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The full moon was looming high above the fir trees shrouded in black shadows and silver light of a young spring night. The well-traveled road across the sparse woodland between Tall Tale and Vanhoover was wide and easy on the hoof. In the distance, one was just about able to discern blinking city lights among the bristly branches.

@abrony-mouse
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Clairvoyance trotted towards the city, young pony eyes large at the promise of the twinkling lights before her. Inwardly, she felt excited as a foal at the idea of approaching Van Hoover. Outwardly, her expression is stern and her eyes scan the road coldly, her ears flicking round to hear the tell-tale sounds of ambush.

An unwanted thought crosses her mind: how Firey Soul, her half-sister, would have loved her destination! They had talked endlessly about it as fillies. But, she thought bitterly, her 'sister' had turned away from her and had jeopardised both their lives because she couldn't understand that adventure was not a fantasy! For her to be so foalish when their father had barely been buried! She was better off without.

She sighed deeply. She hoped that no more adventure would be necessary in Van Hoover. She hoped that the need for killing adventure wouldn't be so strong. Her cutie mark had ached with the need to take the lives of the small awful goblin things and then it ached with more needs. Driving her to do foolish things. Things which had lost her her Sister... who was so good at the art herself! Firey had blood on her hooves too, but she had pushed her too far. In Van Hoover there would be no more mistakes. 

She trots on towards the city. Hopes and fears howling in her troubled mind, the moon-lit shadow stretching behind.

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@abrony-mouse

Suddenly, the unicorn's hooves gave out a familiar crunching sound as she found herself on a thin patch of snow that has covered the road. Snow in these parts was nothing unusual, given that it was seen before the Winter Wrap Up. Somepony must have been sleeping on the job. Other signs of neglect were visible further down the road where thick fir roots and naked shrubbery have encroached on its beaten soil. The woodland gave way to tall trees that have hidden the moonlit sky behind a dome of darkness. Broad trunks and slippery roots beneath brown leaves and snow danced in the light of her horn. She had traveled this road here and there, but she did not recognize this place. Strong smells of fresh winter air and damp leaves filled her nostrils while her ears became aware of the sounds in the woods. Small things of the forest were singing their songs far in the distance, but the trees around her were silent. Yet there was no time to ponder on such details. A few short prances down the wild path she encountered a tangled growth of root and twig blocking any further travel without arduous circumvention. Its form slightly resembled a living creature.

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Clairvoyance frowned at the signs of neglect. Ponies in Chandelier Keep kept a tight ship. As should all ponies in her view. 

She frowns even more at the blockage. She didn't want to linger near the road near, especially in this eerie unfamiliar place. She unsheathes her sword and takes a few experimental swipes at the vegetation of the blockage like a machete, to see if she can clamber through it.

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@abrony-mouse

As the last swipe landed upon the growth, its surface opened and engulfed the blade. Roots spiraled around its sharp length until they reached the hilt illuminated in dim glow of unicorn's magic. The mare started experiencing creeping fatigue. It was like heavy stones lodged deep within her stomach were being pulled out of her body through the tip of her horn by an invisible string. Every moment she struggled to free the captured weapon demanded more and more magic fuel.  Then, the growth stirred, crackling roots sliding back and forth like fibers of some ligneous muscle. One by one, it slowly uprooted its twisted limbs from the soil and started lumbering towards the mare, its every move announced by creaking of wooden flesh. The thing was a faceless tumor made out of vegetation animated by an unknown power.

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Retreat

Like a real horsey, Clarivoyance Proudhorn gives a whinny of surprise and tries to dash away from the shambling monstrosity, releasing the weapon. 

Unlike a normal horsey, her levitation reaches for an unused vial of goblin napalm she ransacked from their paltry raider camps ;3 she will only use it on the creature if it pursues her, on the basis a) that it is more valuable to her than the sword; b) she doesn't know if it will even be enough to take down the shambling monstrosity D: 

 

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@abrony-mouse

The mare tucked her tail and ran, yet the game trail refused to lead her back onto the road. All signs of civilization have been consumed by the woods. Running on a never-ending path into the unknown, surrounded by darkness and glistening bark of old trees, she could hear multiple sounds of heavy feet crushing the forest floor coming from the sides and rear. They were steady, but also slow. Too slow to mach a galloping rhythm of swift equine feet. Still, no matter how far she ran, the forest would not release her. Her stamina was considerable, but sooner or later it was going to run out.

