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Raven Rawne

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Diffuse Reflection (1x1 between Nightmare Season and Raven Rawne)

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OOC thread: https://mlpforums.com/topic/159007-diffuse-reflection-1x1-between-nightmare-season-and-raven-rawne/

 

@Nightmare Season

 

It was just past noon on a lazy Saturday in the Crystal Empire. A day like any other, really. The weather was nice and warm, thanks to the Crystal Heart and it's magic, there were few clouds in the sky, a perfect day for spending time outdoors. Ponies of all walks of life enjoyed their weekend as they saw fit, filling the Heart with their happiness.

 

Not all of them, though. Some eight miles east off the city, a subject of the Crystal Princess felt anything but happy at the moment. In fact, she was scared and running as if her life depended on it. Truth be told, it did...

 

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A thundering cacophony of hooves galloping on hard rock echoed through the caverns and tunnels. A lone figure was stampeding through the extensive cave system - a young mare, one of the crystal ponies who lived in the nearby city. Her cherry coat was dirty from tripping on the rocks, her mane a mess from running at breakneck speed, her eyes wide with fear as the crystal lantern she held in her mouth shone dimly, it's light fading. Dark thoughts rained on her like black rain, fueling the fires of dread as she strived to navigate the unfamilliar corridors towards the entrance.

 

"How could I be so stupid!"

"I never shoud've went so deep on the first run!"

" Left or right, left or right, left or right... RIIIGHT!"

"Heart help me, I can barely see with this fading lantern."

"How can I possibly get out without the light?"

 

...

 

"I'm going to die here."

 

 

Crystal Clear was panting hard from exertion and stress, her saddlebags were weighting her down and biting into her underside with every breath. The lantern will go off at any moment now, and she still was far away from the entrance...

 

She tripped on a stalagmite she haven't noticed, lost her balance and crashed sideways on the hard suface, letting go of her fading light source. The fluorecent crystal lantern swung on it's strap on her neck and finally gave out it's last, leaving the terrified mare laying on the cavern floor, wheezing, and now in complete darkness. 

 

She was in no hurry anymore. She was done for, quite probably. The crystal pony lied where she dropped for a few minutes, panting hard and trying to collect her thoughts. Recall the route back on the surface. Try to accustom to the dark in vain hope of seeing her hoof in front of her face... Once she cought her breath, she sat, slowly, wincing at the pain in her side. Looking around, she saw nothing but black. Crystal got up on her shaky hooves and slowly, very slowly, she moved in the direction she believed she would find the exit.

 

After what seemed like an eternity of groping in the dark, Crystal saw a small light in the distace - a promise of escape! She resisted the urge to run towards it as fast as she could, and continued her slow march, testing the ground before her with a foreleg before each step.

 

Finally she reached the mouth of a tunnel from which the light shone, and ran straight into it, overflowing with joy and relief. She was on the verge of crystaling from happiness when she ran into the adjacent cavern and found the source of the light - a pony was standing in it's middle, but it was unlike anypony she have ever seen. The stallion was jet black, tall as the Royal Princess of Equestria, and his mane and tail were... fire? Crystal froze in place, unsure of who or what was standing in front of her. As she was about to slowly back down, the strange pony noticed her.

 

"G-good morning, s-sir?" - she wimpered with a clentched throat. What if this pony was an Umbrum? Would it hurt her? Should she run? As the wave of thoughts assaulted her mind, she stood frozen, watching the pony intently.

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A strange stallion was asleep under a tree passing the evening away with a big yawn. Equestria has not seen such an equine as this before, for his coat was black and mane and tail of fire that waved with the wind. He was dirty from his long journey from wherever he came from. A short nap to get his strength back to continue his journey.

 

"Have you heard of the crystal cavern?"

 

A faint voice off in the woods moved among the leaves. With such a soft disturbance from the typical hymn of the forest, Nightmare Season opened his eyes and looked past the bushes to the road.

 

"Are you referring to the cave that crystals lights up? Is it not in the North by the Crystal Empire?"

 

He laid there not moving watching the two mares walk past on the road not noticing the strange creature off to the side. He staid still till the sounds of their voices faded into the chirping of birds and the rustling of the leaves in the trees before he lifted his head up. He became interested in what he over heard. A place of beauty that was not far away.

 

A few days latter he eventually found a cave system. It was a bit close to a city that he typically avoided such. However, the curiosity seemed to be greater than his cautious nature so he went inside. He walk into the darkness with no fear of the blackness inside. As he walked his mane and tail lit up the area around him with ease. He twisted and turned within the corridors of the caverns with several hours passing by. He eventually came into a larger room where as he entered, a glorious display of light danced around the rock facing. The crystals and gems within the walls and ceiling caught the illumination from him and dispersed it in several directions.

