The hour has reached seven in the morning, yet the sun does not rise; The everlasting storm continues on high above as the night presses on. All this seems endless and many fear they will never see the daylight again.
Applejack is already up and about, anxious to get an early start on the road towards the buffalo territory. She fills her saddlebag with a canteen of water and a couple of apples; There is no telling how long they may be out there.
After packing the necessary essentials, Applejack heads back upstairs to Fluttershy's room. She knocks on the door and calls out, "Fluttershy? Time ta' get up and hit da trail."
There is no answer.
"Sugarcube…?" The orange earth pony whispers as she opens the door, only to find the innocent little pegasus still sound asleep. Applejack is relived to see her friend sleeping peacefully, and without any nightmares this time. As much as she hates to wake her, they have to get going.
"Up and at 'em!" She hollers as she flips the mattress, causing Fluttershy to fall off and onto the ground.
"Oh Applejack…why did you wake me? It's still dark…"The sleepy Fluttershy askes.
Applejack raises her eyebrow while giving her a questionable look. Fluttershy squees from embarrassment and blushes, "…sorry…"
"Not a problem. Hope ya' slept well."
"Oh…I did. I didn't have any dreams…which I guess is good..."
Applejack nods as she helps Fluttershy up, "Guess so…but we should be careful, just 'en case Nightmare Moon tries to mess with us in our dreams again."
"Y-y-yeah…" Fluttershy still remembera the nightmare she had, and tremblea at the thought of it happening again.
"Come on, we got ta get movin'. Braeburn is already outside waitin' fer us."
"Oh…okay…" Fluttershy grabs her Element of Kindness off the dresser and places it around her neck. She then follows Applejack down the stairs and out of the Salt Block, where they find Braeburn waiting for them.
"Bout' time ya'll showed up," The yellow colt sighs, who has a lit lantern by his side.
"Sorry cousin. Had ta' pack a few things and get 'ol Fluttershy here outta bed."
Fluttershy blushes once more, "I'm sorry…"
"Not a problem. Fer travelin' this far, ya'll deserved a good rest," Braeburn reassures the nervous little pony.
"Oh…thank you…" Fluttershy politely thanks him.
"So what's the situation cousin? Is it just us three goin' out ta' find the buffalo?" The curious Applejack asks.
"Friad' so. Sheriff Silverstar volunteered at first, but his duty ta protect da ponies here was more important, so I recommended he stay."
"What bout' the others?"
Braeburn sighs, "They be too scared to go out there, not that stayin' here is any better." Right before picking up the lantern, he says one last thing, "Sorry cousin, but its just us fer now."
Applejack is not surprised by this at all: the citizens of Appleloosa are scared and have a right to be, but working towards solving the problem is better than sitting around waiting for the Darkness to arrive, "Guess it'll have ta' do."
Fluttershy triea to help boost Applejack's confidence, "Don't feel bad, Applejack. I'm…I'm sure we can make it with just three."
"I reckon we can. Course…I don't blame them for bein' terrified, but still…"
"Maybe dis' may help ya'll out…" A voice from behind them reassures.
Applejack, Fluttershy and Braeburn turn around to see Silverstar standing on the porch of his office. Holding a lantern by the handle in his mouth, he hangs it high above on a hook.
"What in tarnation are ya' doin', sheriff?" asks Applejack.
"Well I'll be…" Braeburn says as he looks around and sees the other ponies doing the very same thing: hanging lanterns out to light up their town. Applejack and Fluttershy notice as well.
"This way ya'll can find yer way back, no matter how far ya'll go. It's aint' much, but it's the best we can do fer ya'," Silverstar explains.
Applejack smiles and feels thankful for this small amount of kindness, "Thanks ya'll."
"Oh yes…thank you so very much," Fluttershy adds.
"That's mighty kind of ya' sheriff…and thank you everypony!" Braeburn expresses to his friends.
With the town of Appleloosa shining bright, the three ponies say their goodbyes and gallop off towards the buffalo territory. As they leave, the citizens all wave and wish them well.
"Ya'll take care now, ya' hear!!" Sheriff Silverstar yells out at them, hoping for their safe return.
With the town of Appleloosa far behind them, Fluttershy, Applejack and Braeburn travel across the wide open plain and over the hills searching for the nearby tribe of Buffalo. With only a single lantern to guide them through the dark, the two mares follow the yellow colt, who knows exactly where he is going.
"We're lost arn't we, Braeburn?" Applejack sighs.
"No…!" He lies, "…I just haven't been out here for a while, tis all!"
