Chapter Eleven: Meeting Angel
Smokey scanned the list Fluttershy had created for him once he arrived at the mare’s cottage. He was able to find it quite easily, all really needing to do was follow his footprints back to the well where he had originally found her, then he was led the rest of the way by her hoof prints. Lowering the notepad, his eyes flickered up and down the pony's home. It was quite a charming place, he thought to himself. Not wanting to waste any more time, he approached the door and entered.
The cottage was quaint and cozy as it was enchanting, the humble abode clearly being designed not just for the pegasus but for a multitude of animal guests. It clearly showed to Fluttershy's aspirations as an animal caretaker. Though it was just as obvious that despite her naturalistic treatments and holistic practices she was not, nor was she qualified--to be an outright veterinarian. Despite this, her animal care techniques were just as valid as those as a standard, traditional pet physician. She just went a less mainstream method of doing so, it appeared.
Speculation aside, the cottage, oddly, seemed to be devoid of any life. This was unusual, considering the fact that Fluttershy had listed so many animals that needed care. Even the chicken coup had been eerily silent when Smokey came up. Yet, there was no visibly obvious sign of sabotage around the fencing, and closer inspection would have revealed that everything was indeed intact. The door had even been closed.
Which begged the question… Where was everyone?
“Hello?” Smokey called out, the burden of anxiety beginning to build up from the lack of animal presence.
He decided to get to work in getting out food and water, thinking that might lure them out. Food always drew the attention of his critters. The dragon looked around, and upon spotting the pantries, he immediately precipitated himself over to them. It said on the notepad that there was food for her rabbit--as well some of her other animals--in there.
“Aha! Here we are!” He came upon a stash of carrots and canned cat food first. Removing a couple of the carrots, Smokey got to work cleaning them off with the usage of water from the sink.
After he located the basket that supposedly belonged to Angel, he set the carrots down in it, unable to locate a food bowl for him. He found a ceramic water dish that barely had anything left in it and emptied it out in the sink. Wiping it clean, he refilled it with fresh water then returned it back to the spot where he had found it.
Pausing, his eyes searched again for any animals.
Again, the house remained eerily silent…
Except for the sound of a door hinge from the ceiling creaking with a subsequent slam. Ear frills flaring at the sudden noise, Smokey whipped his vision to its origins. Spying a trapdoor atop of a small animal-sized staircase that lead to the ceiling, he stepped closer to investigate.
“Hello? Anyone up there? I’m not here to hurt anybody.”
There was no response at first. The trapdoor opened after a moment, with a white rabbit face and several other small animals poking their various heads out. The rabbit drew and his surrounding comrades drew back and the trapdoor slammed shut a second time--but not before a tiny baby mouse leaped through the crack just as it closed and bounded his way down the steps towards the scarlet beast. Unusually, despite his species being known and associated with timidness, this particular rodent was actually fairly bold.
Smokey’s eyes were glued to the mouse as he scurried down the steps and stopped at the foot of the staircase, glad that at least one of the animals was brave enough to come near him. Putting on a warm smile, he slowly knelt to the floor and extended a hand to the creature.
“Hello, little fellow,” he began in a gentle intonation. “I’m certain you and your friends are wondering where Miss Fluttershy is. Well… she had an unfortunate accident and I’m taking care of her. There’s no need to worry, she’ll be just fine.”
Almost immediately noticing one of their own was missing, the trapdoor reopened. A couple of the larger mice--presumably the baby mouse’s parents--bounded down after the child. Behind them was the Angel, who tailed them intent on keeping his fellow animals safe. As the baby mouse was moving forward to sniff at the draconian being, his parents were at his sides to grasp and haul him back, as Angel landed in front of all three of them on the bottom step.
He glared up at Smokey, brandishing a half-eaten carrot like a weapon. The small leporidae was also wearing a wok as a helmet and carrying a pot lid for a shield, pointing his unassuming weapon in what was supposed to be a rather threatening, but wound up comical, fashion against him.
The dragon was pretty amused, but he decided to humor the rabbit that dared to challenge him. “You must be Angel bunny, Equestria’s bravest dragon slayer. My name is Smokey, a friend of Miss Fluttershy. She is currently in my care, but there’s no need to worry, she will recover. She just has a fever and some sinus trouble. I came down here to feed you and your friends.”
Angel arched an eyebrow, unsure if he should believe this dragon or not. His nose wrinkled, whiskers shaking back and forth lightly as he continued to size him up. A few seconds later, the baby mouse, having been held back by his parents, burst away from them and scurried past even Angel, pausing directly at Smokey's feet and sniffing at him to get an idea of his character.
A tense few seconds passed, and the child turned back to his parents and friend with wide large eyes. The two adult mice looked at each other, then back at Smokey, before seeming to relax.
Angel, upon seeing the mice apparently feeling comfortable with the dragon, lowered his "weapon" and tossed the pot lid away, but declined to remove the wok. His narrowed-eyed expression gave an impression he apparently still didn't personally trust the dragon, but he wouldn't oppose him either.
Smokey held his form still, his downcast eyes watching the baby mouse as he indulged in his curiosity. Once the little one was finished, the dragon rose up from his knelt position. He didn't bother to try to touch any of them, worried that he might frighten them. No, the best approach would be to allow the animals to come to him when they felt comfortable with his presence.
“Well, it certainly was a pleasure meeting you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to work.” With that, Smokey turned around to resume where he left off.