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-Sense

Clairvoyance growls with frustration. She gives up on the escape attempt. Instead she tries to gallop ahead a little and then turn and look back at the approaching monster, specifically for any vulnerabilities, such as a head or tentacly sensory array or such, hoping to make her napalm count >:3

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@abrony-mouse

After a while, the pursuing thing shambled into the light of her horn, and without skipping a beat it proceeded to move towards the pony. Along with its arrival, the sounds in the forest were also getting close. They were no longer edible just on the sides but further down the path as well, and even though the echoes among the trees were playing games with her ears, there were at least three more foes converging on her position. She was being encircled.

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-Attack

Clairvoyance takes a deep breath to steady her nerves and throws her bottled napalm at the closest pursuer - the one that ate her sword - hoping to take it out and run by its burning corpse to avoid the tentacular ambush. She tries to guide it so that the vial breaks on the 'head' of the thing in order to drench it in oily flame. 

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@abrony-mouse

The vial shattered and engulfed the thing's featureless frame in liquid fire. The heat charred its tangled roots, releasing water inside as wisps of steam. It expressed neither pain nor fear. Its only reaction to the attack was to halt its advance and enter a state of apparent motionlessness. The napalm managed to blacken the back and front of its body; however, the water stored within the creature was beginning to quench the flames.

 

At that same time, three other things bearing similar features emerged from among the sylvan shadows. Counting the burnt one, two of them have managed to occupy both sides of the path while the flanking pair was unable to cover the entirety of the dark forest.

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-Flee

 

Clairvoyance looks right to left at the bushy ambushers and tries to flee past the one she has burned. If it makes no movement she will also attempt to pluck her swallowed sword out of it as she passes. Even with her adrenaline pumping she realises this will take her deeper into the forest, but she's taking things one hoof-step at a time. She'd survived goblin arrows, assassins in her home and the two most treacherous companions a pony could hope to meet - she wasn't going to be tentacled to death in this forest! 

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As the mare approached the burned thing, she was greeted by an explosion of charred wood. The chunks and splinters had the power to blind, scratch, and bruise, but they lacked the power to penetrate deeper into pony flesh. What emerged from the thing's fractured body was a tangle of pale green wines. Propelled by the force released with the explosion, they sprang towards the mare. A bunch of them were tangled around her lost sword that was now rushing to meet her throat with considerable velocity ...

YOU FAINTED

@abrony-mouse

Clairvoyance slowly awakened on a bed of dead fir leaves, her body cold, her muscles stiff and aching. Warm sunrays were playing among the young fir trees scattered around the road to Vanhoover. Her magic has been drained, and her sword was nowhere to be seen. What remained were scattered memories.

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Clairvoyance awoke from a pleasant dream of Chandelier Keep. She had been chasing Firey Soul round the grounds, her half-sis giggling as Clairvoyance closed in, she woke just as she put a hoof out and grabbed Firey. Firey's shriek-giggle is still in her mind as she opens her eyes.

The smile on her ivory pony face is quickly lost as she begins to process where she is and what has happened. The first thought is that Firey is gone. Next to that, the coldness in her body is nothing. She grits her teeth and pulls herself upright, by sheer will, her body screaming at her. The next thought is that she should be dead - her hoof goes to her throat and she mentally checks her body for broken bones, ribs, internal bleeding... it is with considerably surprise that she finds only aches and not the stabbing pain from the bone breaks, sheared muscle, sliced ligaments and even pierced organs that she had suffered in the past. She grinds her teeth to check they are all there, and touches her face with her hooves in the vain hope that her face has been left alone. She was proud of keeping scars from her face... she still held her fillyish instinct that she would be queen and her equally unformed and fillyish belief that queens shouldn't have scars. She looked sadly for her sword, but knew in her heart she wouldn't find it and she'd have to get another one. Finally she went to check her saddlebags. Sincerely hoping she hadn't lost any more items.

