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    Deep beneath the surface of the Everfree Forest, Twilight Sparkle and her friends Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash continue moving through the underground passage that began from Zecora's hut and ends where they do not know. Despite the dark and dirt all around, everypony treks on until they find the end... with the two unicorns in the group lighting up the way with their horns to allow sight to see where they were going.

    “I still find it hard to believe Zecora had an escape route right under her hut all this time. Strange, huh?” Rainbow Dash mentions to her friends...even though everypony is too busy walking through the tunnels to answer, they do agree with the cyan mare.

    Twilight tries to see on ahead while observing the details of the passage walls, “Perhaps this was here long before Zecora settled in the Everfree Forest.” Another theory that comes to the little unicorn’s mind, “Maybe it was dug back when Celestia and Luna ruled from their old castle.”

    “Ya’ wanna run dat by me again, Twilight?” Applejack questions since she does not fully understand.

    “Oh Applejack, I believe Twilight is referring to the ruins where we found the Elements of Harmony; Back when we first met her, remember?” Rarity answers to the forgetful cowgirl.

    “Of course Ah remember! It's just been a long time, dat’s all. Nothin’ wrong with dat, is there?!” Applejack retorts back at uptight and annoying prissy pony.

    “Um…please…no fighting…” Fluttershy mutters nervously as she watches the earth pony and unicorn exchanging glares at one another.




    “Girls! Please don’t start something...especially in here!” Twilight orders as she refers to the tunnel around them, “This tunnel is old and if you two start kicking or casting spells, there is no telling what might happen!!"

    Both Applejack and Rarity cease any further bickering and listen to their friend's wisdom. Giving each other a small, but quick, apology...the two ponies plus the rest continue to follow Twilight as she leads them further down the tunnel. However, shortly after that little bickering moment, Twilight spots something up ahead, “I think that’s the way out!” She informs to her friends, “Come on girls!”

    The six mares are thrilled when they see a little light up ahead of the path that curves slightly upward. If Twilight is correct, the Mane Six have found the exit to this underground passage...which they hope is far from the hut and the rest of the Everfree Forest.





***********************************





    Outside of the Everfree Forest lies the Rambling Rock Ridge...an area covered in dirt and rocks…obviously. The great boulders and dirt lie ever still and quiet, until some movement occurs in the ground. A hole appears from out of the dirt and out pops the head of Twilight Sparkle.

    The clever little unicorn gazes around to see if all is well. Even with the sights of the storms above, the area before her seems safe enough. “Okay…the coast is clear,” She informs her friends quietly just to be safe.

    One by one, the ponies climb out of the hole, helping the other along the way. Once they are all on the surface, everypony starts brushing off the dirt that covers their coats and manes. 

    “Well, that was fun~” Pinkie Pie smiles as she shakes off the dirt like a dog would.

    “I would hardly consider having to tunnel up from a blocked exit and getting yourself covered in dirt in the process fun at all, Pinkie Pie,” Rarity complains as she tries her best to clean herself up, magically summoning a brush to assist her with tidying up her once beautiful mane before so much as a speck of dirt touched it.

    Both Rainbow Dash and Applejack roll their eyes at the prissy, complaining pony who cannot handle so much as a little dirt. While needing to shake it off their coats, neither mare cares how much dirt or mud they get on them...because hard work always involves getting a little dirty.




    “Where are we anyway?” Twilight asks as she shakes the dirt off her, thanks to a little help from her magical abilities.

    “Well, this does look familiar...” Rarity confesses as she looks around her surroundings, “This...I have without a doubt, is the Rambling Rock Ridge. I should know since this is where I was kidnapped by those dreadful Diamond Dogs.”

    The others recall that event and see that Rarity is right, “Eeyup, dis here be da place…and I reckon’ dat dere tunnel was made by dem Diamond Dogs.” Applejack suggests, even though there is no evidence nor time to prove such a claim.

    “Oh…my…” Fluttershy mutters as she has her attention in the other direction...where Ponyville and Canterlot are.

