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The Garden of the Ancients - Flutterpriest

by Flutterpriest

This story was written by Flutterpriest and is not eligible for winning. Review this last.

I'm writing this as a baseline and restricting myself to having half the time as the other participants to write.

~ - ~ - ~

They say that deep within the Everfree Forest hides many secrets. Within it's depths lie perplexing mysteries and eldritch oddities that are beyond the comprehension of any normal pony. Many ponies have traversed the maw of the forest to discover these secrets of their own. Few have returned to tell the tale of the Garden.

Hidden deep in the margins of a few weathered books, hide stories and mentions of this Garden. But no living pony has been able to find it.

“No pony until me,” Daring Doo said to herself.

She closed the book in front of her and tossed it into her suitcase of research. She took a deep breath and looked among her things. She felt ready, but she had been on enough adventures at this point to know that no amount of preparation would ever truly suffice for the dangers of uncharted ruins or ancient wonders.

Daring Doo knelt down and tried to pull the zipper closed, but it got caught under the strain of the books and scrolls. She wondered to herself if she needed to remove the extra lasso or perhaps not take the “Historical Folklore of Ponyville: The Dark Forest” she had purchased as a reference guide.

“Either this is going to make a great book, or be a complete waste of my time,” she said to herself, grunting under the strain of the effort.

The zipper relented, and her packing was done. She exhaled, hoisted her things onto her back and took her one way ticket to Ponyville.

“Here goes nothing.” She muttered to herself.

~ - ~ - ~

Daring counted herself lucky that she had her friend Rainbow Dash in Ponyville. Some of the work was done for her, as ponies have gotten more confident over time at venturing into the forest. She took occasional glances down at her map as she made her way along a gently worn trail. The trees were getting taller and thicker, visibly blocking out the sun. According to Dash, after a while, the trees get so thick that there’s no safe way to fly down into the brush. Which meant she was on hoof.

Which was better. It saved her energy for when she really needed it.

“Alright, so,” she mumbled to herself. “This is where the cockatrice territory starts…”

She reached into her pocket and pulled out a pair of mirrored spectacles.

“That should prevent me from becoming a priceless statue,” she said. “At least, my wings would finally be right on a sculpture for once.”

The forest was brimming with life as she heard birds, insects and other animals dash about the trees, watching the pony from a safe distance. It was unnerving, but didn’t match the same fear as being truly alone in a ruin. This was a cakewalk.

But all good things had to come to an end. The map ran out of space, and soon the path did as well. This was when the real adventure began.

She pulled out her pack, stored the map and instead brought out a new roll of parchment, a compass and a pencil. She pulled out her self purifying water bottle and took a swig of the water she brought from town and took a deep breath.

“Let’s get started.”

~ - ~ - ~

Several days passed without finding much of anything. An occasional cockatrice, avoiding Timberwolf tracks, and hiding her scent were nothing particularly new, but as she ventured deeper within the forest, she had to search deeper in her wildlife guide to find berries and plants that were worth gathering. A fire would be suicide this deep in the forest. Not just because of the dampness of the wood, and possibly starting one of the largest forest fires of all time -- but the signal it would give to possible predators would leave her a sitting duck.

Yet she ventured on.

Then, she noticed something. A pile of leaves and twigs that just seemed to be a bit too… purposeful.

She looked from afar at this oddity deep within the forest. She found a large break from a nearby downed tree and tossed it at the pile, and sure enough, the ground gave way to a large spike pit.

“Well, I think we’re on to something,” she said. “It’s not fun unless your life is at stake.”

She moved closer to the pit and examined a bit closer. The fake ground seemed to be propped up only by dirt and sticks, which could have came from anywhere. And since it didn't use any sort of rope, it means it likely was built here on the spot, or impromptu.

But there was other thing that was odd about the pit. While the pit seemed to be nearly 20 feet deep, about 10 feet down was a hole just large enough to fit a tall stallion.

“Here goes nothing.”

Daring unfurled her wings and leapt into the pit. She fell like a lead balloon with all of her gear strapped to her, but her wings were experienced and strong. With a few flaps, she gained enough lift to glide gracefully into the opening and cross the threshold into the unknown.

She pulled a torch from her bag, lit it, and held it aloft with one of her wings. The path seemed crudely carved, almost by hand deep into the earth, and down. She heard drips echo faintly down the path and steadied her breath as she pushed forward. The sounds of the forest faded away as her hoofsteps echoed in the tunnel.

“Garden could be a relative term,” she thought to herself. Besides. It wouldn’t be the first time something weird has been hidden underground. It all just seems too convenient.

Her hoof pressed on something rough and sharp. She leapt back as she saw bones of some unfortunate pony, sprawled out, a hoof outstretched towards the place she just was. She huffed to herself. She was getting warmer.

A few more steps. A few twists and turns. And Daring Doo knew that she was quickly passing the point of safe return. She had enough emergency food for a day or two, and enough water for about as long, but if this continued deeper, she would be in serious trouble.

Without warning, as she was lost in tought, the floor dropped into a steep slide. Daring lost her footing and sild down at a blinding speed further into the earth. The torch fell from her feathers and the wind rushed through her ears as the earth swallowed her blindly into the abyss.

Then, she fell into an open, paved hallway. She looked around, and embedded into the walls were these light blue crystals that emitted an unnerving cyan light. She stared at it carefully, stepping closer to the strange gem. She pulled one off the wall and felt it. It didn’t burn her hoof, which was a good sign. This would work as a torch for now.

She trotted down the silent halls at a brisk pace, examining the moss growing on the walls, or the faintest trickle of water seeping through the dirt ceiling. She wondered who could have built this, or why they would build something so deep into the earth.

Then, rounding a corner, she found herself nearly blinded. The hallway opened into a large auditorium, capable of housing at least a hundred ponies, and hanging from the ceiling that stretched nearly seventy yards high, was the largest blue crystal she had ever seen in her lifetime. It reminded her of the Crystal Heart. However, instead of being carefully sculpted and etched into a romantic shape, the stone star was sharp and jagged, like shattered glass buried in its center. A waterfall poured from the crystal into a pond in the center of the auditorium and carried small streams to four trees in each corner of the room.

She moved forward cautiously, thinking to herself how terribly guarded this place was. Clearly this was too easy.

And just in front of the central pond, was a plaque. She approached it and recognized the words inscribed as ancient ponish. It had been awhile before she exercised these muscles, but… it said something like...

Four Fruit of Four Deities.
One with juice to exact revenge,
One with seeds to bring knowledge,
One with flesh to curse with truth,
And the last

The last phrase wasn’t one she recognized.

She smiled to herself and looked about the room.

“Well, I believe I’ve found it. And sure enough, there’s a puzzle.”

However, She didn’t have time for this. First thing’s first. She had to find a way out.

~ - ~ - ~

Blah Blah there's no way out. She eats a fruit. Meets Cthulhu or something. Wakes up in the Forest. Spooki.jpeg -- I probably could have finished if i had 15 more mins