Recorded by Clipper as dictated by the bard Ramon
It was a mild autumn day in the hills north of Ponyland. Brightblade stood atop a high hill. The sun gleamed off the whorled horn of his war-helm. He felt a slight breeze in his mane, breathed deeply the fresh air, and remembered the last time he had stood atop this hill.
It had been spring, only five months earlier, but it seemed like an eternity. The weather had been similar, but the breeze was warmer, from the lowlands rather than the mountains. It had been on that spring day so long ago that Brightblade had first encountered the mysterious Epona. Brightblade had been enjoying a pleasant walk when a strange unicorn appeared, as if out of nowhere. Her coat was the color of sunlight and her main and tail were fiery
red, much as Brightblade's own. On her rump was the image of a key.
"Good day!" Brightblade had greeted her. "I've not seen you here abouts before; what part of Ponyland do you hail from?"
The unicorn ignored his question. "Brave warpony!" she called playfully, "join me, won't you, on a grand quest!"
Brightblade answered in fun, "Surely maiden, but what manner of quest do you propose?"
"For a champion as dashing as yourself, only the grandest quest will do; you should slay the beast that threatens Ponyland." The last part was spoken with deadly seriousness.
Realizing that the stranger was not speaking of play, Brightblade inquired as to her name. She replied, "I am called Epona, and as you may have guessed, the quest I have proposed is all too real." Brightblade was too shocked to reply. Epona explained further. "Ponyland is in danger; I need your help to save it."
"M-me, but why?" was all Brightblade could manage to utter.
"You are a warrior, if not yet in action then in spirit. You alone among the ponies have the power to save Ponyland."
"But I'm no warrior! What could I do?"
"Come near and see." Epona touched her horn to a pool of water, all that remained of the morning's showers. As the ripples spread in ever increasing circles an image appeared.
Brightblade recognized the land as Ponyland, but it had changed; the sky was filled with dark clouds, the rivers and ponds were stagnant and green, the grass was brown. Thorn bushes choked out all other vegetation. Once open fields were crowded with row on row of dark mud-brick buildings; through the dark windows the glowing red eyes of the inhabitants could be
seen darting about. The ponies Brightblade could recognize were in a similarly pathetic state as their land. Tex, thin and bony, pulled a heavily laden cart along a muddy path; others tread straw into mud for bricks.
"You asked what you could do, Warpony? You could prevent this."
Brightblade stared, spellbound, at the pool as the image faded. "W-what? How?"
"That was the future, or at least one possible future. The most probable future, if you do not partake the quest I have proposed."
Brightblade was silent for a time and when he spoke, he spoke softly, "Where am I in this future?"
"Do not ask a question unless you want to know the answer," Epona warned.
"Show me ... please."
"I cannot, unless - until - you have accepted the quest."
"If you show me, then I will accept your quest."
Epona hesitantly touched her horn to the water once again. Again the image appeared of a Ponyland cloaked in gloom. This time there were no mud-brick houses or hard-driven ponies, only a clearing in the thorns where the grass was still a little green. Brightblade recognized the place, it was a favorite spot of his to picnic, but there now stood a number of crosses carved from stone. Names were chiseled into the crosses: Sundance, Fizzy, Windwhistler, Firefly, and Brightblade. "G-graves," Brightblade stammered.
Epona nodded, "You have a warrior's spirit, and you will find it, now or later. Now you can make a difference; later it will be useless."
Brightblade was silent again, longer this time. When he spoke, it was with a sense of despair; "But how can I slay a monster that can destroy all of Ponyland?"
"You ask too many questions, Warpony." Epona's voice was less grave. "You have strong hooves." She reared and kicked at the air with forelegs. "Use your head." She fenced with her horn.
"But I haven't got a horn," Brightblade complained.
Epona paused a moment, "Oh? Then you'll have to get one."
"How can I get a horn? You've got to be born with them."
"Do you think I would have gone to all this trouble had I not prepared for such an obvious occurance? You will find your horn to the west, beyond the Valley of Thorns. There, in the temple of light, lies the Warrior's Horn. All you have to do is claim it. Once you have the horn, return to this place; then the true quest will begin."
As Brightblade stood atop the hill, remembering, flame-maned Epona appeared as if
out of nowhere. "Greetings Warpony, you have changed since we parted."
"In many ways."
"Are you ready for the quest?"
Brightblade nodded, "Where shall I find the beast?"
"Far away, but first tell me of your journey."
"Do we have time?"
"It is nearly dusk; we shall wait until dawn to begin the quest."