 

He trotted along on the floor watching the light show dance across the room as he moved about. Stopping at several stalagmites to view the glistening stones. A few pit-a-pat sounds of water dripping between the ceiling and floor as the mounds reaches for each others.

 

"I see!" The first words he spoke in a long time. "This is a sight to behold."

 

He was happy that he saw such wonders, yet his face showed no change from his lonely personage. He continued his slow march around looking at the display that he found himself in. He tuned his head to see a pony he had never seen before. A slight glistening coat of cherry red and a blue mane.

 

"G-good morning, s-sir?" she whimpered

 

Not wanting this mare to run off he remained still and looked at her for a few seconds. Noticing her fearful eyes in a low gentle voice he finally replied.

 

"Good morning. You have no need to fear me, yet your fear in my kind is well placed." His eyes slowly glances over her side where it began to bruise. "It appears that you have injured yourself. Is there anyway I can help you?" As he asked her he stayed in place not wanting to frighten her anymore than he had already.

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@@Nightmare Season

 

Crystal Clear wasn't sure what to do: the strange pony said she doesn't have to fear him, but she should fear his kind? And what kind would it be? Since the stallion stayed where he was and just... talked to her, Crystal decided that perhaps a conversation wouldn't be a bad idea. Maybe he knew a way out?

 

She took a couple of deep breaths in order to calm down and held her hoof in the air as a sign for him to wait. It took a bit, but she gradually regained her composure, at least somewhat.  Her ears weren't resting flat against her head anymore, she stood a bit more surely - obvious signs that she indeed felt more calm, but still out of her element. 

 

She began, with some hesitation - "Um, I was exploring this... cave in here and I went too deep and my light f-faded out. Could you... show me the way out? Please?

 

As she asked for help, Crystal cocked her head a bit sideways and looked at the strange stallion with pleading eyes. She also noticed that this pony had a horn,  like a unicorn. She expected to see a pair of giant wings too, but as far as she could tell, the stallion had none.

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@@Raven Rawne

"I see." He replied looking over her. "It is dangerous to be exploring a cave when you do not have back up of your gear."

He slowly turned around so that he properly face Crystal Clear instead of having to keep is head turned to look at her.

"I do not know if the entrance I came in is the same or different as the exit that you seek. However, I can show you the way." With this he slowly moved closer to her. The light from his mane sending the splotches of light on the stone dancing across in a dazzling display. He stops at a reasonable distance from her when he thought she might get scared again if he proceeded..

 

"I am called Nightmare Season. But before we go out, are you capable of the trip with that wound? Or do you need a moment to rest up and tend it?" Is lonely gaze drops to her side to see if he could tell how bad it is.

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@@Nightmare Season

 

Crystal sighed deeply with relief - "Thank you... I don't care where I come out, I just want to see the sky again. I feared I would never come out of this dark..."

 

The stallion's remark about backup gear struck her as rather... odd. Didn't he know that packing the second glow-crystal lantern would only end up with both running out of juice at the same time?

 

She trailed him as he approached,  watching his every move. He didn't seem to be a danger to her,  at least not now, but the way he spoke of his kind... And who in their right mind would call a foal like that?  There was also that fiery tail to watch out for. Still, Nightmare Season didn't strike her as... evil. Considering the circumstances, she didn't risk anything by accepting his help, even if it was some kind of trap. At least she wasn't all alone in the dark... She was afraid of complete darkness like that.

 

The stallion 's concern seemed... genuine. Maybe he was good after all. Crystal Clear looked at her right side, and the part above her foreleg which slammed first into the rock was clearly bruised. It seemed her saddlebag cushioned her fall, thus avoiding other injuries. She tried to move her leg in all directions, and tensed the muscles by the bruising. It did hurt, but she could walk.

 

The mare looked up from her injury and at the strange stallion. "I can manage, but thanks for asking." She managed to smile a bit as she took the first step towards him. "My name is Crystal Clear, I live in the Crystal Empire, a few miles West from here."

 

She stopped about ten steps away from Nightmare, looking at the dancing flames. "Do I need to keep my distance off these? I wouldn't want to get burned you know..." Crystal saw the Royal Sisters only once, during the near fatal crystalling a few months back, and from some distance too. This pony seemed just as tall as them and she already had to raise her head to look at his face. Walking side by side, a normal pony would talk to the chest fluff. 

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@@Raven Rawne

 

He stayed still while Crystal Clear examined her wound and watching, to make sure she was not trying to lessen the pain in her words. When she asked about his flames he moved his head to look at his tail.

