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Happy Haunting

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It was here, her favorite festival of the whole year, The Spook-tacular. Willow Wisp was worried she would miss it having moved to Ponyville, but luckily she was able to go to the festivities after all. Sure it wasn't like in her hometown where she grew up... but it was close.

Wisp even had a special outfit. A flowing semi-transparent pale blue cape on her back. It was a tattered at the ends to look ghostly. On her legs she had netted leg warmers but unlike traditional fish net, they were made to look like spiderwebs. Her cape was held on by a brooch in the shape of a bat, with little red gems for eyes. And to top it off, she had dawned some very real looking fangs. Come night fall, when she glowed, it would be a spooky sight.

She had wandered the area a little, seeing the sites and taking in what had been done for the setting. She felt the Haunted House needed a little sprucing up, so while nopony was looking, she used a little of her magic to give it some extra umf!

Eventually she had settled on a spot and set about putting up her own little booth. The black Unicorn brought supplies to set up a small tent, lit by a couple lanterns on the inside, and decorated with a few creepy objects, such as fake tombstones and spiderwebs.

"There," she stood outside her set up as she placed the sign. "Willow Wisp's Happy Haunts. Learn about the supernatural and strange." she smiled. "Ah, I hope somepony comes for a story."

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Braeburn was in a good mood. The harvest season had just ended in Appleoosa, with the final great harvest of all the ripe apples done for the year before the winter months set in. It had been the first full year for Braeburn's apple orchard in the new frontier settlement, and what an eventful year it had been: Building a town from scratch, importing trees to get the orchard running, and conflict with the Buffalo and the desert bandits. Despite all the challenges, or perhaps because of them, the apple harvest had been a great success. He had achieved his first great goal - to show Equestia that Appleoosa can be viable place to grow apples.

Now here he was, hundreds of miles away in Fillydelphia, working on the next step - establishing links for Appleoosian products, especially his apples. Of course, it wasn't all business, especially with the great Harvest Festival being thrown in the city at the same time he was visiting. As the goldenrod earth stallion walked through the festival grounds, fond memories flooded back to him for the last time he visited as a foal with his cousins Applejack and Big Mac (nicknamed "Little Mac" then). He was alone this time, and no longer that excitable foal, but he figured he could have fun none the less.

The sun was getting ready to set when he came upon an interesting site, a small tent decorated to look like it was in a spooky graveyard. At first he thought it may have been a prop to add more atmosphere around the local "haunted house," but then he noticed the light from inside. Well it couldn't hurt to look in there, I think it's meant for visiting. I wonder what the pitch is?

Popping his head inside, he figured to give the standard hometown friendly greeting, "Howdy from AAAAAPPL-". Stopping in mid-rearing he was shocked to see a familiar and welcome sight, one he didn't expect at all, especially in the themed outfit she was wearing, even if it was so appropriate and so beautiful for her. "M ... Miss Willow?? W ... What are y'all doin' round these here parts?!"

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"Oh hello and welcome to-" She too was cut off when she saw had poked their head into her tent. "Braeburn? Is that you?" Wisp smiled and trotted over to him, flashing a happy smile, fangs and all. "Are you here for the festival?"

She looked around her set up for a moment then back to him. "I came when I heard they had this festival here in Fillydelphia. It's been my favorite since I was just a little foal. We had it back home... but when I moved to Ponyville I was rather upset to find out they didn't host one there. So I had to make this trip."

She moved over to a blanket she had on the floor, a lantern lit in the middle of it. As Willow Wisp sat by it, it cast a strange shadow on her face.

"I'm hoping ponies will come by for ghost stories. I worked on the Haunted House at home... but well that was already taken care of here." She winked. "Don't tell nopony, but I gave it a little boost. It just didn't have enough umf." Nodding to the blanket she laughed. "So how about it, Cowpony... wanna hear a story?"

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Zecora strolled through the festival, drinking in the sights and sounds around her. Festivals held a special place in her heart, after having grown up in a tightly-knit villiage, living on her own in the Everfree was a stark contrast, and often grew a bit lonely. Adding to her delight, she was finally getting the chance to see more of Equestria. After her initial experiences in Ponyville, the zebra had consigned herself to a life of quiet solitude, but that had slowly changed since she'd met Twilight Sparkle and her friends.

Her trip to Fillydelphia was long coming. It made things a bit easier to be among ponies in costume, her stripes certainly weren't something anyone would notice here. Her touched a hoof to her long grey wig, poking at one of the attached spiders to make sure they were still secure. She had been asked to tell a story at the upcoming Nightmare Night festival in Ponyville, and was giving her chosen costume a test run here. She was more than confident in her storytelling abilities, she had regaled the fillies and colts of her tribe for years before leaving home. The legends here, however, were something she needed to familiarize herself with.