After we parted I went west, as you directed me. It took me more than two weeks
to reach the Valley of Thorns. It was a dismal place. Though the valley was cut of from the
surrounding countryside by a high stone wall, I could see through a wrought iron gate an arid land
of brambles and ancient, gnarled trees. There was no sign if life save the circling vultures.
I was discouraged at first for the wall was too high for me to climb and the gate was
securely locked. I decided to rest for a time and partake of the juicy apples that grew outside the
valley. After a short nap I began to search the length of the wall for an open gate or other way
through. I searched for the rest of the day and after a restless night resumed the search.
By afternoon of the second day the land became rough. This slowed my progress
but offered me several opportunities to mount the wall from the numerous rocky outcrops which
dotted this territory. Unfortunately, all I found beyond the beyond the wall was a sea of thorns;
had I entered the valley at this point I would have been torn to shreds before any progress would
have been made. Because I had seen a path through the thorns at the gate, the only gate I had
encountered, I decided to turn back the next morning in hopes of finding a way to pass the
A day and a half later I was back at the gate but could still find no way through. I
even tried kicking it down but it was far too solid. As I studied the gate hoping to discover the
secret to passing the portal I noticed some movement in the thorns. Out of the shadows of the
bramble a white rat scampered. He slipped under the gate and darted toward an apple tree and
disappeared into a hole among its roots. A moment later he reappeared.
"'ello'" he squeaked from the entrance to the hole. "You're making quite a racket
banging on the gate like that. Y' might disturb the neighbors."
"Who are you?" I asked.
"I am Ramon," he replied. "Now would you mind explaining what you've got
against that gate?"
"I need to get through the valley," I explained.
Ramon shook his head, "Nobody goes into the Valley of Thorns, not unless they
know their way around, and even then they'd need an awfully good reason."
"I need to get through the valley; the future of all Ponyland depends on it!" I told
"Sounds like you've got a good reason," he replied, "Too bad you don't know your
"But you do," I said to the rat.
"And I suppose you want me to be your guide?" he asked.
"Yes," I replied.
"Sorry, I can't help you," he said. "I've never gone very far into the valley, just far
enough to gather some medicinal mushrooms."
"Well I still need to get through and you know the valley better than I," I
"That place is dangerous," Ramon replied, "We'd likely get ourselves killed; I just
don't want to take such a risk."
"Well could you at least help me open this gate so I can get on with my quest?" I
"You just won't give up, will you?" he asked in return.
"No," I replied.
Ramon sighed, "Very well, if you're determined to kill yourself I might as well
come along to see that you get a proper burial."
I smiled, "Your help will be greatly appreciated, by all of Ponyland."
Ramon disappeared into his hole for a moment and reappeared with a twisted piece
of bronze wire. He scampered over to the gate and swiftly climbed to the lock. After inspecting
the lock for a moment he inserted the wire and began to carefully manipulate it with his forepaws.
In less than a minute the lock was loosed and the gate swung open with an eery creak.
"Well," I said, "we should get moving."
"No," responded Ramon. "We should gather provisions and rest, it'll be dark
The remainder of the day was spent gathering provisions. Ramon produced a large
sack from his hole. We filled the sack with apples, mushrooms, and three clay jars sealed with
corks and wax. One of the jars was decorated with geometric designs in brown, red, and black.
Ramon told me that he thought it was filled with wine. The other two were filled with water he
had melted from snow last winter.
After a good nights rest we set out into the Valley of Thorns.
Brightblade Warpony and flame-maned Epona stood atop the hill. As the day wore
on, Brightblade continued his narration.
The sun was barely above the horizon when Ramon and I set out into the valley and
Ramon re-locked the gate. I carried the sack of provisions by a strap about my neck; Ramon was
perched atop my head. Beyond the gate, we found a wide dusty path between walls of thorns. The
thorn bushes seemed dead and leafless at first; then I realized that they were in fact covered in
small pointed leaves that were almost brown in color and blended in very well with the bark of the
plants. In fact, everything in the valley was brown, what little there was: thorn bushes, occasional
trees, the dusty path, even the sun seemed brown through the dust kicked up by my hooves.
Neither of us talked much; in the valley there wasn't that much to talk about. It was
about mid-morning when Ramon spoke. "At the rate we're moving, we'll be out of familiar
terrain by noon. I estimate two days after that we'll reach the far side, if we last that long."
"I don't see why you're so worried," I replied. "This place doesn't seem so
"It will," Ramon said, somberly.
