No.680383[Last 50 Posts]
Wheels still spinning
As you are in uptown near the palace, you can see the university clock tower from here. The piping office isn't immediately obvious though. You take a moment to search and notice, across the square, there is indeed a building with some large pipes.
Municipal Water Reserve
Hmm, maybe this was the building the pony was talking about?
Being lost in your thoughts - trying to shut out the idea that you are Southern to the core - makes it easy to go numb and ignore your body. Blackpaw finishes scrubbing you and washing you. He pulls you out and dresses you. Yesterday, all of this might have felt like a violation of privacy, but you don't have the energy to protest.
You're left to your thoughts, sitting still on the couch. You smell like a steel mill.
In any case, it doesn't take her long to recognize Cumin in the robe. "The prodigal prince returns! Do you need some more dresses 'for the palace maids'?"
Cumin turns red. "N-no! P-lease, don't! Don't tease me. I, uh… brought you a new customer. I didn't think you would s-spread rumors…"
"Of course not darling. Is he ready for his measurements?"
"S-stop! S-she's my, uh… s-special somepony."
"Oh? This should be fun, then. Come on back."
"Maybe… it's a little disconcerting though… I'm not in the business of hurting anypony, I used to be a nurse."
She gathers herself on the couch and straightens a picture frame housing a bullet on the wall, which had been knocked askew during the shouting.
It must be, look at all these big pipes! This is the place for me! Land and look for an entrance!
Titter a bit.
"Should I be jealous?"
A little teasing, but the light tone will let him know I'm not too serious.
"It's probably no good to dwell on the past anyway… but I'm still glad I found you. Before today you were nothing but a vague memory I could barely recall, sprinkled with some stories from people who met you many years ago. Now I at least know you're still here and what happened to you."
It looks kind of like an office building with cubicle dividers and desks in here, but there are ponies walking around and talking with hardhats on. What for? They're in doors!
The back wall has a bunch of big pipes and valves and gauges. It looks very technical.>>680385
He pouts a bit and Stella leads you back by the hoof to what appears to be a fashion studio. There's a dias in the center, and the room is ringed with mannequins and cloth racks.
"Let's see, I think I know just what you need. Something subdued, but confident. Something that says, 'I'm not here to mess up what you have going on, but you need to respect my independence, I'm not going to be trotted all over'. I'm thinking sea tones. Greens and blues. Long, but no train. There's a new style that I think would suit you, a diagonal cut.">>680386
"I know the feeling."
Look up! Does the ceiling look sturdy?
It's weird! It looks like a plaster ceiling instead of the more traditional wooden eaves. It will never catch on.
"Well, new styles might be coming into play quite often when it comes to me, I'd think."
I'll look at Cumin for a moment, and then shuck off my robe.
"I don't suppose you've ever designed for seaponies before, have you?"
"I'm not going to stick around all that long though… I'll need to leave in a couple of days to go on a lengthy undertaking away from the New World."
Cumin was left behind in the front of the studio, in the reception, unless you wanted to insist he come along.
She tuts at you. "My, my. And I had thought Cumin had eloped with some peasant girl - hence that design plan I suggested. You're
going to be quite the explanation, aren't you? Oh I could accentuate the tail, but I'm guessing the opposite is what you want, isn't it?">>680391
"I don't know what to say. It just seems… unfair. To come here, and remind me of the past, and then say you're leaving on a dangerous trip. Maybe to not return."
"For the time being, yes. I'd rather not draw a crowd. In the future, perhaps something more daring, but for now…"
I'll trail off with that.
"And we've not actually eloped. I was hoping to meet his parents and get their approval."
I'll rub my foreleg for a second.
"So, is there anything I need to do, or should I just let you work your 'magic' and see if Cumin's eyes fall out of his head when I step back out?"
"I know. But what else could I do? Not look for you when I had a lead to your whereabouts? At least now I have some closure.
Besides, I'm planning on returning from that trip. I've already had to deal with worse things before and walked away from it unharmed."
"Oh, I'm sure he'll play dressup with you later. Just the one dress? Do you already have a bridal dress? Lingerie for your honeymoon? Does Cumin want any dresses while you're here?">>680394
"And when you come back you're going to stay here, right?"
"I'm an adult mom, I can't just attach myself to family for life. But… I think I can safely promise I'll find someplace to settle down in the New World, yes. Close enough that I could visit both this city and Dixie city regularly."
Blush a bit.
"There was a wedding dress my mother prepared, and I think lingerie's a bit… a bit out of my depth right now."
Fidget a bit. Can't let her know I don't know what lingerie is.
"Just the one is fine for now. And I don't think he does."
I can't seem to get my eyes off the patterns of Blackpaw's carpet. I think I memorized it by now
I break off the trance as something more important comes to me
What's going on?!? This looks dangerous, is there some kind of reception here?
She frowns. "Well… just return, we can talk about it more, later."
Anything else you want to take care of before returning to Goldengate?>>680397
"Alright, let's get started!"
After twenty or thirty minutes of precise measures and modeling, you're asked to return later for the dress. Cumin shows you the food court, and the mall fountain where some ponies are making wishes. Soon, your dress is ready, and you pick it up.>>680398
Blackpaw snaps you out of your trance by adding: "It's rather late, just sleep anywhere you like, I'm going to turn in. We'll talk more in the morning."
With that, he makes for the back room.
There is a desk closer to the doors than others, it'll have to do! A few hardhat ponies are chatting here.
"Gee fiiiine, mom."
Nah. We can timeskip if need be.
If there's anything else you want to take care of first, now's the time to say it, since next time we'll start with the briefing on Highlands.
Trot there and ask if this is the office of the pipe workers!
Well, is it good to wear immediately? Should I wait until we're at the residence?
What do I even do with a fancy dress?
"Thank you very much for your swift work, Stella."
I don't remember anything pressing. I could look for George but that's about it.
"This is the city water reservoir. Freshwater that is cleaned and ready to be run into houses through the water lines. So yes, pipe ponies work here.">>680405
"Please, you can thank me with your return business."
As for the dress, that call is up to you.
"W-wa-wait" I hold out my paw towards him before pulling back
"Can… Can I eat something? Please"
Do you want to? Or would you rather end that?
He nods tiredly. "Just look through the pantry for something. I have bread loaf and jerky in there."
"Okay" I curl up in the couch again "Thanks mister Blackpaw" I wave him goodnight
Well, I don't want it to get dirty before we get there, so… so for now I'll just hold onto it. I can change into it before we meet Cumin's family.
I guess it's on to that, now. I hope they're here. Wouldn't that just be the thing, if they were out traveling. Oh dang there goes the nervousness again.
With the window drapes pulled, the lights from outside are cut off. Candles extinguished, and you're left alone in the dark.
Technically he should be the one looking for me to apologize for his misogyny.
But I suppose that's not really fair since he wouldn't even know where to look. So I guess I should show good heart here and take the initiative.
If Cumin has no other place he wants to go. If I start wanting to sight-see now, I'd just be putting it off. I owe it to Cumin to face this, so we can relax afterwards.
Hm… what do you know about him again? Wasn't he the child of somepony important?
"Do you give tours for the big beer fountain?"
Can I see in the dark as well as I always did? Because it's time for a late night snack before I head to sleep
The palace is not like the castles you've heard about nobles living in. It's more like a big mansion. It's surrounded by an enormous garden, some 800 acres. Most of the gardens appear to be open to the public, consisting of the 'central park', but there is a gate to the inner gardens nearest the house. It's a little intimidating to pass under the arch and, with Cumin's blessing, past the guards. The carriage approaches the looming manor and the gravity of the situation is really starting to set in!
Even diamond dogs use lanterns!
But if you go slow you can probably feel your way to the food. Assuming the pitch black doesn't bring back any bad memories of the last time you lost your way in darkness.
So the butterflies in my stomach have increased. Yay. I really, really hope I don't end up getting sick in front of his family.
Maybe… maybe if I think of it like going to a battlefield, it'll be easier? Like how I could keep my head on straight when we went down in the crab and got through all those horrible things to get to this point?
"Err, the fountain? No it - it uses its own water supply, right? A natural spring? But uh, maybe it's served by Long Pipe? Did you try for a tour on site?"
"Yes, but they said I should find Long Pipe first!"
So I recall. But I can't recall whom.
Then, he is pretty conspicuous always wearing his mask. Should at least be possible to pin him down if I ask around enough.
I'm sure I can manage it until the kitchen
Let's just be very careful and not break anything in Blackpaw's house
Maybe this is how Cumin feels all the time.
There's a big fountain in the middle of the drive, and your carriage comes to a halt. A train of maids is waiting for your party!
An elderly butler pone is at their head, though. "Master Cumin, we are all glad for your safe return. You've been summoned to the Duke's chambers. And who is this?"
Cumin looks to you, gaze lingering.>>680425
Wandering the suburbs isn't working out so well. Not enough ponies just wandering outdoors!>>680426
Feeling your way to the pantry, you stick your paw on something spongy. Maybe bread.>>680424
"What? Why? I don't think the owner of the company is doing personal tours. Are you sure that's right?"
"Maybe not the owner himself, but somepony who works for him!"
Sniff and take a lick of it
"Well, some of the engineers here are under contract with the company. Doesn't the fountain have its own engineering liaison?"
Smells like bread, tastes like bread. Licking the whole loaf was probably not hygienic.
I'll bow my head slightly.
"I am Marina, of Aquamarine City, and have come seeking the approval of his parents to become his wife."
How about a bar? That's where Sitar went to look for Rosemary!
To his credit, the old pony doesn't bodily react, although his eyes widen over his bushy mustache. Cumin puts in,
"So, uh… if you'll get her some quarters, and send her things there? I'll, uh… g-go ahead u-up to see the D-d-duke."
"Right. Of course, Master Cumin."
The butler assists Cumin in exiting, and then you, and the maids have already started divvying up your things for transport.
Bar it is. They have a bar here called Sutler's Secret Stash. Looks kind of military - targets and dummies outside. You hear hoots and hollers from within. The architecture itself makes ample use of iron grilles and barbed wire. Big porch areas with canvas awnings where ponies are getting way too drunk to handle firearms but are discharging them anyway. Certainly looks like a wild place.
I bring it with me to the couch and eat up slowly
I'll freely admit I'm at a loss. Am I to be led to my room? Or do I just follow the maids? I am quite literally a fish out of water here, and false confidence can only get me so far.
I suppose I'll wait for a minute or two and see if anyone comes to guide me.
Your internal clock is going to be completely ruined with a midnight snack like this unless you get some slp.>>680437
The butler pony nods at you. "This way, missus. It will have to be the drawing room, I am afraid."
"It's perfectly fine. I did arrive without much warning, after all."
Your things are deposited in a room with couches and a large grandfather clock, and you're left alone to sit.
Based on the size of the manor, it seems they have plenty of rooms. They must want to have a decision as to whether you're going to be kicked out immediately before they put you somewhere longer term.
"You gotta help me help you, lady. We don't have anything to do with the fountain."
"But everypony told me this was the office of Long Pipe!"
…Now the question is if I should change outfits now, or wait until they tell me one way or the other if I can stay here?
I don't suppose there are any books I can look at to pass the time?
Once again I find it hard to care.
Its just a bit of bread, I sure I'll be hungry for breakfast tomorrow still
Now let's finish up the bread and go to sleep, reflecting about our life choices
It does look a bit rough. Which is fine by me!
Let's head inside.
"No, I told you this is the municipal water reserve. Are you listening?"
"But then what are all these pipes doing here?!?"
There's a decanter of wine, a tray with fresh peaches, and an atlas on the table.
Roll to sleep>>680446
Across the room, you can hear one of those music boxes playing. It has a voice recording, too!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtsmuVA0m7c
The room is filled with chatter and laughter. Big billiards tables take up most of the floor, and a bar wraps around the back wall.
"This is the municipal water reserve!"
I suppose I'll look over the atlas. Would be rude to just dive into the fruit, and I'm not really old enough for wine. Probably. I don't know the Equestrian drinking age, after all.
Such a difficult task
'1d10'Roll #1 1 = 1
Wow, that's pretty neat!
Erm… I guess I should head straight for the bar. Order a drink and maybe chat up the bartender.
"Okay, but then where do I have to go to find Long Pipes?"
Why would you restrict something as healthy as alcohol from being consumed by anypony? Whole laws just for that? Pah.
The atlas is mostly made up of local maps - a bay coastal map, a map of the park, and a cadaster of the duchy. On closer examination, the maps here were pinned by one CoH.>>680453
Stimulated by the bread, you can't get to sleep. You lay on the couch all night with your eyes open and stinging. Sleep will not come.>>680454
You arrive at the bar and get the bartender's attention. What will you order?>>680455
"There's an office in the square. Are you sure you're not overcomplicating this? Why are you trying to meet the company owner?"
Mmmm… What are the people around me drinking? What's popular here to fit in?
"Why would I come here if there was a tour at the beer fountain itself?!?" Roll my eyes. "Because there's nopony there who can help me!"
Well, Cumin did say he dabbled in cartography… I wonder if these are his work?
Looks like they're drinking a colorless, strong drink made from the local agave. They call it tequila.>>680458
"Nopony can help you here either!"
Eventually you give up and go back to the palace where the pony there has returned from his dinner break and he agrees to give you a tour.
Through a trapdoor, he leads you down into a small, cramped cave below the party above. There are big pipes here, and you have to squeeze through some narrow spots and duck under pipes repeatedly. Finally you can see the outside of some tanks.
"Kind of boring to look at. We load the hopper from here with fresh hops, and those get poured into the mixing tank. It's mostly naturally fermented, though. Sometimes we have a pony from the university come to make sure the yeast levels are still healthy."
That's fine.. Gives me more hours of consciousness to bask in my regrets, laying in the dark
I'll order one of them then! I'll blend right in!
"So uh… you see any masked ponies pass through here recently."
It could be!
…Sure is boring just waiting around in a waiting room. Makes you feel like you're waiting to hear whether a pony lived or died in surgery. Except maybe this decision is for more than just one pony living and dying. It could even mean you dying, if things really go badly…
It… it wouldn't come to that, I'm sure.
In the morning, you can hear Blackpaw moving around, getting washed up for the day.>>680462
"Not besides the president's kid."
A royal hostage would probably be more valuable to Equestria to have over Aqumarine, true.
Rear up and take a look at the tanks.
"I see! You can smell it even here! But how does the beer ferment so quickly?"
Try to not look surprised.
"Uhuh, George right? Didn't know he was related to the president."
That's not going to happen at all!
I'll just stew in my doubts until someone comes to fetch me.
I'll patiently wait for him to come out of the shower
"Well, this tank doesn't actually serve the fountain. The pipes below run through a filter which filters the more dense wort, which settles at the bottom. The pipes pump it over to the other tank where it is suspended with sugars and pumped up. So you see, the beer that is ready is separated by density - like any liquid."
"You know George of the Jungle? He doesn't seem very presidential, that's true. He's wild, but a crack shot."
"Ah, that's very smart! But why did Long Pipes do this? I mean, the beer is free!"
After what seems like an eternity, the butler returns. "I am Buttersworth. Dinner will be served shortly. Do you have a dress?"
"I do, but thought it rude to change in the sitting room."
Smile a bit.
"And it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Buttersworth."
Finally he comes out, smelling like blood and formaldehyde. If he just smelled like blood, perhaps dogs would mistake him for a butcher. Smell culture is strange. It will take practice.>>680473
"The tanks were commissioned by the Master. I assume he did it because the price was agreeable, or perhaps as a favor, since the Master has provided the company with so much business."
"I will show you to a dressing room, missus. Do you have a formal title for announcement?"
"Why does the Master favor Long Pipes so? He must be a very smart pony!"
"I dunno. These aren't very technical questions, you know. You probably could've asked the giftshop pony!"
"We did some traveling together. He's really good at bushcraft for sure."
"Mister Blackpaw? What are you gonna do today? I hope I'm not bothering you because of all things you did yesterday…"
Think for a second, then commit. Straighten up a bit as I recite it.
"I am the daughter of the Priestess Mera, and 'princess' of Aquamarine City."
"Can I see the original pool? Where the special barley is?" I say, ignoring the ponies' remark
"Local legend has it that under that mask, he has a terrible scar, and the pelt he brought back last fall was the one what gave it to him. So they say, anyway. Now me, I prefer to hunt more manageable game when I'm sport shooting. We have big river boas around these parts that need to be hunted back, if you yourself are after a bounty."
He sighs. "Well, first I'll send you back to the boat. They'll be happy to have you. Then I'm going to take some quiet time to research your condition. Perhaps the library has some advice on unraveling the spell."
"I see. This room is suitable for changing. I'll be outside to lead you to your place at the table when you are ready."
Well, you might be five minutes from ruining all history, or making it.
"I-I could help you look, maybe?"
"Well, it was cleared out for the construction, except the barley that is growing inside the tanks now. If you want to see it wild, though, it grows all throughout Belgium. You might call it the national plant. If you look closely, you can find it growing in ponds around the city or on farms. Have you seen any of the parks? You might find wild barley growing right there. That's why Dutch water is sweeter than anywhere else!"
Once I'm by myself, I'll change into the dress we just got today. Hopefully I've put it all on right.
Then the pearls and comb the hair just a few times. Enough to make it look presentable.
In retrospect, another spa trip would have been a good preparatory measure… Too late now, though.
Once I've finished everything, I'll knock on the door the butler went out of, and join him in the hallway.
"Well… okay. Just stay quiet and ignore them if dogs give you any odd looks. They can't - cannot - smell last night. It's just that usually, steel workers don't go into libraries. Intellectuals can be rude in cutting ways."
His parents are in the next room. That means… your aunt is there. On one hoof, awkward. On the other hoof, at least she knows there are such things as seaponies that aren't monsters.
You've never met her. Dad said she was "one of the good ones"… You hope he was right.Pause
I breathe in and sigh "Hhhm… Phew. Okay, I'll behave"
Maybe a trip to the library is exactly what I need
"Oh." Well, guess I learned something right! Is there more to the tour?
You're not sure you would call this a 'tour'. This is a kind of one-on-one tight squeeze behind some pipes in an employees only restricted access industrial chamber! Also impromptu.
