Cloud Skimmer >1 Your mind is swimming with troubled thoughts and your heart is full of emotions, making it impossible for you to concentrate. You are so distracted in fact that during a regular patrol, instead of dispersing a small little cloud, you accidentally buck it away, making it into a medium sized thundercloud. As luck would have it, some pegasi from Weather Control are around and can help you deal with the situation.
Lancer is among them, and you see you motion you towards him. Uh-oh.
Kelani Rush You just paid a visit to the nice little home of a nice little family, and promptly disturbed the unicorn father by delivering a package to him as instructed. He 'advised' you to leave now.
Iga You are currently in a dreamy landscape that looks like a stereotipical Neighpon water garden after the two goats you met in the forest lulled you to sleep with a magical tune. It's pretty relaxing though.
Lone Mesa You were currently conversing with a caged Warg in the back yard of an abandoned house, guarded by two bandit mares, may they rest in peace. When you asked him how many bandits were in Fairbank, the junction trading town you are in, he only answered: "I wouldn't know. But they have friends. The death from the sky ones. They are expecting an attack, and will kill us if we try."
>>626437 You hide the bodies inside the dusty hall of the house, and head east. Should be there in less than an hour. Your dog is busy smelling the desert ground as you two walk.
You do not have the bits for a pig. They are pretty expensive, since they have to be raised and made out to go find truffles, which are expensive in themselves.
>>626438 "Listen, I can guess what this is about." He looks around to check that only you can hear it. "I know I give everypony a lot of shit, but blood bonds are stronger than everything. You should take a few days off. I'll get someone to cover for your shift, and you can just owe me a favor."
>>626439 "Konbawa." The mare turns around and it is… you. It's you, only younger. "Nice of you to visit."
>>626443 "It does not matter." She…you motion for yourself to sit down.
>>626441 You're over two thirds of the way to the farms, which are even visible in the distance, but something catches your eye. You can't make it out properly, but it looks like a giant body is hung between two wooden posts. Maybe you should investigate?
>>626442 "You either do it on your own or I will ask you to be put off for a few days, since I can't have you making thunderstorms or tornadoes inside the city for being distracted." His tone is stern once again.
>>626445 She shakes her head. "No, but we need to talk."
>>626446 He nods. "Good. Run that by the director and go home." He goes back to his weather team.
>>626447 It's not. It's not a pony either. It's a gryphon.
Two sturdy logs have been erected on the ground, with the large wings of the halfbreed creautre spread and nailed to them. The body itself is spread eagled and attached with every limb to the poles by barbed wire, only the head hanging limply. There is a sign on his chest reading DEATH TO ALL TALONS written in what you suppose is blood.
You do know that Talons are a mercenary group consisting of nothing but Gryphons… and they are not amateurs either.
>>626449 You knock on the door of your father's office and enter. She is scribing furiously at the table. She stops and motions for the chair in front of the table. "Good day, yes, take a seat. What is it?"
>>626450 The younger you frowns. "Why are you running?"
>>626451 There aren't many clouds today, and even those are high above. You could use some shade, but those clouds provide none. The sky seems clear for now.
>>626459 "That will be arranged, yes. Will you need anything else? This is a very busy time for the factory." She takes the form, signs it and stamps it then puts it into another drawer.
>>626458 She is surprised for a moment and you see a hoof insticntively reach for something under her clothes, but stops when she sees who you are. "Ah, good morning." She doesn't seem as uncomfortable as some other ponies upon seeing you. "What brings you here, ranger?"
>>626457 "You cannot hide from your Destiny. You may run from what you fear, but you cannot escape it. You must face it. If you do not enter the tiger's cave, you will not catch its cub."
>>626461 You get out of the office. Maybe you could visit Storm Dancer or Skyheart before you leave? Tell them what's up?
>>626462 She frowns. "That thing is going to be the death of me, but they threatened me that they will kill me if I take it off… but if any of the gryphons see it, they will take their anger out on me too." She lifts her rags some to show you the stock of a sawed-off shotgun. "I doubt this will help, but it makes me feel as safe as you can be out here."
>>626463 She shakes her head again. "They will arrive in Equestria soon. Where will you go then? There are only so many continents you can flee to."
For a moment, everything goes dark, and in the next moment, you wake up to the rays of morning light and the unicat sleeping on top of you at the forest camp.
>>626469 She raises an eyebrow. "…they want one of my pigs?" She looks back at the pens. You see your doggie playfully chasing a fat sow through the wooden fence. "I'm not sure I can afford that."
>>626470 She mrows at you when you do, but ends up on your back with a flash of magic once you stand up. Will you wake the goats or just go on your way?
>>626471 She just says "Hold on!", but the mare almost jumps and gives you an embarassed glance before looking away. Storm chastizes her. "I told you not to move!" About half a minute later she stands back and picks up a small box to give to the mare. "Put this salve on every day for a week and you should be fine." The mare thanks her and leaves in a hurry. Storm gives you a smile. "Come on, I know you want to, send those jokes my way."
>>626474 She frowns. "I'm sorry about that…" She shakes her head. "Ever since I've heard I've been thinking what if I was more insistent with him and told him to get a checkup sooner…"
>>626475 The chocolate goat quickly jumps up and opens his mouth for a bleat, without any sound coming out of his throat while the vanilla goat faceplants right in front of the cart as she stumbles awake. Still, they both gleefully jump in front of you. "Good morning! Had a nice rest?"
>>626473 "Raising a pig like this is not easy, you know…" She looks at the well pondering for a while, then back at her pens with the pigs, and Rocky jumping around next to them. "…I could use a guard dog…"
>>626476 "So did I. And my mother. He's not a great listener when it comes that that stuff. Anyway, I just thought I'd tell you I've taken two days off of work to gather my thoughts and look after my mother."
>>626477 She nods. "I understand. I will tell the girls not to worry about you. Take care, okay? And tell your old stallion I'm going to whoop his flank once he gets back here for giving his doctor a scare like this."
>>626478 They both pout. "Aww, why the hurry! We can sing songs and everything on the way back!"
>>626486 You head towards the laboratories. Before you enter, you see a sign that calls your attention to wearing safetly googles in the labs at all times, with several of them hanging racks below it. You can guess when this regulation was introduced…
>>626487 There a few silent moment when he attentively looks between you and the mare before he jumps up at you to lick your face with a continous whine.
>>626493 Still, glancing at a map and judging by your chats from earlier, you easily find where she is, even getting past a guard who just nods at you. You guess being the son of the director does have its benefits.
You arrive in a lab room with tons of instruments you can't even begin to wrap your head around. She is currently studying a jar of lightining and it's reactions with some sort of metal conductor.
>>626494 You are swifter than the wind itself and get back to Los Pegasus in no time! You see the Blue Collar, your boss, giving out orders to other couriers as you arrive.
>>626495 She nods with a knowing grimace. "Don't we all? I'll make sure to get him some." She kneels down beside Rocky and starts petting him, and he is obidient enough to sit down but still whines, looking at you with his ears flattened.
>>626497 You see her carefully applying some instrument to the jar, and after a flash and a zap, the lightining is bottled on the other side of the metal rod. You see her smile victoriously with a small, excited squee.
>>626498 You walk away and don't look back. You hear a loud, sorrowful howl in the distance from the pig farm after you are out of sight.
It's slightly past noon once you get back to Fairbanks.
>>626499 "Good, let's-" He pauses and looks at the cat on your back. "Uh… Why is the unicat still with you?"
>>626509 It is obviously and understandably freaking the fuck out as you do so. The moment bash the giant lock of the cage off with your metal leg, the giant canine springs out and leaps straight at the pig, tearing it apart within seconds.
>>626510 She nods. "I'm sure she is going to miss you too… but not as much as I will."
>>626511 "Yes, I do. Will you need rest or can you start right away?"
>>626769 You luckily manage to find one after a bit of wandering. It's still open! An old, shrunken, tiny, wrinkly, but smiling mare is sitting behind a counter. "Oh, hello, hello! What can I help with?"
