The hour had reached seven in the morning, yet the sun did not rise; the everlasting storm continued on high above as the night pressed on. All this seemed endless and many feared they would never see the daylight again.
Applejack was already up and about, anxious to get an early start on the road towards the buffalo territory. She filled a her saddlebag with a canteen of water and a couple of apples; there was no telling how long they may be out there.
After packing the necessary essentials, Applejack made her way back upstairs to Fluttershy's room. She knocked on the door and called out, "Fluttershy? Time ta' get up and hit the trail." There was no answer.
"Sugarcube…?" the orange earth pony whispered as she opened the door, only to find the innocent little pegasus still sound asleep. Applejack was relived to see her friend sleeping peacefully, and without any nightmares this time. As much as she hated to wake her, they had to get going.
"Up and at 'em!" She hollered as she flipped the mattress, causing Fluttershy to fall off and onto the ground.
"Oh Applejack…why the wake-up call? It's still dark…" the sleepy Fluttershy asked.
Applejack raised her eyebrow while giving her a questionable look. Fluttershy squeed from embarrassment and blushed, "…sorry…"
"Not a problem. Hope ya' slept well."
"Oh…I did. I didn't have any dreams…which I guess is good too."
Applejack nodded as she helped 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 remembered the nightmare she had, and trembled at the thought of it happening again.
"Come on, we got to get movin'. Braeburn is already outside waitin' fer us."
"Oh…okay…" Fluttershy grabbed the Element of Kindness off the dresser and placed it on her neck. She then followed Applejack down the stairs and out of the Salt Block, where they found Braeburn waiting for them.
"Bout' time ya'll showed up," said the yellow colt, who had a lit lantern by his side.
"Sorry cousin. Had ta' pack a few things and get 'ol Fluttershy here outta bed."
Fluttershy blushed once more, "I'm sorry…"
"Not a problem. Fer travelin' this far, ya'll deserved a good rest," Braeburn reassured the nervous little pony.
"Oh…thank you…" Fluttershy politely thanked him.
"So what's the situation cousin? Is it just us three goin' out ta' find the buffalo?" asked the curious Applejack.
"Friad' so. Sheriff Silverstar volunteered at first, but his duty to protect the ponies here was more important, so I recommended he stay."
"What bout' the others?"
Braeburn sighed, "They be too scared to go out there, not that stayin' here is any better." Right before picking up the lantern, he said one last thing, "Sorry cousin, but its just us fer now."
Applejack was not surprised by this at all: the citizens of Appleloosa were scared and had the right to be, but working towards solving the problem is better then sitting around waiting for the Darkness to arrive, "Guess it'll have ta' do."
Fluttershy tried 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…" came a voice from behind them.
Applejack, Fluttershy and Braeburn turned around to see Silverstar standing on the porch of his office. Holding a lantern by the handle in his mouth, he placed it high above on a hook.
"What in tarnation are ya' doin', sheriff?" asked Applejack.
"Well I'll be…" Braeburn said as he looked around and saw the other ponies doing the very same thing: hanging lanterns out to light up their town. Applejack and Fluttershy noticed 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 explained.
Applejack smiled and felt thankful for this small amount of kindness, "Thanks ya'll."
"Oh yes…thank you so very much," Fluttershy added.
"That's mighty kind of ya' sheriff…and thank you everypony!" Braeburn expressed to his friends.
With the town of Appleloosa shining bright, the three ponies said their goodbyes and galloped off towards the buffalo territory. As they left, the citizens all waved and wished them well.
"Ya'll take care now, ya' hear!!" Sheriff Silverstar yelled out at them, hoping for their safe return.
With the town of Appleloosa far behind them, Fluttershy, Applejack and Braeburn traveled 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 followed the yellow colt, who knew exactly where he were going.
"We're lost arn't we, Braeburn?" sighed Applejack.
"No…!" He lied, "…I just haven't been out here for a while, tis all!"