As the day wore on, I began to understand Ramon's apprehensions. The path
became more and more rocky. By the time the sun set, the path was bare, red-brown bedrock. I
still do not know how those thorns continued to grow so well without soil.
After dark it got worse. Ramon and I gathered some twigs and started a small fire in
the middle of the path, so as not to set the whole valley ablaze. Once we got the fire burning I
found myself wishing that we had not lit it, though Ramon assured me that it was preferable to
darkness. The flickering of the fire, made worse by the cold wind which had picked up, cast
shifting shadows amidst the thorns. I could not tell if the motions I saw at the edge of the light
were simply the shadows or something else.
By morning the wind had brought cold, dark clouds. Dawn was little better than
night, but we had to leave our little fire and move on. As we carried along I heard movement in
the thorns, as if something was following us. I hoped that the fear was more imagined than not. I
asked my guide, "What do you know of the inhabitants of this valley?"
Ramon replied, "Well, they're smaller than ponies and less civilized than
"They must be total savages," I joked in hopes of lightening the mood.
"I resent that!" Ramon huffed.
"It was supposed to be a joke," I explained. "Sorry, I'm just nervous; those
things,"I gestured in the direction of the brambles, "have got me spooked."
"Me too," replied Ramon. "I've never seen one of them but I've heard them
chanting beyond the wall at night. Never seen any sign of activity during the day, until now that
"At least they don't seem aggressive; not at the moment anyway."
"They don't like the light. With all these clouds it'll get dark early, we won't be able
to make a lot of progress today." It was already afternoon.
By mid-afternoon we had reached the center of the valley. We found ourselves
standing on the brink of a chasm, the bottom of which was out of sight in the rapidly fading
daylight. There was a rope bridge across the gorge but it seemed to be in an ill state of
"We should cross before nightfall," said Ramon. "Hopefully those things won't
cross the bridge."
"How do we know there aren't more of them on the other side?" I asked.
"We don't, but we do know they're on this side; we'll have to take a chance."
"I wish there was another way across," I said.
"So do I," replied Ramon.
I approached the bridge and tentatively tested it with my forehoof. The bridge
creaked and moaned but held. Another hoof and still the bridge held. I continued to inch forward
while Ramon remained behind on solid ground; the bridge continued to creak and sway but held.
When I was halfway across, one of the ropes broke; I froze in fear. Ramon called out, "Move,
Brightblade! Get off the bridge quick!" With that he rushed across the bridge, right between my
legs. Another rope broke. The bridge tipped and swayed; the apples fell from the sack.
"Don't look down!" Ramon called. "Look at me and get off that bridge fast!"
I looked at Ramon and galloped as fast as I could. The bridge collapsed a moment
after my hooves hit solid ground. I looked back at the gorge and the ruins of the bridge. "How are
we going to get back across now that the bridge is gone?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, so to speak," said Ramon from the
thorns beside the path where he had ducked to avoid being trampled by my mad dash.
"It grows late," said Epona. "You can continue your tale tomorrow as we
As Brightblade and Epona set out on their quest, Brightblade continued his
Ramon and I built a small fire near the gorge. There was no sign of activity in the
shadows on our side, but we could hear chattering from the far side. The night passed
As the bleak dawn broke, we broke fast on dried mushrooms. They were chewy
and flavorless but they filled our stomachs. As we began our trek, I quickly realized that our
progress would be slowed as we climbed out of the valley. Fortunately there was no sign of the
inhabitants of the valley, at least not during the first day's journey. That evening we finished the
last of our mushrooms around a small fire.
The next day we set out with only some water in our stomachs. It was about
midday when I realized that Ramon was no longer with me. "Ramon!" I called, "Ramon, where
are you?" I began to panic; my heart almost stopped when I heard a noise in the brush. "Who's
there?" I uttered weakly.
Ramon appeared from the thorns carrying two fresh mushrooms. "Don't worry," he
said "It's only me, but you should be quiet. I've seen signs of those things. We're not out of the
We rested and ate the mushrooms; they were better than the dried ones, less
rubbery anyway, and they tasted rather bitter. As we resumed our travel we again heard the
sounds of the mysterious inhabitants of the valley following us. That evening, the eerie character
of the fire again haunted me. A strange feeling in my stomach made it hard to sleep.
Walking the next day was as difficult as sleeping had been the night before. I
pleaded with Ramon to let me rest a day, but he insisted that we press on. My legs felt like rubber
but I made my best effort to walk. My memory of the rest of the day is fuzzy, but I got the
impression that we were not making much progress.
As I lay near the fire Ramon built that evening, he opened the wine jug and gave me
a drink in hopes that it would ease my ailment. It was strong stuff and it burned my thought, but
it numbed the pain in my gut.