Local legend? He's a legend now? Give me a break.
"River boas? Sounds tricky. I think I've had my fill of fighting water creatures already."
Well I saw it didn't I? Thank the pony non-sexually for letting me see it!
"Well, if they were easy prey, there wouldn't be a bounty on them around these parts. Anything else I can get you?">>680936
It's nice to be appreciated. You've had a pretty full day - you hope that indoor plumbing is done at your house!
I sure hope so! Trot back
"Erm, do you know where George is right now by the way? I want to say hi before I leave town again."
You arrive back at the house. Nopony's home! It seems they finished the plumbing, and Aria left for her interview. Did she take Jolly with her?
Aira must still be out. She's been sightseeing a lot today!
Oh, I hope the house looks in order!
"Were it any other president's son, I'd say the White House - our capital building - but he's a bit of an oddball. Might be killing river boas himself, for all I can say. He was in earlier, but just had a non-alcoholic cider."
"I guess hunting would be the thing he'd be spending time on. Heh, okay, thanks for the drink."
Nothing appears to be missing, anyway. Now might be a good time to go through Face's old things and box them up to sell off like you did with his loot from his Oddomane room. You're sure a pawn shop will take most of this stuff. Like for instance, nopony in this house smokes, unless you plan on giving cigars to Jolly, so you can dispense with the humidor and the rest of the stuff from his basement stallioncave. The extra space will give you room to set up an alchemy lab if you want to, or get the house more empty and ready to sell if you want to move out.
"It's my job, ma'am."
That's a good idea actually, that makes some room for the fillies!
Pay up and take my leave. I'm going straight to the riverside.
Hamburgerburg is built on the edge of a river to the interior. The city itself is on the edge of the northern jungles and, to the south, a great plains which eventually gives way to the desert surrounding Dust. Between the two there is a narrow mountain range, from which the river Freedom springs, and favors the jungle side. The landscape surrounding the feature is thick with vegetation, brush, and vines. Dense lianas and the occasional wicked thorn force you to make use of your survival skills. Once you've arrived at the river, though, it becomes clear why there is a bounty out for boas. You only need to see one.
Head rising out of the water, and thrashing along at impressive speed, the thing is a monster by any meaning of the word. Your background in Survival lets you know that these creatures can unhinge their jaw large enough to swallow a pony - but that shouldn't be your concern, since they kill by constriction long before feeding.>>680946
First things first, you start with the office on the second floor. There is a desk filled with unused ledgers and writing apparatus, and the walls are adorned with cheap oil paintings and decorative trophy weapons. Since you wanted to allocate one room on this floor to serve for Jolly, it wouldn't be responsible to leave these in reach. By the time you hear a knock at the door, you have the room mostly cleared out. You can get a bed soon and it'll be nearly in good shape! Toys and decor can be handled later.
It feels nice to make some real progress like this, since you'll probably need to contract some help to put in a good greenhouse or alchemical lab. Fortunately, money doesn't seem to be an issue anymore.
It's funny… you scrimped and saved for ten years running your alchemy business to stay afloat and keep your shop in a good part of town. To give the girls a good life and to bring honor to the Springleaf name. You threw it all away on reflex to find the twins, but now you've fallen into more treasure than you could ever want for. Aria is probably going to get a safe job instead of risking her life… Aira is looking for a destined lover. For the first time in a long time, life seems worth protecting. It makes the idea of assaulting a fortress for Lilly more daunting. You have so much to lose, and the risks are so great.Kotone
"Slash, or free?"
You answered her, 'free'. One of the coins of your homeland, a mon - was tossed into the air. A mon is identical top and bottom, but Horosha had made a slash across one side to differentiate. The coin… It came up 'free'. She said, "Maybe your luck will hold up."
And it had. The Captain had in fact chosen the route that Kotone would have - into the storm. The rocking and sprays of water necessitated staying belowdecks to avoid being thrown into the ocean. It seemed nauseating and as though it would never end, but in time it did. The storm lasted several days, but by the time you were free, the island of Roads was in sight. From afar, it looks abandoned. A shimmering emerald in a sea of blue. But there are old ruins on the western side. If you have anything you want to do before disembarking, now would be the time to speak up!
The library is slow and uneventful. Keeping to yourself and reading MacMeal's books in the corner isn't your idea of fun, but that's how you've come to spend your days. After two days of waiting, MacMeal and Blackpaw are back on speaking terms after a good reunion dinner. Blackpaw keeps dragging you to the library, and after countless measurements, samples from all over your body, and physical examinations of an intimate nature, the biologist believes he may have a solution. You've been sent back to his house to mentally prepare yourself, but he will be gathering ingredients for hours. After you're fixed, you'll be back to the sea, now that MacMeal has his bolt. If you want to see anything else of this city, now is the time.
I not completely fixed yet… Curse you Izlity, wherever you are…
Before I leave, I want to make sure I got proper tools and not just materials. Don't wanna smith things with junior tools anymore, right? What would be the things a smith/mechanic would need? hmm
True…this is hard. Should I really go…
I'll go open the door while I ponder these new realities
If you had to guess, the artisans' district under the lake seems like a good place to start.
It's Aria again. Where is Aira? This is getting a little bizarre, but the sun hasn't set just yet…
Aria is wearing a foal harness. This is a kind of device that comes in many sizes that allows an adult pegasus to carry their children below (instead of above) until they're old enough for flight school, although Aria has repurposed it for Jolly, who is squirming discontentedly.
"Mom? We could really use some more keys! And where's Aira? I had to drop Jolly off at a daycare while I went to my interview! Has she really been out all day?"
"I coulda stayed alone!"
"Yeah, how about no. We haven't even finished looking around the house yet."
Hmmm - Aira being gone is troubling, but you don't want to be the mom who always panicks when her daughter isn't home right away do you?
I can't think of anything on the boat.
Your box shakes a little bit in the morning. Not like the usual ships swaying, like someone jostled it. Horosha trying to get your attention?
The Sun hasn't set yet, I shouldn't worry! I should give her the benefit of the doubt!
"We'll have to get a locksmith to craft a few more keys for us. I'm sure Aira will be fine. She might have gotten distracted again by something inspirational, you know how she is. How did the interview go?"
Let's use the door and see who's there.
She adopts that conservative style of talking again. "Well, I don't know that it was a formal interview or anything like that. Really there were barely any questions about work experience. But they did say they were going to draw up a contract and start the background test, so maybe it'll go somewhere. Hey – will you cut it out? Stop moving so much and I'll just unclip you!"
Aria taps a button, causing Jolly to plop down and, now freed, he scurries inside.
Horosha's eye looms outside. "We're approaching the island. The captain says there are three docks which may be suitable - the one in the abandoned city ruins, a primitive Doggish trading outpost on the north side, and an unknown village on the south side. We could also enter from the east into the jungle - I could swim in, but your box might get wet. The treasure vault is in the ruins, but we may want to get our bearings first. What do you think… partner?
Giggle as he scurries off.
"A background test? What job were you applying for again?"
True. Let's get in there again, who knows when I'll ever be here again?
Let's hurry up too, don't want them to leave without me!
"The trading post would be a good place to get information and any supplies we might need. Its a good first stop.
"He said they were looking for someone with a background in 'chemical management' to consult on pipe design. I told him that back in Lubuck we had observed patients experience colic when administered potions that had been exposed to lead containers, and I pointed out that freshwater lines should be done in something else. We talked about ratios of copper to tin in bronze. He said the University says that copper is the cleanest, but it's not tough enough without the tin, but then it's hard to work with to make complex water routing gates and other mechanisms. But I told him that there are a lot of malleable copper alloys that aren't bronze at all. You could use brass, just for example, and only use it on the important, complex mechanisms to save on zinc costs."
Down you go, back into the labyrinth of shops and workshops! Following the signs, you know enough basic Doggish to find Tools. You even have enough gems left for a hobbyists' kit, although the tools they have back on the ship put these to shame. It might be nice to have a set you can call your own, though…
"That's right! How did he respond?"
Start making some food! I can multitask
Actually, I just realized what I truly needed. A bag of my own, to carry my own things. I slap myself in the forehead for forgetting to get such an essential thing. I need one right away after I get the hobbyist kit
The first thing you notice upon pulling into the port is that there are strange looking dogs here - and by strange, you mean strangely familiar. Mixed in with the nearly primal southern dogs that tend to walk on all fours and the refined northern trader dogs are a strange sight for lands like these: there aren't many of them, but there are a few Shibans making their way through the city. Shibans are an exceptionally small breed of Diamond Dog that are almost unheard of outside of Neighpon. Often golden in fur, they are around a head shorter than a big pony, and legendary craftsdogs noted for their fine artwork. The Emperor of Neighpon has several at his court, by tradition.
The trade post is actually surprisingly fortified - but the odd part is that it's not fortified by sea. You pretty much coast up to the pier unmolested, but the walls that defend the fortress from the rest of the island are well over twenty feet, reinforced in steel, and covered in huge spikes!
"He said what I told you - that they would do a background check and draw up a contract. I guess he wasn't expecting a reply like that!"
Kit and bag in tow, you're left with just one small gemstone. You could buy a cheap snack for the road, or keep it as a momento.
Nnnnope. Time for a little snack as I make my way to the ship
Just to clarify, Blackpaw isn't coming with us, right?
You'll have to remember to ask him while he's fixing you. It's not clear if he is or isn't!
Someone closer to my own size! I float excitedly in the air. Their building is interesting too.
'1d10' examine a spikeRoll #1 6 = 6
"No, you floored them I'm sure. Mmmmh, I thought that it odd that they'd need a background check for a job like that, don't you?"
Well let's go ask him now. He's at his house isn't he?
Also what snax I gets, this is important
Fortifications against the jungle. Easily a foot long and six inches in diameter at the base, honed to a point at the narrow end. Being impaled on these wouldn't be pleasant, but they seem mostly for show - like, an method of intimidation. After all, what kind of foe would be stupid enough to bump into the spike while attacking? A structure is stationary after all.
Glancing over the rest of the fortification, that seems to fit the bill for the rest. You see straw dogs on the battlements in armor - making it look like they have more troops garrisoned and their moat says "beware of sea monster" in several languages with a graphic picture.
Looks like they're trying to deter some kind of attack by something smart enough to read signs… but strange enough that they don't know what language it speaks.
"I didn't know they did background checks for jobs. I didn't have to get checked out to do adventuring for DLC, and that was like… state-sponsored killing of ponies. Bad ponies, but still. They let anyone do that! Why do pipes need someone responsible?"
You acquire Novdogodish pastry called a "Dog Biscuit". Not only are they delicious, but they're supposed to be good for you too. High in protein and fiber.
Also no, he's out getting stuff for the ritual to fix you!
O-oh I thought I was fixed already!
Well let's get to his house and wait like a good pup then
I wonder what they are scared off..
Well, I'm just gonna go in the gate.
"It's an important part of Witherloo though. Those ponies get to go in everypony's houses to construct these new water systems. Perhaps they need to be sure they can't trust them?"
Mmmm, gonna make a nice soup! Look at the clock.
He's still not back, but you've been provided with a temporary key to get in. If you really wanted to, you could poke around in his private quarters, or just take a nap on the couch. Heck, you could even eat from the pantry!
I actually have a better idea. Let's finish our snack and find a nice place to take a look at our new kit. I wonder what could I make with this…
There's no gate on the pier side - no defenses against the sea. Whatever they're worried about, it's on the interior.
Horosha trots behind you as you float ahead, although with Shibans here, you bet ponies for once won't be surprised to see a breezie. That's a plus, at least.
All the signs are in Doggish - a trader language formulated in Novdogod, a bastardized version sometimes called Stray is spoken by Musdogs. Picking up this language could be handy in trade, but the day of the dogs is passed. For centuries they profited off of control of the wealth of the ground and understanding the riddle of steel, but they don't make steam engines like your company works on. As mechanical labor - like the Iron Horse and its ilk - rises, the now-rich and powerful dogs will fade into obscurity, no doubt.
Looking at a clock puts you ahead of your time. You are one of a class of specialized artisans who understand the concept of "time discipline". For most agrarian types, the work day ends when the sun is down, but for a specialist who can work by candlelight, knowing the exact time is more important. This house wasn't owned by someone with time discipline, and lacks a clock. Maybe you should get one of those neat pocket clocks – called a watch!
Then I'll just look outside and see if the Sun is still up as I stir the soup!
"I've been to the Beer Fountain, the pipe business here seems to be booming, I'm sure you'll make plenty of money at a job like that!"
One ruler, with Doggish measurements. You'll have to learn them!
One hammer, weighing "1/14 stone".
Three screwdrivers in varying sizes.
Two pliers, one needlenose and one grooved.
One square, one level, one drafting compass, one file.
Three dual-sided spanners, and a socket wrench.
A pocket crowbar and a hooded lantern.
Pretty extensive kit! Not bad.
The sun is setting, last rays of light dying on the horizon.
"Yeah, maybe…" She seems a little lost in thought.
Those who can't change will fail. I'm sure I had a lesson like that.
Still this is the kind of place I need to see! What used to be and what is.
"…it's unusual for Aira to be gone for so long…."
Horosha sidles up to you. "I can't read these signs. What is your plan? Find an inn?
"Yeah… the only time she ever stayed out on her own this late in New Earth was…"
She trails off and then blows her breath. "Anyway, I'm sure she'll be back soon. I'll give her a talking to for not being here to watch Jolly. It's the least she can do to put in some effort! That harness is for you, by the way - not like I'll need it any time soon. You know, so you can get around faster, won't have to walk."
My ears twitch.
"You know, she said she wanted to find a special somepony."
"Yeah, well, she told me about that. She said it was somepony in New Earth, so what of it?"
I nod, impressed. hm hm, this is a good kit indeed. Let's give them all their own place in my new bag, very carefully to not break anything. hopefully there will be some draft notebook in the ship for me to take notes of my brillant ideas
…None of them comes to me at the moment, but that is what the notebook will be for!
Now let's wait for Blackpaw
It's probably worth noting that your tools already came on a lambskin leather roll. Each tool is carefully slotted into a loop designed just for it, and when you roll up the lambskin it ensures that none of the parts will bang into each other - basically, a carrying case to keep them in perfect condition.
Just don't show it off to any sheep.
"She didn't tell me it was somepony in New Earth…"
Never met one yet. Poor fellows
Oh, that's an idea for the book, leatherskin made of some dumb animal no one cares about, like cows
"She said that the fortune teller told her that she already knew her special somepony, so that means New Earth she said, right? She dated a few stallions there."
The door is unlocking! Blackpaw? Or another rapist?
Probably Blackpaw, no need to be paranoid!
"I figured. Was that the last time she went out so late?"
"Yeah, she likes to do this thing called 'progressive dating', where you start somewhere like a dinner and then maybe a show after and then maybe even something else after that like a bar. Kind of expensive if you ask me!"
Shut up me, don't bring up that crap again
"It's better than just having a dance and getting swept off your hooves, right?"
Blackpaw pushes in the door, carefully holding a chrome sphere with both paws. "Ah, Rhanna. Good. Just on time. This will actually go quickly, really, the most time consuming part is the set up to make sure things are safe."
She returns your shrug!
"I dunno. I guess I just think that if you like the person you're with, it doesn't matter what you're doing."
I'm lost in nostalgia for a second.
Then get back to reality.
"I think we should just calm down and let Aira have some time off, she's been through a lot lately. Dinner's almost ready, can you fetch Jolly? And after dinner, I'd like to discuss what we'll do the coming days."
"Aah, alright. Can I help?"
"Sure. I think he went back upstairs. Soup smells good, by the way. I'm glad you picked up those ingredients this morning. This day has kinda felt pretty long, hasn't it?"
She starts up the stairs.
"It has been."
You know, I could use some more spices in this soup. Let's pull some from my hat '1d10'
As I put in my hoof, I wonder for the millionth time where all these things come from. I'm not a thief am I?Roll #1 10 = 10
"An inn or a trading shop that might know our language..
" I scout for a place that looks touristy '1d10'Roll #1 7 = 7
"You're the most important part. This sphere contains what we translate to Equestrian as a 'mana leak'. You see, after intense scrutiny, I discovered that your condition is not from 'Discord' - that was a red herring. It appears that your curse came from an enchanted item, or more specifically, a cursed item - there is a ritual for transferring a curse on a dog or pony into an item to relieve the curse. That's what was done with the object that afflicted you. In fact, the effects should have left you immediately after you stopped wearing the cloak. They didn't because you have an unnatural source of natural magic around you - I'm not sure of the explanation myself! In any case, all we need is for a simple disruption of the flow and the curse will lapse. It is fickle by its very nature. I just want to be sure to not expose the leak to anything else in here - I have some delicate experiments in my back room."
You pull out a whole spice rack, bigger than the hat itself! Probably best not to think about where this stuff comes from.
Not long after, Aria returns, scooting a fidgeting Jolly to the table and into a seat. Time to dig in?
Hopefully by the time dinner is over, Aira will be back!
….better not to think about it!
Let's eat a bit of the food. I'm too worried to be very hungry though!
You distractedly munch on your soup, which is almost stewy in consistency – although you've heard the contents vary. Thick cabbage gives it some crunch and fiber.
Aria is relating to Jolly her story about where she was earlier - the interview - which is exactly the same as when she told it to you. He doesn't seem very interested - and he's barely touching his soup. Could be worse though, a reluctant eater is better than a messy eater.
The question of whether it's worth it to help Lilly and risk this new life looms. With the end of the day, that leaves two days left to decide. Aria might have a job by then, and who knows what the situation is with Aira currently.
"Do you like the soup, Jolly?"
I sort of promised Lilly I'd help her. LH would have done the same for Aira and Aria if they asked her…
Of course, Light Heart couldn't because she was dead. Being dead could similarly interfere with you helping Aira and Aria in the future.
"It looks funny." He sticks out his tongue at it.
"That's how soup looks. And that's what we're eating tonight."
The colt turns up his nose at the dish!
Aria stifles a giggle.
"Those who don't eat their soup, don't get dessert either."
You have his attention. "Dessert?"
Uhm, I forgot what dessert I got, I vaguely recall we got some cake on the way back from the palace?
Nope! You got that tour of the fountain, then came back early to clean out Face's old stuff, then Aria got back.