    “What is........it........Flutter............shy…............?” Twilight mutters slowly as a great gasps escapes from her lungs at the sight to what the yellow Pegasus: The entire sky above their home covered in dark, storm clouds; Not a star nor cloud can be seen.

    “Oh no!” Rainbow Dash cries out as she and the others look upon their home...and that which has befallen it.

    The Mane Six can see Ponyville, Cloudsdale, and Canterlot from where they stand: The storm clouds raging from above, along with the flashes of thunder and lightning. This causes the memories of recent events to flood back into the little ponies minds. Knowing this sight is too much to bare, Twilight moves in front of her friends to block their view, “Come on girls…we can’t stay here. We have to go…” she informs sadly…while trying to be strong for her friends.

    While in their hearts they cannot leave their homes or families behind. But after what has transpired, they cannot stay; Remaining will only bring the same fate upon them as it has befallen everypony here: Becoming minions of the Darkness and destroying any chance of stopping Tirek. 

    The six turn their heads away from the unpleasant sight and move across the ridge, getting as far away as possible. They all take one last look back and make a vow to themselves that they will return and save their home and everypony from the Darkness and its Dark Master, Tirek.




************************************




    As Twilight and her friends continue to walk away from their home and across the rocky land, some of them begin to grow tired while some wonder if they know where they were going. Eventually, one of the young mares has some courage to speak up, “So…um…Twilight?” Asks the curious Fluttershy.

    “Yes, Fluttershy?” Twilight turns her head to the timid, little pegasus.

    “Well...um…where are we going?”

    Stopping for the moment, Twilight shakes her head...indicating she has not a clue, “Honestly…I don’t know.”

    “Well, we have to think of something!” Rainbow Dash states with frustration, "I don't like the idea of heading off in a direction with no destination..."

    The others agree and look at Twilight, wondering if she is going to come up with a plan or something...the way she always does on a daily basis on any normal day in Ponyville, “Ya do have a plan…right sugarcube?” Applejack hopes as she stands by her friends.

    The lavender pony sits and thinks on that for a moment...while her best friends sit around her awaiting her intelligence to kick in and give them something. Suddenly, Twilight remembers the chart Zecora gave to her and reaches into the saddlebag full of scrolls and a little food. Pulling out the correct scroll, Twilight lays it out upon the ground...unraveling it and examining it carefully, “It’s...it's a map of Equestria.”

    The others gather around the map and look over it carefully...reaching the conclusion that it is a layout of Equestria. While the girls know their homeland well, there are a few places that they have yet to explore...and might hold the answers to finding help and defeating the Darkness.



    
    “So, where do ya’ll reckon’ we go first?” Applejack asks the others as she looks around at the map. This orange coated cowgirl has some ideas, but will leave it up to whomever has the better ones.

    “Why don’t we go to the Hayseed Swamp?” Pinkie Pie suggests, “I mean duh, Zecora told us to go there.”

    "That may be, Pinkie...but I think we should try the cities to the north: Manehatten, Baltimare…maybe even the Crystal Empire? There are plenty of ponies there that could help us.” Rainbow Dash proposes.

    The others seem to agree with that logic, since there are more than enough ponies in the other cities and such that can give them aid... but just then they hear Twilight sign, meaning something is up, “We can’t go there…”

    "Why not?!” All five reply in shock and confusion.

    “Because...I get the feeling Tirek is planning to send his forces to all those places, to ensure no pony can oppose him.” Twilight explains sadly, “Besides…it’s too far a walk to any one of those cities, and I don’t want to risk losing you guys to the Darkness, should my theory be correct...”

    The girls have their own thoughts on the matter...especially Rainbow Dash who believes they should go anyway. But since Twilight is the wisest of them all, they take her word for it, “Fine...but I still say we should at least try to get help from one of those cities..." the impatient Rainbow Dash huffs.

    “Ah say we should listen to Twilight and focus on findin' help elsewhere. After all...she seems to know more on all of dis than we do, Applejack announces and then gives her little pony friend a questionable look, "Ain't dat right, Twi?"

    Twilight looks up from the map and notices her best friends all staring at her with the same look that Applejack is giving; The look of suspicion from earlier in the hut makes the young school student very nervous and she bites her lips...and has the feeling there will be much to explain.





