Twilight, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie, and Rainbow continued making their way through the underground passage; it was dark and spooky, and seemed to go on for a while. The two unicorns lit up their horns to allow them to see where they were going.
"I still find it hard to believe Zecora had an escape route right under her hut." Rainbow Dash said to her friends.
Twilight looked around as they walked, observing the details of the passage walls, "Perhaps this was here long before Zecora settled in the Everfree Forest." Another theory came to the little unicorn's mind, "Maybe it was dug back when Celestia and Luna ruled from their old castle."
"Ya' wanna run that by me again, Twilight?"
"Oh Applejack, I believe Twilight is referring to the ruins where we found the Elements of Harmony; back when we first met her, remember?" answered Rarity to the forgetful cowgirl.
"Of course I remember…its just been a long time, that's all. Nothin' wrong with that, is there?!" Applejack retorted back at uptight and annoying prissy pony.
"Um…please…lets not fight…" muttered Fluttershy as she saw the two ponies exchanging glares at one another.
"Girls! Please don't start something, especially in here!" Twilight ordered, "This tunnel is old. It might not be stable."
Both Applejack and Rarity ceased any further bickering and listened to their friend. The rest followed Twilight as she led them further down the tunnel.
As they walked on for a while, Twilight spotted something up ahead, "I think that's the way out!" She announced to her friends, "Come on girls!"
The six mares started running towards what looked like an exit, and were all thrilled to find Twilight was correct.
Outside of the Everfree Forest lied the Rambling Rock Ridge. This was an area covered in dirt and rocks…obviously. The area was quiet and still, until there was some movement coming from the ground.
A hole appeared from out of the dirt and out popped the head of Twilight Sparkle. She looked around carefully and went back in.
"Okay…the coast is clear," She whispered to her friends.
One by one, the ponies climbed out of the hole, helping the other along the way. Once they were all on the surface, they started brushing off the dirt that covered their coats and manes.
"Well, that was fun." Pinkie Pie said as she smiled.
"I would never consider having to tunnel up from a blocked exit and getting yourself covered in dirt in the process fun at all," complained Rarity as she tried her best to clean herself up.
Both Rainbow Dash and Applejack rolled their eyes, not caring one bit about how dirty they became from all the digging.
"Where are we anyway?" asked Twilight as she shook the dirt off her.
"Well, this does look familiar," Rarity stated as she looked around her, "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 recalled that event and saw that Rarity was right, "Yep, dis here be the place…and I reckon' that tunnel was made by them Diamond Dogs." Applejack suggested, to which the others agreed with.
"Oh…my…" muttered Fluttershy.
"What is it…Flutter…shy…?" Twilight gasped lightly as she saw what the yellow Pegasus was seeing: the entire sky above their home covered in dark, storm clouds; not a star could be seen.
"Oh no!" cried Rainbow Dash.
The Mane Six could see the Ponyville, Cloudsdale, and Canterlot from where they stood. The storm clouds raged from above, along with the flashed of thunder and lightning. This caused the memories of recently to flood back into the little ponies minds.
Twilight moved in front of them, trying to block their view, "Come on girls…we can't stay here. We have to go," she said, being as strong as she could for her friends.
In their hearts, the others did not wish to leave their homes or families behind. But after what had transpired, they could not stay; remaining would only bring the same fate that befell everypony they knew.
The six turned their heads away from the horrible sight, and made their way across the ridge, getting as far away as possible. As their home began to disappear as they walked further, they all took one last look back and made a vow to themselves that they would return and save everypony from the Darkness and its master, Tirek.
As Twilight and her friends continued to walk, some of them began to grow tired, while some wondered if they knew where they were going.
"So…um…Twilight?" asked Fluttershy.
"Well, um…where are we going?"
Twilight stopped for a moment and thought on that question, "Honestly…I don't know."
"Well, we have to think of something!" Rainbow Dash said with frustration.
The others agreed and looked at Twilight, wondering if she was going to come up with something, "Ya do have a plan…right sugarcube?"
