  "Oh, I'll be sticking with you guys, alright!  I haven't enjoyed any year's Running more than this, and I have you three to thank!"

 

And with that, she went off Through the Hills into the woods.  Though the forest was a dark and scary place, she feared no creature, for Berry was sticking with the herd.  After all, all three were likely very experienced fighters, well able to handle themselves in emergencies.  She should be alright if she stayed close...

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Tongue Twister trotted along at her usual pace, expending the same amount of effort going up hills as along level ground.  True, that caused her to slow down, but wasn't exhausting herself.

 

"Hmm - most ponies' instincts when confronting a hill is to attack it.  To spend more effort to maintain speed.  Which tires them out faster !
Now, what to do when going down hills ?  Most would expend effort to slow down.


What would happen if I bounded instead ?  Like a boulder down a ravine ?  Redirecting the motion instead of resisting it ?"


The good news was bounding off one leg at a time enabled her to reach great speed; the bad news was bounding off one leg at a time enabled her to reach great speed - much faster than she was ready to deal with or properly control !


She tripped and instinctively tucked into a roll.


The next hill she encountered moments later acted as a ramp, tossing her into the air.


She slid to a stop on her chest atop the next hill.


"..."


"Ow." she stated after she spit out a mouthful of grass, still lying on her stomach.


Once the world stopped rolling, she sat up and took a look around.  As a pegasus, she'd crashed far harder than that a few times, so she was able to shake it off.


"Wow !  I covered a lot of distance on that foul up !" she noted, "BUT I AM NOT DOING THAT AGAIN !!


Bounding might be a good way to go down hills - after a few months practicing the maneuver so the speed doesn't rise out of control !"


She got to her feet and started off again, making sure to just stay light on her hooves going down hills instead of trying to bound down the slopes.


She looked around as she trotted along.  The countryside was quite beautiful.  Very few ponies around.


"Wait ?  Did everyone else take the other route or something ?!"


Oh well ... I guess I'll run into the rest of the herd later, on the road to Whitetail Woods.

 

As long as they don't get lost in that dark forest.  Or eaten by a grue."
 

She was NOT looking forward to seeing the Whitetail Woods again.

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Midnight Oil

 

As Midnight left their hiding spot, his first thought was the care of the Apple Filly....whom was now gone. He sighed heavily. “From what I saw from her sister during my visit to their farm for Cider...Stubborn is putting it mildly.” 
 

Looking to ‘Jade’ he would smirk. “Midnight is my given name, though I don’t mind what you call me,” he said with a wink. “And after the race, their may be more then.....” he blushed after he realized what he was about to say, but quickly recovered. “Um...here’s for luck,” as he gave both Berry Punch and his flirty new doctor friend another kiss. 
 

Reaching the fork, the bat pony would notice that Tiger had caught back up to them. “I say forest as well,” he said looking down the shadowy path. “If Apple Bloom, I think her name was, was stubborn enough to race through an avalanche of stone, I’m sure she’ll try to prove her braveness.”

 

Looking to Tiger, he would chuckle. “This is the environment I was raised in. Follow me,” as he trotted off into the woods. His pupils would narrow, and his ears twitch with every unexpected sound. “You know, I grew up in a wood like this,” as he tried to keep everypony’s mind off what might be lurking..

 

Into the Woods

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Tongue Twister trotted ever onward, enjoying her time in the open air and sun.


"I wonder how the others are doing." she mused to herself, "It was a lit trail through a dark forest, not a jungle expedition.  I hope no one tried to show off how wondrous and special they are by wandering off on their own - that would distress the ponies researching the delicate ecosystem down there.


Imagine : a whole forest growing in minimal to no light !  I wonder if the plants there can tap into thaumic fields for energy instead of using sunlight.
That - is a question for another day."


She smiled to herself, as she knew how the one traveler felt : 


"The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."


She chuckled to herself, and then felt happy enough to sing a merry tune ....
 