As she walked, she kept her eyes and ears open. There would certainly be more than enough knowledge for her to pick up on here, she just needed to find the right source.

The zebra stopped short, looking back over her shoulder at the tent she'd just passed. "Learn about the supernatural and strange," she read aloud. "Why that sounds perfect for a knowledge exchange. And Willow Wisp... I think I've heard that name before. Have I come all this way to speak with someone from right next door?" Zecora chuckled to herself. She was fairly certain Willow was a Ponyville resident. After admiring the tent's spooky setup, Zecora stepped inside, pausing uncertainly after noticing the two ponies inside clearly knew each other.

"Ah, hello, I don't mean to interrupt," Zecora said with a smile, sticking near the tent's opening just in case she'd been wrong about the tent being open to anypony. "If this is a private party I don't want to disrupt."

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Braeburn jumped back for a second. He wasn't expecting the fangs; they were fake no doubt. They had to be. Ponies didn't have such, even after what happened in that cave back in Appleoosa. The only time he could recall fangs on a pony were those pictures of what Nightmare Moon supposedly looked like, and he wasn't even sure if that was true. Regaining his composure, Braeburn gave a warm smile, "Well, Ah came t' Fillydelphia fer business, actually, but then Ah saw that they were havin' this week long Festival an' Nightmare Night, and Ah couldn't resist! Ah haven't done one of these festivals since Ah was a foal with Big Mac and Applejack!" Braeburn was feeling pretty good now, even with the fangy surprises, he was glad to find somepony familiar here. Even better than that - somepony familiar he'd always hoped to get to know a bit better. And how he had that opportunity!

"Ah didn't know y'all weren't from Ponyville! From what parts do y'all hail from?" The curious stallion watched a bit closely as WillowWisp walked over to the center of the tent and sat in front of the dimly glowing lantern. She certainly had the appropriate atmosphere going for the telling of spooky tales - her fangs really stood out now with the flickering low light, and he knew the effect would even be more profound when the sun finished setting. Her lovely glow was already beginning to appear. Despite the intended effect, he couldn't help but think how lovely she looked in her dress and stockings. All that had happened with them out in that desert really did have a profound effect upon him and how he saw the unicorn mare.

Still smiling, the goldenrod stallion sat down opposite of WillowWhip. "Sure, Ah'd love t'hear what tales y'all have! Ah bet they're a real doozy, 'specially considerin' th' real adventures y'all been in!" Braeburn winked before he bent his head in curiosity. "What ... Umm ... did y'all do to the haunted house?" Before his question could be answered, he turned around at a voice behind him. Turning around, he saw the face of a zebra looking in and inquiring about the tent. Her mane alone was done up in such a way that she, too, must have been in costume for the festival. Braeburn just looked surprised - he'd never met a zebra before, but he'd heard of them - his cousin Applejack'd told him all about one she'd met. He was pretty curious especially given that she was also pretty darn stunning looking. Looking back to Willowisp, just waited for an answer. It was her show, after all.

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"I didn't do anything bad," There was an innocent smile on her face, hard to buy though with those fangs. "Just let the fake ghosts have a little more... life. They move around on their own now. But it'll fade off eventually. Nothing more than a couple animated spooky sheets."

Wisp didn't get the chance to anwser the question about where she was from though, not before other company peeked in. "Huh? Oh no, come on in. The more the merrier with these kinds of things, right?"

Willow Wisp cocked her head to the side as she looked to Zecora. She seemed familiar. They'd never met but she was almost certain that this was the Zebra that lived to EverFree. And since she ventured into the forest for her studies now and then, she had passed the large tree that Zecora lived in.

"You live in Everfree Forest right? I'm Willow Wisp, I live in Ponyville's "haunted" house." She laughed and then nodded to another spot on the floor around the lantern. "Come over, have a seat."

With that said she finally turned her attention back to Braeburn to answer his question about where she came from. "And yeah, I only moved to Ponyville earlier this year. Truth is I grew up in a little town usually not marked on maps. It's mainly farms. My aunt and uncle had a farm. And my mother a huge green house. So really I'm a small town Unicorn."

Smiling she looked around a then blinked. "Ah, my book I was going to use... Morty! Have you seen it?"

Perched in the shadows in the back of the tent, was her fruit bat. He couldn't be seen well as he was staying quiet, not moving, and avoiding the light. But at her call he dropped from his hanging position, swooped around the tent and then dropped a book next to her.

"Say hello, Morty. A thank you."