 

"You do not have to worry about my fire burning you. I can choose rather they produce heat or not." With these words he flipped his tail sending a puff of embers flying out over the ground. "Anyways, it is nice meeting you Crystal Clear. I do not know what the Crystal Empire is, but I did see a city nestled in the snow off in the distant when I entered this cavern."

 

"I will go and see which of these openings will be our way out." With this, he went and moved to the closest parting in the wall. There he stood a few seconds then moved on to the next one. With each of his movements the light frolicked about the cavern where they were. When he reached the fourth he said. "The exit will be in this direction." He turned his head back to the mare and waited for her to join him.

 

His eyes looking sad and lonely, however scanning her to figure out what kind of pony she was. For in his travels, he had yet to see a pony with crystal like eyes.

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@@Nightmare Season

 

Crystal Clear decided that the strange pony she met was, in fact, not an Umbrum. That was a relief. Maybe she would ask who he is then,  but only once she was out of this place. She couldn't help but think the stallion looked immensely sad. Maybe his face just seemed this way, illuminated only by the burning mane.

 

She reached our her good foreleg to sense the heat, but there was none. She could safely approach... probably.

 

Just a simple mention of home was enough to make her smile, genuinely this time. Watching the sunrays dance off the roofs and the Palace was enthralling to her. Much like the dancing reflections of Nightmare's flames on crystals in the cavern walls. She watched the lightshow as the large stallion probed the tunnels for a way out.

 

Once Nightmare called to her about the exit, the mare followed his hoofsteps, staying just out of that fiery tail's reach. She was quite sure that trotting would hurt too much right now.

 

"I'll be right behind you! Light the way."

 

Aa she approached, she decided to start some conversation. "Sooo... are you from around here?"

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@@Raven Rawne

 

"I'll be right behind you! Light the way." She told this black stallion.

 

He turned and started to walk down the tunnel he had picked out for them to traverse. As he finally left the magical place of the room, the dancing lights finally faded and the random show turned into just a flame's light on the side of the tunnel.

 

"Sooo... are you from around here?" She asked of him as they started off.

 

"I am not from anywhere close to around here." Nightmare Season responded to her question. "I am from a land very far away from this one. Left home due to my family."

 

While they exchanged words he was the guiding light within the narrow darkness they found themselves in. They twisted and weaved through the corridors. At junctions he would remain a few seconds till he pointed out the way that they would head. At first he forgot his company and took his regular steps, then realizes that this mare had far shorter legs than he. So he eventually learned a steady pace where Crystal Clear was able to keep up with him.

 

"I have traveled very far up to this point. Left my family cause I did not agree with how they lived their lives. Now I am just a wondering pony that tries to help other ponies where he can, or get chased out of towns for what I am."

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@@Nightmare Season,

 

Crystal listened to the stallion's reply as they left the cavern and entered a tunnel, hopefully leading outside. He walked fast, and it was hard to keep up at first, so she raised her aching leg and walked faster on just three, trying to keep balance on the tricky stone floor. Fortunately, Nightmare slowed to an acceptable pace soon enough before she had to voice her complaints.

 

Once it seemed the stallion finished his reply, the crystal pony inquired some more. "U-huh, I guess the guards would have a heart attack if they saw you casually trotting through the city..." She wouldn't dare ask about his family or his kind. At least not until he led her outside. She saw a familliar yellow glow in the wall but refused the temptation to dig out the mineral. She did stop however, and had to hop on three to catch up. "But you have a place to stay, right? A wagon maybe?" It was rather awkward to talk to a flaming tail, but some passages were too narrow for them to walk side by side.

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@@Raven Rawne

 

"Not just the guards, most other ponies and creatures would. Those that actually had encounters with my kind would consider us evil. This is why I told you when we first saw each other. That your fears in my kind were not misplaced." He heard her trotting on just three legs and he ended is pace and turned his head to look back. He noticed the yellow glow coming from the wall at the point he started hearing her move faster to pick up.

 

"If you wish to grab that you may. The airflow in the cave is slowing down. That means that evening is approaching and we will need to halt our advancement. We will rest till close to the middle of the night again to continue." He turned his head back down the tunnel in the direction they were headed. "Other wise we would wind up going deeper into the system instead of getting closer to the exit."

 

"Also I do not have a wagon or anything such. I tend to just make my own little shelter out of material I find."

Edited by Nightmare Season
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@@Nightmare Season,

 

 

Crystal was rather confused. So Nightmare was good, but his kind, whatever it was, was evil? The story with Thorax the Changeling putting the entire city on high alert just a few weeks back made that sound feasible... But that was hardly the time for bombarding her only lifeline with questions.

 

The mare thought for a moment, deciding whether to take what she found or not. She nodded and turned back. "Okay, it'll be just a moment." She fished a small pickaxe that was strapped to her saddlebag with her mouth as she walked. She also noticed that, once she turned away from the stallion, her crystal lantern began shining just a tiny bit. She smiled at the familliar white light.

