Lurking among the trees and shadows were some of the many creatures that made their home within the Everfree Forest. Some were of a kind and gentle sort, and there were those that were both mean and scary.
Originally, these creatures would pose little trouble to any who would journey into their area. But now, they had begun gathering around the hut of the zebra herbalist; surrounding it so that none would escape. As they moved in closer, their faces became visible to a certain pony watching from the inside.
"Those eyes…" whispered Princess Luna to the others as she peeked out the window, carefully keeping herself hidden, "…they are the same from before."
"You mean they're…?" Rainbow Dash asked quietly.
"Yes. Like everypony we knew, they are now servants of Tirek."
"Those poor little animals," wept the frightened Fluttershy, "How could he do such a thing to them?"
"Cuz he's evil…" answered Applejack, who stood close to the yellow pegasus, "…and from the look of it, it don't matter who he uses ta' get what he wants."
"What ever shall we do?" Rarity quietly asked her friends.
"We have to get out of here," Twilight said as she and Zecora started barricading the door with the shelf and cauldron.
"Well, we sure as heck aren't goin' out that way."
"Oh, this isn't good. What do we do?! What do we do?! WHAT DO WE DO???!!!" yelled the panicking Pinkie Pie.
Rainbow flew over to the pink pony and covered her mouth with her hoof, "Be quiet Pinkie. You want them to hear us?"
"They already know we are here," explained Princess Luna, "They have known since we first arrived here."
"How do you know that, your Highness?" Asked the curious Twilight Sparkle.
The Princess of the Night hung her head and explained, "Because…in a way…I still serve him."
The Mane six and Zecora were appalled at what she just said; they had no idea how to react. Twilight came up to her and asked, "What are you saying?"
Luna took in a breath of air and sighed, "I did not realize this until just recently, but…"
"Hate to interrupt ya'll…" Applejack butted in as they heard sounds of scratching and banging coming from the outside, "…but a' could use some help over here!"
Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie came to the orange earth pony's aid. Together they pushed up against the large items that were propped up against the door. Twilight assisted Zecora with the window; the lavender unicorn used her magic to move the bed and set it up against the window.
"That ought to do it," Twilight proudly announced after finishing.
The noise from outside grew louder, as if more then simple creatures of the forest were there. Every pony inside knew they could not hold them off, nor could they take them all on.
Suddenly, they heard one of the creatures speak as it banged on the door, "Surrender to Tirek the Supreme!"
Rainbow Dash sighed in disgust, "Even though its only been a short time, hearing them chant his name like that over and over is REALLY getting annoying!"
"I'm with ya' on that one, Rainbow." Applejack said.
The dark creatures outside continued to increase in numbers and gather around the hut to attempt breaking down the door and window. It would not be long before they would succeed.
Inside the ponies continued to hold out as long as they could, but were running out of time. Zecora was busy digging through her scrolls, while the others used what strength or magic they had to keep the evil creatures out.
"We cannot keep this up forever. We have to get out!" yelled Rarity.
"You got a better plan?!" asked Rainbow Dash, who turned to see a certain pony hiding underneath the table, "Fluttershy, come out of there and help us!"
The timid, little Pegasus had her head under the table while her hide quarters was sticking up in the air. She whimpered and shook nervously, refusing to come out.
Twilight and Luna used their magic to keep the window secure, "Zecora. If you have anything that could help us with this, now might be a good time!" Twilight yelled.
"A simple moment if you please, as I pack some important necessities," she replied as she stuffed a saddlebag with a few scrolls and some food.
"What is all that for?"
"Dis is what you ponies will need, in order for you to succeed."
"Wha…What do you…mean?" asked Fluttershy as she came out from hiding.
Zecora finished and walked over to where the bed was and placed a few things down, "I will need to explain a few things of importance. Your majesty, could you take their place and handle this disturbance?"
"Very well. Go ahead, my friends. I can hold this for now." Princess Luna increased her current magic and held both the door and window in place.