Angel's whiskers twitched back and forth again, but didn't do much of anything else except scamper back upstairs to the upper level to inform the other animals that everything was clear. Some of them had smelled the dragon coming from some distance off and had, as a precaution, fled and hid from what they naturally assumed was a predator. Even the chickens had gone quiet, unsure of Smokey's intentions.
As the rabbit went up to inform Fluttershy's other animal friends and patients, a few of them descended down the stairs. One in particular being a small green hummingbird that fluttered down from the upper level. Flittering and fluttering this way and that, he kept a small distance from the dragon, observing him.
Some of the animals on the upper level, which included the outside ones such as the chickens and goat who somehow managed to get out of their pens looked to each other with questioning eyes. The goat slid out from underneath Fluttershy's bed and tip-toed over to the trapdoor which lay ajar, and peeked an eye through to spy on the draconian beast. The view wasn't very reliable at this angle. For the majority of duration he spent watching, the dragon left his sight.
There were other animals who wanted to watch, but a corner of the small doorway was all they were able to get a glimpse of thanks to the goat's head blocking their vision. Shoving their bodies against the farm animal's head and voicing their complaints, the goat took the hint and removed himself from the trap door frame.
Smokey didn't have too much trouble locating the various foods reserved for the animals; Fluttershy's directions weren't completely thorough enough to pinpoint exactly where everything was, but enough to tell him the vicinity of where food was located. He didn't have any more luck in earning any trust from the animals, but he wasn't expecting them to accept him right away, and that was natural. He would just need to come by more often, he thought.
Before he did leave, he made sure the creatures knew they had plenty of food and water to last them throughout the day. He spied a small white kitten sporting an adorable bow tied around a tuft of fur at the top of his cranium--because of this, Smokey pre-assumed the fluffy little thing was female. Boy was he going to receive a surprise once Fluttershy would introduce everyone to him. As he left, he was happy to see the chickens and goat--who had managed to get back into their pens just as enigmatically as when they had gotten out--were munching away at the sustenance he left for them. With a satisfied smile exhibited on his scaly features, he departed and made his way into the heart of Ponyville.
Off into the direction of said town, or rather, coming from it was a beautiful snow white mare. Clad in high boots on all four hooves, a warm fuzzy faux fur coat, and a rather stylish pair of blue earmuffs that matched the color of her cutie mark, Ponyville’s prima donna fashionista Rarity was making her way to Fluttershy’s cottage.
Unlike Smokey, who was heading to town on the traditional path commonly traveled, Rarity was taking a more scenic route and enjoying the weather that winter day, despite it being rather chilly. Rounding a bend that had rolled around a knoll, the purple-maned unicorn had not seen the otherwise prominent dragon that had recently departed Fluttershy's cottage.
“Oh, Fluttershy!” Rarity called as she crossed over the small bridge leading to pegasus friend’s home. “It’s me, Rarity! Are you ready for our usual spa appoi--Wah ha ha HA ha!”
Her eyes were wide and her mouth hug agape. The scene before her looked… well, chaotic. Near the chicken coop were feathers strewn about haphazardly. Unbeknownst to Rarity, some of them had fallen off due to the chicken's rush to and from the coop with their encounter with Smokey, however they had blended in to the snow and were very hard--if not impossible--to spot from a glance. The signs from Fluttershy's earlier chase with Chenoa were also present, though the hoof prints that lead away from the cottage had been mostly covered and obscured by others.
Namely, a strange and unusual track, that of a claw-toed creature with surprisingly large feet had apparently emerged from the forest--having covered the ones Fluttershy left beforehand--and were seen around the cottage, namely parts of the chicken coop and the front door. The cottage did not appear disturbed, but the animals seemed just a little perturbed about something.
Or at least it all seemed as such to Rarity. As she scanned the location, she had seen the evidence before her… especially the hard to spot chicken feathers… and had came to the conclusion that a struggle perhaps had taken place. Not wasting any time, Rarity barged in through the door, practically bucking it off its hinges.
“Fluttershy?!” she called out, deeply concerned. “Darling, are you in here?!”
Her voice echoed around the cottage, reverberating through the rooms but not returning any response. Now even more worried, she immediately dashed upstairs to check the bedroom. “Fluttershy?!”
The room was empty… And for some inexplicable reason, stank mostly of animal. Holding her nose, and seeing her friend wasn't present, the unicorn streaked back down the steps, glancing in the kitchen, and even throwing open the cellar door to investigate. There was no sign of Fluttershy there, either.
There was no sign of Fluttershy anywhere, Rarity realized. Now completely terrified, the white unicorn came to the only possible conclusion.
“Dear heavens… Fluttershy’s been foalnapped!” Hoof coming up to her head, she felt faint, but steeled herself. “No! I’ve got to get the others! I’ve no time to waste!”
Without any further thought, Rarity turned around and galloped right out the door, intent on rushing back to town as quickly as possible to inform her friends.
A few moments after Rarity left, Angel muttered and sighed, getting up from his basket to close the door. He’d been trying to nap, which had been constantly interrupted. He would have gladly informed the snowy white unicorn of the situation, had he been able to properly communicate, but a lack of vocal chords and general apathy, and Rarity’s high strung actions essentially led him to figure forget it. So long as his pony was in good hands, he saw nothing to worry about.
Curling back up in his bed, he went right back to sleep.