 

A couple steps later, Crystal Clear found a yellow protrusion in the rock. With a practiced swing of the pickaxe, she lodged it free out of the rock and grabbed in her good hoof. Just as expected, it was a piryte crystal. Small and coarse, but still. She could see the polished cube with her mind's eye. It took some trial and error to hook the pickaxe again, and she walked back to Nightmare, showing him her prize.

 

"It's pyrite, my favourite mineral. It can be used as a cheap replacement for gold, but I collect it in cubes. Well, sometimes I use it for work, like when I ingrain my cutie mark in the work as proof I made it." She blew the dust off her new findd and slid it into her saddlebag, then tried to sense the airflow, like Nightmare apparently could, but to no avail. "So it's evening already? Shame, I had some more plans for today..." All in all, it very well could be, if her stomach was any indication...

 

"Alright, so... light the way to some place we could rest for a bit? I've got a blanket and some sandwitches in my saddlebags, so it shouldn't be so bad, I guess."

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@@Raven Rawne

 

He stayed and watched her. He was a bit relived when she came back and started rambling on about her find. She seemed less scared of him now. This would make things a bit easier to talk to her now. 

 

"It is good that you managed to find one good thing to take from here. It would weigh heavier on you if all you took from here was a bad experience." He continued along the path. We will travel till we find another junction. At that point we can call it a day and rest up some. Maybe get some sleep in as well."

 

He led the way down the narrow passage. The light emanating from his mane and tail never letting up or dimming. At one point he stopped and listened into the darkness, but then quickly continued on. "So what is this Crystal Empire you are from?" He ask Crystal to help drown out the silent atmosphere. "So you came down here to get materials for your work? What is it that you do?"

 

As he finished the last question they entered out of the narrow straight and found them selves in a larger section that split off into three passages.

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@@Nightmare Season,

 

Crystal looked at Nightmare as if his mane just frozen over, but the stallion already turned around to continue the walk before she had an opportunity to respond, so she just shut up and followed. One good thing? Bad experience? What was he all about now? She made a mistake, and it very well could cost her life, sure, but she got lucky and found him, so it wasn't that bad... And no force known to ponykind would keep her away from this cave for long. She learned a lesson, but it wouldn't lead her away from her goals. This cave could be the deepest she found so far...

 

The silence as they walked seemed awkward, but maybe her companion prefered it that way. After some time, he started the conversation on his own accord, which was good in Crystal's books.

 

She shook her head, even though he wasn't looking at her at the time. "So you don't know anything about the Frozen North, the Crystal Empire or the Crystal Ponies? Well, to be honest, most of Equestria didn't until fairly recently. See, we kiiiiinda dissapeared from the map for a thousand years... The city, it's inhabitants, everything. A curse of our late king...." She said the last sentence with disgust. "I'm a Crystal Mender - a tradespony who makes things from crystals, like the pick I have here. We make nearly anything from crystal, you see. It's easier to work with than stone, and wood here is scarce and unsuitable for building, so we learned to work crystal. You have to see the Empire, the entire city, everything made of crystal. The way it shines in the sunlight..." Crystal shook her head again, this time to get rid of the vista in her mind, lest she started daydreaming of the beauty of her hometown. She took a deep breath and continued. "As for the caves, well, there are several reasons. One, I can get some materials for free rather than buy everything. Two, I like adventures from time to time. Well, this one didn't go as planned but usually I get back home on my own. Three... " Of Heart, she never tells about number three! "Actually, here are only two reasons." She nodded to herself in a bit too exaggerated fashion and almost walked straight into Nightmare's burning tail, stopping mere inches from the flames with a startled "Eeek!"

 

"S-sorry, I almost walked right into you. Something's wrong?" It was hard to see through all the flames at her eye level...

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@@Raven Rawne

 

 He lowered his tail as to get it out of her face. He then side stepped so she could see the three passages. "It is to late in the day for me to accurately determine which way the air is flowing out of the cave. So this will have to be the place that we settle down and rest till the air flows back into the cave."

 

He went over to the side of the cavern where he found a semi-smooth area upon the ground. He kicked some of the rocks and dirt aside with his hooves and laid down. Using his horn he opened his saddle bag and pulled a deck out from it and laid it in front of him. He then pulled out a strange looking root from his beat-up saddle bags and began to chew on it. Very subtle changes of color took place on the surface of the root. Waves of minuet colors waved across it. His expression gave away that the item in his mouth was not very good. When he finished the tiny root he used the magic in his horn to shuffle the deck before him.