The lavender pony sat and started thinking for a moment. She remembered the chat Zecora gave her and reached into her saddlebag to grab it. Twilight took it out and laid it out upon the ground. She then unraveled it and looked carefully at it, "It's a map of Equestria."
The others gathered around the map and looked over it carefully, "So, where do ya'll reckon' we go first?" Applejack asked the others.
"Why don't we go to the Hayseed Swamp?" Pinkie Pie announced, "I mean duh, Zecora told us to go there."
"What about the cities to the north: Manehatten, Baltimare…maybe even the Crystal Empire? There are plenty of ponies there that could help us." Rainbow Dash proposed.
The others seemed to agree with that logic, but Twilight shook her head, "We can't go there…"
"Because I get the feeling Tirek has already sent his forces to all those places, to ensure no pony can oppose him." Twilight sighed sadly, "Besides…it's too far 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 had their own thoughts on the matter, but as Twilight was the wisest of them all, they took her word for it, "Fine, but I still say it wouldn't hurt to try at least," Rainbow Dash huffed.
"I say we should listen to Twilight…after all, she seems to know more on all dis then we do, ain't that right?" Applejack questioned.
Twilight looked up from the map and saw her best friends all staring at her; the look of suspicion from earlier in the hut. She felt nervous and bit her lip, "Alright Twilight…spill the beans! How did you know what Zecora was going to say when she read that last verse?!" snapped the tomboyish pegasus.
Not wishing to keep her friends in the dark about what she knows, she took a deep breath and then let it all out, and explained, "You see…the other day, when I was at Canterlot gathering some new reading material…I…came across an old book…"
"Wait! Are you referring to that book you wouldn't let me read?" Interrupted Rainbow.
"I knew it!"
"Hush Rainbow! Let her finish," Rarity snapped.
Twilight continued on, "It was old and falling apart, but I was able to repair some of it…." She decided to skip ahead to the part that her friends needed 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."
Twilight's friends had mixed thoughts on all this after she finished:
"So you knew about this and never told us?!" exclaimed Rainbow Dash.
"What else are ya' not telling' us?!" demanded Applejack.
"Twilight! It's not nice to lie to your friends," Pinkie stated.
"You sure there is nothing else?" asked Fluttershy.
"Be a dear and tell us please." Rarity asked politely.
Twilight could no utter another word with all her friends talking at once, trying to get more out of her. Fed up with this ramble, she yelled out loud, "QUIEEET!!" This caused them to fall silent fast.
Twilight sighed and continued, "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 apologized and hugged her, to which she thanked them for understanding,"But…there is one last thing…" Rainbow Dash suddenly added.
"…Rainbow…" Applejack snapped.
"I'm not trying to start something, but if you found it in the library, wouldn't Princess Celestia have known of it?"
"That is a good question. Did she, Twilight?" asked Fluttershy.
Twilight shook her head, "No, she did not. I don't know how that book came to be in the library, but it was older then any book I have seen there…and I have seen them all." She chuckled a little at this fact.
"Thanks again for telling us, Twilight. Sorry we doubted you." smiled Rainbow Dash.
"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 spoke proudly.
"Boy howdy, Twi. That was sum speech ya' gave there." The smiling Applejack said.
"Yep. That would TOTALLY be a good lesson to write to the Princess," Pinkie Pie added, smiling as well.
Twilight was happy that she learned a new lesson, but her smile turned to a frown when the Princess was brought up, "Only if we see her again…"
Fluttershy came up to Twilight and placed her hoof on the lavender pony's shoulder, "Not if…when…when we see her again."
Twilight was surprised by Fluttershy's words on encouragement, that it made her smile again, "Thanks Fluttershy."
The others smiled at Fluttershy's words as well.
The Mane Six spent the next few minutes discussing where they should go and what help they should seek out. They now knew they could not go north to any of the pony cities; the storm clouds above were stronger and louder to the north, which indicated that the presence of evil was there. There only hope lied to the south, where the storm was not so big.