The Mane six gathered around Zecora as she gave the bag to Twilight, "There is not much time so I will be quick: find and ask others for help, carefully and wisely you must pick."
"Where do we start?" Rainbow Dash asked.
"To the south where the Hayseed Swamp lies, you will find a zebra tribe that I have strong ties. Seek them out and listen to their wisdom, only then will your path begin towards Equestria's freedom."
The girls understood Zecora's words but Applejack had to bring up the question to their current situation, "But how in tarnation are we to get there if we are trapped in here?"
Zecora removed the rug on the floor which revealed a trapdoor. The mares were all surprised by this, "Huh. That's…convenient." Rainbow Dash stated.
Twilight opened the trapdoor and looked down inside, "Where does this lead to anyway?"
"It will take you to safety. No more time, you must be hasty!" Zecora explained as the banging grew louder; they were almost through.
Twilight looked up from the trapdoor to her zebra friend and asked, "Aren't you coming with us?"
Zecora shook her head, "There is nothing more I can give you. This is your mission, do what you must do." She walked over to the wall and grabbed a bamboo staff, "Worry not for me. I can handle myself, as you can see."
The ponies were sad to see their friend stay behind, but they had no time to argue or convince her; her knowledge helped a great deal and they thanked her for everything.
As the Mane six were about to jump in, Twilight turned to the Princess, who was still holding the creatures at bay, "Come with us!"
"I cannot, Twilight Sparkle."
"I would only put you and your friends in more danger then I already have," she answered sadly.
"What are you talking-" Twilight suddenly remembered what Luna spoke of earlier, but was unable to finish because of the creatures, "Please…tell us why!"
"Because…even after you six saved me from the darkness that time ago…there was still a small amount that remained…inside." She continued on as she held her magic as best she could, "Tirek was able to use that and track me…to here. I am responsible for them finding us so quickly."
Twilight felt sorry for the Princess; it was enough she has suffered for a long time, and even now she is still bound to the Darkness in some way, "Princess Luna…"
"If I go with you, He will use me to find you. I will not put any of you in anymore danger." Luna's magic was starting to wane, "You six are the only hope for Equestria now. Go, and weep no more. Be strong…for all of us."
Twilight and her friends could not bear to see both Zecora and Princess Luna remain here to fight off these servants of the Dark One, knowing they would eventually become one of them. But Luna was right: as the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, it was their duty to protect Equestria, from every evil that threatens it.
"We will succeed…we promise," Twilight said as a single tear rolled down her cheek. The others all smiled, promising the same.
As the creatures outside pushed harder, the window and door only had seconds left before they would fail.
"Go! Hurry!" ordered the Princess.
Rarity and Fluttershy were afraid to go down the passage; to them it was both scary and dirty down there. Rainbow Dash grew impatient and pushed them both in, then went in after.
Pinkie Pie didn't need any motivation; she called out to the others already inside the tunnel, "Look out below!" Then she jumped in, "Wheeeeee!!!"
Applejack went in next. Twilight turned to look at Zecora and Luna one last time before jumping down. She was afraid she would never see them again, but the promise she made ensured her she would not give up on them or any of her friends and family.
Once the girls were all in, they started making their way down the tunnel, not knowing where it would take them.
Princess Luna used her magic to seal the trapdoor; locking it tight so none of the creatures will use it.
Zecora stood close to the Princess, ready to defend her home, "If this is to be our last stand, let us stand together and make it grand."
Princess Luna released her spells holding the door and window and smiled, "I could not agree more. Lets do this!"
The zebra herbalist and the alicorn princess stood side by side as the creatures busted in. Together, they used their own skills to hold them off:
Zecora used her bamboo staff to knock a few out, while Luna used what strength and magic she had left to drive some of them away with her loud, booming voice, "BE GONE FOUL CREATURES, AND WE MAY SHOW THOU MERCY!!"
Once they cleared the inside out, they ran outside to handle the rest. But this time, there were more then simple creatures this time; ponies and much larger creatures were before them. This did not slow them down at all. Zecora and Princess Luna charged at them, ready for whatever happens next.