That night as I lapsed into and out of consciousness, I recall that Ramon was talking
continuously, though I cannot say what he talked about. I couldn't make any sense of it as
Ramon's rambling was intermingled with strange dreams and hallucinations.
The next day we did not travel. I lay incapacitated by my illness while Ramon
scurried about gathering firewood. That night Ramon was silent, at least when I was conscious.
At dawn Ramon told me that he was going to scout ahead, to see if he could find help. Before he
left, he made me take another drink of wine and told me to keep the fire burning night and day. I
was too weak to argue with him.
I remember little of the next day-and-a-half save fear.
By the time that Brightblade reached this point in his tale, he and Epona had
reached the pleasant fields of Ponyland. It was near noon and as they sought a place to take
lunch, they encountered three ponies, Sundance, Firefly, and Tabby, who were out on a picnic.
"Hey, Brightblade!" Sundance called. "Who's your new friend?"
Brightblade introduced Epona to the ponies.
"Where'd you get the cool hat?" Firefly asked.
"That's a long story; I was just telling it to Epona."
"Why don't you join us on our picnic and tell us all the story?" suggested
"I don't know if we have the time for that. We're on a very important
"Oh, nonsense," said Epona. "Time is not that short that we cannot afford to be
As the ponies enjoyed their picnic, Brightblade briefly recounted the beginning of
his tale, leaving out those details he thought too disturbing for the other ponies. As Firefly laid
out dessert, Brightblade continued his narration.
My first memory when I awoke was a soothing voice. "Don't worry," it said.
"You will be fine." Then I began to move, though not under my own power. Someone put a
bottle of bitter liquid to my lips and I drank. It calmed my stomach and I was able to sleep
peacefully as my unseen benefactors carried me to my as of yet unknown destination.
When I awoke I found myself lying on fresh, green grass under an airy pavilion. A
cool breeze rustled the canvas dome. There was a plate of nut cakes and a cup of water nearby
and I ate and drank. Shortly after I had finished my meal, a female rat entered the pavilion. "Ah,
you're awake," she said. I recognized her voice as that of my rescuer. "And I see you've finished
your refreshments," she went on. "I'll get some more and tell Ramon that you are up."
"Thank you," I said, not knowing what to make of my situation. A short time later
Ramon and the other rat returned carrying a plate of fruit and a cup of water.
"I'm glad to see you're feeling better," Ramon said. "I'm sorry about what
happened to you out there."
"It's all right, you did all that you could to help me," I assured him.
"But it was my fault, it was those mushrooms I foraged that made you sick."
"You couldn't have known," I said.
"But I could have, or should have. We rats are tough, we can eat almost anything.
I should have realized that you could be more sensitive."
"It's okay, don't blame yourself. I'm alive and that's what's important."
"I guess you're right about that. By the way, I'd like to introduce you to
Cassandra," Ramon said, turning to the other rat. "She is the daughter of the village chieftain,
and she led the rescue party into the valley."
Cassandra bowed slightly. "When my father heard that you were in danger, he
insisted that I lead the rescue personally."
"Why would your father be so concerned with my safety?" I asked.
"He is a seer," she explained. "He foresaw your quest some time ago. We have
been preparing to aid you since then."
"What do you know of my quest?"
"You seek the Warrior's Horn in the Temple of Light so that you can save
Ponyland, and more."
"Yes, Ponyland is only the first step; if you do not stop the evil there it will not only
consume Ponyland but the entire globe. You have a great destiny, Warpony, if only you have the
courage to claim it. Now I will leave you to your refreshments. You are still too weak to walk;
tomorrow I will show you around the village." Cassandra bowed deeply and left the
"Would you like me to leave you also?" Ramon asked.
"No," I replied, "stay, tell me what happened, where we are."
Ramon recounted the events of the last two days, how he had found a village of rats
just outside the valley, how he had led Cassandra's rescue party to where I had lain, and finally of
the journey to the village where I recuperated. After Ramon finished his tale, I slept again.
When I awoke I found myself alone; the cup and plate had been removed as I slept.
I stuck my head out the pavilion flap where I found two rats waiting for me. "Hello," one of them
greeted me. "Cassandra asked us to bring you to her once you woke up, if you feel well
"I'm fine, lead the way." Once out of the pavilion I was finally able to get a look at
my surroundings. The pavilion had been erected near a large oak atop a high, grassy hill. The
rats led me down the hill to where the village lay, nestled between two hills. To my left, some
distance from the village, I could see the wall which surrounded the Valley of Thorns. Its
architecture on this side of the valley was the same as on the other side.