>>626771 "Oh, dear I am sure I do! Magical or non-magical! The former can be a bit expensive!" She hops off her heightened chair, disappearing for a second before slowly waddling out from behind the counter.
>>626775 She keeps digging through what seemingly looks like a bunch of junk. "It can win over the heart of any mare you give it as a gift! Be careful though! If you break their hearts, so will you break this statue!" She finally finds it and presents it to you. It's a medium sized leaf pedestal with a wittle cutie painted procelain poodle on top.
…well, that's not one of the statues you are looking for.
>>626777 "I might… I'm not sure if I sold that just yet…" She hops from the chair onto a small ladder with wheels that is beside the shelves lined with all the old stuff you could imagine and starts rolling to the side with it. "It's really pretty!"
>>626779 What if she falls? Would you be able to catch her fast enough? She stops and climbs higher to get something from a high shelf, then slowly descends. "Ta-daah!" It is a large and ornate statue of a tree that is seemingly alive and resembles a pony.
>>626783 It feels EXACTLY like the bark of the giant three that is in the center of your village! "Coin Worth!" She chuckles. "The vendors next doors only call me Dust Collector, and it sort of stuck."
>>626784 "What a lovely name, Miss Worth, I'm glad to know it, and you." I 'accidentally' touch her hoof as I'm pulling mine away from the statue. "There is something so familiar about this statue.. how much will it take to convince you to part with it to a good home?" '1d10' roll for smooth talk
>>626785 She chuckles again. "I suppose it does no good to me just sitting here on a shelf, does it? You seem like a nice enough young stallion. I can part with it for just a few bits, if you promise not to let it just gather dust!"
>>626798 The front page is taken up entirely by an article, with the freshest news, from last night, actually. City Guards have found the corpses of 26 mercenaries, all of them brutally murdered in a warehouse at the edge of the town. The first inspections concluded that the place was used to manufactre ammunition illegally, as well as for forging traditional weaponry. No culprit has been found so far, no bodies other than the mercenaries have been found either, and there are several murder weapons seemingly either belonging to the deceased or simply being improvised like forge hammers. Some criminalistic experts have compared the slaughter and the mysterious lack of suspect similar to the infamous murder spree of Vilitus more than a decade ago. The City Watch has increased patrols all over Los Pegasus, and advises caution to all citizens and visitors.
>>626927 You put them safely away. He nods. "Right. One more word of advice. If I ever see you anywhere near my house or family, I am going to kill you." That might be a threat but he say that as if he was talking about the weather.
>>628546 He hops off the bench and starts walking. He is silent as he starts leading you through alleys, occasionally stopping to glance around. Eventually you find yourself at the south-eastern outskirts of the city. There's barely anything here, just a few, run down houses and a small forest nearby.
>>628548 "Why would you guess that? It's much more comfy inside, but with a look like this, nopony but us knows it even exists." He walks up to one of the buildings and opens a door that looks like it's about to fall off it's hinges… but there's a reinforced steel door behind it. He knocks on it a few times.
>>628552 You are very surprised by the interior. There is a small corridor, which seems physically impossible from the outside, which leads to a clean and tidy lounge. It has carpet all over it, as well as tables, and everything, as if it was just a common room in some sort of bar! You see doors leading to some sort of kitchen, some rooms with beds in it, and all sorts of faculties. A white unicorn stallion is sitting at one of the tables, working on some gems with his magic. "So, you wanted some booze before we settle you in?"
>>628554 He leads you to the table, while you see the mare leave towards the kitchen. He sits down. "Got the newcomer from Ponyville Mirage was talking about." The unicorn looks up, stopping his work. "Ah, yes. What was your name again?"
>>628556 "I am Diamond Tip. I run the Los Pegasus branch of our little boy scout group." The unicorn motions at the pony who you met with at the statue and brought you here. "He is Rainy Days, and the white mare who is about to bring us some drinks is Porcelain."
>>628560 It's really good wine! Tastes expensive! He motions at the newspaper Rainy Days already put on the table. "Not only for us. We fight back." Diamond leans back on the couch he is sitting on, sipping from his wine. "We don't really have the infrastructure to use the blueprints you just got us, but crippling theirs is more than enough." Porcelain levitates a bullet from a nearby shelf and floats it to you. "These things opened up like claws whenever they hit anypony. Makes a real mess. You saved many lives with this."
>>628562 Rainy cuts in. "We do lots of things. Espionage, sabotage, assasination… Whatever Mirage needs us for." The bullet has a weird shape at the top, with little ridges. It's made from some strange black material.
>>628569 They are ancient statues that still look new. They have inscriptions of Mother Nature on the bottom of their 'pedestals' too. "Hold on…" She runs off. Rainy perks his ears. "Mind if I ask why you are so interested in them?"
>>628571 "Mhhm…" He just sips from his wine. The mare returns, showing you a picture. You recognize the stallion who you read about, the one who went missing for a while now. He is shaking hooves with some other stallion in his office. "Like this one?" She points at a statue in the background, on a shelf… Hey, it is a Phoenix Statue! One that you need!
>>628585 He shrugs with a smile, then motions at the gems. "Wouldn't want any of these to break because I'm too busy focusing on smalltalk." You are confident in your ability to remember the combination too. Ready to leave?
>>628587 The unicorn taps on the table to knock it down. It's a combination of short and fast beats. "We can see you too, if we hear you at the door, but then if you forget it we are going to screen you for some nasty magic. Shapeshifting and mind control have both been problems in the past."
>>628594 >>628592 You manage to throw together the most authentic sandwhich delivery pony outfit you can find. So much so, that as you head towards the building, you run into a real delivery pony, who thanks Celestia that you are here, gives you half a dozen sandwhiches and an adress to deliver to… the very corporate building you are heading to. Looks like fortune favors you today.
You arrive in short order. This building is very unusual for such a nature loving pony like you. It is at least seven or eight stories tall, but you can't really tell, since it's entirely made out of glass! Or at least the outside of it is!
>>628602 You make sure to deliver slowly and by casing as much as you can… You get a glimpse at the door of the office you are supposed to go to, too! If you can hide somewhere for a while, you might even be able to sneak in there when everyone leaves!
>>628608 There is not a single other soul here in the office beside you, but you make sure to be as sneaky as possible. You arrive in the hallway and see that the large door of the office is slightly ajar…
>>628610 Too easy indeed… You are about to open the door but it opens up as a stallion walks out and bumps face-first into you. He seems very familiar, but you don't have time to think about it, you think he is about to- "O-Oh, sorry, I uh…" He quickly tightens his saddlebag and quickly starts walking away from you and the office!
>>628618 You are so stunned by the lack of your statue that you forget where you are for a moment, and you are painfully reminded when a few of your feathers catch on fire. You quickly put them out, but you can't outfly a running pony now… You gallop out instead, and you glance back to see the whole building is on fire now, ponies in the streets are screaming and you see weatherponies approach… yet you still manage to catch a glimpse of the escaping pony you saw!
>>628620 You're not quite used to ground chases like this, or any chases at all. You follow the pony on hoof for at least twenty minutes, leaving the densely populated areas to the warehouses and complexes that are near the shore. You see him run into a wooden building complex which seems like it hasn't been in use for a while.
>>628622 He doesn't stop, and he doesn't wait up either… you go in through the window, but all you see are his hoofmarks in the dust. From those you can see that he stopped running and decided to walk instead.
>>628624 You follow his trail sneakily… as sneakily as you can with the creak of the floorboards, until it leads to some sort of big hall. There you find him, standing in the middle on top of a pyre. He is wet and dripping with some sort of slimy fluid. As you'd sneak closer he hears the floor creak below you again, and his magic swings a lit torch in front of you to stop you. "You… you shouldn't be here!" He has another lit torch near himself, held by his telekinesis…. You finally recognize him. He is the pony who has been missing!
>>628626 You're not sure, but it's thicker than water, that's for sure. The torch he has is still uncomfortably close though, preventing you from any sudden movements, not to mention he is at least five meters from you. "Since I was a colt, I had a dream, of having my own firm… I have planned for it, I earned a cutie mark for it, I spent my entire life building that place… and this, this is what I got. My partner. He cheated me. Robbed me of the only thing that mattered to me. Robbed me of my life. Of my destiny." You see tears roll down his cheek.