I still have my hat though, and I can get some cookies from the kitchen if that doesn't work!
"Yes, and if you want it, you'll have to finish your plate!"
"But it's a boooooowl!"
"No buts. Either finish your soup, or no dessert." Start getting some empty dishes and take them to the kitchen.
When I'm in the kitchen pull a carrot cake from my hat '1d10'Roll #1 5 = 5
You pull out a nice juicy carrot!
Jolly is miserably prodding his spoon with a hoof, as if inspecting a bowl of magical waste or nitroglycerin.
That's not good enough, but looks like I still have some time. And I'll reward him for eating a bit of it. But how to turn this into something resembling a dessert.
Hmmm, wait, maybe I can quickly whip up some whipped cream and put it on the slices of carrot! And maybe I have a bit of fruit left.
Whipped cream is more of a cold good. Marina the Seapony had a chest that could keep things cold, and you had an insulation tank at your old lab (it might be nice to get one here). Wouldn't it be wonderful if someday all ponies could make food re-frigid in their own homes?
Hmmmmmmm. Do I have some chocolate? Let's try to pull some bars of chocolate out of my hat if not '1d10'Roll #1 9 = 9
In terms of food, you have basically what you bought today. A house that was abandoned doesn't exactly have good food stock. Chocolate bar ahoy!
Jolly continues poking at the soup without eating it.
Well, I'll melt the chocolate au bain marie, not sure how that's in english but it's where you put a pot on boiling water and melt the stuff in that pot. And then I'll dip the pieces of carrot in the chocolate to make chocolate carrots!
Bain-marie or its literal translation of water bath are fine.
Chocolate carrot confections it is! Will you dip quickly or slowly? This will affect the steam moisture absorbed by the carrot.
I only dip them half in quickly!
Between your crafted chocolate delight and some classic parenting skills honed over the years, you finally get the little one fed and in bed by bedtime. Not long after that, Aira shows up at the door a little disheveled and pretty drunk. She turns in early too, relating that she was catching up with an old friend from New Earth who had moved back here to work for a shipping company. Aria tells you in confidence that the stallion in question was more of a boyfriend than an old friend, and they split when he moved here for his job.
Well, guess it would be a bit hypocritical of me to complain…
Two days before you need to leave Witherloo for Dixie if you're going - want to turn in early and be rested for errands tomorrow, or stay up late to contemplate and work on cleaning up the house?
Yawn. It's late, I should go to bed!
Turning in early makes it easy to rest up. Tomorrow's errands depend a lot on your choices though. Do you want to keep this house, or sell it and live elsewhere? You have the money to live anywhere you want, at least modestly. If you want to stay here though, you need to start thinking about buying groceries, setting up your greenhouse and alchemy lab, sending for Sunny, etc.
I wanna stay here, but is there any particular reason why this can't be left until after the highlands? I should make arrangements more to make sure Aira and Aria get this house if something should happen to me!
The real worry is that I'll be recognized immediately, and she'll toss me out on my ear for falling in love with her son.
You can, although you'd just have to come back later to finalize any sale. Writing a will is a little uncomfortable, but you can always do it tomorrow when you're less tired. Roll for dreams.>>681937
There's little more to do than go in, unless you have some further preparation. Although you suppose there's nothing stopping you from sprinting out the front door and forgetting the whole thing. You probably still have other suitors!Rhanna>>681261
'1d10'Roll #1 6 = 6
Only preparation I can do now is mental. Take a deep breath, and then enter. I hope I wasn't supposed to wait until I was announced.
Okay. Kind of terrifying.
But then, I have wings. All I need to do is keep my distance where they can't reach me. Maybe find a cloud to use as a shooting platform.
Most nights pass without a memorable dream, although you stir from your sleep when the door slides open. It's your first night in this unfamiliar house, so the sound evokes an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach. The master bedroom, which you've taken for yourself, is isolated and alone on the third floor – located above the two smaller rooms you've set aside for the twins and Jolly below.
I rub my eyes.
On the contrary, it seems you're to be announced after you opened the door. A good system.
Marina Aquamarine, Princess of the same."
The chamber itself is long and stone – quite different from the chambers you're familiar with. The picture of order, basalt tile floors crisscross below a great spruce table that stretches on long enough for twenty guests. A roaring hearth to the side of the table lay below a tabernacle of prizes and awards on the mantle. There chamber ends with a grand throne in red velveteen on bronze, where a large, red stallion sits, hoof on chin, appraising you. A mousy, gnarled old stallion sits to his left, whispering into his ear. The next seat is occupied by a bearded, muscle-bound sort wearing golden, ceremonial armor, sitting next to an orange mare wearing a bright yellow silk robe. Sitting opposite them, there are two elderly mares each decked out in sun charms and amulets. Finally, to the right of the enthroned pony, a suave young stallion with greased back mane.
Cumin was there too, standing by the fire.
The density of the bush seems to make sharpshooting from a sniper perch in the clouds a non-option, although maybe amongst the trees somewhere you might find purchase. Or, alternatively, you could bring clouds low below the canopy, and build yourself a sniper's screen.
The lights aren't on! It's too dark to see! You hear hoofsteps drawing near, but you can't even see a silhouette in the dark! Is this house haunted? Why didn't the ghost dust?!
Alright, walk towards the throne and… and Cumin's parents, and then stop a proper distance (oh Moon what's the proper distance? Six pony-lengths should be right, right?) and give a curtsy. Bow? Curtsy? Mares curtsy, right? There are so many mistakes I could make here…
I really wish I'd taken the time to talk this over with my sister-in-law.
"Who's there?" I say nervously. I get up and squint my eyes trying to see what's going on, keeping my blanket against me with my hooves.
I look down at my paws "Unnatural… You mean I'm more magicky than other dogs? Why?"
"And how do we do to disrupt the flow?"
The Duke motions you closer, while Cumin's parents appraise you, staring. In a studious way, though – not like the glares from the two mares across from them.
"The dress," The Duke finally breaks the silence, "is nice. But we may as well address the elephant in the room. I want to see for myself."
The suave looking twenty-something to his right tuts. "Talking about her like a piece of meat, and you haven't been introduced."
The one on his left chortles – "The Duke of Hatsfield needs no introduction anywhere in Equestria, much less to someone who intends to marry into his House."
The Duke considers their counsel for a moment, then concludes. "Take off your dress. Please.
" At least the please sounded sincere enough.
Jolly's little face appears at the side of the bed. "Selena? I think we need to talk."
I'll try the cloud moving idea. Snakes can climb up trees far too easily to my liking.Roll #1 2 = 2
"I beg your pardon?"
"Like I said, I don't quite know the answer. Had we more time, I would like to study it some more. I am not a magical biologist - I study more practical biology, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I had an interest. As for disrupting it – did you forget what I told you? The mana
leak. It's a sort of… hm, how to explain? Have you ever seen a tub filled with water, which had a plugged drain?"
"Jolly?" Try to supress a yawn, failing that I quickly cover with my hoof.
"What's the matter?"
Relocating some clouds is not a terribly difficult task, but they don't gather so well here, mostly mist. Still, a little perch may go a long way. It sinks and sags under your weight, but hopefully you can get this done quick.
Further up the river, you hear the sound of a rifle's crack. The boa quickly makes its way downstream, in the opposite direction.
"I meant how are we gonna disrupt it with the mana leak! How does it work?"
"You mean like yours? Yes… All the water gets sucked away by the drain hole." I gesture with my paws "So the mana leak is like that?"
One of the crones speaks, voice fraught with suspicion – "Your fiance has extraordinary claims about your body."
Cumin holds up his hooves in a motion of apologetic surrender. Perhaps he thought it best to get it out in the open, rather make them feel tricked later on.
The little pony awkwardly tries to leverage himself up onto the bed with you, hooves scrabbling for purchase but finding little. Sliding back to the floor, he holds up his hooves to you. "Up?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes. The mana leak is a source of great negative magical energy. In its presence, a vortex will be formed from the differential in low and high magical power exertion. It can be a little bit chaotic, but it should siphon away enough energy to break the hex."
I'll clear my throat a bit.
"While I'm sure you understand a maiden's reluctance to strip for the titillation of others, there is no cause to not verify my race."
Rearranging my hair a bit, I'll fan out my earfins, and then lift the hem of my skirt to reveal the fish tail.
"I trust this is sufficient enough to allow me some degree of modesty and settle your doubts?"
Lean over and gently hoist him up so he can use his hooves as well.
I slide a bit to the other side of the bed so he has some space to sit.
"That sounds a bit dangerous… And how do we, erm,how do we turn it on?"
The mousy pony to his left says, "I knew it. She's too muscular. He said she was a warrior."
The suave one to his right counters, "He's extraordinarily weak."
The further crone nods, in agreement with the adjacent pony. "His spawn is no threat to the main line of House Hatsfield, regardless of the stock of his wife."
…They wanted to know how athletic you were? Not that you were a seapony?
It seems I'm half a conversation behind. And I doubt I'd get filled in on it, considering.
I'll glance at the Duke. How's he taking all this?
"Thank you. Selena, I'm… I'm a little worried. I think I had another bad day yesterday, I don't even remember arriving in Witherloo or what we did all day long. I… I don't know what I did, but I know my mind is slipping. I'm sorry if I scared you."
He draws closer, below your wings, to hug you.
the easy part. Like I said, the hard part is preparing for it so that we don't wreck my apartment or rip off your arm."
He seems to be in deliberation. "Is it true? Are you a great warrior of your people?"
This Manehattan accent makes everything sound a little strange, even in his deep voice! Still, this may be the rare opportunity that your overeating helps your cause.
I rub said arm
"Okaaaaay… Well, let's do it then!"
"… You have done this stuff before, right? "
Crap. I can't let it get away!
"Hey no running while I'm building my shooting platform!"
Can I still take a potshot at it?
Give him a hug under my wings.
Stroke his mane.
"You don't need to apologize, Jolly. IT's not your fault…"
"I did say I was not a magic
biologist. Magic is so unreliable. That's why it's magic, if it were easily quantifiable, it would be a science."
Sure! A parting shot, if you get a good hit, maybe you can track it by the blood in the water.
"I am, to be completely honest, fairly average. I was kept away from most of the combat in claiming Aquamarine City and helped feed and heal those who were engaged in the heaviest fighting."
I'll bow my head slightly.
"I was, however, part of the final group that secured the lowest levels of the city and scoured it of the Discordian presence."
"I agree. If only magic could be as reliable as science… Well, let's do this. If I take too long, Mister Macmeal might leave me behind!"
I will try.
Whoever else is hunting out there will know I mean business.Roll #1 3 = 3
"If I forget who I am, you'll take care of me, won't you? Keep me close, and let me visit our girls?"
"So you're muscles come naturally, by disposition rather than training, then?"
The Dog begins to assemble something looking uncomfortably like stocks – albeit with some cushions for your wrists.
"Okay, stick 'em in, and I'll nail you to the floor."
Pretty risky business, letting a grown dog restrain you helplessly in his home right after being raped. Can you bring yourself to do it?
"Sea ponies live by swimming, your grace. It is an excellent method of building muscle and stamina. Paired with the nutrition provided by the bounty of the sea and the farm systems my brother has introduced to the city, we are a hardy folk."
The shot, distorted by the water, is only a glancing hit, and the boa escapes. You wonder if whoever is hunting upriver had better luck than you.
"Are you in love?"
That got a lot of eyes facing you at once.
I trust Mister Blackpaw, even if those look weird and kinda scary…
The cushions are nice though
"So, why do I need to be in this thing?"
"We don't have time for a very scientific solution, this one employs the very basics of physics and leverage." Already he's rigging what looks like a pulley system on the other end of the room.
"When I pull the mana leak away, I want you to NOT move with it. The vortex will try to drag you along, but that will hold you in place."
Maybe I should go check. I get the feeling hunting these boas requires some better knowledge of their behavior.
Leave my cloud platform where it is though.
What a straightforward question. It's almost stated boldly, like a declaration. The interrogative carries the weight of someone looking for a full answer.
You float upriver, until you see a dead boa beached on the shore. A cloaked pony is cleaning the kill, you can't see their face from behind, but you recognize George's gun.
The question if he'd have done the same for me lingers awkwardly in my mind for a moment as do my talks with Aria.
"I promise. You're part of the family. And the girls want to help too. They love you. Aira now wants foals of her own."
"Ooh, okay that makes sense" I reply a bit more upbeat
"Wait, what happens if the vortex DOES pull me into it?"
Observe for a moment.
"In the end you were right. It was best for everyone that I stop trying to be what I wasn't, and accept that to be close to my daughters, I may have to have a different role in the family than I wanted. But… are you sure you have to go to fight?"
"There are a number of reasons. The base of it, I suppose, would be that he saved my life. As I got to know him, traveled with him, I began to like him for more than just gratitude. He's dependable, smart, and caring."
I'll unconsciously rub my foreleg, blushing.
"And he's a lovely singer. Seaponies actually put a lot of stock in that skill."
"It's like the drain analogy I gave you before. Even though only the water will fit to the drain, your paw can still get stuck to the hole because of the pressure. It might hurt, like ripping off the fur and flesh."
After a moment, he rises and turns.
"A ghost?" his distorted voice queries from beneath the mask
Give him a thumbs up "Understood"
"…I don't know.
I just know that if I had died, Light Heart would have made sure Aira and Aria were safe…I feel like I'd betray Light if I didn't go…"
The old stallion to his left starts, "Or maybe because her family–"
"Enough," the Duke interrupts. "I neither condemn nor condone, just yet, but that is enough questioning for one luncheon. For now, we will eat. Be seated, the two of you."
Cumin shyly motions for you to approach as he sits next to his mother. Skylight, she's called, right? Your aunt… She looks nice, if a little concerned.
He fastens the orb to the pulley system with a thick metal cord. "Okay, feeling ready?"
I'll curtsy once again to the duke, and then take my seat.
Giving Cumin a nervous smile, I'll hope I didn't screw this up too badly.
Give him a firm Nod "Make me a Pup again mister Blackpaw"
Look a little insulted.
"I'm not dead yet. Who do you take me for?"
"I understand. I do! But we've protected her children before – I took her youngest children to the mainland for her, once. Before the last battle. That's two lives saved. And what about us? The girls… I don't want them in danger. And if I could just be sure my mind was clear, I would help you in any way I can. But if I start to forget who I am when we're trying to sneak…"
The food is brought out on silver trays – piled high produce of vegetable and fruit varieties. They each seem to be eating with polite reservation, at least. Cumin reaches over and puts a hoof over yours, offering you a shy smile.
"You may feel a sting."
"A ghost can be a hallucination, too. And I took you for someone who had no interest in Hamburgerburg."
'1d10' pleaseRoll #1 6 = 6
I'll pull some reassurance from that, and whisper a small "thank you."
Lingering at the hoof-holding for a moment longer, I'll then turn to confront lunch. It would be rude to the cooks to not eat anything, after all, no matter how nervous I am. I recognize a good number of them, right?
Cock my head.
Either way, it's where I ended up finding back my mother."
"I won't take the girls with me. They need to live their own lives. Not get caught up in our old life.
And I won't take you if you don't want to, but travelling seemed to be good for you. You were very lucid during our travel to Witherloo. Even if you don't come fighting, it might be good for you to see new things…"
As the orb is brought closer, you feel a slight tug on your paw. The empty space between them seems to warp and distort. Soon, something like a whirlwind seems to form as they draw ever nearer. Papers in the room are kicked up and scattered. You can see the outlines of the movement by the dust gathered within. You're so enraptured by the commotion that you're taken completely by surprise when
Suddenly your whole arm jerks through the now much-bigger stockade! Blackpaw jerks vigorously on the cable, pulling it away, and all the motion comes to a rest. You're a puppy again.
A good number of the cooks?
"What? Here, in Hamburgerburg? We traveled all up and down the continent, but she was here all along?"
There's something of a choked out laugh from below that mask.
The fruits and vegetables! Coriander may not have had a steady supply of new things, but he still managed to get his hooves on a great number of greenery.
Quick, body check on myself!
Did it work! No side effects apparent? I need a mirror"
"Life can be funny that way."
"On the trip over, I had some black outs, but none as long as the most recent one. I want to be with you, but I don't want to be a liability."
He sighs. "In the Highlands, there are no friendly towns for us to make camp in or build a safe holdfast. I know Aria thinks you should leave me in a daycare so I'm not a liability… I'm just worried she's right."
Probably best not to tell him he already stayed in one today, briefly, while Aria was at her interview.
The cuisine here is largely mundane. Cabbage and lettuce seem to be the local favorites and feature prominently in the offerings.
The now-towering Blackpaw looms over you, several times your size. "How small you are with the magic gone. But yes, you seem to be back to normal. Let me unlock your paw."
"I guess so. So what now? You're moving in?"
Be silent for a moment as I ponder that.
But that'd be so sad for him!
I guess worst case I can have him taken care of in Dixie.
"I won't let her put you in a daycare. That'd only make things worse!"
Maybe the preparation is something new? I'll make myself a modest plate.
I have no idea the standards of polite conversation in this setting. Can I talk with Skylight? Can I talk with the ponies across the table?
Oh, by the tides, why did I never have that crash course with my sister-in-law? There aren't an overwhelming number of forks and cutlery, is there?
He seems a little relieved to hear that. "Well… okay."
Finally, he yawns. "Can I just… sleep here?"
"Hehehe, I'm a little genius am I not?" my tail wags in excitement as I look up at him with a smile
No silverware at all. Perhaps for the sake of the Duke, who is an Earth Pony and thus wouldn't be making use of any in the first place.
The table seems a little quiet on your end. The two old mares across from Cumin's parents have gone to quietly talking – something about the East. Meanwhile the suave pony is blithely chatting with the Duke about import taxes as if they were an upcoming art exhibition.
Arm free, you're ready to go. "Good luck, with that last part. Ghost Mushroom, hm? Well, it can't be too hard to find, I hope."
Lift up the sheet so he can lay down under it and tuck him in.
Life sure takes strange turns! As he falls asleep, I look at the ceiling and think about mother.
She never found her special somepony again and she rarely talked about him. What would she have done if she found him? I look at Face and wonder if I'd never had known what it was like to grow up without my own father, would I have forgiven him that easily?