 

"I do not wish to pry to much and make you uncomfortable. However, if you are up for talking can you tell me more about your experiences? I typically listen to other ponies and try and help them with their worries and problems." He stacked the deck neatly before him. "Or you are free to inquire about me if that will help ease your mind some."

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@@Nightmare Season

 

Crystal Clear looked at the path ahead as Nightmare Season moved away from her view. He was right, picking a path at random could do more harm than good,  considering their situation. "Sounds like a plan, and I could use some rest, truth be told." - she nodded in agreement.

 

Seeing that the stallion was settling in for rest, Crystal looked for a spot for herself. The conditions were far from ideal, but she found a place for herself just a step away from Nightmare, where she took off her saddlebags and released the small blanket from straps that held it in place, then unrolled it on the hard cavern floor. Satisfied with her new personal space,  she lied down, slowly,  trying to minimise the pain from her bruises as she moved about.

 

She took a glance at her strange companion. It seemed Nightmare had something to eat, even if he didn't seem too happy about the taste, apparently... The deck of cards in front of him was also interesting, but Crystal was never very nosey, so she minded her own business.

 

The mare dragged her saddlebags closer onto the blanket, seemingly unfazed by the fact that it made it even more dirty. She was about to reach inside when the stallion spoke, and she turned her attention towards him. 

 

Crystal thought for a moment of the stallion's words, rubbing her chin with her good hoof, then replied: "Hmm... I sure don't mind a chat but... I just don't know where to start really... I have a good life, my parents are okay, I have a brother but he's a lost cause, that one.  He'll never learn what honest work is, always looking for shortcuts and easy money..." She cought a thread of something that worried her sometimes, and decided to change the topic in that direction "Although, come to think of it, I guess there is something that would fit your bill." She sighed a bit and took a more comfortable position. "See, sometimes I like to sit at the window at night, look at the empry street, the city lights and the stars, and I wonder about the future. We, the Crystal Ponies, were torn out of the world, and reappeared a thousand years later - a whole millennium! We haven't aged a day, yet the world outside... changed. I grew up in the pinnacle of civilisation, and now I live in a wacky theme park,  a tourist attraction of Equestria. They come here with their strange technologies, ideas, and, yes, cheap goods to rival my own. I don't know if my world will survive it, you know... When I curl up in that window, I fear that some day I will see Equestrian buildings, their gadgets and way of life instead of our own... That one day, there will be no Crystal Empire as I know it."

 

She rubbed a hoof into her eye, and discovered with some surprise that her fur was moist. Did it really bother her so much that she shed a tear? Or maybe there was something about this pony that made her feel that way? She had no answer for that.

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@@Raven Rawne
 

"Sounds like you love your way of life and that you fear that it will be changed. Now as far as what lies in store for your future I can aid with that." With this he lite up his horn and the cards in the deck begins to shoot out of it and float gently to the floor before him. As they each landed on the floor in different locations Nightmare Season looked at each one.

 

"Hmm... The Hermit is with the Empress. The Lovers connects them in a union. The Tower seems to be below the two representing a time of trouble being overturned." His gaze trails from card to card as he interprets them. "The Fool, Death and the Temperance is together in the future." He notices the last card. "The Star is the final outcome of things to come." With this final word he sends the cards back to the deck. He then turns to look at Crystal Clear on her bedding.

 

"This meeting of us in this cave seemed to be just the start. There seems to be a problem you must look into once you get back to your place. Something that you like has turned up missing or is gone. What I can not say." He turned back to look at her crystal eyes. "Should you require aid. I will be willing to offer my aid to you once more." He then looked down the passages. "It will get cold soon."

 

After his remark his mane and tail flared up a slight bit more. A nice warmth permeating outwards to cover the small room they found themselves in. "I am sure you might be wondering what I am if you have not seen my kind before?" His gaze floats back to meet Crystal Clear's.

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@@Nightmare Season,

 

 Crystal Clear observed the floating cards. They seemed a bit like the glow-bugs she saw on one of her travels down South... As the cards slowly landed on the ground, Nightmare began what must've been some kind of fortune telling. But instead of the usual banter of riches and great love, he claimed to have seen... No, it couldn't be! Crystal glanced at the stallion, then his deck of cards,and at him back again. Her ears laid flat against her head, her eyes wide with surprise and shock. How could he be so... accurate? Should she tell him? She haven't told her own parents...

 

Her mental back-and-forth continued for some time. She started to speak, then decided against it. Finally, she settled for a compromise. "I'm sorry... I just... don't feel ready to talk about it. Not yet, not here...." She sighed deeply as memories flew into her consciousness. "You're right, there is... something..." She laid her head on her crossed cannons, resigned. "The third reason."

 

She needed to change the topic, fast. She didn't want to talk about it. Not now, and quite frankly, not ever.