>>628628 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEyYwkNej0A He starts breathing faster. "A sacrifice… it needed a sacrifice…" The unicorn slowly pulls out the statue, representing a phoenix with it's wings folded, and cradles it close to his chest. "The prophets and priests always preach about freedom from death, but they are wrong… It is not what truly can save somepony…" He glances at the side, and you can see an empty barrel of lantern oil there. "You shouldn't be here. Nopony should have witnessed it. My death… my resurrection…" His grip on the statue tightens even more. "Like a phoenix, from the ashes, I shall rise once more and right the wrongs that they have done to me…" His magic slowly pulls away the torch that has been in front of your face so far, and he floats it above himself. "I will awaken the phoenix and it will grant me with its powers…" He lets out a nervous laugh, gulps… then lets go of the torches, immediately lighting the pyre he was standing on ablaze… But he still has the statue! You must save it!
>>628629 Actually, I'm certain a little thing like a fire wouldn't hurt the statue.. Nature wouldn't make something so flimsy. Still. I can't watch him burn to death. '1d10' try to blow out the fire with wing power.
>>628630 No, but a pony on fire who is going to trash around will. Not to mention the giant pyre in the middle of an old wooden building. Your wings are still hurt, so you can't achieve anything. You hear his manic laughter at first, which quickly turned into pained screams. If you want to do something, you need to act quick.
>>628632 You gather all your might and tackle him off of the pyre, rolling on the ground with him… still, you now realize that he indeed drenched himself with lantern oil before you arrived, and even as you are away from the center of the fire, the flames still burn his coat… You see his flesh and bones exposed on one side of his face as the other still burns, but this doesn't stop him from trying to push you off of himself, grasping the statue like his life -or resurrection, rather - depended on it. "NO! NO! YOU WON'T CHEAT ME OUT OF THIS!"
>>628634 Looks like he was too soaked with oil to put the fires out, so it is indeed pointless. He tries to respond again, but inarticulate screams are the only things he can manage, his limbs going limp. You hear a worrying crackle and see a far wall collapse as the fire starts consuming the building. You might want to grab that statue now and make for a hasty escape.
>>628636 You suffered some burns in the process, too… You start running away, out to the corridor, but the floor that is above you crashes into your way with a loud bang, sending dust and a wave of hot air your way… you'll need to find a different path! If only at least you were at the edge, you could find a window and jump out!
>>628638 There is just too much smoke… You're not sure you can find your way out in time… You wander trying to find an exit for a bit, before you start suffocating… you close your eyes just for a bit…
You wake up to a sudden intake of air into your lungs, opening your eyes to find yourself on your back outside on the grass, with the muzzle of a stallion on yours. He pulls away to let you cough and greedily suck in some fresh air.
>>628640 Good thing you came out of that closet earlier today. The stallion, a muscular pegasus, smiles. "Oh, good, you're allright, I was worried for a second… I'm Cloud Quencher, from the Los Pegasus Fire Department. My squad got called in when the sector next to us needed help with a fire at an office building, but we saw this fire too on the way." You blink again, and see that you are outside of the building, which is currently getting doused by rainclouds. "Are you hurt?" Does he mean aside from the slightly burnt feathers, fur, and the small burns all over your body?
>>628642 "You should consider yourself lucky. If a homeless pony didn't warn us there were ponies inside, we wouldn't have gone in to look for you. Thought the place was abandoned. We only found you, though…" The statue is safe and sound…but something weird is going on. It's the same phoenix statue as before… but unlike earlier where it surrounded itself with it's wings, the phoenix now looks proudly upwards, with it's wings spread wide.
>>630082 Maybe your cutie mark should have been prophecies. Or common sense. You do find both of them there. Your mother is holding hooves with your father, and as you enter, your sister, Cloud Mender, rushes to hug you. "Oh, Skimmy… I came back home as soon as I could!"
>>630088 "Bah… with that kind of work ethic, what will they think? Our whole family withdrawing for a week because some-" He is interrupted by a coughing fit, and your sister canters to him. "Dad, you shouldn't strain yourself!"
>>630090 "Rubbish, that's what this is. I'm fine." He waves a hoof weakly. Your mother looks in your general direction. "Don't mind him, you know how stubborn he gets… I'm thankful you are here for us."
>>630098 He looks grim. "Very serious, I'm afraid. It appears he has malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer. It affects his pleura, which might lead to much more serious respiratory problems. The problem is, this condition has been discovered in an already advanced state…"
>>630100 "We are doing everything we can, but there are no specialists here in Cloudsdale. We might need to send for a doctor from Canterlot, who will be able to help better. Surgery and advanced magical treatments are likely."
>>630139 "Mom couldn't write the letter, so I did it for her. He will hear about it in the next few days, but you know his firepony duties are much more strict, it's like he is in the military… I'm not sure he can visit us this week."
>>630162 You spend some quality time with the ones you love. When you are asked to leave, your mother puts a hoof on your shoulder. "Son… thank you for being here for us. Your sister can take care of me now, so you don't need to come over, unless you want to."
>>630178 One day, your sister asks you to help your father eat his dinner. Your mother already went home to rest, she is exhausted. To make matters worse, it looks like your father has a fever… still you should get around to do that now.
>>630194 You start helping him with the food. His hoof is shaking, so it's good he has someone to help. Between bites, he starts to talk. "When I was younger, I knew this mare… she got a cutie mark to be a cook. Said she was going to be the best chef in Cloudsdale. Then she got troubles, with her lungs. Not like mine, but still."
>>630203 "For now. What about the year? And the one after that?" He pushes the tray away from him and rests back on his bed. "You are nowhere near to inherit the Factory… you didn't even get a cutie mark in it. None of you did." He starts coughing.
>>630207 "Dad… maybe you should stop worrying about the factory so much and start worrying about yourself and your family some more. I know it's important to you, but right now you need to let go for a while. Don't let it cloud your mind, things are rough enough for you already."
>>630209 "How could I not think of it? That place is my destiny. My life, and not just mine, the life of your grandfather, and his father… that factory is my legacy, too. How could I not worry about it? What will ponies say?" For a moment, it seems like he zones out, staring in front of himself. "How will I be remembered?"
>>630215 I scoff. "Are you saying you didn't do a good job? You ran the most important weather factory of Equestria for years on end. Mender is going to become a doctor in a few years and Quencher is already making all the difference by saving lives of ponies in need."
>>630216 He starts breathing more heavily. "When dad…. your grandfather started to get sick he had to give me the Factory… I had a cutie mark in it, I knew I was going to inherit, but it was so much. So much pressure, so many things to do, so many ponies looking at me for support." You start tears forming at the edge of his eyes, slowly rolling down his cheeks. "The first month was horrible. Mismatched clouds, stopped production, no weather warning, no schedules… I asked dad if he could help me and he said… he said…" He pauses to sob, but you don't feel it would be appropriate to interrupt him. He gulps and fights some of his tears. "He said 'You have a cutie mark in running the Factory and can't even handle your first month? Maybe we should just close it down and let the Everfree do the weather for Equestria." He falls silent.
>>630217 "But that didn't last. You got things back together through experience. Just because you have a cutie mark in something doesn't mean you're flawless at it… I'm a good flier, but I still crash every so often."
>>630218 He snifles… it's so weird to see him like this. "Son…" He puts a hoof on your shoulder. "You must… you must do better. You must do better than me." He seems a bit out of it… and he is definitely burning up.
>>630226 You quickly run over them. Bills. Bills. Advertising Junk. An invitation to a surprise party for Corvette organized by Orange Crush. More junk. A letter from the Wonderbolts Academy. Some more bills. And a coupon for a free ice cream to a nearby ice cream parlor.
>>630228 It seems like it! Apparently you can choose between vanilla, chocolate, marzipan and forest berries flavors!