The orange earth pony sighed heavily and grabbed the lantern from her cousin and went on ahead.
"Hey now!" Braeburn barked when the lantern was snatched from him, "I doubt ya'll know the way better then I do!"
Applejack turned around, set the lantern on the ground and snapped at him, "I betcha a' do!"
Fluttershy got down on the ground and tried to hide herself once the two cousins started arguing. She didn't like it when her friends would fight, and was too afraid to try and butt in. Suddenly, a different sound reached the little pony's ears.
"Do you…hear that?" she nervously asked the two other ponies.
Both Applejack and Braeburn continued to argue, but once they heard the sound that Fluttershy was hearing, they ceased their fighting and gathered around the yellow pegasus.
"What…what is it?" asked Fluttershy.
They all listened closely and could tell that it was sound of rattling coming from somewhere nearby, "Probably a rattler." Braeburn guessed.
"Sounds like it, sugarcube." Applejack answered 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 started to move to the right, away from the rattling. But as they did the same sound came from that direction. Soon, they could hear more rattling all around them.
"We're surrounded!" cried Braeburn as the huddled together with the lantern nearby.
"Dis aint good…"
As the three ponies stayed close together, a group of rattlesnakes came into view and hissed at them, "Well golly…this is definitely not good at all," muttered Braeburn.
The two cousins grew more nervous as the snakes trapped them in a circle, but were not moving in for some reason. They then saw Fluttershy slowly approaching the biggest one of them, who might be their leader.
"Fluttershy!!" yelled Applejack.
The little pegasus moved in and just smiled 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 hissed a little at Fluttershy, but she could tell by the look in his eyes that it was just trying to protect its home, along with its family and friends. She moved right up to it and moved her hoof towards it.
The snakes cowered a little, but it calmed down once it felt her hoof gently pet his scales, "That's a good little snake," Fluttershy cooed as she received a little lick from the snake.
The smaller rattlesnakes slithered passed the two earth ponies and joined the bigger one. They all gathered around Fluttershy and licked her cheeks, which tickled her and made her giggle.
"What…in tarnation…just happened?" asked the very confused Braeburn to his cousin.
Applejack just smiled, "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 moved up to her friend and congratulated her, "Nicely done, sugarcube?"
Fluttershy turned her head to them and smiled, "Oh…thank you. These poor little snakes were scared and were trying to protect their home."
"Scared of wha'?"
"The dark," she answered, "The snakes were afraid of the dark…and the storms."
"Just like we are…" Braeburn added sadly.
Applejack understood well; every creature in Equestria, big and small, had the right to be scared with all that had been happening. These rattlesnakes were 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 stated, "But I'm glad you were able to show them we mean 'em no harm."
"Me too." Fluttershy turned her head back to the snakes and introduced them, "These are my friends: Applejack and Braeburn."
A few of them slithered over to the two and brushed up against them to greet them in a friendly way. Both Braeburn and Applejack were hesitant at first, but once they saw how gentle the little snakes were, they got down on the ground at their level and allowed them to lick their cheeks.
"Hehehehe…that does tickle." chuckled the yellow colt.
"Yep. Mighty cute little critters," smiled the orange mare.
Fluttershy was 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 were having fun spending time with the rattlesnakes, Applejack rose up carefully and asked Fluttershy a question, "Any chance these little fellas might know where the buffalo might be?"
"I don't know…I guess I could ask them." Fluttershy shrugged, turning her attention to the big snake, "Mr. Snake…do you know where we could find the buffalo?"
Mr. Snake, whom Fluttershy herself named, pondered that question for a quick moment, then nodded at her.
"Oh, I'm so glad. Do you know which way?"
Mr. Snake nodded once more, and hissed 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 hissed goodbye to their new friends and returned to the holes in the ground. The ponies waved goodbye to them and noticed that Mr. Snake was slithering his way to the west. Fluttershy followed him, with the two earth ponies close behind them.