"I know it's risky, but we have to try something," Twilight explained, "If Tirek IS focusing on the north, then we may have a chance at finding help in southern Equestria. We need to move now."
"But Twilight, it is a long way to walk, and where exactly should we start?" asked Rarity.
"We could ask my relatives in Appleloosa for help. Maybe even at Dodge Junction." Applejack suggested.
"Lets not forget about the other creatures." Pinkie Pie stated.
"What other creatures?" asked Rainbow Dash.
"The other creatures, silly. The ones Zecora mentioned: zebras, buffalo, and dragons…oh my!"
Twilight thought on that and remembered where they could find them, "Pinkie is right. We need more then other ponies to fight the Darkness." She rolled out the map again and pointed to a few places, "Zecora said a tribe of zebras are settled in the Hayseed Swamp; the buffalo roam around Appleloosa, so we shouldn't have trouble finding them; and the dragons might still be in the Badlands when they were migrating."
"You really think they are going to help us, Twilight?" asked an unconvinced cyan pegasus, "I mean I know we made friends with the buffalo, but I don't think we are on good terms with the zebras and dragons."
"We have to try, Rainbow. They will have to listen to us, cause this is their home as much as it is ours."
"That is true, but to go to all these places, it could take days."
Twilight picked up the map and placed in back in her saddlebag, "You're right. It will take too long if we all go together, cause the longer we take, the sooner Tirek will turn his attention south."
"What are you suggesting, Twilight?" asked Fluttershy, who seemed to already know the answer.
"What I'm saying is…" Twilight felt bad, but they were left with no other option, "…we are going to have to split into groups and go to these places separately."
The girls all gasped a little; splitting up was not something they would want to do, not like this, "But Twilight…" Rarity tried to mutter.
"No buts, Rarity. We have to do this. It's the only way to gather them faster. We can decide where to go, and once we finish, we can all meet back at Applepaloosa."
The others all agreed with Twilight; this was the best course of action. The only question was: which pony goes together and to where?
"I'll go to Appleloose, since these are my cousins after all. I'll even try to get word to Dodge Junction if a' can." Applejack turned to see which one of her friends she would take with her. She pointed her hoof at Fluttershy.
"Who me?" she asked nervously.
"Oh…well…okay." the nervous pegasus muttered.
Twilight nodded at Applejack's decision and announced, "Both me and Rarity will go to the Badlands to ask the dragons for help."
Rarity was hesitant at first, but no matter where she would end up going, it was going to be a long walk, "Oh very well."
"I guess that leaves me with the Swamp and the zebras," Pinkie Pie said smiling, as she turned to Rainbow Dash.
"Why do I have to go to the swamp…with Pinkie Pie?!" she complained.
"Sorry, Rainbow. Deal with it." replied Applejack.
Pinkie hugged 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…oh…or maybe play "I spot"…or maybe even…" Pinkie went on and on.
"Yeah…terrific…" Rainbow said sarcastically as she rolled her eyes.
Once everything was set, the girls hugged each other one last time before beginning their long walk to their destinations.
"Take care girls. Be safe." Twilight said.
"Ya'll do the same, ya' hear." Applejack insisted.
"Please…be safe out there." said Fluttershy to her friends.
"Be well, and do be ever so careful," Rarity said.
"I'm gonna miss you guys," Rainbow mumbled, trying not to cry.
"Once we meet up again, I'm gonna throw a BIG welcome back party for everypony!" Pinkie Pie cheered happily.
The girls all laughed and would look forward to that. After saying their goodbyes, they split up into their assigned groups and started their long walk south in different directions:
Twilight and Rarity made their way to the Badlands, hoping there will still be dragons there; Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash headed southeast to the Hayseed Swamp to find the zebras Zecora mentioned; Applejack and Fluttershy traveled southwest to Appleloosa to ask the buffalo and other ponies for help.
Although they were apart for now, they would be together again and would see their home saved from the evil that had taken it from them. Their journey to save Equestria from the Darkness…had officially begun.