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Strong Copper

 

The forest route was a bit more crowded by ponies then one would have thought. Your standard pony tended to avoid dark, scary places but... considering the collection of ponies that were running in the race, it really should be surprising that the bulk of them were made of sterner stuff. Still, Strong Copper made the decision to continue his trail blazing alone in the dark, not wishing for the company of the herd that had formed to combat the fear of the unknown dark.

 

Copper was quietly glad that he had decided to take a somewhat slower but more consistant pace throughout the race so far, alongside that rather pleasant trot past the wildlife before rocks started falling from the sky. A part of him was curious where Pinkie, Apple Bloom and Zap (he remembered that was the name that had been shouted in relation to the colt) had disappeared to through, but looking back while his eyes had only just started to properly adjust to the dark would have been pointless.

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image.png

 

(Through those scary woods!)

 

At first Pinkie had blanched at the dark and scary underground forest. Buuuuut, then she had to giggle. If anypony could bring a party to such a place it was her! 

 

"Gummy!" The gator blinked and looked down at her. "Get the party lights!"

 

She galloped on with the gator doing no such thing. He still clung to her poofy mane but made no move after any lights. "Now come on Gummers! Do be a stick in the mud!" She giggled. "Or a gator stuck in the mud?" She thought back to him trying to bake some cakes last week. "Actually more like a gator stuck in the batter! At least that's what happened to you last week remember?" She poked him with a hoof. "Remember?" She grinned and fished around in her mane, withdrawing a string of blinking lights from well, from nowhere! Totally Pinkie style!

 

"At least there will be enough light that I don't trip!" She held up for a moment in front of the area where the path descended into darkness. 

 

"Here yah go!" She tossed some lights around Gummy and then carefully hung a tiny disco ball from the tip of her forelocks. Sparkling light bounced off rocks and trees, generally making things a little less spooky. 

 

"We better get racing!" Gummy started nodding and upbeat party music started the play. 

 

"Here we come!" 

 

She ran on for a while until she spotted the stallion up ahead. Pinkie smiled and called out to him. "Copper! Hey buddy! Here comes the party!"

 

The Pink rumbled down the path, flashing lights, disco sparkles, and party music blaring. She was a Pink train wreck waiting to happen! PARTY!

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Strong Copper

 

Strong Copper had been expecting a number of things from this race. A fast moving pink body covered in bright flashing lights, what appeared to be a disco ball and loud party music was NOT one of those things. His eyes, which had been adjusting somewhat to the shadow and the darkness burned as the sudden light display ruined what night vision he had developed. His ears pressed themselves against his head as they tried to block out the loud noise of music that... honestly wasn't his style.

 

He would give Pinkie some credit that he suspected she might not have considered herself; Most predators suited for hunting in a darkened environment like the underground forest they were traveling would find the bright flashing lights and loud music to be an assault on the senses that would confuse and likely repel them because senses heightened to deal with the dark and quiet would likely be overwhelmed, if not actually harmed by the onslaught. The only exceptions to be found would likely be found in those predators that were fully capable of sapient thought, who weren't as tightly bound to the animistic instinct to run away from the loud strange thing... and if one of those was present in this forest, the organizers of the Running of the Leaves were going to be in a great deal of trouble for gross negligence.  

 

Seeing an opportunity, he abandoned his former plan to get through the forest in order to embrace a new, possibly more effective one: Stick with Pinkie Pie! "Where were you keeping flashing lights and a disco ball? Actually... how are you powering those?!" He asked, honestly curious as anything. 

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“Don’t worry, Berry, between the three of us we can fight off anything that comes our way.” Tiger smirked, draping a foreleg over Berry’s shoulders for a moment as he leaned in for a quick kiss. He was aiming for her cheek for now, but if she wanted to go straight to lips, he wouldn’t complain. Once that was done, he took his foreleg off her and stayed nearby the two as they made their way into the forest. 
 

“Really? Well, that’s pretty fortunate.” He chuckled as Midnight said he had grown up in a place like this. “I’m even happier that I met you two now. This race has been great so far.” He smiled, letting out a laugh. 
 