***********************************






    “Alright Twilight…spill the beans! How did you know what Zecora was going to say when she read that last verse of her book!” The tomboyish pegasus demands.

    Wishing not to keep her friends in the dark about what she knows, Twilight Sparkle takes in a deep breath and then lets it all out. Once that is done, she explains what she can, “You see…the other day, when I was at Canterlot gathering some new reading material…I…came across an old book-”

    “Wait a minute! Are you referring to that book you reacted to when I was trying to help put away after I crash- I mean...arrived...at the library?” Rainbow interrupts.

    “Yes…”

    “I knew it!”

    “Hush, Rainbow! Let her finish,” Rarity snaps.

    Twilight continues on once everypony is quiet again, “It was old and falling apart, but I was able to repair some of it….” She decides to skip ahead to the part that her friends need to hear, “It had a few details on that time period that Zecora spoke of. It also mentioned a little on Courageous and that very chant you all heard.”

    Once Twilight finishes describing that which relates to Zecora's book and the one found in the Royal Library, the other five mares do not seem convinced to her story and feel the need to ask more questions:

    “So you knew about this and never told us?!” Rainbow Dash exclaims.

    “Well-”

    “What else are ya’ not telling’ us?!” Applejack questions.

    “Nothing-”

    “Twilight! It’s not nice to lie to your friends,” Pinkie states.

    “I know-”

    “You sure there is nothing else?” Fluttershy asks.

    “I’m-”

    “Be a dear and tell us please.” Rarity asks politely.

    Twilight cannot utter another word with all her friends talking at once, trying to get more out of her. Fed up with this ramble, she throws her head up towards the skies and yells out loud, “QUIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!!” This brings the two earth ponies, one unicorn, and two pegasai to fall silent fast.





    Twilight apologizes for her outburst...even though she had good reason for it, “Look...I’m sorry I didn’t tell you guys sooner, but I didn’t think it was important. I mean, I thought it was just a story…but I guess I was wrong.”

    The girls accept Twilight's apology and give their own to make up for prying into their friend's mind when she did not know more than they hoped. However, one pony in particular has something on her mind, “But…there is one last thing…” Rainbow Dash adds in as she hugs her dear egg-head friend.

    “…Rainbow…” Applejack snaps, not wishing this moment of forgiveness to be ruined.

    “I’m not trying to start something, sheesh. I just want to know that if you found that old book in the library, wouldn’t Princess Celestia have known about it?”

    “That is actually a good question. Did she, Twilight?” Fluttershy agrees with Rainbow Dash and then asks Twilight the question.

    Twilight shakes her head, “No, she did not. I don’t know how that book came to be in her library, but it was older then any book I have seen there…and I have seen them all.” She chuckles a little at this fact.

    “Oh...well...okay..." Rainbow accepts that and will have to find out the answer to that book sometime later, if the chance is to evercome up again. "Well, thanks again for telling us the truth, Twilight; Sorry we doubted you.” Rainbow Dash apologizes.

    “It’s okay. Friends should never keep secrets from one another, even if it feels like it is not important to tell. Because some secrets may prove to help others out in certain situations…and no matter how embarrassing a secret is that you keep, trust in your friends and they will understand and accept it, as they accept you.” Twilight says proudly…learning a good lesson on Friendship.

    “Boy howdy, Twi. Dat dere was sum speech ya’ just gave.” The smiling Applejack informs and praises her brilliant friend for the lesson that all of them can learn from right now.

    “Yep. That would TOTALLY be a good lesson to write to the Princess,” Pinkie Pie adds, smiling big while showing her bright, white teeth.

    Twilight feels so happy that she has learned a new lesson...even during this dark time. Her smile is changed into a frown when Princess Celestia is brought up, “Only if we see her again…”

    Fluttershy comes up to side of her best friend and places her hoof on the lavender pony’s shoulder, “Not if. When. When we see her again...you can tell her in person of this lesson we have all learned together..”