The orange earth pony moans heavily and grabs the lantern from her cousin and goes on ahead.
"Hey now!" Braeburn barks when the lantern is snatched from him, "I doubt ya'll know the way better then I do!"
Applejack turns around, sets the lantern on the ground and snaps at him, "I betcha a' do!"
Fluttershy gets down on the ground and tries to hide herself once the two cousins start arguing. She doesn't like it when her friends fight, and is too afraid to try and butt in. Suddenly, a different sound reaches the little pony's ears.
"Do you…hear that?" she nervously asks the two other ponies.
Both Applejack and Braeburn continue to argue, but once they hear the sound that Fluttershy is referring to, they cease their fighting and gather around the yellow pegasus.
"What…what is it?" asks the frightened Fluttershy.
They all listen closely and can tell that it is sound of rattling coming from somewhere nearby, "Probably a rattler." Braeburn guesses.
"Sounds like it, sugarcube." Applejack answers her friend, "Guess we should get a move on and not try to anger it."
"I agree with ya' on that one, cousin."
The three start to move to the right, away from the rattling. But as they do the same sound appears from that direction. Soon, they can hear more rattling all around them.
"We're surrounded!" Braeburn cries as the huddle together with the lantern nearby.
"Dis aint good…"
As the three ponies stay close together, a group of rattlesnakes come into view and hiss at them, "Well golly…this is definitely not good at all," mutters Braeburn.
The two cousins grow more nervous as the snakes trap them in a circle, but are not moving in for some reason. They then see Fluttershy slowly approaching the biggest one of them, who might be their leader.
"Fluttershy!!" yells Applejack.
The little pegasus moves in and just smiles at the big snake, "It's okay…you don't need to be scared. We got lost and didn't mean to come across your homes."
The big snake hisses a little at Fluttershy, but she can tell by the look in his eyes that he is just trying to protect his home, along with his family and friends. She moves right up to it and moves her hoof towards the big snake.
The snakes cowers a little, but it calms down once it feels Fluttershy's hoof gently pet his scales, "That's a good little snake," Fluttershy coos as she receives a little lick from the snake.
The smaller rattlesnakes slither passed the two earth ponies and join the bigger one. They all gather around Fluttershy and lick her cheeks, which tickle her and make her giggle.
"What…in tarnation…just happened?" The very confused Braeburn asks his cousin.
Applejack just smiles, "Well, Fluttershy happens ta' be good with all kinds of animals. But honestly, I never imagined she would be able to calm a bunch of rattlers, " She moves up to her friend and congratulates her, "Nicely done, sugarcube?"
Fluttershy turns her head to them and smiles, "Oh…thank you. These poor little snakes are scared and were just trying to protect their home."
"Scared of wha'?"
"The dark," She answeres, "The snakes were afraid of the dark…and the storms."
"Just like we are…" Braeburn adds sadly.
Applejack understands all too well; Every creature in Equestria, big and small, has the right to be scared with all that has been happening. These rattlesnakes are only defending their homes and families, and the three ponies stumbled upon it by mistake.
"I would feel the same if I were 'en their position," Applejack confesses, "But I'm glad you were able to show them we mean 'em no harm."
"Me too." Fluttershy turns her head back to the snakes and introduces them, "These are my friends: Applejack and Braeburn."
A few of them slither over to the two and brush up against them to greet them in a friendly way. Both Braeburn and Applejack are hesitant at first, but once they see how gentle the little snakes are, they get down on the ground at their level and allow them to lick their cheeks.
"Hehehehe…that does tickle." The yellow colt chuckles.
"Yep. Mighty cute little critters," The orange mare admires.
Fluttershy is so happy to have made some new friends out here in the desert, and to have shown the snakes they need not be afraid of them.
Although the three ponies are having fun spending time with the rattlesnakes, Applejack rises up carefully and asks Fluttershy a question, "Any chance of askin if dese little fellas might know where da buffalo might be?"
"I don't know…I guess I could ask them." Fluttershy shrugs, turning her attention to the big snake, "Mr. Snake…do you know where we could find the buffalo?"
Mr. Snake, whom Fluttershy herself named, ponders that question for a quick moment, then nods at her.
"Oh, I'm so glad. Do you know which way?"
Mr. Snake nods once more, and hisses at his family and friends, telling them to return to their homes while he would lead his new friends to the buffalo.
The other snakes hiss goodbye to their new friends and return to the holes in the ground. The ponies wave goodbye to them and notice that Mr. Snake is slithering his way to the west. Fluttershy followes him, with the two earth ponies close behind them.