I hate late night existential thoughts!
The night has certainly brought up new questions, but hopefully the realization that Face isn't completely gone yet was a happy thought.
Tomorrow you can get your affairs in order, then onward to Dixie. It'll just be a matter of arranging for the girls to stay behind.
I'll turn my attentions to Cumin's parents, then, though I'll keep an ear out for that talk of the east. A quiet, but still audible level of voice that won't carry too far.
"It's wonderful to finally meet you both."
I jump and hug Blackpaw the best I can "Thank you Mister Blackpaw! And we will find it! I may not go into space yet but…" my grip loosens a tad "At least I'll have more time now. To study, learn and perfect the ship, for Her!"
That'll be easy! Onward!
"No, no, I still have things to do before I can really take a breather. I just came out here to hunt some of these snakes for the cash."
Skylight offers, "You seem familiar already. You must have one of those faces.">>682285
He glances out the window. "Toffee… would be happy there are young minds interested in her cause."
After the thoughtful moment, though, he returns the hug with one arm.
"Well, there's plenty to go around. They're not a pest animal because they're rare. That all you came for?"
You were kind of looking for him earlier, not that you have to admit it.
Guilt will solidify quite heavily in my stomach. I'm not good at this lying thing.
I just hope my smile doesn't betray me.
"A friendly one, I hope."
You spend the morning cooking, writing your will, and trying (failing) to extract a story about last night from Aira, who leaves quickly to see her 'old friend' again. At least she's happy. Jolly is back to acting childish and playing with the little carriage toy Aria bought him. Once Aira returns for lunch, you at last convince your daughters to stay. No simple task, but not one you care to dwell on - prepared to move on to Dixie?
I give him a nice squeeze
"Can I come back someday? You're the only thing that makes me want to come back to this place"
I'll scrap that will after a few tries.
I'll write a letter to them on the boat…
How did they react?
She taps her chin. "I can't quite place it. We know about your… ahem… religious affiliations. Why don't you tell us about your sea-city?"
He chuckles. "If you care to. Starry Slough is the last place that feels like home to me that I can stand – the cities further north are too cold for my taste."
"Well, what would you like to know? There are still quite a few areas that being cleaned up, and construction is well underway for new living areas."
Well, there's some relief I suppose. She thought I was nervous about my Lunar affiliation.
Aria was upset at you for treating her like a child and eventually stormed off. Maybe madder because she was wanting to stay to work anyway, so she doesn't even have a good reason to deny you.
Aira didn't say anything against the idea, explicitly, but just seemed sad. Like she was going to your funeral.
It's for the better, I'm sure!
Time to go to Dixie!
I WANNA GO TO CHURCH FIRST
"That's because your fur is just too short!" I let go, giggling
"Bye mister Blackpaw. I'll never forget you"
And with that, time to make my way to the door
Or nvm. Let's just go to Dixie.
"Mmmhm… I heard you were out in the wilds as well, so I figured I'd find you to say hi and… maybe… um… that I'm sorry we had to part ways."
Onward, traveler – the seas await! Roll for high adventure, the last leg of your journey is finally upon you!>>682302>>682299>>682300
You consult with the priest, and decide to stay the course at last, stubborn as you are. He councils for the safety of your family, and to not chase after ghosts – but you have too much pride to turn back now.
Onward, traveler – the seas await! Roll for high adventure, the last leg of your journey is finally upon you!
'1d10'Roll #1 1 = 1
"And there are many sea ponies like yourself?"
"It's in the past. Don't let it eat at you."
Should I have asked Blackpaw to escort me?… Nah he's done enough, let's let him rest now
'1d10' high adventure in high seaRoll #1 1 = 1
"I know I shouldn't, but it wouldn't feel right to not say thanks to you again while I'm in the neighborhood. I had a good time travelling with you."
"The majority of the city is, yes. There are land ponies who live there, and they are accommodated as best as possible."
I'll hold up my front hooves.
"Since most seaponies who are… uplifted? I suppose that would be the best word. Anyway, most seaponies only have the front hooves, so keeping most of the city half-flooded allows for both the native seapony population and the land ponies to get around with equal ease. My father was a land pony, so I ended up with four legs and a fish tail, as did my brother."
I'll think a second, now that it crossed my mind.
"Or did you mean mixed-breed seaponies? There are very few, and my brother and I are the oldest among them. But we expect the number to rise, now that everything's settled down, more or less."
"You're welcome. Good luck with your mission."
"I don't know anything about your parents or House Aquamarine. Why don't you tell us more? Cumin said that your brother recently married into House Compass. They're… certainly nobles."
"Thanks. We'll speak again sometime. While I'm visiting my mother. Er… if you want to, that is."
"Sure. I'd like that."
"Well… I'll be seeing you then. I'll uh… leave the snakes to you."
Wave him off and flutter away, back to the city itself.
Maybe it's best to just leave this behind and head back to Dixie.
"Rose Compass is a lovely young mare that I wish I'd taken the time to talk more with. I'm afraid I'm really a fish out of water in these settings, so anything she'd have been able to coach me on would have only helped."
I'll pause a moment.
"It's a bit of a secret, but my brother would much rather be working his farms and steam pipes than figuring out noble behaviors. Still, the two of them seem to be getting along well!"
With a nervous chuckle, I'll continue.
"I can't say I blame him for wanting the peace and quiet, though, as just the introduction so far has worn me out. We didn't have many audiences in Aquamarine while we were growing up, due to the fact we were still locking it down. So it's definitely nerve-wracking."
And now the parents… how can I lie without lying here?
"My mother is currently the high priestess of Luna, as I'm sure you're aware, and left my father shortly after we were born. Her calling is the reason she gave, a mission from Luna herself to secure a home for fellow Lunites. In taking the undersea city and rechristening it Aquamarine, she fulfilled the physical requirement for a home. Politically, though, it's still in quite a precarious position, even with my brother and Rose getting married."
My smile will falter a bit here.
"It was while I was traveling with Cumin that we ran into my father again, actually. We had… quite a few words. He's gone to Aquamarine City by now, I think."
I'll idly toy with a sprig of lettuce, then continue.
"I won't lie to you, my mother is definitely encouraging Cumin and I to pair up for exactly the reason you think, but that's not the reason I love him. I just want that abundantly clear."
The days at sea were not good ones for you. The travel was fast, and no interruptions, but 'Face' never reawoke. When you kissed his forehead goodbye, leaving him in Dixie to play with the Belles' toys and be cared for by their nannies, he called you 'mommy', and fear for the disappearance of his identity has consumed you. But he's safe and happy. He has a good relationship with his daughters, though they are more like sisters now. Aira has found love and Aria a job. You can go to the highlands knowing you have brought your family back together.A Tough Little ShipSelena, Emrille, Lilly
After meeting in Dixie, you set off right away to the Highlands, across the Manesian Sea. You spent the trip being briefed by Happy Puzzle about the names and identities of the one hundred eleven legendary soldiers of Clan Plaid who hold Abeardeen - each an army to their own. You should be able to recognize them and their reputations on sight now. Lacy has been training, too. The humble maid has mastered command of the little sloop you're taking out there– and will stay with the ship in case you need to make a quick getaway.
Even Light Heart… are they happy about the path you've taken? About this one last job?
Before you disembark, Lilly, Emrille has been saving something for you.
I do my best to look interested during the briefing '1d10'Roll #1 9 = 9
Oh yeah, let's find LH Junior
This sure is a strange world we live in. Always something to weird you out.
"I can't believe how much information you managed to squeeze out for us… this'll help immensely. Thank you.">>682486
You need me?
"Hey, before I forget. I got something from your Mom for you."
Very studious ponoe
"Huh? Did you find something?"
"Yeah. Her skeleton was put on show in a Canterlot museum. Don't worry, I made sure that she is no longer desecrated like that by accidentally setting the whole place on fire. I couldn't really take the ashes, but I got this."
Present the wrapped up little tailbone.
"It's a bone from her. The tailbone. Knowing her, she used it a lot. Thought you might want to honor her by having it or at least having something from her to bury properly."
I look over…
Really really! Real bone.
At least it looks like it was sanitized and bleached…
Roll my eyes. How typical of Emrille
"Oh that's so… um…"
Bite my lip, struggling to find the right wording as I eye the wrapped up bone.
"… Charming… A museum though? Really? Was she really that important?"
"It was in the exhibit about Pirates, so apparently. She had quite the infamy."
"Well… that's not very nice of them to not even bury her. Maybe I'll have to do something about that."
Take hold of the wrapped up tailbone.
"For now I'll… take this back to Dixie."
HP puts in cheerfully, "If you live!"
I just remembered I look 30 now, not 100>>682498
"As I said, she is proooooobably
nothing but ashes, but you can bury this. Have a blast."
You're still 40 on the inside. Old and busted!
"What would you say our chances at success are?">>682500
"If she is then all the better."
Also 30 is still old, granny.
I'm ready to disembark>>682503
Like fuck it is, you cunt.
"I've concocted a few plans for your perusal, but really, success rates are all speculation. What IS success anyway?! Hehe. Anyway. Here goes."
HP directs your attention to a blackboard where she begins writing.
Diplomacy with Equestria
Friesian Cross still has some friends in the military, plus you guys have that friend Maeda who is supposed to be an important inquisitor. Maybe we could get them to invade? Celestia loves conquering stuff! Having a huge army would certainly dent their numbers, even if each one is individually strong.
Infiltration by Land
Donkeys are tough at combat but don't like to dig much. We got in contact with a Sapper who can help us dig right into their fortifications, but then it's all stealth from there. Blowing our cover would almost certainly require a retreat.
Adel isn't actually that important in theory, right? I mean, she's just one of a bunch of Jennies. Maybe we could just bargain for her freedom somehow? Maybe we could even capture a free Jenny and trade them like an object!
Selena's a good alchemist, maybe we can instead Sap into their water supply and sicken them. It might make them a bit weaker, but it's unlikely that they would all drink before figuring out that it's poisoned. This is the 'frontal assault' idea, but if we start to take losses, retreat may be inevitable.
Do you know any powerful necromancers? Maybe we could resurrect some of the dead Ursas around here. If nothing else, it might distract them a bit while we get to work.
We'll disguise ourselves as jennies and get ourselves taken straight to the harem! They wouldn't harm us because we'd be too valuable, and we wouldn't have to wander through the maze of halls to find Adel - they'd take us straight to her. Half the mission done already! Downside, we probably can't bring weapons with us and would have to improvise or steal stuff once inside. How hard can it be to find weapons in a city of warriors?
Appeal to Tirek
Tirek hates all life, maybe he'd think the final genocide of a race is a worthy cause? Never hurts to explore all your options!
"These are just what we've brainstormed!"
Some of these… seem a little extreme.
"Starting a full scale war or a genocide seems pretty out there but… then again that whole place does seem pretty despicable. Maybe combining two of these would be a pretty effective way of dealing with them."
Look to the others.
"Anyone know any necromancers? Or have any other suggestions?"
"I can kill them from a distance if that's what you need."
HP shrugs. "Everything is relative. They're just trying to preserve their race, but I only really care about fulfilling my objectives!"
"Did you actually see Adel at all, by the way?">>682507
"Why I don't think we're all that stealthy. And we don't really have any leverage to use diplomacy at all. I don't really want to make any deals with Tirek either… so I think we'll have to go the fighting route."
"Somehow that doesn't surprise me."
The Father remarks, "I had always expected Cumin to take the vows. But you should know that my brother won't recognize your title as a secular one. That is to say, you should know that neither Cumin nor any children you may have will have claim to Hatfield. Your mother may want to take that into consideration, if she's the one brokering this."
Skylight offers a confused smile. "You… do have children normally, right? Or… are there eggs…?">>682308
Getting used to being little again takes some time, and you stumble back and forth with the rocking of the ship just like you did on your first day of being a 'teen'. It's strange to be so small and have to look up to the ponies again, and worse yet, they seem to be treating you like a little kid again. Still, a little privacy gives you time to experiment with your personal tools and materials.
Soon, the shores beckon. It'll be a mushroom-hunting adventure once you land! Anything else you want to take care of at sea?
"Poison sounds good, let's do that!"
"We did! There are around three thousand jennies on the island and most of them have free run of the place. They either have them brainwashed pretty good or some of them are okay with staying. On Wednesdays she goes to concerts put on by another one of the Jennies who plays several musical instruments, including a very recent invention called the Electrical Guitar. It's like Selena's daughter's instrument, but it uses Electrical Essence."
She holds up a balled up paper wad.
"Convincing the jennies to riot and overthrow their captors since they outnumber them thirty to one was a plan originally, but we don't really know how loyal they are, so it seemed too uncertain to list."
I shake my head.
"Too risky! We need only one of those jennies to rat us out and it's all over!"
"Can they actually fight as well as the jacks though? We also can't rule out that Adel may resist…"
"We don't think so. Well, I'm sure at least SOME of the jennies probably led interesting lives, but if they were strong-willed and stout of heart, they probably would have been fighting already. Or are in isolation chambers or something."
"We should bring something to drug Adel if necessary, we won't have the time to discuss this with her."
"In that case, probably wouldn't even help to get them to riot. Wouldn't even have enough weapons. That also kind of rules out the pretending to be jennies plan… too risky.">>682518
"I think so too. Can you?"
Nod. "Don't worry about it."
"I… don't believe having claim to Hatfield was her intention. She may have just been hoping that my marrying Cumin would dissuade others of the Celestial faith of persecuting Lunites elsewhere."
I'll scrunch a bit.
"I will admit I had never really asked my mother the extent of her plans, since she's been incredibly busy for most of my life."
At Skylight's question, I'll tap my hooves together lightly.
"I, uh, well. I've not helped any midwives, but I know I and my brother were live births."
Blush a little.
"So I suppose that counts as having children normally. Especially considering I'm more pony than most seaponies. The average seapony only has the front two legs, and a larger tail on the back half. That's why ponies often mistake pods of seaponies with dolphins."
"Oh, you would love that! But how will we poision them?"
Lacy clears her throat from the helm. "We're almost ready to make landfall. Hey, are you sure about what you're doing? I mean, genocide, Tirek, and all this killing just to free someone you might need to drug to make willing to leave? If you're drugging her, how are you any better than them?"
HP shakes her head. "Our orders are to capture Adel for the Belle family, it doesn't matter who is 'right' silly!"
Frown at Lacy.
"We're not the ones trying to rape her. How can you possibly compare us to them!"
"I'm not planning on taking her to rape island, so I like to think that makes us at least not quite as bad as them. We can try diplomacy I suppose, but it's risky."
"Obviously you're right, but what if she wants to go back after you get her out? You'd have to lock her up just the same. What's your plan for getting her children out?"
Cumin's father coughs. "So how about the Stoppers?"
Look to Lilly.
"That's something we'll figure out if that turns out to be the case!"
It is rather upsetting, yes, especially since I was just starting to get used to that body. But at least this time my growth will be natural, and I'll have more lifetime in me
I don't have anything to do except tampering with my tools and ingots, hopefully the I spent on the ship was enough to learn and craft some fun things
I'll tilt my head slightly.
"Glad to see we planned ahead.">>682527
"The what now?"
"You're welcome to give us your input, Emrille. What's with the new look anyway?"
"She'll obviously need to undergo some mental healing before we'd allow her to make a decision like that. I don't think it's quite fair to compare us to them for locking her up when they're the ones who brainwashed her.
I don't know about the kids. We'll have to take them if we can. They're family… sort of."
"Just regained the years that were lost to me, thanks to an old friend."
"Anyway… I told you. I'm not a planner, I'm an executioner, in more than one way. If you pretend you want to talk with them I can shoot whoever their leader is."
"It's just speculation, but you know, that's kind of the point of a breeding colony. How long has she been here, four years about? So they're probably doing something wrong if she hasn't had at least one child, right?"
"Adel belongs with her family."
You've toyed with some swords and lances, but increasingly you yearn to work on projects that matter, like water purifiers or air recyclers. Stuff for the mission!
"The Manhattan Show Stoppers?"
"I think you can guess who knows age magic.">>682535
"I mean, I'm fine with lining them all up in a nice tidy line and shooting them all in the back of the head. I see nothing wrong with that plan."
Flap my ears. "Wait…Abilio?"
Smirk and make a 'shhh' motion.
"Fucker is living it up large with his family."
Grab her. "Where?!?"
I'll look confused for a second.
"I'm afraid I'm not familiar with them. I've spent pretty much all of my life except for the last month or so underwater, so surface culture is something I am really behind on."
Fiddle with my hooves a bit sheepishly.
"But they must be fairly popular, if they come up in casual conversation?"
"I agree, but that's not going to happen. I think maybe… getting Equestria to invade would be ideal. But then an all out war with who knows how many deaths seems pretty unreasonable."
"You know, baseball!"
Widen my eyes.
"Whoa, slow the fuck down there, will you? It was hard to find him, and with good reason. He is keeping a low profile, he settled in somewhere nice. But you freaking the fuck out like this could be pretty dangerous in blowing his cover!">>682544
"Give me some time and supplies and I'll just pick them off one by one."
I'll look at Cumin.
"That's a game, right?"
He motions vaguely with his hooves.
"You know, it's really big here in Equestria. Pitcher? Batter? Home run?"
He gives a sheepish smile. "I don't follow sports much myself."
"Let's just be reasonable about this."
Point to everyone here.
"Happy can sneak, Who is tiny, Lacy can…take care of children, Emmy can shoot, and you are fast. So we can forget about just attacking. We need to either sneak, perhaps put a sleeping potion in their water or we need to have some barter chip."
"Don't give me that! Just tell me!"
"This is the first I've heard of it. Is it fun?"
I… I haven't learned how to make those yet, but I wonder if MacRam has any books on those
Besides, I have to train my Smithing skills, not just my tinkering!
"Uh, I wouldn't know."
His father puts in: "Oh, nopony really PLAYS Baseball, they go to see their team play. It's a cultural phenomenon, and the competition is fierce and red-blooded!"
Skylight corrects, "Some commoner ponies play baseball for fun."
Roll luck for disembark location!
Can Selena make a viagra + energy potion that will completely exhaust the donks?