The letter is official. Dear Cloud Skimmer, blah blah, you skip most of it until you see it. You see that one line that might change everything. It says the following: Your application to the Wonderbolt Academy Basic Training has been accepted.
>>630232 >>630231 After your gleeful outburst you manage to contain your squee enough to keep reading. Apparently, you will have to start in three weeks. The place is near Cloudsdale, but you doubt you'd have the time and energy to make trips home at the end of the day.
Curry and Felfire You two are still trapped in this giant metal coffin/labyrinth that is the Equestrian Ironclad Warship. You are deep in the belly of it, finding your way out with the help of Crimson Tides, the donkey jenny who was a security officer. You also found a mangled and badly hurt Captain Spliterproof at the Armory, who is now missing her tail (aside from the ear she lost on the island). You set up a rope to burn later so you will be able to explode the armory, hopefully making a big enough bang to sink the ship. However, the current situation you have to resolve now is what to do with the Doc you have found at the sides of one of the corridors, impaled on a sharp metal piece by the side of the corridor.
Felfire just moved closer to squeeze his hoof, to which he responed by a weak, wavering smile. "I hope you'll be a happy pony one day, little one…" But then he turns to Curry. "I'm not sure how much longer I can stay lucid. I'm sorry, but I can't help with the rope…" He glances at one of the many pistols you and the jenny are carrying. "Just… give me one of those."
>>635515 You like him too much for the only way you know how to make ponies stop hurting, because then they feel nothing. He is a nice unicorn… "It's okay, kid… but you need to leave me. Before the voices come back and I do things I don't want to…"
>>635514 His magic is too weak to hold onto it, so he just grabs it with a hoof. The Captain kneels down beside him. The Doc smiles weakly again. "Do you… do you think I'll see her? In the afterlife?" The captain pats shoulder. "I know you will." "Good… that's… good. Now get out of here… please."
>>635543 "Little one, this is his choice. I do not have the power to save him, wounded as he is. I wish I did, believe me, but I don't. The best I can do is save you and the others." I'll pause a moment. "I'm sorry. But we have to leave him behind."
>>635549 >>635551 "I am not going to end his life, little one. I simply gave him the tool to do so." I'll hunker down, and hug her for a quick moment. "He knows you'll be with him here, in spirit. Just as he will be with you. But we need to live, and remember him, alright? That way, he'll never really die." Float her up onto my back. "Goodbye, Doc. Rest well." And we'll head off at a brisk trot, to catch up with the others.
>>635551 >>635556 Bite my lips and hang my head low, after finally being pulled away from him. Stay silent for a long time. Think about things. Then, finally, ask Curry something. "Wasn't he your friend?"
>>635556 >>635560 You catch up with the others. Soon after, you hear a loud BANG echo through the corridor.
The donkey peeks out at a corner. "Sorry about your friend, but we all need to focus, we are in the homestretch now. The next stairs can take us staright to the deck, from there we can run straight for your ship. Is that clear?"
>>635560 "Yes, little one, he was. Is still. But there are hard facts of life that no power in the world can overturn. My not having enough strength to save his life is one of those facts. Us needing to get off this boat is another." I'll sigh. "There will be time for mourning later, little one, where we will properly remember him and pray for his peaceful rest. But we've got to escape first, and we can't do that if we're crying." >>635569 "As crystal. Hopefully the deck's still in one piece."
>>635586 >>635587 You start running up! You see the door leading outside! Suddenly, however, the captain almost trips, the rope going limp in her hooves. "No, damnit, no! Something or someone just cut it!" The jenny readies her weapon. "Seems like we have bigger problems than that!" She points outside with her gun aimed.
It's kind of hard to see, it is unnaturally dark out…
>>635600 You have quite a few, but not even sure how to use half of them. You make sure to keep an eye on Felfire as you step out though.
>>635602 The dagger whispers to you Let her come You stick close to Curry
BOTH https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdpNLYsjX1Y As the four of you step out to the deck, you see why it is so dark out. Above the ship and it's surroundings, a black, unnatural storm is brewing, the eye of the storm swirling around right above the Ironclad. In front of you, about the half of the deck, you see six of the crazies, all armed and ready. The large stallion with the pickaxe on his tail, who also killed the captain, in the middle.
Above them, the banshee, floating and casting whatever spell she is casting right now.
>>635610 Surprising all three except Felfire, who could see her already, the banshee becomes visible! It looks like she finished casting her spell… And she lets out a screech, gazing at Felfire, transfixing her and sending her in some sort of trance!
Meanwhile, two of the crazies start creeping closer. When Crimson takes a shot, one of the unicorns at the back lights up his horn, deflecting the bullet. "Fuck!"
>>635611 The Banshee stops for a moment with her magic, then lets out a terrifying scream!
The next thing you know, you are alone… you are in some sort of dark void… you are scared, lonely, you- She wants my power. She is unworthy. You are stronger than her. You will kill her. It's the dagger! You don't know how, but it is the only thing you have left on you! When you grab it, you can see the immediate area near you, like the arena the raiders used to make! And now you can see the ghosts too, floating there at a small distance, swinging left and right in the air… Follow my lead. Use my power. Do not be intimidated by her. Looks like it's going to go down between you and her… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpOE30Nco14
>>635614 Four of them are going to charge you screaming. Only one is real. Use me to stab the second one from the right. And indeed, you see four of the screaming banshees charging at you head on!
>>635615 It's visible, but it's still a ghost. The spear flows straight through her as she keeps transfixing Felfire. One of the crazies thinks this is a nice occasion to charge you, since you are focusing on the spear, but she stumbles to your legs in a bloody heap as the Captain fires one of the rifles she salvaged at her.
>>635617 He anticipates it incoming, and manages to sidestep, but it distracts him long enough for Crimson to shoot a mutiliated pegasus. You see the Captain taking a few defensive steps back as the bigass stallion starts moving towards you, his tail-pickaxe scraping against the deck. He also has a huge piece of what seems like was a door as a shield.
>>635618 Maybe you did, you cannot know for sure. Still, you extend your little hoofsie and stab the thing… for a terrifying moment nothing happens, but then the Banshee screams, in Anguish this time. It disappears in a flash, only to reappear in the distance. She is going to conjure some apparation to help her. Useless. Weak. It is nothing compared to what you can do. Think of the scariest being you can imagine and focus that image on me.
>>635620 He realizes what you are doing midway through and bucks his hindlegs in the air to distrupt your magic, but you still manage to wound his flank with it. However, you are distracted by the Captain. "Shit, we got company back here! Two of them just came out from the ship!"
>>635621 You stop un-thinking it, but you can't. You see two horrible red eyes glowing on the ground in front of you, soon splitting into six… Out of the darkess rises a black equine demon, tall and nimble, yet strong and imposing… the left head bare, the middle bearing a horn while the right one has antlers.
The banshee, floating behind her meager little ghostly soldiers in some weird oriental armor looks worried. Command it to attack. To annihilate.
>>635622 But I cannot command it. Those are my worse fears. There is nothing but primordial pain inside my soul right now, like the screaming echo of a crowd before the slaughter. I can't think. In my head, only the primordial instinct to survive.
>>635622 "I'll try and distract the ones in front, then!" Whip out another spear, and… have an idea. There's probably a shitton of kelp or barnacles on this tub. Let's make them grow. Miracle grow '1d10'
>>635623 You start panicking! You want out of here, you want to leave, you want to- The dagger is picking up on your state, giving you a small jolt of pain. COMMAND IT OR THE BANSHEE WILL MAKE YOU WISH YOU WERE DEAD
>>635624 The captain falls back to deal with the ponies trying to flank you. In the meantime, your horn glows up, letting all the nature that has been growing on the ship since it has been abandoned! It's working!
>>635626 The dark apparation listens, and starts charging, his horn and antlers glowing with a sickly green light, tearing through the forces of the Banshee with ease, even impaling her onto its horn while the antlers destroy the remaining ghosts! It screams again, and your vision darkens…
By the time you wake again, you are still in the void plane, but the apparations are all gone. The banshee seems to be hurt, casting some weird spell. Don't let her finish.