The rats' village was a pleasant place. Their small whitewashed cottages with
thatched roofs were separated by wide, grassy footpaths. The whole village was surrounded by a
hedge of lilac bushes. In the middle of the village was a small pond. There was a large crowd
around two figures standing on the shore of the pond. By the time we reached the lilac hedge, the
crowd was beginning to disperse. My guides led me to the pond's edge where the two objects of
the crowd's attention still stood, Ramon and Cassandra.
"Hello," I said.
"Hi," said Ramon.
"Good day, Warpony," Cassandra greeted.
"What was with the crowd?" I asked.
"Ramon was telling us the tale of your journey so far," Cassandra explained.
"I've found I have quite a knack for story telling, a skill that the villagers hold in
high esteem," Ramon said, proudly.
"Yes," said Cassandra, "your friend has the tongue of a great bard. He is already
very popular among my people.
"Now, would you like me to show you around the village?"
"Yes, thank you."
My tour of the village ended in front of a large house next to the pond. "This is my
father's house," Cassandra explained. "He would like to meet you."
"And I would like to meet him."
"Wait here, I will get him."
Cassandra disappeared into the house. She returned several minutes later followed
by two rats carrying a litter where a very old rat sat. They set the litter on the grass in front of me
and the old rat spoke. "It is good that you have come," he said, weakly. "Your quest is of
utmost importance. Please know that you will have whatever aid my people can render. Now I
must rest, take me away." As the litter bearers took the old rat back into his home, he turned his
head and said, "I am glad that I was able to meet you, Warpony. I feared my days would be
fulfilled before you came to us."
When Brightblade reached this point in his tale, the picnic was over. "Oh. What
happened next?" Sundance asked.
"Yes, what happened?" begged Firefly and Tabby.
"I'm afraid we haven't any more time to socialize at the moment," flame-maned
Epona said. "We must be back to our quest."
"But you can't just leave your story unfinished," whined Tabby.
"Don't worry," said Brightblade Warpony. "Once my quest is finished, I'll tell you
the rest of my tale; but first I have to find out how it ends."
Brightblade and Epona then made their goodbyes and continued on their
That afternoon, Brightblade Warpony and flame-maned Epona continued their trek;
Brightblade was silent. "Why do you not continue your tale?" Epona asked.
"I need some time to gather my thoughts," he replied.
Before Epona could respond, a raven flew out of a nearby tree and perched on the
Warrior's Horn. "Khaar! It is good to see you again, Warpony!" the raven kawed. "Are we
nearing the end of our quest?"
"You'd have to ask Epona," Brightblade replied. The raven was silent. "Epona," said
Warpony, "I'd like you to meet Breeks." Breeks looked away from Epona, trying to look like he
was simply admiring the scenery.
"Not very talkative for a raven," Epona commented.
"He clams up like this every time I mention you," Brightblade explained. "He seems not
to like you; have you two met before?"
"No, of all the birds I've known, none have been this disagreeable. How is it you came
"That will be revealed when I continue my tale. I met Breeks shortly after Ramon and I
left the village of the rats."
The rats had replenished our provisions with dried fruits and nut cakes. Our water
were full and the wine bottle filled with the bitter herbal brew that was administered to me during
my illness in the valley. The rats had also given us directions to the Temple of Light. It lay
southwest of their village, beyond the Pack Lands where the wolves dwell. Though most wolves
are peaceful, the rats warned us of the pack led by the one calling himself Kerberus. They also
warned us not to stray too far to the west, for the lands west of the Pack Lands are ruled by
Death and should be avoided at all costs.
The contrast between the green hills of the rats and the dry plains of the Pack Lands was
sharp. At the base of one hill the soft green grass abruptly gave way to tall, brown, sharp-bladed
grass growing in clumps. Much of the ground was bare; and many rocks, some of great size,
projected from the ground. The rocks were more numerous than trees, but the trees that did
grow in the Pack Lands were impressively tall and gnarled.
As we progressed further into the Pack Lands, Ramon began to grow nervous. "I think
we should have asked Cassandra to send some guards with us," he said. "Those wolves could be
right on top of us before we even knew they were there." I was about to agree with him when we
heard from behind us, as if on cue, a threatening growl. We turned and found ourselves facing
two large wolves with their fangs bared. I turned to run-- Ramon was riding on my back at the
time-- but found my path blocked by three more wolves. I heard a vicious bark from my left and
instinctively turned to my right and ran. Strangely, there were no wolves blocking my way.