"Oh. How does it work? I'm guessing there are a number of rules that go along with the sport."
'1d10'Roll #1 10 = 10
You could make a sexual stimulant and add a sedative, though it seems very optimistic to believe that they would all willingly go into one mass breeding frenzy at the same time.
Cumin blurts out, "It's easier to see than explain!"
Skylight raises an eyebrow, but his father laughs - "That's not a bad idea if you're itnerested. Better than sitting here and playing twenty questions about your fins, I'm guessing."
He whispers shakily, "S-sorry, I just though… maybe it would get the attention off… ice breaker."
I guess that makes for the same as the poison plan in the end then.>>682549>>682544
"So long story short, I believe I could brew up some sedative, then we go in when half of them are drowsy, sneak through the camp, and sneak back out with Adel"
"And if the sneaking doesn't work, you'd get caught in the middle of them and added to the herd. So yeah, I'm not going in with that plan, but I can stay outside and cover the exits."
"I have to agree with Emrille here… it's incredibly risky. Then, I don't really know what else we could do."
Heavy reefs force your ship to relocate to the western side of the island. You see a hole in the reefs wide enough for your large rocket-ship to lay anchor for your ghost mushroom search, but there's a little tiny sloop in the way. You should wave to them and get them to move over so you can lay anchor!
"Yes, you keep an eye on the camp and if something happens start shooting. And let's not forget we have a benefit!"
Flap my wings!
"We really only need to get outside and fly off with Adel!"
I'll rest a hoof on Cumin's.
"I'd love to go with you all to watch a game."
And then I'll whisper to Cumin.
"It was a good idea. Have some confidence. Besides, this could be fun!"
"You do have a point with that… But be ready for me to set shit on fire if I start shooting. Burn the whole thing to the ground if we have to."
Father: "Although… the game's not until the afternoon. We still have some downtime."
Skylight finishes her plate and remarks, "Well, I'd be happy to show Marina to our chapel, since she's a devout pony I am sure she will be interested to see it. Why don't you take the opportunity to talk to your father about the importance of not getting arrested, Cumin?"
"Selena, cupcake, you think this is the best time and place? Just keep your cute blue head focused on what we are doing at the moment."
"You better tell me afterwards!"
"Well, you better make sure we don't die, or worse, get captured."
"I'll admit I've not really been into any Celestial chapels. There was the one monastery on New Earth, but I couldn't really go for a tour since I was helping a friend break a curse at the time."
"Are we all in agreement then on the digging in and sneaking plan?"
Rush to the corner of the ship, leaning over the deck "Heeeeey! You guys on the little boatship thing! Can you move over for us pretty pleaseeee?!"
"Well it's the only real option we have, so yes."
It was at that moment you noticed the quite large, metal ship looming behind you. A little diamond dog yells at you from its bow.
"Heeeeey! You guys on the little boatship thing! Can you move over for us pretty pleaseeee?!"
Raise a brow but say nothing.
Why doesn't he just go around…
"Sure. Just give us a minute. What are you dogs doing here anyway?"
It's Rhanna! There's actually a donkey on the deck, too, although the ship's helm - in a distant, glassed-in wheelhouse is commanded by a sleepy looking old goat. There's also a griffon aboard, securing straps around some monumentally large object under a series of tarps.
Wait… That voice
"Oh wow, if it isn't the fucking cavalry."
"Rhanna?!? What are you doing here?"
"Let me know when you're done with your lunch, then."
I'll nod, smile, and then return to my meal. I'll quickly, but not too quickly since it's supposed to be a polite meal, finish it off and be ready to go.
"I'm hunting for mushrooms for our spaceship!… What are YOU doing here though? I haven't seen you in forever!">>682582
"Is that Emrille? Heey, Miss Emmy, Hiiii!"
Fly down on the ship.
"A what…a spaceship? What kind of beast is that?"
"Bloody fucking Hell… just what we needed…"
Skylight escorts you down the long, quiet chambers of the estate. Hoofsteps echo between marble pillars, on a floor of crisscrossed oak and spruce. After a time, she speaks up.
"You know I must have my doubts. The Hatfield family has always been tolerant, and even I as well, but this is a lot to take in. I don't know who you are, and this is all very sudden. You want to take my son away to your city under the sea, like some siren temptress."
She sighs. "Oh, I know that's a bit dramatic, but the whole audacity of the situation is bewildering. You admit you have political goals, that you're something most ponies other than me assume is a monster, and that you don't follow Celestia. But you're unabashed about all of it. I don't think anyone knows what to make of it, so you'll just have to be honest. What is going on here, really? Because we can't have a serious conversation if it isn't built on a bedrock of honesty."
Gunny screeches at you. "You blasted blabber mouth puppy, what in the world are you telling them for? What kind of society do you think this is?"
"Why don't we go say hi? It's been a while since we saw her."
Raise my wings.
"Don't talk to her like that! Who are you?!?"
"Can't we just trade her in?"
"That ain't none of your business and you can have her if you want her so bad!"
"It's like a regular ship, but it goes into s-" I quickly shut myself
"Uhh, actually this is a secret and I shouldn't be telling you that… D-dont tell mister MacRam that I told you about the spaceship or he'll be mad at me!">>682590
"I-I didn't tell them about it, I just said what it was called… Besides they are trustworthy! If it wasn't by miss Selena, I would have never found Mister MacRam"
Look at them both.
"I have heard nothing!"
"Well, I'd be surprised if you didn't have doubts. It's going to be a pretty long explanation, but I do want to lead off with that I'm not intending to simply spirit Cumin away beneath the sea."
I'll rub my foreleg.
"I don't quite know where to start on the rest of it, though. What did you want to know first?"
"So… What are you doing here, with everyone?"
"… Where's aira and aria?"
"They're safely in Witherloo. We're going to help Lilly with something, but you shouldn't concern yourself with that. You have a new job here building ships!
Gunny sighs. "Better not let MacMeal know. He's been in a mood since we left the Slough."
"Is this about Lilly's insomnia curse?">>682600
"Please don't… I won't tell anyone again, promise"
"Oh yeah, and can you move the ship around a bit for us to anchor?"
"Rhanna, you don't need to ask him to move the entire ship!">>682600
Say to Gunny "Don't worry sir, we'll move our ship and we'll be gone before you know it!"
"That's gone, the curse was lifted."
"I'm just asking because you guys are kind of blocking a perfect spot for us">>682603
"Then you can sleep again! I noticed it too that the spots under your eyes are lighter than I last saw you. But if it's not the curse, then why are you here, Lilly?"
"It's no problem, Rhanna! We have the smaller ship, it'll be way easier for us to turn."
Happy Puzzle guided you inland to a grotto hidden in the foothills surrounding the great plateau which is host to Abeardeen. Though the thick foliage which conceals it is unappealing, once you've pushed through it will be your last glimpse of sunlight for some time. According to HP's account, there is already an infiltration tunnel underway, being built by your contact.
Bleh, I don't like being Underground!
"Are you sure he can be trusted?"
HP points out with a wink, "I never said it was a he!"
"This isn't a game, you know.
Without missing a beat, she cheerfully rebuts, "I know this one thing - survival is a state of mind. And that state is keeping a high spirit, so don't get all gloom and doom already!"
"I'm pretty sure survival is also about murder."
Scrunch hard '1d10'Roll #1 10 = 10
"Most importantly, about competence."
A powerful scrunch! (-7 stress)>>683387
HP shrugs. "You'd be surprised how often in ninja work the best answer is to get in and get out without being noticed at all. But that's your decision to make. I'll be monitoring the situation. Now, are you going to go meet the one who has been digging your tunnel for you on good faith or not?"
"If you asked your mother, she'd probably say it was about manipulating ponies."
Clear my throat.
"Well uh… I'm sure she was competent too."
HP waves her arms in frustration. "See, this is the problem with old ponies! They want to stand around reminiscing instead of focusing on the mission!"
"Be careful of old ponies in a dangerous profession!"
Shake my hoof.
"Don't worry, don't worry, you have my full attention."
HP points with renewed urgency at the entrance to the grotto. "Well?"
"I'm ready to follow you folks whenever. I'm not going to walk up front with the gun."
Go in after Selena.
"If you hear rumbling… well, you know… run."
The dark chamber is lit only by the faint moonlight streaming in through the entrance, but once the foliage is once again secured, the room is cast in shadow. A darklantern is slowly unsheathed, casting a single narrow ray of light through the chamber. The individual carrying the thing raises it to your height. Then twice that. Then, the lantern settles at three times the standing height of an average pony.
You hear a female doggish growl, "You don't look much like pirates, to me."
"That's… the trick to staying alive in this line of business.">>683402
The lantern's hood is pulled back a little further, and you can see the outline of a face that looks vaguely familiar.
"As long as you're competent. I breached the minority shrines this afternoon, and my nephew is having his sentence carried out tonight at midnight. So if you fall behind, I won't linger."
"Fair enough. You lead the way."
The light of the lantern is cast around the room, and focuses on a hole large enough for you to walk through without bending, though the enormous diamond dog has to crouch.
"I hunted pirates out of Caballeria for years, you don't look the type. Haven't seen any of you on wanted posters, either. Didn't think there were pirates left, 'cept maybe for Treacherous Davy."
"That's the secret of survival. Never be on the wanted posters."
Trot quickly after her.
"You don't have the look of pirates, neither. Nor the brands or marks. I hunted enough to know."
"The world has changed, we had to adapt and change as well."
"I guess not if you don't know one when you see one."
Roll my eyes audibly.
"I don't care if you think we're pirates, vampires or breezies, just get us in that camp."
"It makes no difference to me if you aren't. Maybe you wouldn't be so eager to style yourselves after them if you know some real pirates, though. They ain't romantic sea dogs, they're killers of ponies and dogs alike. Lost my own brother to piracy."
"But I guess I'll trust CC on this one, she referred you to me, by way of another Breezie she knows."
"How did he die?"
"If I was my old self, I'd probably shoot you for even fucking questioning it and mouthing off.Bitch
"After he was run out of our homeland, he was imprisoned in Equestria for extradition. Before I could break him out myself, he ran off with a gang of pirates and died at sea, somewhere. It's not a pretty life. Now, his bastard is the only momento I have of my family, fathered off some gold-hair mongrel from Neighpon.">>683415
"Had a lotta pirates say that to me. Didn't take. Keep your voice down in any case, we're getting close to the shrines."
I laugh and wave her off.
"Come on now, no need to joke around Emrille!"
"I almost shot your mother for smiling smugly at me once. I was very trigger happy back then.">>683416
"Yeah yeah, just tell us when we're there."
"Tragic." I say, not very convincing.
"I don't blame you for not having sympathy. I hunted pirates myself. He wasn't a good dog, but he was family. Maybe you can sympathize, have blood that made some bad decisions. Falling in with that crowd made his life worse than it could've been, though. His soul is in Rurivan's paws now, to be polished for eternity, or recast into a new instrument to his liking. So ends Chip."
Look to her. "I suppose you can't choose your family." this time a bit more heartfelt
Let's pick up where we left off.
"Who are you? What is the Aquamarine City? Who rules there, your mother? I knew another Lunite sea pony elevated by that Sister… Do you know Mera?"
"W-Well I'm glad you didn't!"
Wave my hoof.
"Eeeh, she'd have been fine."
Emrille tactfully ignoring commentary on Chip, the dog puts up a hand sign for you to wait and moves ahead a bit. Suddenly the tunnel is flooded with the smell of incense. The lantern goes out, but it is replaced by the dull glow of candlelight.
"Well, in order: I'm Marina, the daughter of the High Priestess of Luna. Aquamarine City is a mobile, underwater city that was originally built by or bestowed to worshipers of Discord, but it has since been cleansed and claimed as a safe haven for those of the Lunar faith. Yes, my mother is in charge there."
Take a short breath.
"And yes, I know her, since she's my mother."
Skylight trips and faceplants into the rug. Warily, she asks, "And your father…?"
More like she could hardly give a fuck about that asshole being dead!
Follow the light with the others
"You might want to sit down for this…"
She closes her eyes and sighs. "You don't have to say it. But why? Granted, there can't be a lot of families willing to marry a Lunite princess, but you knew…?"
Big diamond dog claws reach up and shovel you out. Now in proper lighting, you can see how monstrously big this particular specimen is. She's big enough to cradle your entire body in a single arm. No wonder the tunnel is so big.
The bitch deposits you on the ground in front of a statue of Celestia, which is surrounded by yellow and golden candles.
In a low voice, the dog relates, "This is the Celestial shrine, I would've preferred to dig into one of the less active shrines but this one is the closest.">>683429
Selena disappears beyond the end of the tunnel.
I'll shake my head.
"Not until just recently, and well after Cumin and I met. I didn't even know my father even had
a sister until after I found him. Or that he was even still alive. Mother was preoccupied with securing the city, so I never really had time to ask."
"How dare they!" I whisper "Building such a sacred shrine in a place where they do such….awful things!"
The dog gives a look of confusion.
"I don't think it's for the jacks if that's what you're saying. They snatch these brides from all over the world, wherever they can find pureblood jennies. So instead of making them convert to traditional Ass worship, they let them keep their religion and pray in these minority shrines. There are even ones for the True Pantheon of the Dogs, out on the far end."
Flap my ears.
"Oh…or that! Yes, just as I thought." Straighten my hat.
"When did you meet? How?"
She rubs her eyes, righting herself and slowly starting to move again.
Celestia's perfect face looms above you. Even in stone recreation, she seems wise and forgiving. You wonder what kind of women come here, and what solace they receive.
You can hear echoing footsteps approaching, but they are still distant, and moving slow. Someone not in a hurry, dawdling.>>683439>>683440
The huge, hulking diamond dog pulls each of you out of the tunnel, one in each arm, before quietly answering Lilly's question: "These asses engage in a type of ancestor veneration. They believe that their spirits are immortal and those who truly die look down on their clan and offer guidance and protection. Since males have been immortal for a thousand years, it involves worshipping the female side of the family, mostly."
"Sounds more like a bunch of assholes to me."
"No, most of their structures are above ground. This is one of the only ones that isn't, so it's probably the last asshole you'll see tonight."
"Let's hope that's the case."
Celestia knows I'm a good pony!
"Cumin and myself? We met in the Lunar temple at Autumnsreach, while I was helping Lilly Belle return an artifact before her soul was eaten by some horrible shadow monster. An altar that changed the, um. The gender of whomever touches it. I have no idea why such a thing would be in there, or why it was taken out, to be honest."
I'll scratch the back of my neck.
"Cumin was on duty cataloging the smaller items when we arrived, and we sorta press-ganged him into help us get the altar back to its spot since he knew the layout of the temple."
I'll have the decency to look sheepish here.
"We were down to the last few hours Lilly had before it was too late, so I do hope you can forgive me for that…"
"Hm, I prefer the tunnel fighting, but all three of you are feather ponies, so I can see why you would prefer fighting above ground.">>683445
There's a wish box here, if you want to leave one. Or if you're feeling extra sneaky, you could just open it and read some of the wishes inside.
"Oh no… swept up in all of that piracy! Wanting a better life for Cumin is all I ever wanted, and even now we can't escape the past."
"High above if it could be helped."
! B-but…hmmm but wait, maybe Celestia wants me to read it, so I can help!
"Still, visitors from the outside world are not so uncommon here. Did you come up with a good cover story, so we can avoid blowing our cover? Don't you have any skills, like a musician?"
Roll 1d14 to pull a random prayer from the box
'1d14'Roll #1 8 = 8
"If they ask, I'm a mercenary. I helped this blue cunt travel since she can't take care of herself."
Wink at Selena.
"They can think that."
Pretend I didn't hear that
"Is she any good at anything?">>683453Please bless my child to grow up talented, Celestia. Imbue her with your natural gifts, so she can know a good life.
"Well, for what it's worth, I wouldn't be here right now if we hadn't involved him. He saved all of our lives down there."
I'll look off to the side for a moment.
"As for why we took him with us when we left… I was afraid the Celestial Church wasn't quite ready for their ponies to be working on pleasant terms with Lunites and that they might lock him up somewhere. Looking back on it, I needn't have worried, but… well, hindsight is always perfect."
I'll shake my head.
"At any rate, he came to Aquamarine as a guest, and was treated as one. Our librarian was quite taken with him, actually."
I'll rub my foreleg a bit.
"Selena? She's good at making potions. A travelling mechant having a merc around is not that unusual, is it."
Prod the side of the pegasus with a wing.
"You know I didn't mean it, right? Just getting in character."
That's NOT HELPFUL!
Another one '1d13'>>683458
"You seem to enjoy it a lot." I say without looking upRoll #1 12 = 12
"And all this time you've been there?"
"Reminds me of the good old days. Are those prayers any fun?"
>>683459Please, no more rain, Celestia. Bring the strong sun and drive out the storms. We can't take many more of these storms.
True, the coastal storms have been bad for everyone lately.
She sighs. "That's the best you can do, traveling merchant? I was hoping for something a little more elaborate. They like performers here a lot."
"For pretty much my whole life, yes. Or at least the last sixteen years of it, before Lilly and her friends showed up on our doorstep."
I'll think a moment.
"And not even on purpose, either. They would have passed us by completely if their ship hadn't been attacked by loose brain coral that we hadn't managed to destroy yet."
"If Selena has anything like a sparkly potion I can shoot it with fire to make fireworks."
I was wondering what's going on with all those storms. Guess it's just some natural climate change, not caused by magical pollution at all. Like I believe those hippie ponies!
Quickly put the prayers away. I'm so sorry Celestia, I just wanted to try something good, I didn't know these weren't going to help!
"Hmmm? You were saying something?"
"No, not that. I meant, it's just been the two of you alone in your room of the castle all this time? It's been weeks! How did you end up in Princessland?"
It's funny. These prayers are kind of mundane. Part of you expected prayers for 'freedom' or 'death to our oppressors'.
"These donkeys are very self sufficient so they don't trade much, but they are terrible artists. They love music and performances, though. They bring a lot of performers in, if you can think of an act. There's one of the donkeys here, though, that can play guitar and sing. She's like a local idol."
"Sorry, but I can't sing for shit."
"Act..I could act, if I were in my younger years. Nopony wants to see me dance now!"