    Twilight is surprised by Fluttershy’s words on encouragement, and it brings back the smile upon her face once again, "Oh Fluttershy...thank you so much." The others are moved by Fluttershy’s words as well...and will all be by Twilight's side once Equestria is restored in order to give the lesson they all learned the very day the Darkness arrived.




*******************************




    The Mane Six spend the next few minutes discussing where they should go and what help they should seek out first. They now know they cannot go north to any of the pony cities; The storm clouds above are stronger and louder to the north, which indicates that the presence of evil is marching towards the population there...meaning it will only be a matter of time before all of Northern Equestria become servants of evil. Their only hope lies to the south...where the storms are not as big.

    “I know it’s risky, girls...but we have to try something,” Twilight informs her best friends, “If Tirek IS focusing on the north, then we may have a chance at finding help in southern Equestria. We should move now while the going is good.”

    “But Twilight, it is such a long way to walk...and where exactly should we start?” Rarity asks while complaining a little.

    “We could ask my relatives in Appleloosa for help. Maybe we could send word out to Dodge Junction, since they may have some who can help.” Applejack suggests.

    “Let's not forget about the other creatures.” Pinkie Pie reminds her friends.

    “What other creatures?” Rainbow Dash asks.

    “You know: The other creatures, silly." Pinkie Pie giggles as she bounces a little, "The ones Zecora mentioned: zebras, buffalo, and dragons…oh my!”

    Twilight thinks on that and remembers where they can find them, “Pinkie is right. We need more than just ponies to fight the Darkness.” She rolls out the map again and points to a few places with her hoof, “Zecora said a tribe of zebras are settled in the Hayseed Swamp; The buffalo roam around Appleloosa, so we should not have trouble finding them; The dragons might still be in the Badlands when they were migrating.”

    “You really think they are going to help us, Twilight?” A very unconvinced cyan Pegasus named Rainbow Dash questions her friend's plan, “I mean I know we made friends with the buffalo when we visited Appleloosa, but I don’t think we are on good terms with the zebras or dragons.”

    “We have to try, Rainbow. They will have to listen to us...because Equestria is their home as much as it is ours."

    “That is true, but to go to all these places to look for their help..." The tomboyish pony complains, "...could take days that we don't have with the Darkness spreading.”

    Twilight picks up the map and places in back in her saddlebag, “You’re right. It will take too long if we all go together to the three locations...because the longer we take, the sooner Tirek will turn his attention south.”

    “What are you suggesting, Twilight?” asks Fluttershy, who seems to already know the answer but is afraid to ask it.

    “What I’m saying is…” Twilight feels bad for that which she is about to say, but is left with no other option right now, “…we are going to have to split into groups of two and go to the Swamp, Desert, and Badlands separately.”




    The girls all gasps at the sound of this course of action...which they cannot seem to agree with even though it makes the most sense; Splitting up is not something they want to do...not like this, “But Twilight…” Rarity tries to speak up on behalf of their friendship.

    “No buts, Rarity..." Twilight holds up her hoof sadly. As much as it hurts to separate from her five best friends in the whole wide world of Equestria and beyond, there is no choice, "We have to do this; It’s the only way to gather help faster. We can decide where to go, and once we finish, we can all meet back at Appleloosa.”

    The others all agree with Twilight's plan...and hope that it will not take long to find the assistance from the tribes and clans of Southern Equestria; However, he only question that remains now is: which pony goes with whom and to where?

    Ah’ll go ta Appleloosa, since mah cousins are dere after all. Ah’ll even try ta get word ta Dodge Junction if Ah can.” Applejack turns to see which one of her friends she would take with her. She points her hoof at Fluttershy.

    “Who…me?” she asks nervously.

    “Eeyup! You, sugercube.”

    “Oh…well…okay.” the nervous pegasus mutters.

    Twilight agrees with Applejack’s decision and decides to choose the pony to her left, “I guess both Rarity and myself will go to the Badlands to ask the dragons for help.”

    While hesitant at first, Rarity realizes that no matter where she will end up going, it is going to be a long walk along a dusty trail, “Oh...very well.”