>>635627 Just focus. Technically, they are all alive, just mind controlled by the undead ghosts. The ghost, that you can hear, screams in anguish, so Felfire must be doing something right! Your miracle growth starts bogging down and trapping the crazies, letting Crimson pick them off with her rifles until only the unicorn and the beefy stallion remains. THe unicorn uses his own magic to make all life shrivel and die around him, while the other uses brute strenght to get out… at least you thinned their numbers. From behind, you hear the captain grunt, then a mare scream… looks like she halved the number of your foes too.
>>635629 He succesfully managed to kill your plants, yes, but gurgles on his own blood as one of your spare spears get embed deep in his throat. However, you get a painful surprise as the cold metal shield of the big guy smacks you in the face. You think you feel a tooth go loose…
>>635630 Sadly, your mother was much taller than you and thus better at eye-stabbing. You charge at it, but she quickly floats out of your reach, screaming at you, amplified with her dark magic, halting you to a painful stop!
>>635631 Tumble away, holding the dagger as close as possible in my wing. Just give up, I can't help going through the motions. Again, charge blindly into the monster, only listening to the voice's whispers as my guide. '1d10'
>>635631 I can deal with that, since that unicorn isn't going to be casting spells anytime soon. Shake my head, and pull out the sword I took from the armory. Begin to circle the shield-user and strike at any openings I find. '1d10'
>>635632 You charge at it, but with it floating and you on the ground you don't see much chance… until you feel yourself lifted off from the ground! You glance back, only to see your wings have transformed into mangled, demonic, black leathery…things, letting you leap in the air, leaving a deep gash in the Banshee. When you land, your wings are back to their normal, broken state, but the Banshee is busy trying to escape now!
>>635633 You begin circling the sword in a brave offensive, leaving several deep cuts in his side, neck and flanks! Easy! Until he headbutts you, sending you reeling… holy shit, he is much tougher than he looks! But at least he is bleeding now! Worryingly though, you don't see the Captain anywhere, and the donkey is struggling with the last of the other crazies who came from inside the ship after you.
>>635635 Your mother would be proud if she could see you right now. You dive on the ghost, slashing away at it with the dagger, and instead of stabbing like it is meant to be used, you hack the banshee into pieces, unfazed by her screams and screeches. The magical weapon makes short work of her. You can't even finish her properly before you wake up in the real world, and can see her scream and slowly disappear.
>>635636 You hurl your sword but just nearly miss the donkey. Thankfully, she isn't hurt by your recklessness, but is still locked in combat.
Suddenly, you hear the banshee scream and her ghostly form slowly starts to break away into pieces… worryingly though, this is just making the storm worse. The distraction is the perfect time to strike down the last crazy though.
>>635639 It's a great plan, except he's probably twice the mass of a pony as you are. You struggle around his body for a while before he spins around, whacking you in the face with his shield first then, stabbing your shoulder with his pickaxe as he swings around.
>>635638 Your nerves are on fire! You quickly put your weapon away, but thankfully Curry is being too busy beaten the shit up by the large stallion to notice!
>>635641 He doesn't just jump at you, he actually uses tactics on how to hit you with his shield and tail! The latter, especially painful, as you feel the cold metal pick stick into your side. Ouch.
>>635642 While he is busy impaling Curry, you dash at it between the legs and stab his leg… and surprisingly enough, you manage to hit something important, as he lets out a pained grunt and his legs buckle! He is an open target to finish for Curry now!
Both You hear the weakened, pale, and as much hurt as all of you donkey scream as her assailant bites into her shoulder, followed by a bang as the crazy is put down by her for good. Only the big guy left!
>>635645 >>635644 Felfire scoots away, just in time for Curry to yank the pickaxe from his side and dive onto the stallion with it, making quite the mess with some disgusting sounds as it enters the skull of the last crazy through his skull.
Woohoo! They are all dead! No time for celebration though, the donkey hobbles along. "I don't know what you did to that ghost, kid, but since it died this storm is looking worse and worse! We need to get to that ship of yours!"
That's all well and good, but you don't see the captain anywhere!
>>635646 "Where's the captain?!" I'll blanch. "No, she wouldn't have… That stupid mare!" I'll look at Felfire. >>635645 "Little one, get back to the ship. I'm going to try and stop our captain from doing something incredibly stupid." Bolt back inside the ship, following the now-severed rope.
>>635656 >>635657 As you near the ledge, you see the native and Angler both on deck on high alert with weapons out. The donkey seems… insulted almost. "THIS is your ship?!" Still she wastes no time and jumps double times it down to the deck. "Curry, the ropes! You, helmspony, get ready to disengage!" He seems to be offended. "Where is the captain?!"
>>635658 "She's blowing up this giant metal tub! It was full of zombies!" Once on board, I'll slash one of the ropes with my sword, but hesitate on the other one. Maybe… maybe the captain could make it?
>>635659 "W-What? No! No, she can't be! Are you sure?!" He starts freaking out!
>>635660 The donkey notices your hesitation. "If you keep hesitating we are all dead!" Angler stomps his hoof. "I am not going anywhere without Splinterproof!" The donkey draws a rifle on him. "As an officer of the Equestrian Navy, I am now commandeering this ship! Non-compliance will result in severe consequences! Now disengage this ship!"
>>635662 >>635663 With the lines cut and Angler at the wheel, the ship slowly starts to make distance from the metal coffin, the storm above it getting worse and worse, striking lightining near both ships and crashing giant, relentless waves against the sides of the boat. You're just starting to make distance when Buangan, the native grabs your attention. "Look! Up there! Look!" At the edge of the railing you see the Captain! She is looking at the ship as it is starting to make distance! When Angler notices, he starts turning the wheel, but before he can steer the ship back, he is knocked out by a powerful smack with the butt of a rifle from Crimson, who takes the helm. "I am not going to risk all these lives for one, I'm sorry!"
You all hear a deep rumbling from inside the ironclad. At the same time, the captain takes a few step backs, disappearing from your line of sight.
>>635665 >>635666 You can't use your magic as she disappears… but as Felfire concluded, she only stepped back to gain some ground. You see her jump over the railing and Curry manages to give her a boost with magic!
Not a moment later, the ship breaks into two.
The explosion going off in the armory sends a wave of energy in all directions, spreading through the Ironclad hard and fast, lifting the bow and the port of the ship in the air at the same time. More worringly however, the explosion broke of a LOT of the ships interior and propelled it up into the air as deadly flak on their way down… Crimson yells. "UNICORN! INCOMING! MAGIC NOW! EVERYONE ELSE DUCK!" It's happening too fast, but Curry can see she means to stop the giant metal rubble that's flying your way from crushing the ship!
>>635668 That means you have to drop the captain from her glide, but even your drained magic can only do so much. You push the larger pieces away, but little sharpnel rain down, grazing your cheeks and flanks.
>>635669 You zig-zag around on the deck, but it's no use, you feel something hot and sharp stick riht into your neck! It draws blood! The native lets out a scream as she is peppered with the small pieces too… only Angler seems to be safe, as the donkey jumped on his passed out form to shield him.
>>635671 The sails gets pretty fucked up allright.
You shake yourself but nothing happens, the pain is there to stay!
>>635672 As the hail stops and the ship slowly makes it's way from the burning, sinking metal tub, you collapse. You see the native scamper for rope which the donkey quickly grabs in her mouth and dives into the water with.
Lone Mesa You were investigating the strange emptyness of the trading town Fairbank, and why the streets were silent aside from a few ponies with their guns watching over them. The Sherrif is gone to somewhere, and you managed to track down a captive warg, a viscious, disgusting carnivore. Still, since he was your only lead, you had to get a pig for it, which you did, by trusting your dog, Rocky, to stay behind with the farmer in exchange. The moment you let the warg loose, it tore the poor pig apart, devouring it piece by piece.
Still, it gave you the information you needed. His master meets with others every night in some nearby abandoned mines, and tonight is special, as even the master of his master is going to be there.
>>635816 You leave him behind and set off into the desert.