“My hometown was a lot more sunny, plenty of open space to run around in and all that. I had lots of fun times back then.” Tiger smiled, reminiscing a bit while keeping an eye on the surroundings. “Oh, also an arena, lots of fun testing myself in friendly competition in there.”

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Through the hills

 

She stopped, ears perked as she heard picked sounds from somewhere behind… Maybe behind. Think woods like this and mess with sounds like that. But she heard talking and some dreadful music. What was that awful sound? Whatever it was she was willing to bet it was made by Pinky. She didn't want to hate that mare, not at all. But that pink monster was just everything she can not stand given life. They were just complenty incompatible personality wise. So it was best she just kept on moving, speeding up her trot some more to keep ahead of whatever was going on. 

 

The magical lamp was useful, even if it was more on the dim side it let her see the path and step over roots and rocks safely. All she can ask for in a tool in truth, it did its job fine and that’s all it needed to do. It was something she needed to do more with herself. She spent so much time trying to be more than what she was and not learning to love what she can do. It was slow work but she was doing it… “I wish I had some pony to talk too.” She muttered alone as kept up her speedy trot. Maybe she needed to fall in to one of the packs? maybe. She still wanted to win this race for how.

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Berry Punch

When it came to chasing away the ghosties, Berry would take kisses over mere laughter any day.  Returning each of the stallion's good-luck gestures on the lips, she felt her heart race once again, pumping blood to her pumping legs, speeding the trio through the darkness and shadows.  The mare had little to no experience in such environments, but in the company of two experienced stallions, what did she have to be afraid of, really?  No more than shadows, and she needn't pay them any mind, not when there were far more interesting things to either side of her!

"Oh, so bat-ponies really grow up in deep, dark woods?  I thought that was just a slightly tribablist urban legend.  I certainly didn't grow up on a farm, though I'd frankly be happy enough to retire to one.  Being an urban wild child ain't all its cracked up to be, I'll tell ya."  She laughed, bumping against Midnight and Tiger's sides in turn.  However, it wasn't long before she found herself distracted from her distraction.  Shadows were to be expected in this place, but what were those lights?  Was it the dreaded will-o-the-wisp, out to lead ponies off the path into their marshy doom?

 

The blare of party music dispelled all such frights, and Berry devolved into laughter.  "Oh, Pinkie, never change!"

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TT had learned many things from her years of field research; one of which was hills.  Every time you crested another hill was a chance of discovery : what was over the hill ?

 

So far today, the only thing on the other side of the hills was yet ANOTHER hill.


But she noticed that the hills were getting smaller.  The inclines and declines weren't as steep.


The hilly terrain was leveling out.


And, upon cresting one hill, she looked out and could see what she assumed was the rest of the course - the Whitetail Woods.


She found herself in a shadow as a cloud passed overhead.


She glared up at it and sighed.  "It's going to be quite a long time - if ever - for me to be up there again."


Refocusing her concentration, she began trotting along the path.


"No choice but to trudge ever onward !"

 

Quote

Musical Interlude : Time Will Catch Me First


 

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Midnight Oil

 

Midnight couldn’t help but chuckle. “Yep,” he would say, acknowledging their comments about his hometown. “If you’ve heard any of the stories from the Eponnie Mountains, their more then likely true, or at least we like to think that.” Midnight would let out a deep exhaling. “Before Princess Luna returned, we had to be careful...my family in particular. You see, our fangs are much larger then the typical areion.” As he gave both Berry and Tiger fang filled grin. 

His ears would twitch with each sound that emanated from around them. One sound in particular would make him trot up ahead a few feet and stick his wings out to stop Berry and Tiger just before a rather large, but noticeably damaged tree fell on the path before them. Midnight would look all round for what could have fallen such a tree, though nothing could be seen...or heard.  “Must have been rotten.” He said, motioning them on. 