Ramon kept me informed of the status of our pursuers, who numbered six in all. They
kept an even distance from us, even when I put on an extra burst of speed or slowed from fatigue.
It was as if they did not intend to catch us but instead drive us to some unknown fate.
Before I realized where I was running, Ramon and I found ourselves in a shallow
between two broad outcroppings of rock. In front of us the outcroppings came very close
together; I had to slow my pace to avoid running into the cliff. It was then that I noticed that the
tops of the outcrops were lined with wolves; we were surrounded.
A large, dark-furred wolf stepped forward from the pack. "Greetings, my victims," he
began to speak but was cut off suddenly.
"KHARRRR!" cried a raven as he dove at the large wolf. The wolf, Kerberus, leapt
and ducked to avoid the raven's razor sharp beak. The entire pack seemed frightened, or at least
nervous. (Breeks' chest seemed to swell with pride as Brightblade related these events.)
After his dive, the raven circled around and perched on my head. "Kharr! Flee, while
still have the chance!" he kawed in my ear. "Quickly!"
I trotted as rapidly as I could through the narrow of the canyon. The canyon floor rose
the cliffs dropped, I couldn't tell which, but we soon found ourselves in open country again. We
could hear the angry shouts of Kerberus as he tried to marshal his pack against us. "Quickly,
toward those rocks!" the bird kawed.
As I galloped toward the rocks, I asked the raven, "Who are you and why did you help
"I am Breeks," he replied, "and I helped you because you are the Warpony."
The trio drew near the Dark Forest. "Khaar!" called Breeks. "The end of our quest
is near; I can sense it!"
"Not the end," said flame-maned Epona, "but a stepping stone to the next leg of our
"I wasn't talking to you."
"Could you try to get along with Epona, Breeks?" implored the Warpony. "Our
quest is too important to jeopardize over some petty…whatever your problem is."
Breeks was silent as they passed into the shadow of the wood.
"We will follow the trail only until nightfall. In the morning we will leave the trail
and go northward to a river; that will lead us to the ‘stepping stone' I mentioned. Now,
Warpony, continue your tale."
Ramon, Breeks, and I moved quickly among the rocks until Ramon called a halt. "I
don't like this; we must be nearing the land of Death and this bird directs us further west. He is
driving us to our deaths!"
"Yes, we approach the land of Death, but you will be safe as long as you do as I
say. The wolves fear death, and they fear me because I do not. Now move!"
I did not have long to consider the arguments before I heard our pursuers closing in.
Breeks took to the air. "Kraaa! Follow me, quickly!"
I galloped after Breeks, away from the howls of Kerberus' pack. The landscape
changed gradually as we neared the land of Death. To my surprise, the land seemed to grow
more fertile; brush and trees began to fill the already narrow passages between the rocks. The
growth slowed my progress, but still, we seemed to be outdistancing the wolves.
"You see," said Breeks from atop a tall rock, "they will not follow; not willingly
anyway. Kerberus inspires great fear in his followers. He may inspire them to follow us but they
will be hesitant. We must keep moving."
I struggled through the brush and soon came to a clearing bounded on three sides
by brush and on the fourth by a massive rock. "I have to rest awhile," I said.
"Very well," said Breeks. "Rest quickly."
"While we are halted, would you mind explaining why you are helping us?" asked
Ramon. "Not that your help is not appreciated."
"Krhaa!" kawed Breeks. "I am a great warrior; my name is sung by many bards in
the western lands; but to have my name sung in verse with the great Brightblade Warpony, that
would be true greatness! Aye, our legend will be sung for many years and our names will not be
"So you do this only to serve your own ego?" I asked.
"Just be glad that my ego is served by the cause of Light. Are you ready to travel
I was cut off by a vicious growl as a large wolf entered the clearing. "Ah, the
quarry is mine," he snarled. "You will bring me great honor."
Breeks took to the air. "Kharrr! Be gone, ruffian!"
I only stared at the wolf in terror.
"I am not so superstitious as the others, bird. I will not be frightened off so easily."
The wolf advanced toward me.
"Uh, Brightblade," Ramon whispered in my ear, "I think you better do
The wolf drew closer. "Move!" he commanded. "Back to the Pack Lands."
The abruptness of the wolf's command caused me to jump, freeing me from the
spell of fear. I was backed up against the rock and could hardly move. I summoned up all my
strength and courage and leapt over the wolf into the middle of the clearing. As he turned to face
me, I lashed out with my hind feet. My hooves caught the wolf in the midsection and he was
thrown against the rock.