The bat flapped around over Braeburn and Zecora for a moment, gave a shriek and then flew back to his perch to sleep again.

"Ready for a story?"

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"I was just musing to myself before I stepped in," Zecora chuckled with a subtle shake of her head. "How ironic it'd be to find a neighbor within. My name is Zecora, and I do live in the Everfree. Though I had no idea my home would give me such notoriety."

She stepped inside, taking a seat by the lantern. The atmosphere the unicorn had created in the tent was delightfully spooky. Though the harvest season, its festivals, and Nightmare Night were wholly new to the zebra, she found herself delighting in the campy scares and spooky fun. It seems in this unicorn she'd found someone who embraced it in its fullest. She instinctively ducked as the fruit bat swept through the tent, but doing so with a smile on her face.

Zecora had only heard a snatch of the stallion's voice before entering the tent, and she thought there had been a familiar cadence to his accent, but hadn't heard enough to be sure. He made no move to introduce himself, and Zecora followed suit, instead offering a friendly smile. Maybe she'd been wrong about the costumes preventing her from standing out.

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Braeburn was bemused by Willowisp's ideas of giving the haunted house a lively little boost. It would certainly give the foals - and not a few adult ponies - a scare or two, but it was all in good fun. Given what the both of them had confronted in real life, maybe it would be nice to remind ponies that sometimes, just sometimes, spooky things were real.

Of course, the black unicorn mare's love of the spooky came home for Braeburn when she called forth a bat to bring her the book she was going to read from. The creature seemed to appear out of nowhere, as if it had been called from the darkness itself, and Braeburn instinctively and swiftly ducked his head as it flew over. He tried not to look too shocked, not wanting to embarrass himself front of the mares. Still, he was impressed and couldn't help but let out a slight chuckle in admiration, "I wasn't expecting that, Miss Willow! What other strange surprises do you have in store for us in this tent?"

Braeburn looked back at the zebra who had just kindly introduced herself and then Braeburn looked back at the zebra who had just kindly introduced herself, and then back to Willow. He suddenly felt a little embarrassed - he had forgotten his manners! Taking his Stetson off and holding it his chest with his front hoof as was custom for him upon meeting any mare, molly, or any other feminine figure, he blushed a little at his faux pas. "Ah must apologize, Ah've no properly introduced myself! Mah name is Braeburn, of the Apple Clan, hailin' from the beautiful town of AAAAAAPPLEOOSA!!! It's a roit pleasure ter meet y'all, Miss Zecora of the Everfree!"

The goldenrod stallion placed his hat back on and gave a wink, "so y'all are familiar with Ponyville? Ah have some cousins that live thereabouts! Y'all might even have met them! But where are my manners! Miss Willow, y'all were about ter tell us a story?"

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"I've seen your tree house when I've been out exploring. But it's always really late so I never stopped by for fear of waking you up." Wisp nodded to Zecora and then looked through her book as Braeburn introduced himself.

"Oh sorry if Morty startled you. He's just grumpy because he rather be at home munching on the lemons I have. Of course I brought some with, but he knows they are limited so he can't sneak snacks or he'll run out and have to make due with other fruit."

After flipping through the pages of the book she smiled. "Ah this is a perfect story. I-"

"Wisp!" A young pony charged into the tent but stopped seeing Braeburn and Zecora. "Oh...you've got customers."

"No no, come here Grimmy." She laughed and patted the spot next to her with her right hoof. "This is my little cousin, Grim Tales. He's been living with me in Ponyville," that said she looked back to him. "What's the matter?"

"You messed with the haunted house huh?" He frowned a little. "Everypony is going to think I'm weird now... cause we're related. They'll figure out you did it."

Wisp laughed and ruffled his mane. "Everypony already thinks I'm weird Grimmy. So if that's your worry, you're already weird by association." She smiled. "Why don't you sit down and enjoy the story with us?"

The foal frowned and then nodded. "Okay but..." he looked at the book. "That's your field journal. Those aren't stories."

Willow Wisp just smirked. "They're better than stories... they're all things that have really happened." With that she looked to her two guests. "So do you all know of the Spirit Fox?"

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  • 3 weeks later...

Braeburn was genuinely curious to hear what the story would be. Considering the creepy outworldly things he seen and dealt with just in the brief time he knew Willowisp, her stories of the supernatural had to be something amazing! He made himself comfortable just as another pony ran into the tent, a dark grey earth foal carrying a pair of saddlebags with an inkwell mark on each. To Braeburn, he certainly seemed like the type to want to be here, someone who just had the feel of being into the spooky and supernatural. Reckon he's here fer some stories, too he thought, but before Braeburn could introduce himself to the young colt, he started complaining about the haunted house that Willowisp had earlier mentioned she'd "enhanced." Interestingly, it seemed he was related to Willow Wisp.