After the initial check is done, she will look for some grass (hey she's a pony afterall) more to chew over what had happened than for hunger... (you needed to spend all day eating like a cow to get full off grass - she had some proper supplies in her saddlebags :P ). It wasn't a nice feeling, waking up after you should have died. It had happened a few times in the past - when a lucky monster had caught her and knocked her out cold, only to be brought back by Firey or one of her companions - but the trauma still ate at her. She thought about what had happened - her mistake in using fire and approaching those things. She would ask about them as soon as she got to Van Hoover, if she arrived there, and maybe sell some information on them. Of course she would amend the story a little - a lone unicorn escaping from 5 tentacle tree monsters. As she is munching she looks around for bits of exploded tree-monster as information and evidence of her 'successful' fight to show other adventurers in Van Hoover. 

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@abrony-mouse

The mare checked her saddlebags. Their contents were jumbled, but apart from the sword and the napalm vial, none of her belongings seemed to be missing.

 

While chewing on hay she had stored for the road, Clairvoyance started inspecting her surroundings. The sparse woodland was littered by lean firs whose narrow canopies left wide windows for the bright blue skies above. While there was no grass to be found, large patches of soft green moss were growing along the brown covering of needle-shaped leaves. There were no signs of the dark woods or her strange assailants.

 

Suddenly, she caught a familiar whining sound of wooden wheels, and spotted a large cart that was leisurely rolling along the road dragged by a pegasi couple comprised of a hazel stallion and a chestnut mare.

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Clairvoyance feels a bit better after the hay and on finding that she has all her stuff. She is fairly at home with the woodland scenery, and is about to test the moss for any edible or healing properties it might have, when she hears the ponies behind her. 

In no position to fight them, she turns to look and will leap off the road and hide in the fir trees if she thinks they haven't seen her. If she thinks they have seen her, then she will stay where she is and try to make herself look as fearsome as possible while holding her head back and hailing them.

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@abrony-mouse

The two ponies were paying no attention to the sides of the road. The stallion was busy chewing a sorrel stem while his mare companion was humming a traveler's song. The cart was loaded with wooden boxes bearing coat of arms belonging to Long Tale. Soon, the transport passed Clairvoyance and was moving without pause towards Vanhoover.

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(edited)

@abrony-mouse

The cart stopped to the sounds of her hails. After meeting the pair, Clairvoyance managed to learn a little about the ponies who were not at all surprised to meet another traveler. The stallion Hazelnut and his wife Marron were running a small local transport service based in Tall Tale. Currently, they were delivering carpentry supplies to Vanhoover.

Edited by Goat-kun
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Clairvoyance is relieved that they seem friendly and are heading in the same direction. She asks if she can travel with them and if they are happy with that will trot with them, but will keep a keen eye out on the road - eyes scanning the forest especially closely. She won't share too much of herself with these two, and won't say she is from Chandelier Keep or give her name - she will say she is called Ivory and is travelling to Van Hoover to buy supplies for her father. She will ask if they have seen anything unusual in the area - in particular, she will ask if they have seen anything like the tree monsters that attacked her.

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@abrony-mouse

The two pegasi were happy to keep her company. They were also quite chatty, even when it came to less casual topics.

 

"Tree monsters?" Hazelnut laughed with a slightly confused expression: "There hasn't been a timber wolf in these parts since the old days." Clairvoyance learned that these trees were being grown for lumber and Hearth's Warming. Every winter, a batch was cut down and delivered to households all over Equestria, even Canterlot. Every tree around here was under the watchful eyes of local forester ponies.

 

"Well, traveling at night can be pretty stressful for some ponies," Marron mentioned with a gentle smile.

 

Hazelnut nodded: "We're used to traveling this road after dark, and there's two of us," then he added: "We've seen nothing out of the ordinary last night when we were delivering a shipment of pottery to Tall Tale, or any night before that."

 

As they were walking towards the city, the woodland surrounding the three ponies remained silent, and there were nothing but tree trunks and moss as far as pony eyes could see.