I turned to see the wolf's still form lying at the base of the rock. I froze in terror
again as I realized what had happened. "What have I done?" I sobbed.
"Ya did what had to be done," called Breeks from high above. "Now move! Speed
is now more urgent than ever!"
I could not move, though. I could only stare at the still form of the wolf. "I didn't
"Come on, Brightblade," said Ramon. "We have to move on, to complete the
I walked slowly from the clearing in a daze.
As I glanced back one last time, I saw a small red rabbit hop out of the brush. I
didn't think much of it at the time, but it was the only other animal I saw in the land of
Night fell. The Warpony; his guide, flame-maned Epona; and the warrior raven, Breeks;
made camp on the forest path. Tomorrow they would leave the path behind. Fortunately, there
was little underbrush in this part of the forest; traveling through it would not be too
As the trio ate their evening meal, Brightblade continued his tale.
Breeks drove us hard through the Lands of Death. After we cleared the rocks, we
ourselves on a lush, grassy plain. We traveled quickly; though there was no sign of Kerberus'
pack, there was something; I still felt as though we were being followed. We traveled through
our first night on the plains and camped the next day. The next five nights we traveled until, near
dawn on the fifth night, we came upon a shallow but very wide valley.
"Here is the border of Death's lands. In the hills beyond is the Temple of Light, and the
Warrior's Horn," explained Breeks. If we travel through the day we could be halfway to the
Temple, and beyond Death's lands by nightfall."
"Sounds good to me," Ramon asserted. "The sooner we leave Death's lands behind us
"That's easy for you to say," I replied. "You don't have to walk or carry
Ramon jumped down from my back. "I'll walk it if I have to, to get out of here
"I agree with the rat," said Breeks. "This rout was a last resort. Now that Kerberus is
longer a threat, it would be to our benefit to leave these lands as quickly as possible."
"Very well then, we travel through the day." I didn't really mind; I had become used to
long treks without rest, even though that day's journey seemed slow and long due to my lack of
sleep. However, since we were descending into the valley, we made good time. That night we
camped on the bank of the river that ran through the valley.
In the morning, Breeks led us southwest, along the river, to where it could be crossed.
There was no bridge, only a broad, shallow ford. Around the ford grew a grove of willow trees.
It was the most idyllic site I had seen on my journey. We could not linger long; but since we were
beyond the Lands of Death, we made camp after crossing even though it was not yet
We resumed our journey the next morning, refreshed. The traveling was easier than it
been in a long time, even though we traveled uphill. By evening, we were in the hills where the
Temple of Light lay.
"Where to now?" I asked Breeks.
"Khaar! Must I guide you by the hand through the entire quest?" he shot back. "What
would you have done had I not joined your quest?"
"We'd just wander through the hills until we found the Temple, I guess. I figured you'd
just lead us to the Temple for expediency."
"You'll not be a hero with that attitude," replied the raven.
"I don't think he knows where the Temple is," observed Ramon.
"Khraa! O' course I do!" kawed the bird. "It's in the hills…somewhere."
"Well, we'd better get looking then."
The next morning we began to search the hills for the Temple of Light. Breeks flew
overhead, scanning the ground with his keen eyes, while Ramon and I searched the numerous
caves and groves of trees. It was the middle of the afternoon when we crested a hill and saw, in
the valley below, a white, domed structure ringed with columns, set into the slope of the opposite
hill. We had found the Temple of Light.
For half the day, the trio trekked through the untamed depths of the Dark Forest. By
noon, they could hear the river in the distance. Epona insisted that they press on and save their
midday meal until thy reached the river.
As they neared the river, the forest became thick with brush and brambles. Breeks flew
ahead to see if he could find a path through the growth, but to no avail. Brightblade blazed a trail
as best he could with the Warrior's Horn, but still the going was slow. From the time they had
first heard the river to the time they reached its cool waters was near an hour-and-a-half.
Brightblade waded into the river, the clear water soothing his sore hooves. Epona
touched her horn to a small, calm pool and gazed into the images that appeared.
"What do you see?" asked the Warpony.
"Nothing of import," Epona replied. "We are on schedule. Now let us eat and hear
further of your adventures."
Ramon, Breeks, and I made our way across the valley to the Temple of Light. We
climbed the steps cautiously, as we did not know what to expect inside. I peeked into the temple
from behind one of the columns and saw that it was mostly empty. The floor was of polished
marble, as white as fresh milk or new fallen snow. The columns that supported the domed roof
surrounded about three-quarters of the area (I don't want to call it a room as there were no
walls). The quarter that was without columns, which was opposite me, was dug into the hillside;
and there was an arched doorway that led to some unknown inner chamber of the temple. In the
center of the temple there was a statue of a unicorn carved from green stone, bathed in light from
the opening in the center of the dome.