"Well… I made a flute out in the bush once. Nothing fancy, but I managed to play some stuff on it."
Smack her ass with a wing.
"Come on, don't be like that.
If anything, you just have more rear to shake now. That'll distract the ass lovers I bet."
Wave that off.
"Anypony can play a flute. You still can dance!"
"Well… I'm not much of a dancer."
"You're young! That's enough!"
The dog points out, "That doesn't make sense, she's not a donkey."
"So? A flank is a flank."
"Oh! Oh no, goodness. That'd be improper. We left Aquamarine after about three days since we had word that my father was not only still alive, but also nearby. So instead of staying in the city, Cumin decided to accompany us on our mission to find and secure him. I'll admit I didn't try to dissuade him from coming, even though it could have been dangerous."
I'll tap my hooves together for a moment.
"So, we're out at sea and we run into the one who provided us the information on my father's whereabouts: Davy, the last Pirate King. At the time, he was one of the courtiers I suddenly found myself surrounded by, since him taking me as a wife would… well, that's a long story. Short version is that in his bid to win my hoof, he tracked down my father and insisted we work together to fetch him. This was mostly because dad was currently being held prisoner near Princessland, at Bright Harbor prison."
My face will darken for a moment.
"I certainly wasn't expecting it to be a trap."
"I'm a pony, but that hasn't stopped goats, dogs, cats, more dogs,…" start counting on my hooves.
"I'd really rather not."
"Oh, the other kind of ass lover. You didn't have to be so pointlessly vague."
"You should've known better than to trust a pirate!"
"Look, if you want to save your sister, you're gonna have to step out of your comfort zone."
"I thought it was obvious."
"I don't think they'll be too impressed, honestly."
I'll shake my head.
"Davy was actually completely honest in this case. No, the trap was set by the Inquisitor Redcoat, for my mother. He even knew about that our boat could go underwater, which is how Cumin was captured."
I'll lower my head a bit.
"The only reason my father and I even got out of Bright Harbor before we were made examples of was due to the fact one of my other… 'suitors' decided he'd waited long enough for a positive answer and set his pet giant squid… octopus… thing to attack the prison."
"They'll be less impressed with Emmy.
But fine, guess no distraction then."
"Let's just see if we can outsneak the donkeys. Oh how dreadful, what if they see us;…"
"If only Light Heart was here."
"Well… chaos, pirates, kidnappings, magic boats, arrest… is that everything, at least?"
Roll my eyes.
"Alright, alright, fine, I'll do it. Just remember all of us are in deep trouble if they don't appreciate it."
"I'm sure you can improvise."
"Well, there was the white rabbit which sprang him from his detainment, and what set the two of us on-track back to Autumnsreach for a short visit. After we finished our business there, we came here; arriving yesterday."
"And don't worry, we'll ask that jenny idol to help you.
Would be a waste of time to sneak in here just to reveal ourselves like that!"
I'll clunk my hooves together.
"Oh, wait, I forgot one very important thing. We fought that wizard who attacked the prison along with a bunch of other ponies. The wizard and a bunch of deer were the cause of the freak storms lately."
"You guys better don't mess up either!"
"Business? And you found the cause of the storms? Why are they still going? Were you not able to stop them?"
"Unfortunately, there's no plan that goes without a hitch."
"If all else fails, I'm sure we can shoot our way out."
"I'm counting on you big time."
"Now, first we'll find that idol. Dog?"
"Someone's on the stairs, on the way down. We need to either try to get past them one way or another, or retreat into the tunnel, or into the city catacombs which connect from here."
"Well, the rabbit's deal for breaking Cumin out of confinement was twofold: the first is that he'd learn an uncomfortable truth, and the second is that…"
I'll look around for a brief moment to make certain no one's listening in (a too-long put-off thing, now that I think on it) and continue.
"That he be turned into a mare. So we had to make a trip to Autumnsreach to undo that, though if he had chosen to remain that way, I would be the one who would touch the altar."
I'll rub my foreleg again.
"As for the deer causing the storms, we only managed to disperse them the one time, and I'm not certain where things went from there. If they're still going, then that means that Maeda, the Celestial who was traveling with Lilly, couldn't convince her superiors of the importance of tracking them down. Or they just haven't been successful at it."
"I have a name, it's Klava. And that idol, Cation, lives the high life in the skull. I think her room is in the left eye."
You arrive at the chapel in silence, and Skylight collapses into a nearby pew, face in hooves. Ech, not taking it that well, is she?
Can I sneakily see what's on the stairs?
I'll chew my bottom lip a moment, then sit a near her, with a pony's-width of space between us.
Skylight probably just needs time to process all this. It's a lot to take in at once, after all.
Sure, roll for it. It sounds like a bunch of little hooves and maybe one adult chaperone.
"I'd rather not get spotted by fillies. Back into the tunnel?"
Follow her for now, she probably knows better
Yeah I think I'll follow Selena here before we get swarmed by small donkeys.
Klava gathers you up in her arms and loads you one by one into the tunnel, before scrabbling up herself. You can hear voices and trotting about outside.
"That was close, we need another point of entrance."
"The only other route is through the catacombs, but donkeys have an unusual relationship with the dead and spirits. I would rather not. That is why I suggested we develop a cover story."
After a long silence she asks, "Is there anything else?"
"We stand out like zebras in Equestria. If we had a good cover story, we didn't need this tunnel. At least we need somejenny. But here the way is blocked…"
Put on my thinking hat
Kind of makes you wish you had that Cloak of Disguise about now! But your Summoning Hat is pretty good clothing too.
I'll shake my head.
"That should be everything."
A little tear escapes down her cheek. "Why, though? All that… and the rabbit and altar besides, you did all that?"
Is the parking slot free yet? have they gotten that sloop out of the way?
Yes! But by the time you're parked, Miss Selena and her friends have already left for the hills.
Gunny points out, "We just need some ghost mushroom. They're supposed to grow up along the coast here. If you don't find any, maybe we can trade for them in town. Put that nose to good use."
Aww, they probally went to have some awesome adventure. I didn't even get to talk to Emmy or Lilly right!Aye aye. Uh, what does Ghost mushrooms look and smell like? I kinda need some reference to track them down. Also why are they called ghost mushrooms?
"Things sort of… led into each other."
Stare at the floor and idly press my hooves together.
I don't even know if an apology is what she wants. I am so lost.
"You may recall three parts were required to get the rocket to launch. First, the #1 Ionium Jet, we got that in Caballeria. Then, the Repair-Type Bolt, from Novdogod. The last, the Omega Stabilizer, we can make ourselves. But it requires a material called synthetic foam
. In turn, we need ghost mushrooms to engineer this material. It's a faint white, transparent. A mostly flat cap, with no warts. It should have thick, spongy gills. Very narrow, dry stem."
"No, you couldn't answer anyway."
I'll look at her, confused.
>>683527Flat, no warts, spongy and narrow. Alright! This doesn't help with the smell but at least I know what it looks like
Let's hop out of the ship and take a look around.
'1d10+2' appraise surroundingsRoll #1 6 + 2 = 8
The awkward silence stretches on. Facial expressions are no good for someone with hoof over eyes.
The coast is rough, bumpy, and difficult terrain. Besides the thick coral barrier reef, there's the problem of huge fjords. Litered with rocks and stinking algae, there are no trees to break up your view.
"I'm… sorry if I couldn't answer to your satisfaction. There are probably circumstances behind why I never even knew about any of my father's, well, anything. Whether that was because my mother never had the free time to go into it, or if that just isn't supposed to matter to pure sea ponies, or what, I don't know."
I'm probably going to rub a hole in that left foreleg for how often I do it.
"I'm also sorry for dropping all of this on you at once."
Must be quite a sight from up there in those rocks
I'll look around for a path or a way to climb up there in those fjords. If algae grows there, then mushrooms definetly grow too
"No… you don't understand. We're in the chapel, it wasn't a question for you."
She pulls her hoof away to reveal sad eyes. "I knew Cumin was… different, for a long time. But he always cloistered himself away with his books or hobbies. I wanted to be there to help him open up. To help him find his place in the world. To accept his identity even though he's not the most… obviously masculine pony in Equestria. But in two weeks you've already done all that. He followed you into battle, volunteered. And you helped make him back into a prince
again. Those were things I
wanted to be there for him with. Already, there's no more need for his mother."
She shakes her head. "I knew he would face adversity and struggle in his life. I never expected he wouldn't need me."
You struggle your way up the side of the cliff. From here, you can see the walls of a great fortress in the distance. You find yourself on the edge of a large oat field. Too bad it's out of season.
>>683536Why is there a thing like that in a place like this?
I skip around over the oat field while looking for any clues. Ah well, none of my business anyway
Looks like this is just one of many oat farms, served by a small village in the shadow of the fortress. A vassal estate, essentially.
Oh so it actually belongs to a farm, oops. I'll stop jumping over them, then
Still no signs of those shrooms though… Maybe I should try looking in darker places where the sun doesn't reach easily
I don't quite know whether I should say anything or not. Suppose I'll just have to put in my two cents.
"He'll always need what you've helped him grow, though. That core part of him that's kind, and brave, and caring. That's willing to save the life of someone he just met and has no reason to risk himself for. That's something you and Cumin have cultivated together that he'll always, always need."
A wise plan. You're still at the great bluffs overlooking the fjords below, near a field ostensibly connected to a small farming village.>>683540
She sighs. "You don't have to fix this. In fact, I think that's what made me frustrated. You know, don't trust something if it's too good to be true. You can bust my brother out of jail on a whim, kicked the Discordians out of their own city, rolled through an ancient temple like it was nothing. Normal ponies aren't like that! Are you some kind of invincible action girl always getting into trouble and then magically saving the day or something? It's not normal to be able to fix everything and have no personal flaws besides 'I've got fins'!"
Might be hard finding a place NOT touched by the sun up here…
I'll quickly pass by te farming village then and ask, surely these simple-minded folk are friendly and will love to help me
Deepkeg Brewery & Tavernhouse, Threepaw Port, Island of Roads
It's unusual to have a chair that nearly fits you perfectly without having to size up, but here you are. After docking in Threepaw, you made your way to the local tavern in order to regroup and form a plan to loot the legendary Roadesian Vault.
To your great surprise, this port is full of all kinds of Diamond Dogs, from Musdog to Shiban, and because the little Shiban dogs (from Neighpon, like you) are so small, a whole section of this brewery has tiny tables and chairs just for them. They even have booster seats, in case they want to sit with the big dogs – although in your case, Horosha is just crouched over in the small section for your benefit.
They left you with a menu and time to think – ooh, they have traditional Neighponese tea. It's been so long! Horosha ordered the "Century Tea", a variety of Neighponese black tea.
Nice, I'll order a tea as well.
As you approach the outskirts of the village, you are surprised to note that the inhabitants are all donkeys – although this is their homeland, as far as you know. Most of the donks here are teenage, but a few younger ones are running about. A couple of adults - both pregnant jennies - are overseeing fieldwork - fertilizing and pest control, to ensure the future harvest will be successful.
After your tea has arrived - in a tiny little Shiban cup - Horosha speaks up, now that there isn't a chance of being overheard by accident by the waitress.
"Remember all those defenses facing toward the forest? Perhaps we should gather information about what is out there, that they should need such heavy defenses.
What a lovely little peaceful place…
Let's walk up to any donk that doesn't seem too busy and ask if they know anything regarding mushrooms
Before you make much progress into town, you get surrounded by bouncing foals of various ages!
"Look at it!"
"What is it?"
"See how it's up on its back two legs? Isn't that strange?"
"It's like a tiny bear! A really tiny baby bear!"
I'll just shake my head.
"It's not that easy. I've almost died more times than I care to admit. In the temple, we were almost killed by acid-spitting shellfish, for goodness's sake! And the Discordians held out for years, during which I was in the back helping with the wounded and the cooking."
Putting my head in my hooves, I'll continue.
"And I've got plenty of flaws, trust me. For one thing, I'm absolutely worthless when it comes to magic, despite my mother being so magically able. And forget public speaking, the small crew we had on our boat were about three days from turning on me before we managed to turn it around with something
going right when we stopped the storms, however briefly. If I had to be honest, I think I've just been blundering through and making things worse more often than improving it!"
Sniff a bit.
"I know it looks like everything's all worked out, but that's luck, nine times out of ten. I know that's a terrible excuse for it, but that's really all it can be. I am not that competent."
"Perhaps.. but who to ask.. A guard on break maybe?
Look around quickly to see which locals are at this bar.
Arrgh, I'll try to push my way through them and call help from the nearest adult donk! H-hey, can you help me?!
"Well… thank you for being honest about all this. It's going to take a while to absorb it, I think. If you want to use the chapel, you're welcome to, although it's really only a Celestial shrine. I hope you enjoy the game this afternoon, at least.">>683769
"Possibly. Or I could scout ahead in the trees. Is there something you could do with your magic? You can grow things, right?
The assortment here are a varied bunch. There are five guards over in the corner playing cards - dogs playing cards, what a totally normal sight. Besides them, several of the other town locals are here - one that looks like maybe a blacksmith, and a couple of bitches who look like relatively civilized upper class sorts, perhaps themselves merchants, or the wives of rich dogs? At the counter, the little old lady Shiban is arguing in Neighponese with her Shiban pianist, who is on break.>>683770
The incessant yipping continues! Is this what it sounds like when you're around adults?!
You push through to one of the pregnant jennies, who looks on you in surprise. "Did you get separated from one of the trader caravans, puppy?"
Ugh, I didn't realize how annoying I used to sound. Poor Miss Selena…
"Uhh, no I'm just looking for mushrooms, Miss. I need to find ghost shrooms, but I don't know where to look for, I thought someone here ought to know"
"Thank you for not, well… I imagined this going a lot worse."
"And it's only right I pay respects to Celestia, since I'm here, right? No one says a Lunar follower can't at least do that."
I'll get up from the bench.
"I… I hope you'll be able to make it to the game as well. It sounds like it's something that's more fun with more ponies going with you."
Bowing my head slightly, I'll head off to first pay respects at the shrine, and then ask the servants exactly what sort of outfit I'm expected to wear to one of these 'baseball games'. Since Cumin's probably locked down with family talk.
Frown at her suggestion "Yes, but they aren't all knowing plants, unless you mean to just use them to climb?
"Traders want mushrooms now? You Dogs are so strange. But this isn't a trade bazaar, you should ask if they're sold up at the trading post, near the Fortress at Abeardeen. It's at the beginning of the High Road, if you follow the Low Road long enough, they merge together. Don't get lost from your caravan little puppy, these are dangerous lands to walk alone. Ursas and their lesser cousins, bears, roam freely here."
It seems your dress is suitable attire. They let commoners into these shows, but the Hatsfield family has a "box" – whatever that means.
The only box room you're familiar with is Kotone's amazing transportable room.>>683774
She shrugs. "I don't claim to have any creative ideas. You read all those books and paint pictures, I thought maybe you could come up with some way to use your magic. If you can't, that's fine.
"Alright, thanks ma'am" and with that, I scramble out of the reach of those little energetic donklings
Now, to the low road huh?
Well, that's good.
Though now I'm at a loss of what to do until then. I doubt I'll be allowed to just… walk around unattended, especially since I don't know the layout of the house.
Is there a library that I can pass the time in until we leave to view the game?
There is a road out of town, though you're not sure if it's the 'low road'. Further up the cliffs you see the great fortress of Abeardeen. Now that you're a little closer to make out distinctive features, you realize with amazement that the entire fortification is built inside an enormous skull – a skull bigger than entire castles. The creature that died here must have been terrifying!
Giggle suddenly understanding "Ooh, well, we can use a bit of growing magic too.
"I will start by talking to that pianist, you try the dogs playing poker.
" I suggest. "Its just information about the area we want, shouldn't be hard.
Wow, it's like a bigger scale of that time I saw a bunch of ants inside a dog skull, except not as upsetting!
Let's head towards it, and be watchful for beaaars…
I did bring a crossbow with me this time right?
There is a grand royal library, though it's not inside the building, it's out in the square. The structure dates back to before the First Crusade, when Manhattan was the capital of an independent archduchy, making it well over a thousand years old.
You've also been notified that some refreshments have been delivered to your room, in case you get hungry before the game.
She nods, seriously. All professionalism with her.
"Good luck then. I will do my best.
Oh, that's lovely.
Head there, see what was provided. Might be something new and interesting!
Yep, you're armed!
clap my tiny hooves together and nod.
Float over to the arguing neighpon and shiban
The pianist has returned to the piano, popping up in his tiny stool, but he pauses before playing when he notices you approach.
"A breezie out this far? How strange. You have a request?
I can't help noticing how large the keys are.. float around next to him.
"Perhaps.. Do you know any neighponese tunes?
'1d10' also a gadget for my crossbow just to be sureRoll #1 4 = 4
/ Roll #2 1 = 1
Returning to your room, it's almost like a small banquet has been lain out on your dresser. There's a note that reads:
Please eat as much as you desire before we leave for the game. The rest will be thrown out, so it will go to waste if you don't eat it.
There are two cakes - one chocolate, one cheese. Five variety of cookies (four each): sugar cookie, chocolate chip, lemon bar, cream-filled vanilla, and oatmeal raisin. There are two candied apples, one in caramel and one in chocolate. You spy three strange variety of candy you've never come into contact with, so you have no name for them. One looks like it's made of sheep wool, another looks like a large, continuous crystalline formation, and the last one is almost a powder of tiny crystals.
You can also roll Wisdom if you like. (Don't forget your pirate dice)
Might as well roll wisdom. '1d10'Roll #1 3 = 3
And one of the Pirate Dice. '1d9'Roll #1 1 = 1
He chuckles. "Is that a trick question? No doubt I do, but the piano is an instrument for Doggish of the East - designed for paws with narrow toes. Neighponese music is mostly wind-instrument based, and the piano was introduced late to the culture. So, no true authentic Neighponese music is on piano!
You don't know why they gave you so much food, but it all seems good to you. At least, you can determine with your superior culinary skills that it's not poisonous or anything!
Gotta say, you've dealt with starvation conditions for a long time on your adventure, so it's quite tempting to pig out!>>683789
While you're fiddling with your gadget and walking, you suddenly realize you walked off the path at some point and now you're lost in the forest, which was to the left of the road. It must have turned and you kept walking!