 

She looked up at the strange stallion, who's fiery mane and tail started to produce heat. Crystal was pretty sure that now it burned like real fire. Fortunately, she was out of range of the inferno. She needed some answers, and decided to ask for them.

 

"You said I may aks you some questions. Who are you? You say about your... kind, but what kind is it? I don't recall ever hearing or reading of anypony like you. Not recently, and not a thousand years ago. I kind of skipped the in-between." She smiled weakly at the witty remark. She told him the Empire disappeared for a thousand years, after all.

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@@Raven Rawne
 

"Everything has it's right time to come to the surface and into the light. I will not push further until you are comfortable with it." He sighed and began to explain of his past.

 

"I am what is known as a nightmare pony. Nightmare Season is what my family had come to call me. We are a very rare mythical pony. We are considered evil due to our prey and what we typically feed on. As a nightmare we find it a delicacy in eating the dreams of others. This causes their dreams to warp and turn into a nightmares. So we are viewed as a pony that brings about bad dreams. As you can imagine, most don't like nightmares and view it as something bad. So we that causes them are despised. Now to some extent my kind is evil. When no pony will treat you otherwise you tend to become the same thing they accuse you of. They do not wish to give you a chance to prove otherwise so why try? My family was no exception. They enjoyed tricking there next targets to feed on in their sleep. They even had competitions on who could bring about the worst dream possible." He looked saddened by this and looked off into the darkness that his light failed to reach.

 

"I felt bad and guilty for what we do. So I stopped feeding on dreams." He opened up his saddle bags and pulled out another of those colored roots that moved in waves. "I discovered this type of root a good time afterwards. I was craving to eat a dream and was close to loosing my resolve. I came across this tree that seemed to gather dreams and store them in it's roots. I have found several of these trees on the road coming to this land. So I found if I eat the roots I get my fill of dreams. Though I require regular food on occasions now." He let out a slight laugh. "Though they taste terrible." With that he went back to his normal self. "I find that any other pony that consumes this root actually enhances their own dream the next time they slumber." He stores it back inside his waged bag. "I came to call it a dream root." He returned his gaze back to Crystal.

 

"After discovering this root and it could supplement our diet, I tried to share it with the rest of my family. Disappointingly they found it far too amusing pursuing a pony to feed off of. So I decided to leave my homeland. Along the way I learned many things and questioned a lot. Up to that point all bad dreams were caused of our feeding. However, I found in lands that had not seen my kind still had bad dreams. I was curious why, for up to that point all bad dreams were placed blame on us. I entered some of these ponies nightmares to see if I could find out why. I also observed them in their waking hours as well to figure out why. I discovered that these bad dreams were set upon by things they feared or was scared of. I played it casually at first and helped them in their sleep to face their fears. It turned out it was a great tool to allow a pony to face their fears in a safe environment. For some it helped them get over their fears. Others refused to face it down. Eventually I was discovered and they believed me to be doing it and chased me away." He sighed and lowered his head. "I found a great satisfaction in helping ponies that were in trouble and distraught. But sadly, just the sight of me with a fiery mane typically scares others, or they have already heard of my kind and was blinded at seeing what I was and did not give me a chance to see me for who I am." Nightmare Season returned his eyes looking into the darkness. "Currently I reside in a forest to the South of here. There are strange wolves made out of wood. At first they tried to attack me." He gave a slight smile. "They learned fast not to mess with my flames. Few days ago when I was napping I overheard two mares talking about this cave and those crystals that glowed. So I came to investigate them. They were enchanting."

 

He finished his story of his and looked back at Crystal. "So after hearing of what I am. How will you judge me in your eyes?"

Edited by Nightmare Season
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@@Nightmare Season

 

"Thanks for understanding. I fear it's too soon for me to open up..." - The mare nodded in approval of the stallion's words, but her own voice sounded rather absent.

 

Crystal Clear listened to Nightmare's story without interrupting. For once, she hated when ponies did that to her,  and she also didn't want to break his train of thought. The reveal made her feel uncomfortable, but the longer she listened, the less worried she was of her accidental saviour. Once it was apparent that he finished, only then did she speak.

 

"Surprisingly enough, I feel more at ease then I was previously." She then shifted on her blanket to catch the heat into her bruised side, and straighten her rear legs to the side. She seemed to be relaxing in the warmth provided by the strange fires of the nightmare pony. "I mean,  you did bring out some nightmare material into my mind, and it could look like you were setting ground for a meal, but it seems you're in luck - a few weeks ago the Empire was terrorised by a changeling. It's an insect like creature that vaguely resembles a pony. They can shapeshift into anypony they lay eyes on and feed off love. As you probably guessed, they tend to replace a well loved pony to steal the love that's directed at them. Long story short, it was a stray who just wanted to get along.  So, yes, your family may be, well, evil, but I'll give you a chance to make your own impression. So far,  I'm more scared of the dark than you, if that's any consolation." - she smiled reassuringly and swept the messy mane away from her eyes. "If mom could see me like this, I wouldn't hear the end of it..."