“Ponyville seems to be a wonderful town to be from, though lately it seems to be the hub of Equestrian excitement.” Looking to Tiger, he would smirk. “As for where your from, I think I’d take my chances in the dark of the Everfree. Less things that can kill you.”

 

”So,” he would say with a pause. “There is one interesting legend from my place of birth regarding my great great great grandfather...” he would tail off. “But I’m sure you don’t believe in vampireism...” Midnight gave a very fake evil laugh. “ Rumor has it, he was obsessed with immortality and traded a piece his sole to the Witch of the Mountain for it.” 
 

He would give another forced evil laugh, “Judging by the fact that he’s been gone for over 200 years though, I’m pretty sure it’s just a fun legend.”

 

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'Jade' movement slowed down to a trot.....

 

The creature. It was near. Very near. It was....

 

"Gah!" sorceress yelped, surprised, as a mass of pink, reptile and disco on legs speeded by. It was her. The Laughter! The way she spoke, her very existence was rubbing Hou the wrong way.

Humor? She could tolerate that (especially if it was as black as the strongest of coffees). But this? This cuckoo of a mare?! She was obnoxiousness incarnate. She wouldn't want HER soul, even if was offered with another Wūyún-size island in a package....

 

As she stood here, with twitchy eye, the group that she left behind caught up to her, now re-joined with Tiger Blood.

"You hoofle yourself pretty well in dark. No reason guess to whom...." she mused to the group as she gave Midnight yet another look-over. This helped her regain control over her face too.

"I...tired to sense presence of the filly - old trick oof Unyasi 'Knowing' - but I got...distracted." 'Beaker' meaningfully gazed at the show of party lights, ahead in the dark.

"It's shame that some put their own, ponysonal desires ahead of what's RIGHT." unicorn continued her criticism before continuing, even more morbidly. "It's...possible, that in her state, Miss Applebloom might have wandered off the path and get...devoured...." she said, summoning all her acting talent to make herself look nauseous.

"Not by vampire though." she referenced Midnigh little family story. "Those DO exist - at least in Long Guo - although they are very different from what you depict here, in the west...." she explained.

And she would know. Not only she Hou practiced necromancy herself - when she needed to. By studying jiangshi feeding habits, she improved her own soul absorbing powers. And she had to say, a fresh soul did far more for the living then for the dead....

 

"There is a presence in this woods, but so far I failed to grasp what it was. Smells and arcane currents are...inconclusive. I have my suspicions of course, but..." this explanation was better then admitting that she forgot how some souls tasted/smelled like, duo to amount of them she's gone through.

 

"Now go." she waved at them "I will join with you shortly. It possible that my worries are baseless....but it's better to be certain." indeed. If Apple child was indeed hurt by whatever creature here was, all the potential that could bloom due to knowing her was...well...wilted before it could bore fruit...

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Pinkie changed her disco gallop to her signature bounce when she got up next to Copper. The Pink giggled furiously and nodded along with the dance music beat that was coming from...Celestia knew where! He asked where all her lights were powered from and she let out another laugh.

 

"Hee hee! Wouldn't you like to know! That's a Pinkie secret pal!" She bounced on, lights blinking and disco ball glittering. She wasn't about to give up her trade secrets!

 

The music changed, the tempo increasing a bit. "Oh! This is a great beat to gallop to! Come on Copper!" She took off, running like mad down the trail. "So uh, where have all the other racers gotten to?" Hopefully they weren't right ahead of her, at this pace that might actually be a train wreck!

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Strong Copper

 

To say that Copper was slightly disappointed at not getting an answer would be an understatement. Regardless of wanting to or not, his mind was going to drive him to unravel the mystery that was Pinkie Pie. As the music changed and Pinkie challenged him to gallop, he did so in order to keep up with her. He had committed to this plan and he was gonna see it through!

 

"Well... I'm pretty sure that herd that's been sticking together since the start is still doing so back there. I saw Tempest enter here but I don't know where she is now... I have no idea where Apple Bloom or that colt disappeared to..." He paused for a moment in concern. "You think his parents caught up with him?

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