Surely getting back to the main road will be easy, right? Roll adventure
Oops, just a minor detour
back to the road I go in a jiffy, I don't want to squander my time here
'1d10'Roll #1 5 = 5
Wandering through these shady woods does seem like an opportunity to find mushrooms, although you don't spot any. Nearby you can hear movement, something may be tracking you through the woods. Roll adventure, you should get back to the road fast!!
doo doo doo pee doo, out of here I go
'1d10'Roll #1 4 = 4
'1d5'Roll #1 1 = 1
I'll chew my lip a bit.
Oh golly, that's a lot of sweets.
I'll sample them one at a time. A slice of the cakes and one of each cookie to start with. The candies can come after.
I'm going to need the help of the servants to finish the rest of this, though. I'd probably be looked down on for wanting to save some for later.
Smile at him "Perhaps you can show me a traditional piano tune of the doggish west then. something historical themed.
Er East that is
The beast draws near – you can hear a bear drawing close up behind you! You can either try to set up an ambush by setting a trap somehow, or try to beat paws out of there!
Roll for your choice!
They're so good! Even though you're a pro, you could probably learn a thing or two about how to make sweets from these chefs. Maybe a visit to the kitchens later is in order. You haven't tried the candies yet, you'll get full descriptions when you try each one in turn - you can tell they are quite exotic and foreign.
You stop the maid who has been assigned to the room and offer her some of your sweets but she replies, "No ma'am, just tell us when you're done. These were cooked for you and you should try to eat as much as you can. It is tradition for potential branch family brides to be offered sweets."
I'm skeedadling out of here now
'1d10'Roll #1 5 = 5
The dice can't fail me now
'1d3'Roll #1 2 = 2
He starts with a few simple chords. "Alright. In that case, I'll start with a classic Novdogodian tune. This is a celebration of the end of the Third Punic War.
~~We drink to our lives
And the days come and gone
For the age of aggression
Is just about done
We'll drive out the Musdogs
And restore what we own
Down with burglars and killers and thieves
On the day of your ruin, we'll drink and we'll sing~~
As the song goes on, it is increasingly apparent that it's a good thing he's singing in Neighponese, since this would be VERY offensive to any of the Musdog audience. Some of the Novdogodians recognize the tune though, and tap their paws along.
You quickly scurry out of the woods and onto the main road. While you won't be finding any nice mushrooms in there today, at least you didn't have to fight a ferocious bear!
With that, you've reached the merging point of the High Road and Low Road. The High Road does, in fact, go 'high' - A long path that leads up to the great high cliffs which host the enormous skull fortress. About a tenth of the journey up the road, you see a large trading post. That must be the place!
Old tunes like this can be quite pleasant. Bob up and down in the air to the beat. When he finishes clap just once.
"Quite historical, and well sung too. Say, are the walls of the city related to any wars?
Phew, okay that wasn't TOO bad
Let's take a breath of relief and move on, look the those mushrooms
"Wars? I'm not sure I would call it a war. This trading post is far too young for that. More like border skirmishes, raids… that sort of thing.
Up the road to the trading post, or back into the forest? Or something else?
I'll give a slight nod.
"I… see. I hope I can finish everything, then, because I don't want the efforts of the chefs to go to waste."
I kinda miss being able to just share food with ponies. I get the feeling I'd be looked down on for doing that, here, as well!
Towards the trading post of course
"The chefs are very passionate about their work, they made these desserts specially to impress you. Their work only goes to waste if you don't enjoy the food enough to finish it. Traditionally, whichever dish you eat the most of will determine which dessert chef is assigned as your personal chef, and this is considered a very great honor. If you finish all of more than one dish, you will be allotted more than one chef, although I cannot think of a time in my lifetime a bride has had the fortitude to eat all the sweets. Maybe you could find a record of that in the library? Will you honor the chefs by enjoying their food, Princess of Aquamarine?"
A shrewd little trader and diplomat you are - you ain't got time for no bear hunts.
Upward and onward, you actually notice there are several dogs here with carts and huge backpacks for transporting goods, loitering outside. A couple of the carts are rigged up to cows of labor. Looks like a good place to go inside and trade!
571 bits, Heart of True Amber
Maybe you could use your Cast Mold ability to make some fancy items too!
"Really? Who tries to raid the town?
"Nasty little midget ponies, as small to a pony as we Shibans are to a Diamond Dog. A little bigger than you are, tiny Breezie. They are called 'pygmies', and unlike Breezies they are not talented magicians, unlike Shibans they are not great artisans. No, these terrible scourges have only one talent, and that is to multiply at great speed! They charge with their spears and great numbers, and their little heads don't have room for any fear of death! Their elan is enough to force us to bunker down instead of exploring the island."
"I was planning on giving it my best shot."
"Though so far I'd be happy with any of the chefs, these are the best cakes and cookies I've ever tasted in my life."
"Let us know when you are done, or otherwise, we will come pick up what is left when you leave for the game. Do your best to finish!"
Remaining>7/8 Chocolate cake>7/8 Cheese cake>3/4 Sugar cookie>3/4 Chocolate chip cookie>3/4 Lemon bar>3/4 Cream vanilla>3/4 Oatmeal Raisin>2/2 Candied Apple>3/3 Exotic Candy
Since you just ate with the family before this, you're a little full already. Still, it seems you're going to have to try to finish as much as you can. Or, if you can't get any more down, to at least eat as much as you can of whichever you like the most.
Who knew the trials of being a princess were so unlike the fights you had out in Caballeria?
"That is rather unsettling. Do they attack often?
"About as often as they remember Threepaw exists. They are not bright though, the strawdogs on the battlements make them think we have enough to hold them off. But if they ever brought their full force to bear against us… it would probably be very close.
Well, let's start off with half of each candied apple, and then the fluffy exotic candy.
Cool, I never seen cows before! I think
Try to swiftly pass through the other dogs and go in
Wouldn't it be cheating to use the Mold though?…
The apples are fresh, like they're right off the vine. The thick, smooth candying doesn't diminish the crisp, clear freshness of the fruit.
The exotic candy has a strange texture, it's almost like biting into a pillow or some cotton, but it tastes like pure sugar. It melts in your mouth! Fascinating. You wonder what it's called.
Remaining>7/8 Chocolate cake>7/8 Cheese cake>3/4 Sugar cookie>3/4 Chocolate chip cookie>3/4 Lemon bar>3/4 Cream vanilla>3/4 Oatmeal Raisin>1/2 Candied Apple>2/3 Exotic Candy
"Any idea what's out there? Little pygmie forts?
If you were upfront about it being a replica, it wouldn't be cheating.
The trading post is a little cramped with all sorts of bags and luggage, but you can see the counters being worked for transactions. Several pregnant jennies are working here, and there are four counters. Three are busy, but one is open!
In the corner by the door, there's a REALLY tough looking jack donkey loaded down with five or six kinds of weapons.
Next I'll try a bit of that powdered sugar, and have a second slice of that cheese cake.
"According to legend, Threepaw was settled on the far North side of the island because it's opposite the pygmy village on the South end. Just the same, there are rumors of a fourth kind of diamond dog that have come into existence that live out there among them, undetected. They have no agreed upon name, but sailors sometimes call them 'Mist Dogs' or 'Leaf Dogs' - they move like Ninjas, completely unseen by the ponies below!"
You start in surprise when you pour it on your tongue and it explodes! Not a big explosion, just enough to make the little crystal leap from one part of your tongue to the next, and upon next contact it leaps again! Shutting your mouth, all the little crystals ping around like crazy, making an almost 'fizzy' feeling in your mouth! It's also very sugary, but this one has a strong cherry flavor. How exotic.
Funny, almost looks like all Jennies here are pregnant. Better leave before this place gets filled with even more little donks
Walk to the open counter "Excuse me, Miss, I need some mushrooms"
Geez, he must be some guard or bounty hunter, I'll steer away from him
… Though some glances are not a crime at all
'1d20+2' appraiseRoll #1 14 + 2 = 16
Oops that's a d10
'1d10+2'Roll #1 2 + 2 = 4
"Dogs that live among the pygmies? That can't be right.
" I shake my head. "You'd have to be a true outcast to do that..
How did they even do that?! That's just neat!
I'm going to have to remember these flavors and experiences.
Going to have another round of each cookie, and then a slice of that chocolate cake.
I might not be able to finish the cakes, but I'm going to do as much damage to them as possible.
Mercenary or Bounty Hunter seems about right! He looks like he's served in more scrapes than you've ever even heard about in all your books! What a dangerous guy! And yes, so far every jenny you've seen is pregnant.
"Mushrooms? What an unusual request. What kind? Truffles?">>683833
He nods smiling. "Yes, well, they're just legends for a reason. If it were me out there, I would rather come in for a drink and rest at Threepaw than in the mountains, no matter how sneaky I was.
You're starting to feel full, but you can push more down if you try.
Remaining>6/8 Chocolate cake>6/8 Cheese cake>2/4 Sugar cookie>2/4 Chocolate chip cookie>2/4 Lemon bar>2/4 Cream vanilla>2/4 Oatmeal Raisin>1/2 Candied Apple>1/3 Exotic Candy
Well, I might as well finish off those apples. Though I think I'll put the remaining halves on slices of the cheescake, and seeing how the flavors change.
Truly, the way flavors blend together is blissful. You're absolutely stuffed after that, but you can roll to continue eating more if you want to try to impress. For each value over 5, you can have one more dessert (e.g.: if you rolled a 10, you could eat 3 slices of cake and a couple cookies). You can keep going until you fail three times or critfail. You have these dice: 9 (session), 7 (inventory)
Remaining>6/8 Chocolate cake>4/8 Cheese cake>2/4 Sugar cookie>2/4 Chocolate chip cookie>2/4 Lemon bar>2/4 Cream vanilla>2/4 Oatmeal Raisin>1/3 Exotic Candy
Oh, and you get +1 extra dessert too just because I forgot you only ate 3 dessert worth last turn ("one" apple and two cake slices)
"Still.. if they did exist, they must have a fort of their own.
Right, I'll try the crystal candy. And I'll roll for intestinal fortitude for other things. '1d10'Roll #1 8 = 8
"Legends say Ninja live up in the mountains of Neighpon. If Ninja-like dogs existed, I would imagine they would think the same, no? But these are only fae tales. Ahaha, sorry, no offense intended.
This candy is quite fascinating. You try biting in but it's as hard as a rock! It seems it's intended to be sucked on - almost like honeysuckle but much longer lasting. That's not just its only gimmick though - it's also a curious flavor, a twisting tang of sweet and sour, like a Granny Smith apple, almost.
Let's take our time with the last two oatmeal cookies and a vanilla cream one. Give it a second to digest before considering what else to work on.
In some ways, you've conquered much of the spread. At the very least you can proudly say you tried everything, but there's so much left! It makes you wonder which chef made what. Perhaps it could be fun to visit them in the kitchens if you have time to spare and learn about their craft (and maybe get some samples… when you aren't so full)
Remaining>6/8 Chocolate cake>4/8 Cheese cake>2/4 Sugar cookie>2/4 Chocolate chip cookie>2/4 Lemon bar>1/4 Cream vanilla
Take a deep breath. How much space do I think I can fill without feeling like a whale? '1d10'Roll #1 6 = 6
Okay, let's… let's finish off that last vanilla cream.
You can still keep going as long as you don't fail three times or critfail. You can also give up if you don't feel up to the challenge of setting any records, but certainly courtesy is on your side here to finish what you can. The rare opportunity when you aren't "hogging" the food, since it's all meant for you.
Remaining>6/8 Chocolate cake>4/8 Cheese cake>2/4 Sugar cookie>2/4 Chocolate chip cookie>2/4 Lemon bar
Well, I said I'd do my best to finish it all, so do my best I shall. '1d10'Roll #1 10 = 10
Take three slices of that cheesecake, and both of the lemon bars. I can do this.
Will you become a legend and defeat the food challenge? Well, whatever the case, whoever baked the cheesecake will be pleased you nearly finished it!
Remaining>6/8 Chocolate cake>1/8 Cheese cake>2/4 Sugar cookie>2/4 Chocolate chip cookie
Less a case of being a legend, and more a case of it being a sin to waste food! Especially food as good as this. I just hope I don't end up making myself ill.
Fortitude to continue. '1d10'Roll #1 3 = 3
And a pirate die. '1d9'Roll #1 6 = 6
So that makes 9.>>683850
Finish the cheesecake, the chocolate chip cookies, and one of the sugar cookies.
The maid made it sound impossible, but now you're within striking distance. To think she referred you to the library, little did she know that a culinary expert like you has true appreciation for food!
Remaining>6/8 Chocolate cake>1/4 Sugar cookie
Well, if there's one thing I'm confident in aside from my swimming, it's my stomach.
But I'll never admit that in conversation.
Steel myself, as I've got seven more things to eat before I can pass out in good conscience. '1d10'Roll #1 8 = 8
So I'll take three slices of that chocolate cake.
You can't food coma yet, you're so close! Within striking distance now!
Remaining>3/8 Chocolate cake>1/4 Sugar cookie
Giggle at the remark.
"Well, some tales have a truth to them. Are there mountains nearby?
"You can't see it very well now because the island has been overtaken by trees, but this whole island is almost like one great slope up the mountainside. The city which has ports on the western edge where it meets the water once extended all the way up into the great mountains of the west. A city that took up an entire island, quite incredible if you ask me. Supposedly, the mountains are where the highest class of the city lived, where they could look down on the others. That's where the old palace would be, too, I imagine.
I can overcome this! I'll just work off the weight before the wedding.
'1d10'Roll #1 9 = 9
Consume the rest.
Make sure I don't have any crumbs or stains on the dress or around my mouth.
Then slouch over on the chair and digest.
Incredible! After finally stuffing the last of the chocolate cake in your mouth, you call for your attendant. She looks quite surprised!
"I've never seen a bride eat the whole spread! Would you like to meet the chefs? They would be greatly honored to greet you in person, I think!"
"Just… just give me a moment to let everything settle. It would be insulting if it all left me prematurely, after all! But yes, I'd love to meet them. I've got so many question on how they made these desserts!"
"That won't be necessary, your grace. This is an opportunity to become familiar with your litter. Did you have one back in your own city? If not, it is something you will need to get used to."
"That is amazing, actually.
" I agree. "A whole palace used to be up there?
"So the legends go, though no one has managed to get that high in the mountains. A few pegasi adventurers have flown by, but they said they got a bad feeling when they descended near the trees. In some ways, Mother Nature is the most powerful Goddess, isn't she? Able to reclaim the world with such ease the moment civilization pulls back?
I'll shake my head.
"I'm afraid having servants at all is still a new experience to me. I'm still going to ask them a few things, since I do a fair bit of cooking myself. Though it will likely be turned into a hobby instead of a necessity."
Smile a bit.
"Thank you, by the way, miss…?"
"Its only the view of selfish ponies that they ever owned the world in the first place.
"I am the maid assigned to your room while you're staying here, your grace. My name is Root Fallow, and I'm one of the daughters of Sir Field Fallow VII, the Majordomo of this palace. Our family has served House Hatfield since its earliest days, when they displaced the McCoy dynasty."
With that, she summons your litter. It's sort of like a big pillowy cushion chair, mounted on poles so it can be more easily carried by two stallionservants. It looks comfy, and once you're loaded on you can visit the kitchens without any need to feel queasy! Balance may be a thing you need to master, but such are the challenges of a princess.
He nods approvingly. "Quite right, quite right. Dogs claimed it first, ponies shouldn't think it belongs to them! They barely even use the ground, they're just using the surface of it and never even look below.
"Speaking of ponies, what were you and that mare talking about?
"Thank you, Root Fallow. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
And I'll settle myself into the litter after greeting the carriers. Even if they are professionals who do their work without complaint, it never hurts to be polite.
"Ahaha, she's about as ugly as a mare, isn't she? But no, she's a Shiban like me. Oh, what did I do to be stuck with her? But you know, you can't choose who you live, can you? No, we were just arguing about the same old things - money, dishes, a lack of puppies. I think it's pretty clear at this point we're not having any, unless we suddenly learn we've been using the wrong body parts all these years!"
For the first time in… maybe ever? you feel like an actual princess. Stomach stuffed with sweets, wearing a fancy dress, being carried through a glorious palace down to meet your professional chefs. If you understood the tradition right, you've either won the right to choose from any of them, or maybe you get all of them!
You head down past the main floor to the first basement level, and head directly under the kitchen. It's amazing how sprawling this place is, with more stations than you care to count. A grumpy looking ram is barking out orders to staffers, who are really only cleaning dishes now. Root Fallow ran ahead and lined up the dessert chefs for your inspection, though.
An oddball assortment.
One is a hulking diamond dog missing his right eye and a limp in the left leg. He doesn't say much, but just gives a nod of respect and adds: "Cheese cake, lemon bars."
There are a couple here - they look like boy and girl twins, and so young too, maybe twelve years old! They remind you a bit of your brother and yourself. Stiffly and simultaneously, they bow and speak as one! "We did the cookies! Sugar cookies, chocolate chip, and cream vanilla!"
There's a strange, fluffy creature here, that's so wonderfully tall and exotic! It's like a sheep with an enormous neck! "Hi, Princess! I did the candies! I hope you loved them! They're so sugary and GOOD!"
And wow, gosh, there's a hijabed pony from those exotic Arabic countries so far away. In her thick accent, she informs you, "Your supreme grace, I am the one who cooked the candied apples, and the oatmeal raisin cookies. These apples are a special sentiment of my homeland, the United Apple Emirates. Perhaps you know the sprawling large Apple family, which finds its roots even here in Equestria."
Though… that leaves the chocolate cake. Root interjects: "The chocolate cake was a control, it was baked by our Head Chef, Lord Ramsay. His was the baseline to measure against, to make sure all the other dessert chefs were still at least that good."
I blush "Oh! Apologies. Sometimes I get the larger species confused.
" I lie a bit but bow to him. "Please forgive me.
"Don't worry about it. Buy a drink, if you like. Maybe get the old woman off my case.
"I just might, play me something classical.
" I cheerfully reply and go to the counter again.
"Well, I daresay each chef matched that standard."