It feels much more lonely this time.
The sun is slowly starting to set in front of you as you head east. You see the occasional skeleton, bleaching in the sun buried in the sand, or some small scorpions resting in the shade of rocks. You can see the outlines of the mines now. There is not much cover here, but with a small detour, you could hide behind the rocks that remained from the quarry to get closer unseen.
>>635818 It's a feel that will require tremendous amounts of whiskey and cigars to cope with.
You circle around, and by the time you get to the mine, you are well hidden. You can see guards at the main enterance, both of them ponies. The stallion is armed with a high-power rifle, placed on his saddle, while the mare seems to have a lot of small knives. The stallion is watching attentively, while the mare is playing around with a small scorpion she caught. Both of them wear some lightweight, black armor. Mercenaries?
You'll need to find another way in, unless you want to risk them raising an alarm.
>>635820 You'll just have to find out for yourself. You manage to keep a low profile and find another enterance. From the looks of it, it leads to the same shaft as the other, but this one has been closed down even before the whole thing was left behind.
>>635826 You mentally jot down never to leave to the mines without a light. Or at least a lit cigarette. Still, the air is changing, and you think you feel a draft… yes, there it is! You see a passage opening up to the main shaft!
>>635828 Seems like the main shaft is actually under you! This path lead to a rocky walkway that is running pararell to it above. You can look down to there and move around unseen! You also see lights, signs that this place is indeed in use, but no ponies. Maybe if you head deeper.
>>635830 You crawl down along. You pass two oblivious pony guards who are a level below you to arrive at a larger chamber. There are tents, tables and whatnot set up here! The middle table seems to be the most interesting, as it resembles a tactical map, complete with little markers for different troops, although you can't make out the details from up here. A unicorn mare is sitting next to it, arranging something with her magic. What also catches your attention, is the HUGE diamond dog standing next to one of the tents, as if he was waiting. He has a spiked collar, as well as thick chainlinks wrapped around his wrists. He only wears pants, which makes the various scars on his chest and arms very visible - bite marks, scratch marks, bulletholes, stab wounds… If you had to guess, you are probably seeing the master of the wargs here.
>>635832 At the far behind of the chamber, you see two of them fighting each other over some bones which look awfully pony shaped. If they were to get under you, they might catch your scent, but it's unlikely they would from the other side while they are distracted.
>>635840 You could just take a leak over one of the rocks and pretend it's the rainwater dripping in.
You wait for a good while, but then there is a bright magical flash! When it is gone, a unicorn stallion, wearing similar armor as the mare, is standing in the chamber. He seems stern, taking a seat without saying a word. A while later, a pink pegasus with long, straight pinker mane walks in. She is wearing some very light combat dress and has a slim but long sword in a sheath by her side. She is whistling happily as she arrives. "Hey there, dumbos! Why the long faces? This isn't going to be an execution… as far as I know!" She laughs then pops down in her seat. There is still a chair left, even after the dog approaches and takes his place.
>>635842 You've heard about this pink pegasus, yes. Supposedly she was a serial killer in Manehatten who could cut through a dozen guards like carving a cake. She was jailed by Ranger number Twelve some years ago though. She keeps happily chatting, but only the unicorn mare respons every now and then.
>>635844 While you wait some more, you notice a weird… shimmer around the table. And a slight glow from the horn of the unicorn stallion. Some sort of magical forcefield maybe? You never saw any shielding spells that were so subtle.
Still, your musing is interrupted when three ponies enter the room, all pegasi. They are something else for sure. All of them seem to be wearing some sort of black armor, that looks like the carapace of insects. It looks very light sa they seem no trouble moving in it, but you're pretty sure it's not just for show. You can see that they are all carrying various types of firearms on their saddles, but you can't see which is what exactly, because they are all on their left side and you can only see their right. The armor even comes with a helmet, fitting with the rest of the armor perfectly. Instead of silts for looking out, they have pony eye-sized visions, some magical green crystal from the looks of it. The leader of the trio who walks in the middle also has a giant emerald on her chest. Whoever is paying these guys must be in the 1% of Equestria.
The two sidekicks stay back while the middle pegasus approaches the table. She looks them over, then removes her helmet, revealing her green coat and short purple mane. "This has to be the worst fucking forward camp I have ever fucking seen."
>>635846 Just like with your coat, it's probably not a paintjob, but the type of alloy they are using. "So, come on, brief me, what's up? I got shit to do in Los Pegasus before I can come back here to deal with shit." The unicorn stallion speaks up. "We managed to stabilize things from Dodge to Appleloosa. Some of my covert operatives are working on ensuring that stays that way. The bandit raid of Appleloosa was a failure too. I'm not sure what they were thinking, sending that amount of ponies against two rangers." The leader snickers. "Fucking amateurs. What else?" The unicorn mare speaks this time. "Fairbank is still under their control. We couldn't mobilize much without raising some alarm bells from the nearby fort, who have no idea what's going on. The sherrif of the town is dead." "Fuck… that's not good news." "My wargs have been thinning out their messengers are trapping them in, but they are going to get reinforcments soon. We can't take it with just the hounds if someone doesn't take care of the Talons." "Fucking bird-brained pidgeons shitting up everything wherever we go… What else?"
>>635848 She seems very young, maybe in her mid-twenties even. You have no records of anypony like her. Maybe you can take a detour to Fort Buckanaan and spend some time catching up on the newest mercenary groups of the area. The pink pegasus chimes in. "I've got bad news, so don't freak out. I cut up that old fart down south, but I've heard some news about our friends at Mareen Valley. They all got wiped out by the Blood Riders. They got the train station." "WHAT?! Those fucking idiots let them capture it?!" Seems like that pissed her off a lot.
>>635850 You've only heard the stories. Their territories are so far down South at the Palomino Desert that their control reaches to Macintosh Hills, and even into the Badlands through the hills and mountains.
They are mostly earth ponies, strong enough to keep up with a flying pegasus even with their chariots and battlecarts attached. However, you never heard they'd be involved in any gang wars of any sort, since they keep to themselves, mostly just being defensive and territorial.
>>635852 She kicks the chair out of under herself. "You bloody fucking idiots! With the rails they can send their fucking chariots everywhere! Lollipop, get a team and blow up as many teams as you can!" The pink pegasus blows her a kiss then hurries away.
"You, pull in the wargs, all of them! I want them ready to move! You are going to get that train station back!" "Right now? But I need meat, provisions, I need-" He is cut in half by the glare by the mare as she cocks her gun and turns it towards him. "I-I mean I will do it, right away, I will…" You can see the dog pull his tail between his legs, looking at the ground and even licking his lips in submission. She just glares a moment more before softly speaking. "Get the wargs ready, you're moving out now…. NOW! NOW NOW NOW!" The large diamond dog whines and runs away, out of the mines, his two wargs quickly following him.
You just finished 'delivering' the Unicat, which you couldn't, but at least you got the receipt signed, and now you have a kitten with a horn and magic too!
After meeting two goats in the forest, who also gave you a weird dream with their music which made you talk to yourself about your past and future, you are now back at the Pony Express HQ. Since you are rested you told your boss, Blue Collar, that you are going to get right back into it!
"Listen… you seem to be one of our best runners from what little you've done so far. Fast and efficient… but the only real delivery I have now is a bit… strange. It has a nice little hazard pay bonus in it. Are you interested?"
>>636374 He sits down behind his desk. "You might when you hear the full story. I've been pushing this delivery for a week now, and two ponies already refused to do it." He sighs. "Near Vanhoover, an artist by the name of Guerpone Weiss was making all kinds of art pieces - drawings, statues, so on. Supposedly, he died more than a decade ago, when he finished his last piece, a coffin made out of obsidian. The weird thing is, nobody ever saw his body, or any trace of where he could have disappeared. What is even weirder… is that the Pony Express was his source of all the things he needed, and we get requests for easels, paints, raw materials to this day." He looks like his hoof is shaking, like he spooked himself. "…The worst part is, every time we send someone, they either never come back, or when they do they are… changed. Not quite what they were before they left. And the locals at Vanhoover say that every time one of our ponies bring him something… a new piece of art shows up."