 

She recalled that she had food in her saddlebag. "I'll get a bite to eat, you want some? It may not be a dream filled root, but it should taste better." Crystal pulled the saddlebag closer and procured a flask, and something wrapped in coarse fabric. She raised her eyebrow as she looked at Nightmare. "So how it's gonna be? Want some?"

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Upon hearing the mention of food and seeing Crystal pull out her goodies, his stomach made sure they both knew he wanted some of it. He look a slight bit embarrassed and just nodded his head and accepted her offer.

 

"You seem to be wise in your words. Not many thinks before they judge." He looked saddening into the darkness. "I know the darkness well, for I lived in such a long time."

 

He waited to see which piece would be offered to him then used his magic to bring it over to him so that Crystal did not have to move her injury. "So what is on the menu today?" As he looked at it.

 

"These changelings sounds a bit interesting." He replied to her after a while. "Nightmares can change shape to some degree, but only with help from a dreaming pony. We eat the image and can assume that form for a short time."

 

"After we finish eating we should try and get some rest."

Edited by Nightmare Season
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The loud grumble from Nightmare's stomach made the mare snicker. A mythical dream pony eh? Seems food brings everypony to the same level.

 

Crystal Clear shook her head as she unwrapped the meal. "I guess you overestimate me. We just had a case like yours fairly recently,  that's all. Otherwise, I don't know what would I think of your story."

 

The fabric unveiled six sandwiches.  Not much, but better than nothing, right? Crystal split them evenly and let the nightmare pony take his share with his magic. Upon his inquiry,  she said: "nothing fancy I'm afraid. I hate cooking and it shows... I made these sandwiches with lettuce, tomato and some dandelion. 

" Once she revealed the menu, Crystal took one of hers and began eating.

 

They ate in silence st first, both apparently busy with their own thoughts. By the second sandwich Nightmare spoke up. Crystal had to admit, it did sound curious. She had an idea but quickly dismissed it.

 

"That sounds... interesting, you know?" She reached for the third one but didn't bite it yet. "I was wondering... do you feed only on bad dreams? What's it like for the dreaming pony? Is it safe for them?"

 

Crystal had an idea, but she had to know if it wasn't playing with fire.

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He finished up his sandwich before he replied to her new wave of questions.

 

"We prefer to feed on sweet dreams. Dreams to us are kind of like the taste of food. The better the dream the tastier it is. When we eat a good dream it causes it to be damaged and turns into a nightmare. Bad dreams we eat only when there is nothing else. But it still causes them to turn worse." He lowers his head to rest it on his hooves.

 

"As far as is it safe or not. We basically force the sleeping pony to live in a nightmare in their mind. So other than the dangers of that we don't really cause damage. Only time we cause injury is in the waking world with our fire."

 

His eyes fixates out into the darkness once more. "When we -transform-, they are more or less daydreaming. If we catch them in a dream and they are awake, we can eat a specific portion of it and make an illusion of it. So say you dream of your very special some-pony. I can eat that and appear as that pony for a short time. Usually at max an hour. The stronger the image the pony had the longer we can keep the delusion going. So while your changelings sound like they can change into anything at will. We can't, only when we eat an image can we. But it is really not transforming rather we just have an illusion around us."

 

He slowly closes his eyes."I am satisfied with my meal of the dream root, so you will have no worries of me trying to eat yours as we sleep." As he slips off to sleep, the light that pulsates out from his mane dims. The light never ceases but remains at a dimly lite flame. His mane and tail remains the same size and the heat coming off of them remains. Just the strength of the light, so that the cave did not become swallowed up in the darkness.

 

"I will wake you up when I can feel the air flow return." With this, he slips off into his own dream world.

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@@Nightmare Season,

 

Crystal Clear listened intently to Nightmare's little lecture. she got the impression that he doen't really like being pestered with questions, but so far, he answered her inquiries. She observed the large pony as he laid for sleep, nodding that she understood that he will wake her up once they'll be able to proceed.

 

Once Nightmare dozed off, Crystal qiuetly took a swing from her flask, then packed everything back into the saddlebag. She gazed for some time at his sleeping form, trying to make sense of their encounter, and make some rudimentary plans for the immediate future. Finally, exhaustion reminded of itself and with a big yawn she rest her head on her saddlebag, trying to make a makeshift pillow out of it. It was far from ideal, but it had to make do. She closed her eyes, but instead of the usual darkness, her mind projected an image. A face, all too familliar...