    “I guess that leaves me with the Swamp and the zebras,“ Pinkie Pie says smiling, as she turns to Rainbow Dash, "Looks like it's gonna be us, Rainbow Dash~"

    “Why do I have to go to the swamp…with Pinkie Pie?!” Rainbow complains.

    Pinkie hugs Rainbow tight, “Don’t worry Rainbow Dash. We are going to have SO MUCH FUN traveling together. Maybe we can sing songs while we walk...or maybe play “I spot” or maybe even…” Pinkie goes on and on with so many fun, yet ridiculous, games and ideas to play along the way.

    “Yeah…terrific…” Rainbow mutters sarcastically as she rolls her eyes.





******************************





    Once everything is set and the destinations decided, the group of two pegasai, two unicorns, and two earth ponies that everypony has come to know them by as the Mane Six, hug each other one last time before starting on their long walk towards the location that holds the allies they seek to end the Darkness.

    “Take care girls. Be safe.” Twilight bids them all a fond, yet tearful, farewell.

    “Ya’ll do the same, ya’ hear.” Applejack insists as she hugs her best friends.

    “Please…be safe out there.”  Fluttershy pleas to her friends.

    “Be well, and do be ever so careful,” Rarity hopes as she tries not to cry.

    “I’m gonna miss you guys,” Rainbow mumbles, trying not to cry and remaining the tough athlete she is.

    “Once we meet up again, I’m gonna throw a BIG welcome back party for everypony!” Pinkie Pie cheers happily, promising to give her friends some much needed fun once they all reunite.

    The girls all laugh with joy and will look forward to all that and more.




    After saying their goodbyes, the six ponies split up into their assigned groups of two and start their long walk south in different directions:

    Twilight and Rarity make their way to the Badlands, hoping there will still be dragons there; Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash head southeast to the Hayseed Swamp to find the zebras Zecora mentioned; Applejack and Fluttershy travel southwest to Appleloosa to ask the buffalo and other settler ponies for help.

    Although they will be apart for now, the Mane Six will be together again and will see their home saved from the evil that has taken it from them. Their journey to save Equestria from the Darkness…has officially begun.
Twilight and her friends have now officially begun their quest to gather help in order to combat the Darkness, and its master. They are the only hope Equestria has now.


Chapter 9: fav.me/d5oz1eg Chapter 11: fav.me/d5pvfoi
Chapter Guide: courageousoflight.deviantart.c…


Link to Cover Image: courageousoflight.deviantart.c…
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:iconsomerandomminion:
SomeRandomMinion Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2014
As so the ponies set out, two by two....

Interesting how Twilight and Rarity set off to try and recruit the dragons. Seeing as how the former is the boss/mother/big sister of a baby dragon, and the latter once threatened to beat a gang of dragons to a pulp....things could get awkward.
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:iconcourageous-of-light:
Courageous-of-Light Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Eeyup! :D
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:iconsomerandomminion:
SomeRandomMinion Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2014
Well, if diplomacy fails, Twilight can (literally) work her magic so she and Rarity can negotiate with the dragons a little more equally...
ius-iuris.deviantart.com/art/T…
ius-iuris.deviantart.com/art/R…

;)
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:iconcourageous-of-light:
Courageous-of-Light Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Hehe, I doubt that will happen :)
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:iconsomerandomminion:
SomeRandomMinion Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2014
Still, it's a nice trick to have, no? ;)

Just imagine in the show, if the Mane Six all went dragon during the Changeling fight....
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:iconcourageous-of-light:
Courageous-of-Light Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Hehehehe.
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:iconsomerandomminion:
SomeRandomMinion Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2014
Dragon!Rainbow Dash: "Wow, I almost feel sorry for these bugs...almost." 
*STOMP! TAIL-SWIPE! FIRE!*
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:iconskylordzuleano:
SkylordZuleano Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:iconsoawesome-plz:
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:iconchaoscontrl:
ChaosContrl Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2013  Student General Artist
Let me guess:
Pinkie Pie was sent to the zebra tribe, because she will be able to know something very important like she did in Zecora's hut.

Awesome story.
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:icongenox11:
GenoX11 Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2013
That was my assumption, too.
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