I'll smile at the assembled dessert chefs.
"Those were the most delicious desserts I have ever had the pleasure of eating. I don't know how they expect me to choose just one or two of you."
He puts on a more upbeat 'hoedown' theme, making the bar a little more livelyhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iZkz1aRfGs
Well, maybe this wasn't the kind of classic you were thinking of, but it must be a classic to someone!
"Something for you, dear? Or you prefer Equestrian? Doggish?
This is very different than back home, I better try to enjoy it as much as I can!
'1d10' rolling to see how I like country music.
"Neighponese is fine Miss. What sort of drinks do you carry?
"Roll #1 6 = 6
Surprisingly, the Apple speaks on behalf of the chefs, and replies, "We are most honored to have one with an appetite and culinary appreciation to enjoy our meals fully. I am certain the Head Chef will set side many cooks for you and ensure your dishes are much larger at meals. I know that Baldric was very pleased you ate his entire cheesecake, although he is not good with Equestrian language, this was an experimental dish for him, and he would like to make you a special milkshake for the road when you leave for your game. This is exotic dessert food liquid, like creamy ice. The twins would also like to thank you, for it has been so long since there has been an eater voracious enough in the palace to warrant Chef Ramsay allowing them an opportunity to cook. Normally they are held in reserve and cannot cook for real guests, so you have brought them great joy with the opportunity, and they hope you eat many large meals to come. I don't think I need to–"
She is interrupted by the strange fuzzy one who can't hold himself in any longer and shouts out: "OH I'M SO EXCITED TO HAVE A NEW FACE TO COOK FOR! This is going to be so much FUN princess!"
After the outburst, she nods. "I think you gather the picture, we are very grateful for your large stomach. Please, visit our kitchens whenever you may."
It seems you aren't going to have to worry about selecting just one or two, there are plenty of cooks to go around.
"If you are from Neighpon, you may like our selection of teas. We have three flavor of black, or 'red' tea as you may call it, and two green. And some of our more adventurous guests like a mix of two or more. That being said, we've got everything from hard Musdog seastout to extremely exotic 'pop' from the land beyond the Canals. If you're feeling less adventurous, we also have water and fruit juice. The fruit is fresh - we have a bit of a problem with fruit bats, so it's daily squeezed."
I'll giggle a bit and smile widely.
"So long as you don't mind me borrowing a corner to practice my own hoof at cooking every once in a while, as it's a bit of a passion of mine, I will be taking you up on that offer as often as is sensible."
"Pop? I've never had one, bring me a glass please.
" I request politely.
"Normally a bride would select one of the dessert chefs for her wedding to direct the construction of the wedding cake, but it is clear that one wedding cake won't be enough for your appetite, regardless of its size. I will speak to Chef Ramsay about giving you some more options, but you need not worry about going hungry on your wedding day. Now, we must clean, but perhaps you would enjoy touring the herb garden."
Root nods. "Yes, we can go through the greenhouses, there's time. Would you like to see the materials you have to work with before you leave for the game, Princess?">>683886
She pours a glass from a special tap. The drink seems alive, moving on its own with bubbles and pops and fizz! It's like one of your alchemy mixtures! The top is totally fuzzed over in bubble foam!
"Don't worry - it's supposed to act like that!"
" I am gonna, sip on it carefully, like you would a tea.
"Oh, I'd love to!"
I'll just… not mention my ice box that can preserve foodstuffs for now. I hope they don't overdo it on the cake…
"Oh, and be sure to pass my thanks along to Chef Ramsay, as well! Even if it was just as a standard-setter, it was wonderful. It would be rude of me not to thank him for his work."
It still pops and fizzles in your mouth! It's strongly acidic, but deliciously sugary. What a strange and foreign drink!
No wonder where it got its name from.
Your trollop through the greenhouses is not terribly long, since you have a game to catch, but your litter keeps a brisk pace, stopping only for you to sample various fruits (the healthy foods surely balancing out all that sugar from before). Fresh apples, bananas, potatoes, yams, eggplants, and even crystal corn from the now-not-so-distant-North. The only thing that would've made it better is if you had a chance to eat some meat too, but apparently Baldric's fishing pond is a little too far from the greenhouses and would have made you late.
Soon your food tour is over, and your stallionservants help transfer you into the carriage to the stadium, so that you needn't move too much after stuffing yourself. Though Root waves goodbye for now, your two carriers and litter ride on the back of the carriage. Apparently, there will be stairs at the stadium to get up to your place in the "Box". If you like, you can take a nap now, or you can look out the windows at the city as you go through it.
Oh, and your milkshake is passed in through the window so you can suck on it while you decide whether or not to nap.
Common sense demands a nap, but I'm a mare in a new city. I have to look.>>683892
I'll thank whomever passed it in.
Then silently wonder how fat I'm going to get if I don't keep up a proper exercise routine.
The delicious, sweet liquid is just the cooling you need to hit the spot on a warm day like this. Just as you swallow the cherry from the top, you pass through a lower class 'ghetto' called "Hooflem", full of Zebra and Earth Pony immigrants from the distant lands in the Southeast. You wonder if that Apple chef clawed her way up from this area of Manehattan. Soon, though, you've passed the gloom and arrived at the gloriously large stadium! Your servants move you back onto your litter and up some countless number of stairs. Exercise or no, you're filled with a sense of relief that you don't have to challenge these. It would be exhausting, even at your best.
Soon, though, you're deposited in your "Box" - a special room near the top of the stadium that can see everything. There's an open bar and buffet with another spread of food, and your servants join up with Cumin's. Looks like it's just the two of you so far, maybe the others are getting here later.
Since your litter is essentially a chair filled with pillows, there's no need to move at all, you're in a perfect position near the glass to see the game, and reach to your side to grab refreshments from the buffet. You've been set next to Cumin's litter, and he hugs you in greeting.
"I-it's really good to see you Marina. I'm really relieved to see you're alright! And… I feel calmer when you're near."
He sets a bucket of some strange food between you – "This is a traditional food to eat when watching a game or show, it's called popcorn. It's really good, and s-sometimes, you share it with a pony you care about. I mean, one bucket, and you both reach in… and your hooves touch."
"Oh, I need to show my friend this, give me another glass please.
"Be careful not to spill it, it's a little feisty.
She pours you another glass.
" I should carry this back to our table..
Titter a little.
"Oh? Sounds like the perfect snack for a couple."
I'll give him a small kiss on the cheek, then smile.
I wonder what unicorns usually do when confronted with popcorn. Since they use magic to lift things, would they use their hooves just for the novelty?
No doubt Cumin is certainly going to be using his hoof for the sake of touching yours.
Even though the box is pretty spacious and even has a raised area behind you for a second row of litters, the only one to join you in the end before the game is Cumin's father, the brother of the Duke. You don't think you ever got his name, but then he didn't speak much at the meeting before. His servants go group up with the others, who are chatting nonchalantly by the snacks in case anyone calls for one.
They set Cumin's father down on the side opposite of Cumin, but after giving Cumin a hug of greeting, he smiles at you. "You've made a very good impression, you know. I think the Duke is very happy with you as a bride, speaking frankly."
"Frankly speaking, my lord, I'm happy to have made such an impression. I was incredibly nervous."
I'll smile slightly, and glance at Cumin.
"But it helped calm me having Cumin there."
You get a bite of the popcorn. It's coated in sugary-sweet caramel, but it's deliciously spongy on its own!
He shakes his head. "Not that, I mean, you did well at the luncheon, too, but after that. You got a good word from my wife, and I'm told you finished the dessert spread, that's very impressive, and the Duke will surely take notice. Honestly, from what you ate at lunch, I think he was worried you hiding an athletic streak."
Things are probably coming together in your head, now. You recall he wanted you to disrobe - not to see how fishy you were, but how much muscle you had on you.
"The interest of the ruling family is to accept a match which won't produce offspring which could be a threat to their inheritance. Because you're not just a priestess, but also royal in your own right, there were concerns that if you had a strong, genetically gifted child, they might one day become a Pretender."
"Oh! Oh, I see. Well, aside from trying to maintain my figure, there's little fear of me hiding anything like that."
I'll blush slightly.
"And the desserts really were quite lovely. I couldn't help but finish them!"
I'll readjust my seating so I'm on a more level eyeline with Cumin's father.
"And regardless of the potential giftedness of our future children, I wouldn't even dream of disrupting the succession of the house. I would be willing to swear that on my entire line, if necessary."
He shrugs. "It's not really a matter of whether you would or wouldn't. When I married your mother, I swore I wouldn't ever claim the throne of Hatsfield, but father wanted to be sure that Cumin
wouldn't - well, before Cumin was born. After he was born, no one was too worried about that."
Cumin flushes red and stuffs a hoofful of popcorn in his mouth.
His father finishes, "In any case, my advice to you is to stop worrying about your figure until after the wedding, your clothes can be adjusted, or new ones will be bought for you. If you spend your days in the kitchens, no one will think your genes are any danger. Then, once your marriage is consummated and unbreakable, do what you wish. For what it's worth, I think you seem like a polite young woman. Maybe even a little TOO good for Cumin, but love isn't something easily controlled!"
"No, it certainly isn't. But I'd not trade him for anyone in the world."
I'll set my hoof over Cumin's.
"And you can expect me to be in the kitchen sooner rather than later, as I've got so many questions for those chefs! Especially Baldric. The cheesecake he made was simply wonderful!"
"Baldric… the diamond dog, right? Yes, he works on some of the more exotic dishes, meats and cheeses. Not for everyone. Right… you're a carnivore of course. So it shouldn't be a surprise you like is food."
Cumin leans in and shyly kisses you, and feeds you some more popcorn. Soon, the game begins!
It's a little confusing to watch, but it was good bonding. Pause
I'll just make sure to not step on his hoof or anythingNo no, I need ghost mushrooms, you know, flat cap, transparent?…
>>683905>>683904Morning, a few days later
It's a little startling how easily you settled into this lifestyle. Already you've gotten used to being ferried around on your litter and eating only the best foods all day long. So this is what real princess life is like, huh? Still, today will have a little more activity, if princessy activity.
You recall your discussion with Skylight from a couple of days ago… From across the table at a private tea, your soon-to-be-mother-in-law asks, "So, tell me about the girls you plan to pick for brides maids?">>683906
Are you just thinking that or saying it out loud? It's italics.
Saying it out loud, yes. Dumb italics
"Oh yes, what an odd request. I'm sure we have some, but they aren't good for eating. Why do you want them?"
"Well, I had a few in mind, but they're a bit… unusual? Well, except for one of them. First off, the normal choice is my sister-in-law, Rose Compass. She's also in the lead for maid-of-honor considerations."
I'll take a sip of the tea.
"Next we've got Lilly Belle, the courier who we helped with the Nightmare curse. I don't know if she'll accept, though, since we haven't really seen each other since. After that, there's Maeda Tree, who when last we met was, I think, promoted from an Inquisitorial recruit to an actual soldier of the inquisition. I… really have no idea if she'd even accept the invitation, though."
Swirl the tea a bit.
"Lastly, there's one I'm not even sure the post-ponies will actually be able to find: Kotone Leaf, a breezy."
Set down my teacup.
"And that's everyone who I can think of, since you don't usually invite strangers to be bridesmaids, right?"
>>684197Little Project I`m working on
"Your sister in law? You didn't even mention you had a brother, just your mother. That means my nephew is married… how long has he been so? And an inquisitor? You've had a lot of run-ins with the Equestrian religious police over the years, or is this a recent sort of thing? Even a breezie too, how strange – did she live in that exotic city of yours?"
"Pity it's not for a good cause, sometimes the Tanist visits and likes to offer charity. As it is, they're rather rare. How many do you need? It would be 200 Equestrian bits each, and we may not have that many, but I will send word to the fortress to check for every last ghost mushroom we have if necessary."
``It IS for a good cause though! W-wait, two hundred for each one?!``
Check my pockets
Remember, MacMeal is paying for them. Although you don't know how many he needs or his budget… At least you found some of them though!
"Oh? What cause is that?"
"My brother, Coriander, got married… uh."
I'll count back in my head.
"Last… month? It was a surprise to me too, honestly, since it all happened while I was helping Lilly. Maeda was traveling with her at the time, and our relationship was pretty neutral for most of it, since we had a common goal. She was there when we ran into those deer and the wizard, too. I'd like to think we parted ways in if not good then at least amicable terms."
Smile a bit.
"I ran into Kotone in a cave, actually, when we were both taking shelter from that crazy storm those deer cooked up. She had a few Neighponese attendants with her, so I think she's actually someone important. Especially since she had her own room in the Manako corporation building in the area. I don't think they give those out to just anypony, even if they are a breezy. I did invite her to visit Aquamarine, though she seemed set on going on her own adventures for a bit."
But it will be such a bother to go back and forth though, uugh
Plus what if someone buys them all while I leave to get MacRam!>>684210
``Something that will improve everyone`s life, in the long term`` cross my arms and nod
Skylight is barely containing a grin. "Are you saying that all of your bridesmaids are ponies you've met in the last thirty days and none of them are from your home?">>684214
"Sorry, that's not enough to judge whether or not it's a worthy cause!"
Fidget a bit.
Sigh fairly heavily.
``Well fine, someday you will see. My name is Rhanna, remember that name because one day you`ll be hearing it and reading it everywhere!``
Let`s go find Mister Macmeal
Skylight got up and give you a big, long hug. "Oh, dear. It's going to be okay. I'm going to make sure you learn how to make friends the normal way, through talking and not being chased by anything."
And that brings you to today, and the reason you're having an eventful day. At lunch, you're going to have to try socializing. BUT before then, you get to try some neat! Baldric promised you something called 'dumplings' for breakfast.>>684220
"Alright then, be safe on the road little puppy."
The hike back is a long one, roll adventure!
Oh boy. Let's see what they're like!
psh, hiking is easy for me
'1d10'Roll #1 7 = 7
Keeping to your morning routine is relatively easy. Before you get up, Root Fallow directs some of the palace servants in bathing you and dressing you for the day - something that was awkward at first, but now you can manage to sleep through, or snack through if you prefer. Once in your courtly attire, first breakfast. Unlike the formal breakfast in the dining room which everyone in the family attends, you normally take first breakfast in the greenhouses where you can watch the sun rise. While you wait for whatever your personal chefs have cooked up for the day, you are brought samples of the fresh produce: today, it was a sampling of carrots and apples, right out of the ground and off the tree respectively. Baldric's dish - dumplings - are a sort of meat in a ball of dough, and considered a comfort food in his homeland. Certainly, it makes you feel nostalgic for your own. If this marriage goes through well, it could mean more than just peace. The ponies in your city might never have to go hungry if one of brother's harvests don't turn out right - these Hatfields are so rich.
The dumplings themselves are rich and creamy, thick and succulent, even a little savory, and the meat is the most welcome reminder of your seapony heritage you've had in a long time. Today's dumplings are fresh red snapper, a sort of fish that is native to these northern waters and you weren't familiar with. It has an almost playful, acidic taste!
Since you already know the terrain, you make good time back to the ship and don't encounter any trouble.
You can see the tarp is partially peeled back and the crew are hard at work. Gunny is supervising the engineering jobs of attaching the new bolt system and jets.
I don't want to rely too heavily on them, though. Being a burden to Cumin and his family isn't my intention.
A good trading partner, though, would not be unwelcome, especially with our access to marine life and things that have sunk beneath the sea.
As for the food, I really do need to compare recipes with the chefs. There is so much I could learn from them, though I doubt my own experiments would stack up too high against what they know.
Maybe Mom would even reposition the city to be closer to your soon-to-be-family!
Formal breakfast consists of waffles, which are apparently quite popular up here in the north. Since the city wasn't exactly booming with trees, this is your big chance to try out a bunch of different syrups!
Well, I'll divide up the waffles into as many sections as there are syrups. Can't pick a favorite if there's mixing of syrups, after all.
There is the 'original' maple syrup, six flavors of fruit (strawberry, orange, cherry, apple, berry, and lime), two nut flavors (hazelnut and almond), and two exotic flavors (chocolate and mint). A problem arises once you take a bite and accidentally get a little bit of chocolate and cherry, and realize that potentially, some combinations of syrups might be even better than the single-syrup flavors. Fortunately, there is no limit on the waffles, affording you plenty of time to become a waffle expert. Not much you have to do before tea anyway, other than keep your nerves calm. Maybe it will make good smalltalk, if waffles are so popular around here, to ask if they've ever tried mixing. Would that be a naive question?
Look around ``Where`s Mister MacRam?``
It's probably not the first time they've had waffles. Hobbies might be a better conversation topic.
Oh moon what if they're all like Rose and their hobbies are those noble pursuits like embroidery and such? I'd be totally lost. I can make sure one more time that I didn't let any stray bit of syrup escape or that there's a smudge on my dress. Last thing I need to do is be the one princess who can't eat tidily!
"You mean MacMeal? He's looking at the weather readings to figure out how bad the coming storm will be. I figured, this place is as secluded as any other place we've stopped at, may as well get some work done here.">>684242
Little risk of that, you're sure Root would take care of things for you if any syrup landed somewhere other than your bib.
Unless you have something else you want to knock out before you go to the luncheon, you can just keep trying all the flavors of waffle and we'll skip ahead.
Nope, we'll get on with it and face the inevitable awkward conversations with ponies I have no idea who are or what they do for fun.
``Ahuh ahuh. I found the mushrooms…Well, I found where we can buy them at least. Problem is that they`re a bit expensive, 200 bits each! Can you believe that?``
The luncheon is to be held in the ballroom, and a number of well groomed debutantes have arrived on the scene. Mostly consisting of daughters of the lesser nobility, smalltime counts and barons, though the elephant in the room is the circulating rumor that you have fins.
Would you rather take guests by audience (affording you more control over who you meet), or just dine at the big table with everyone (which is less personal)?>>684251
"Oh, I believe it, though MacMeal won't be happy about it. Still, at least we know they're here."
Guests by audience would give me time to recover from any spaghetti spillage. We'll go with that one.
And if that's the worst rumor they've got then I should be fine, I think. For now, anyway.
I scratch the back of my neck ``Do you think he would be happier if I managed to get some for free? we all know he already spent so much for this``