"It looks clear," I said as I stepped out from behind the column. Ramon followed me,
Breeks flew past and perched on the statue's horn.
"So, where's the Warrior's Horn?" asked Ramon.
"It must be through that doorway," I said.
"Khaar, that's obvious," kawed Breeks. "Which means that there is probably more to it
than that. Something doesn't feel right here."
I walked up to the statue. "It is strange that this place is so clean, being open to the
elements and all.. But we haven't got time to worry about that. We have to find the Warrior's
Horn." I was about to investigate the arched doorway when Breeks squawked in terror.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Rawwk! The statue moved!" he replied as he fluttered about my head.
"What? That's impossible," said Ramon.
"Yah," I said. "You're just imagining things." Even though I didn't believe that the
statue had moved, I couldn't help but stare at it, waiting for the slightest hint of movement.
"Brightblade," said Ramon, "weren't you going to look for the Horn? Let's
"Huh? Yes, Breeks has just got me a little spooked, I guess," I replied. But just as I
turned away from the statue, I thought I caught a slight movement, or maybe it was just the
shadow of a cloud, or a high flying bird; at least, that's what I told myself at the moment.
"Halt! Trespassers! None shall enter the Temple of Light lest they have proven
The booming voice came from behind me, where only the statue stood. I turned to see
statue no longer on its pedestal, but walking towards me. It seemed unreal; it was still the same
smooth green stone I had seen before, at first. Then it seemed to soften a bit only to remain
stone. Its movements seemed blurred, as if the thing did not really move, but existed at a different
place at each moment in time.
"You who would claim the Warrior's Horn must first face me in single combat!"
The trio followed the river for the rest of the day. At night, they found a clearing in the
thorns where they could make camp. Brightblade was awakened the next morning, to his
surprise, before sunrise. "What's up?" he asked flame-maned Epona.
"We are near a stepping stone, but we must be there at dawn. Come, we have no time
They continued their journey in the dark, with Breeks complaining all the way. As the
glow of the sun was just appearing on the horizon, the trio found themselves at the foot of a
thundering waterfall. Epona stepped forward and touched her horn to the fall just as the first rays
of sunshine touched the shimmering water. Brightblade and Breeks gasped in awe as the waters
of the fall parted, revealing a huge, dark doorway.
"Here we begin the next leg of our journey, in another world," Epona explained. "Now,
Warpony, continue your tale as we proceed. It will help to prevent distraction."
The unreal unicorn stepped toward us. "Which of you is the champion who should
the Warrior's Horn?"
"I... I am," I replied.
"Then defend yourself!" The unicorn guardian lowered his horn and lunged toward me.
Ramon scampered off and hid behind a column while Breeks flew about overhead, kawing his
encouragement. I sidestepped but almost tripped on my own hooves. The guardian swung his
horn; I ducked and head-butted him, and nearly knocked myself out. The guardian, though
moving like a living thing, was still as hard as stone.
I regained my senses quickly and jumped backwards as the guardian reared up and
his fore-hooves down where I had been a moment ago.
"You're quick, but it will take more than that to prove your worth," the guardian
I staggered backwards as the guardian advanced, swinging his horn to and fro. As I ran
out of room to withdraw, I ducked under the guardian's horn and kicked him with my hind
hooves, catching him on the side. The jade unicorn was knocked off his hooves but was back up
in an instant. "Well done, Warpony, but it will take more than that to keep me down." With that
the guardian renewed his attack.
I evaded the guardian and tried to keep to the center of the domed chamber. Though I
was becoming somewhat fatigued by the constant dodging, I found it was becoming easier to
anticipate the guardian's moves. I waited for the right moment, feinted to the right and quickly
doubled back to the left and kicked the guardian in the side of his head as he turned to follow my
feint. The guardian fell to the ground. I turned quickly, reared up on my hind legs, and drove my
fore-hooves down hard on the guardian's whorled horn. The horn shattered and the guardian
I looked around the chamber. Ramon crawled out from his hiding place and Breeks
perched on top of my head. "K'haar!" he cried. "You did it, Warpony! You won!"
A brilliant white light shone forth from the arched doorway to the temple's inner
chambers. "I... won," I said, almost in disbelief.
As Brightblade Warpony remembered that luminous portal, it seemed the antipoint to
dark passage he now traversed.