>>636376 "The requests we get contain the payment. We just get these letters from him, with whatever he needs already paid! We would be breaking our own contracts if we didn't respond to them." He lowers his voice. "If it was up to me, I'd never risk any of your lives for it, but the higher ups demand it. Say it's got something to do with the company getting fined for not doing the work for something already paid for. We just cannot refuse, as dumb as it is. They say for all we know he might be just hiding, but he was almost ninety years old even back when he was still walking around the cit and not busy being a ghost or whatever!"
>>636378 Yes, stupid Equestrians. It cannot be a ghost, those don't even exist. Unless it is an Onryō in which case you should be very concerned. But hey, it probably isn't, right? "Good. Take very good care of yourself out there, okay? First sign of trouble, and don't be ashamed to run! I know that's what I'd do." He opens a drawer and takes out a large envelope. "This has the receipt in it, and the special brushes you need to deliver. The place is a large mansion, just northeast of Vanhoover. It's impossible to miss."
>>636382 It was in the same envelope with the brushes! They have a very fine, expensive looking wooden handle and the tip is made from the finest hair. Looks really fancy for some simple painting equipment.
>>636383 Ok. I'm not stupid and I think this gajin I'm supposed to deliver to is some kind of an undead. I need some equipment for this, like a blessed weapon, wooden stakes or a silver dagger. There are so many packages here, so I'm gonna do something naughty and look for a package that belongs to the Equestrian church.
>>636384 None out here, nothing you could pick up… Although… you do remember the storage. The one you had to put something in, the one with all the stuff that never got delivered! You could grab something from there, none will be the wiser, and nopony will ever miss it!
>>636386 You slip inside, closing the door behind you. You start looking through the shelves, lit only by a single dim light… Ah, there it is! You find a silver letter opener! It doesn't look much, but it's sharp as hell! You think you also saw some weirdly shaped bottle the last time you were here, it might have been holy water… do you want to go in deeper and look for it?
>>636388 You venture deeper and you indeed find the bottle! You were right, it's holy water! Not much, but it should be more than enough to weaken any undead! You also see outlines of a weapons rack, which must have something! That part of the storage is even darker… looks like the lights have gone out there.
>>636390 You are a grown pony, not scared of anything! You let your eyes adjust to the dim light and walk over… you start browsing the collection of weapons here… there is indeed a blessed weapon! It's a sickle belonging to some Lunar priestess! It's probably here because those moon religionists and their moon princess is not very popular, with her being banished and everything. As you pick it up, you hear something crash behind you!
>>636392 You make a decoy of yourself, but you cannot not acknowledge the crash, since it's on the way out. You almost trip in something! It's… the same doll, shaped like a colt, that fell on top of you the last time you were here… only, it was in the other corner of the storage! Still, you shake it off and leg it outside!
You got the silver letter opener, the holy water and the blessed sickle!
>>636393 Why can't these westerners deal with their stupid spirits messing around with everything, I thought they had paladins for this kind of stuff. I need to go check on my cat before I fly to Vanhoover.
>>636400 It might take a day, with some bad winds maybe even two, so you get some supplies ready! Will you fly straight for it, next to Smokey Mountain, or will you take a detour to avoid the extra heights and fly above the Unicorn Range instead?
>>636404 The journey itself is mostly eventless, and you get there in a day and a half, arriving to the southern outskirts by early afternoon. The giant tower with the weird saucer thingy on top of it could be seen from far away, guiding you in the rifht direction! The weather is also considerably more cold up here, and you can occasionally see snow here or there already. You were told the mansion is northeast of the city, but you might want to get some directions from someone in the city.
>>636416 "No no. Some priest, paladins, even me went there, more than once over the years, you understand, eh? We tried anything we have against spirits and ghosts, but found nothing. Ponies keep disappearing too. And then the statues and paintings show up, all with the signature of Guerpone."
>>636418 "That wouldn't be impossible, eh, but where would he even get food and water? He hasn't been seen in more than a decade, and his mansion has been searched from cellar to attic, by unicorns too, to rule out secret passages. Nothing, eh."
>>636428 "There is a road behind the church, it goes straight out of town, eh. Follow that until you reach a maple orchard, then turn north, along the fences. You will find a path with a signs, when the mansion was still an open museum, eh."
>>636430 You follow the directions, as instructed. In just an hour or so, you are out of the city, and down the path that goes away from it. In another half an hour, you can already see the mansion. There is no mistaking it - the large gardens before it are filled with abstract statues and scupltures. The mansion itself is impressive too - not only is it large, as if it really was a museum building, but the architecture is very pretty too!
>>636432 Still, it is very pretty. The sculptures are very varied, some pretty abstract, some just looking like ponies, some huge, some tiny, but all of them has some sort of plaque with the name of the piece near them.
>>636434 There is a bust of a pony whose face looks like it's melting. It's titled 'Melanchony'. The next one is called 'Puzzle' and depicts a pony skeleton, with each limb and body part being a different color. Next to it is a sculpture called 'Wine Sofa'. It looks like a giant wine glass with a strange tilt in it, the red 'wine' being cushions… which seems weirdly intact and undamaged, even though this thing must have been here for years, out under the weather. There is another sculpture called 'Stubborn Twins', and it's just two giant plants, their vines stretching outwards.
>>636440 You can't, it's too big and heavy! It reveals a large, dusty hall with cobwebs on the corners. The art pieces though, of which there are plenty, seem pristine. The hall is dominated by two things, a staircase leading upstairs, and a giant sculpture of a mare being held by a skeleton in regal clothing and a sword. The mare seems wooed. You can't quite make out the nameplate from this distance though. There are paintings on the walls too, and some other statues here and there. Multiple doors leading to other places as well!
>>636442 As you step inside, a haunting music starts playing… seemingly out of nowhere, but still sounding like it's coming from everywhere. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXQCPAR0EHo It's just enough so you don't hear the door slowly closing behind you as you approach…
>>636448 To the right, you find a long corridor. On the sides of it are bare ponequins and headless statues, standing by the left and right walls. The plaque that describes them calls them 'Death of the Individual'. Proceed down this corridor?
>>636456 You take it off and put it down beside you. As you take the key, you feel something grasping at your hindleg though… The 'Lady in Red' has emerged halfway from her frame, and is trying to grab you!
>>636458 You kick her back and get behind her, between her front body and her frame, and start choking her! Sadly, you come to realize, she is a painting and does not require air, so she keeps flaining! You are still in control, but if she keeps that up, a lucky hit might hit you right in the face!
>>636462 >>636463 You find out the hard way that she is inseperable. The painting form of her, after all, was just the upper body, so it seems that's all she is. A torso, two forehooves and a head, attached to her weighty frame. Trying to pull exposes you and gives her a chance to flip you over and throw you on your back. She quickly slams the edge of her frame into your belly, knocking the wind out of you, then starts strangling you with her hooves! Your only saving grace is your cat, who has been in the corridor chasing some bugs, coming here to investigate the ruckus and leaping at the Lady in Red with her claws, distracting her for the moment.
>>636479 You run down the corridor as fast as you can, with your cat hanging onto your mane! As you get to the end, you hear a scraping sound behind you. At a glance, you can see that all the ponequins and statues turned into your direction, but thankfully, they are not moving anymore.
>>636489 The unicorn stallion has zapped away with his spell without another word. With all the others mostly gone, it's only a few more ponies in the tents, the unicorn mare at the table, and the three pegasi in the carapace armors. The leader looking one sighs. "Useless fucking cunts, I have to do everything myself… what about the sheriff of this shithole?" "They set up a puppet to keep the population in control. He's probably dead by now." "Shit. That's not good."
>>636491 You swivel your pony ears around to hear better. "How will we proceed?" "Fuck them all up. That guy was their only bargaining chip. If he is dead, nothing is keeping us from shooting the town up."