 

 

The crystal pony woke from her slumber. She didn't rmember where she was, or when for that matter. She kept her eyes closed as her mind recalled the last images of her dream, now escaping like water from a broken cup.

 

She felt a nudge into her side.

 

"Just five minutes, Evie..." - she said lazily, correcting her position.

 

Another nudge, this time more insistent.

 

The mare opened one eye, and saw black hooves and a flaming tail. Suddenly realising where and with whom she was, she shot up from her blanket straight up on all fours, ready to go. "I'm awake! I'm ready!"

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"The air is flowing back into the cave. Must be close to midnight." He said giving her a moment to get her things together. As he waited he stood by the left passage of the three.

 

"The air flow is coming from this direction." As he finished his last yawn to fully wake up. When she was behind him ready to go he moved into the narrowing tunnel. "Dose your leg feel better?" He asked her.

 

As they moved along the tunnel, it eventually received a slight up-hill slope. They twisted and weaved through the passage. In and out of the narrow and the wide areas. Once when they were in a large cavern and Crystal was beside him looking at something. Nightmare dashed right in front of her and she bumped into his side. The sound of a rock was heard as it tumbled down a raven he stopped her walking into. After navigating around the large crack in the ground he found the right tunnel once more and continued on.

 

After about an hour the air finally became fresh and the breeze was felt blowing in somewhere. "The exit seems to be right up ahead." He said bringing it to her attention.

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@@Nightmare Season

 

Crystal nodded. "Just give me a moment to pack my things and we can move on." She rolled up the blanket, now quite dirty, and strapped it to the saddlebags.  Then she put them on, adjusted the strap at her belly and pronounced herself ready.  Hee bruised side hurt, but somewhat less than previously, and mostly when she moved about.

 

She walked to the stallion, noticing he picked the left passage. He said that the air flow returned and it must be close to midnight... Truth be told, the crystal pony felt just a tiniest hint of breeze, but she had no idea it could be used in navigation. Seems like a trip to the library was in order. She simply replied "Alright, I'll be right behind you" with a small smile, and was ready to go. The next question, about her injury, was unexpected but still appreciated. She looked at her side as the light of Nightmare's fire danced on her, mixed with her own glow crystal lantern that seemed charged up some more. "It's a bit better, I guess. Doesn't hurt that much when I don't move. I guess it's going to take a few days to heal, but I should be fine. Thanks for asking. " She smiled warmly as she replied.

 

They walked and walked, Crystal wasn't sure for hoe long. She noticed that the floor was starting to slope slightly upwards though, so that was a good thing. Maybe they will come out before the end of the century.

 

Once, when Nightmare paused in a larger cavern to get oriented, Crystal walked beside him to look around.  She saw something shimmering in the distance. Something was reflecting Nightmare's light up there. A glow crystal, maybe? Those were expensive, if she could take it back home... A black wall of fur blocked her path as she was about to take the first step.  For some reason Nightmare body blocked the way forward and she bumped into him, confused. A sound of a shifting rock alerted her and she ducked her head under him to see why he stopped her in such a definite matter. As she craned her neck, she noticed that there was a huge hole right where she was about to walk to. Suddenly realising what happened,  her ears flat and her eyes wide,  the mare took a step back and looked at her saviour: "T-thank you. I would've walked right into that, I guess." The stallion continued the march, apparently he located the right direction to proceed.

 

Another small eternity later, or at least what it felt like to the crystal pony, Nightmare spoke that the entrance must be near. Her ears perked up at the news and she picked up her pace,  filled with hope that she will see the sky again soon.

 

And so she did - sometime later the nightmare pony stepped into the dim light of the crescent moon, and Crystal resisted the urge to kiss the grass beneath her hooves. The mare looked around, trying to orient herself and determine where the hay she was.

 

She said to herself as she made her observations: "Grass, not snow... So we're still within the Heart's reach, good... The moon is that way so home is somewhere over... there..." She was rubbing her chin with her good hoof as she spoke, apparently deep on thought. She gestured at the cave entrance when she determined the rough vector to her cozy bed. Still pointing, she coked her head a bit and made a somewhat funny face when she saw where she was pointing. "Okay, not IN there, definitely not. But surely in that direction..."

 

Crystal Clear looked at the nightmare pony who seemed busy with his own thoughts, and approached him. "I'd like to thank you. For everything you've done for me today.  I don't know how I could express my gratitude in a more... tangible way, since I have nothing valuable with me, but you can stay at my place if you'd like. I live on the outskirts so if we get to town early enough, nopony will notice. You could clean up after this cave adventure, get something warm to eat..." Crystal paused for a moment, unsure if she should offer, but decided to give it a shot. "...And chomp a dream or two, my treat."

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