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@Goat-kun

Clairvoyance furrowed her ivory brow, only to wince at the pain from her drained horn. How could such beings have emerged from a normal managed forest which is in pony heartlands which ponies trot past each night - including this very pair? For that matter there were many strange things about last night - she remembers being unable to find the road when running from them! More was going on here than a standard monster attack. These ponies hadn't noticed anything unusual because nothing unusual was happening to other ponies... those beings were not lingering in this area molesting general ponies like timber wolves would - they had targeted her.

She must find out about this. There would be wizards and libraries in Van Hoover... Possibly this was something to do with the unknown persecutor who had killed her foster father Orion?  

She seethes inwardly at the suggestion she was stressed, a hateful spike of prideful anger rears up in her which she can barely suppress. She tries to remember Orion's lessons and Firey's admonition. She takes a deep breath to quell the feeling and just smiles, "Quite possibly that was all it was." She replies phatically.

She will trot stoically with her companions towards Van Hoover, but here eyes still dart fearfully towards the forest. 

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@abrony-mouse

You arrived at Vanhoover by passing one of the three bridges on the Firsaw River. It was a fairly large city situated between the aforementioned waters to the south and Brigantine Inlet to the north. Its two most important features were the port and its train station that connected the city to the railway leading down from the Crystal Empire all the way to Canterlot. Other locations of interest were the town hall, the city watch station, and the forester guild. The closest thing to an adventurer's guild would be the dreary-looking Salty Starfish Inn down at the docks which was always inhabited by all sorts of unscrupulous fellows. With those bits of information, the two pegasi bid Clairvoyance farewell and drove away towards the carpenter district located further towards the city center.

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@Goat-kun

Clairvoyance bid her winged companions adieu and travelled to the Inn :P Had she not been exhausted she would have marvelled at the buildings and bridges clustered about the broad pony rivers, sluggishly glooping through the city and out to the Tall Tale coast. Her head is held high and proud, as if she is fine - not wanting to show any weakness in case one of the many ponies trotting past her realised her weak magic-drained state and inner turmoil.

When she arrives at the inn. before pumping the local adventurers info, the bedraggled magic-drained unicorn would seek to rest her pony head on a mattress to get some sleep and restore her lost magic - if that is even possible. Only if there was something urgently happening in the inn to get her attention would she seek it before sleep.

If she is able to sleep she will check to see if the rest has restored her magic and will look for adventurey types in the inn. 

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(edited)

@abrony-mouse

The Salty Starfish Inn was a dreary place above a neglected wharf right at the rocky mouth of the Brigantine Inlet. A few sloops and caravels were moored beneath its seaside porch.

 

 

Most of the ground floor was occupied by a dimly lit tavern smelling of seaweed, urine, and grog. The few lanterns hanging from the ceiling were hidden inside large, purple skeletons of sea urchins. There were six round tables scattered across the room, two of which were occupied. A red brown earth pony wearing a faded pea coat and a tattered tricorne was sitting alone in the corner besides a window smoking his pipe, while the centermost table accommodated a burly grey blue unicorn hunched above a plate of sea lettuce and something that was periodically producing loud crouching noises. The counter was deserted apart from a few empty glasses and a pale cyan earth pony mare with long, green greasy mane. Her bulging, watery eyes were looking at the used glasses with a resigned expression that remained unchanged as she raised her gaze at the sound of Clairvoyance entering the building. It turned out that the mare was not only the bartender but also the innkeeper. She agreed to lend a room to the unicorn newcomer for one bit per night. No breakfast or cleaning included.

 

 

Her room was located in the middle of a narrow corridor on the first floor. It had a small, dirty window over the sea and a bunk bed made for two occupants. The shared restroom, a drafty wooden latrine hanging over the waves, was located on the end of the corridor.

 

 

When Clairvoyance woke up the next morning, she was feeling better but still not quite herself. Weakness and fatigue remained present in their lessened form.

 

 

The tavern downstairs was almost as deserted early in the morning as it had been the last evening. The innkeeper was at her usual place behind the counter, almost as if she has been standing there all night long. Three weathered pony sailors, two earth ponies and one pegasi, were sitting around a single table eating chewy white cakes with seaweed and washing them down with pints of grog.

Edited by Goat-kun
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