Braeburn gave a warm smile towards the young newcomer. "Howdy! Ah'm Braeburn, all the way from good ol' AAAAAAPPLEOOSA!!! It's good ta meet ya Grim Tales! Ah actually know yer cousin here, we been through some crazy adventures together!" He couldn't help but chuckle at that last part, partly because the word crazy may have been too weak a word to describe what they did go though back in the desert, but the earth pony wasn't one for fancy words. The fact that Grim was an earth pony wasn't lost on Braeburn either - not that he never seen mixed families before, but because it may have meant that Willowisp was more used to earth ponies in a close, family-like setting. Oh, Braeburn, don't ye be puttin' the cart before the pony. Don't go gallopin' off with silly thoughts now.

Back on subject - what other strange things had she encountered; did this happen often? It was both worrisome and exciting to him - clearly she was adventurous in her own spooky way, and that in itself was a positive to a pony that spent his life on the edge of civilization. "Ah'm afraid Ah ain't never heard of the Spirit Fox, Miss Willow, but Ah'm sure it has to be something pretty incredible." A month ago he may have dismissed such a story, but not anymore. Now he was in rapt attention - he really was curious about "what else was out there." After all, perhaps he could tell the tale to some foals someday.

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Grim's ears went flat against his head. Braeburn's greeting was a little loud and the normally quiet and gloomy pony was a little startled. But at the mention of knowing his cousin he cocked his head to the side. "Oh you're the one from the time she fell asleep on the train and ended up in the desert." A little smirk came to his face. Wisp always teased him about Sweetie Belle so now... "Wisp was sure happy to have such a good adventure. Even more because she said there was a handsome-"

"Grimmy," Wisp nudged him in time to cut him off. She gave him a look that told him not to press his luck. "Why don't you just relax and I'll tell the story."

She'd already flipped to the page she wanted as Braeburn commented that he'd never heard of the creature she was going to speak about. "A Spirit Fox," she smiled as she began. "Is a fox with pure white fur. It's so bright that in the stark darkness it seems to glow... but that's just because of the contrast. It has either blue or red decorative markings on it... and eyes to match whichever color is on it's fur. The most peculiar part is they seem to have necklaces that are natural and a part of their body. One large bead in the middle and as they get stronger little ones appear on either side of the large one."

"Wisp, this sounds like a report, not a story..." Grim had made himself comfortable, laying down next to his cousin.

"I'm just explaining what it is first." She laughed. "I've encountered one myself. They feed on spirit energy and that's how they grow stronger. Now when I was in my awkward filly years... I was traveling with my father to a ruin he was studying...and that's where I saw it. And let me tell you... that was some adventure. Because this Spirit Fox wasn't happy just having natural energy... it wanted to drain it from ponies, become really strong and from the ruins, terrorize the near by towns..."

She trailed off to see if Braeburn was listening. "And I was the only one that could see it."

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Braeburn just smiled upon hearing the little dark gray foal's comments about Willowisp's adventures with him back in the cave. It was not lost on the goldenrod stallion that the little fella mentioned something about her meeting somepony handsome before being cut off. It made Braeburn confidently hopeful that perhaps that reference was to him; especially given all those brief, awkward, close moments that happened between the episodes of bizarre and sheer crazy of that night. His hope was more than a little justified by Willowisp's incredulous stare at the foal. "Tis' true little fella! We had quite the adventure that week, Ah tell ye what! Ah'm sure y'all heard th' story, though! If'm ah twern't there mahself, Ah'd never have believed it!" Braeburn just chuckled, "yer cousin here, she even saved my life!" It certainly didn't hurt to play up all she did for him after all, especially if he got a blush or two out of it.

Braeburn turned back towards Willowisp, nodding that he was ready to hear her first spooky tale of the night. He had sworn to himself to pay attention to the story being told, even if such things were pretty alien and often over his head. Still, he had found a new respect for the spooky and supernatural since that night in the cave. Despite his determination to pay attention, the stallion's mind couldn't help but wander a little to his hostess' form as he listened on. C'mon Braeburn, you came to hear stories, not checking out her flank ... Even if she does look more alluring than ever in that dress ...

At least he looked like he was totally focused on her words, given he didn't ever take his eyes off of her. Even if her cuteness was distracting, her courage and pluck was even more attractive, and he was eager to find out what happened when WillowWisp had actually came across one of these malevolent sounding "Spirit Foxes" when she was younger. And nopony but her could see it? He chuckled warmly. "Why, that doesn't surprise me one bit! So what happened next to ya'll?"

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