>>636495 This doesn't seem to be their base of operations, or main strike force though, only a forward camp. "Are you sure about this, ma'am? The wargs and the units of Lollipop just left for other missions, and we have reports of heavy bandit and Talon activity in town." "I know. We are going to paint the town red. Fuck Los Pegasus, I'll deal with this first."
>>636499 You leave the little camp behind, quickly making your way back to the dark passage. Remembering the little ledges and holes, you easily find yourself back at the enterance. Now that you are outside, you hear something in the distance, from almost all directions. Howling. A lot of it, each howl only slightly different, as if they were communicating something a pony can never hope to understand. You guess those wargs really are getting rallied, and this is how they do it.
>>636505 >>636506 You manage to slip in at the back door of a building that is on the edge of the town, the first one you see.
You see an old, wrinkled stallion sitting in the dark kitchen, contemplating whatever deep musings he must be thinking about, taking slow drags out of a small wooden pipe. He hasn't noticed you yet either.
>>636510 He takes another puff. "So I see. I'll tell my girls come dawn." With how old he seems, he isn't surprised or even anxious. It's probably not the first time he was told what to do by a ranger either, it seems.
>>636512 You wake up some folks from their sleep, while others are still doing this and that in the dead of the night, the residents of one house even doing the dirty as you interrupt them to tell them to stay safe. Those who don't have cellars resolve to moving to the house of some neighbours.
>>636513 Mmmmh, this is good. Now…I want to get a good vista of the town. …But if I get on the roof them Taloncucks will see me. Is there some kind of tower in town? Like maybe a church tower I could sneak into?
>>636518 Looks like they forgot about this one, using the northern water tower instead. They probably thought that the west side was covered for them, as you've overheard. The added bonus is that you can even see the top of the chuch tower and other water tank, without them being able to spot you.
You just got rescued from a fire by a handsome pegasus firefighter. A fire you were in because you were retrieving one of the statues of Mother Nature you were looking for, namely, a phoenix one. Somehow, the statue activated, because the wings opened on it. The poor guy who was the previous owner is probably ashes now though.
>>636557 The butterlfy lifts off, and the flower moves, spraying some sort of pollen in your face! For a moment, everything goes dark…
When you open your eyes, you find yourself in the middle of a different clearing. The sky looks… different, yet soothing. The last time you saw the sky like this was when…. when Mother Nature invited you to her realm!
There is a lingering sweet scent of flowers and leaves, just strong enough to be felt but not enough to be irritating. The grass below your hooves is soft to the touch, tickling and caressing your leg as you walk by. The top of the trees sway in a gentle breeze, making the leaves sound like they were whispering in a hushed tone. You hear beautiful birdsongs from the distance, one answering the other. You don't have to walk much to reach a shallow pond, the water a crystal clear blue. It almost calls to you, inviting you to go inside.
>>636561 You just now notice you were naked already, so you step in. The water is not too deep, only reaching to the middle of your chest as you climb in. Still, it is just the perfect warm temperature, and as soon as your weary and tired limbs come into contact with it, you feel relaxed, your wounds healing, your fur and lost feathers regrowing, the grime and soot disappearing without a trace, not even staining the clear water.
>>636562 I paddle around in the water, laughing as happily as a foal. Nature is the best deity. Circling around just once more before diving totally under and playfully jumping out as if I wanted to fly away, but instead just lay on my back floating in the water using my wings to steer myself.
>>636563 You splish-splash around, playing in the pond as if you were just an eight year old little colt. You frolick around for what seems like an eternity for you in this peaceful realms, when you hear an angelic voice. "You seem content and happy here." It's Her! Sitting at the edge of the pond!
>>636564 I eagerly swim over and get out of the water to stand by her with adoring eyes. "Yes. You've made.. A wonderful place. I couldn't imagine a way it could have been better.. until you arrived My Goddess."
>>636565 She smiles a smile that warms your heart more than any mare alive could. She stands in front of you, running one of her hooves over your mane. "Accomplish your task, and your reward will be the right to stay with me here. Not forever for there is no such thing as past, present or future here. Time stands still eternal." The possibility of living in this peaceful realm for a time longer than you can possibly even comprehend blows your mind… and she is offering it so freely and nicely for you!
>>636566 My wings almost move on their own to slowly flutter up to her muzzle. "I would do anything to stay just like this. With you." And I give her a truly passionate kiss like a love stricken stallion does when he sees his truest love.
>>636567 You move closer to her and lean in for a kiss, which she reciprocates, but no matter how long it lasts, you feel it is over far too soon. She lets out a giggle, playful yet at the same time elegant. "I can see that you are eager, but now is not the time yet, Kelani. You need to awaken the sleeping. Just like you did with the phoenix."
>>636569 She nods. "Each statue requires a different sacrifice. The phoenix could only awaken if something is burned in its presence, but it need not have been a pony. In the eyes of Nature, all death are equal."
>>636580 Perhaps I should store this one away before I go look for clues.. Maybe my friend will have an idea how to awaken the ones I already found too. Unless I have to do something urgent here that I forgot..
>>637074 You should be glad I'm not ruder, you dumb featherbrained pegasus.
As you look for tools towards the shed you trip over a plank that was part of the fence, faceplant into the dirt, and as you try to stand up and regain your balance you accidentally step on a rake which hits you in the face.
Erdei looks up, shakes his head, and continues weeding.
>>637076 You step away from these tools of the devil. "Never held the handle of a tool in your life, did you?" Well, that's not very nice of him to suggest, you helped your pa' out a lot when you weren't chasing tail!
>>637080 Well there's.. uh… actually, these don't look like the ones your father was planting at all. You can sort of make the weeds out, but you're not sure. He looks up. "These aren't just your regular plants. These ones were gifted to me by Mother Nature. Their seeds are special. Why do you think they are so tasty? Do you think you can handle them?"
>>637082 He points his trowel at the ground. "See those tiny green vines? Those are the only thing we have to worry about. These plants can resist anything else." He snorts. "That one weed? It's pony made. They combined two other weeds when trying to come up how to get rid of them. Only made it worse. You can't do better than Mother Nature."
>>637112 "Many of the druids were called upon by Mother Nature. She said a great evil is going to rise from the North, something unnatural. Creatures from all over the world who were safekeeping the statues brought them, and performed a ritual, but it wasn't their magic, it was the statues itself who did it. Protected Nature, then disappeared."
>>637115 Shake my head again. "No. I was just trying to get the statue from him.. I even tried to save him.. but.. He.." I shutter thinking about it and go quiet for a good minute. "That's the way they wake up anyway, taking a life of some kind in a way related to them."
>>637116 "Death and rebirth are part of what makes phoenixes so majestic. Maybe death is not what all the others need. I was never the one to know these things, not even back then. I was never a druid, like she was. I was just a simple pony. I wish I could tell you what to do.
Hard times await you soon. Your father is sick in hospital, but at the same time, you just recieved the letter of a lifetime, informing you about your admission to the Wonderbolts Academy, where your training can begin in three weeks!
You planned to head over to Skyheart, who is probably at home right now.
>>639296 She unfurls her wing and takes out a tiny reading glass she keeps under it in a small glass/pen/bits harness, something you're pretty sure no one under 70 would wear. She starts reading slowly, brightening up. "I can't believe it! My little Skimmer is going to be a Wonderbolt! Just like you were telling me when you were little!"
>>639314 She frowns. "You know… your grandfather, bless his soul, he always complained to me. He told me every day while he lived that he never asked for the factory, that his father forced him into it, that he was meant to become something else… but I saw the pride in his eyes every succesful day, I saw how happy he truly was every year when the mayor shook his hooves, thanking him for keeping Cloudsdale running, and I saw how he wouldn't want to be anything else even if he was given the chance when the Princess honored him during a ceremony for the work this factory does for all of Equestria. I see the same spark in your eyes, the same thing that was in his eyes… but it's not for the weather factory, even if your father might never admit that."
>>639324 "I know, this is what I want. It's what I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember and I intend to see it through, but at the same time this has come at a terrible time with dad in the hospital and mom on her own."
>>639372 Even as you talk, a few of the more impatient birds slowly start landing and cautiously pecking at the seeds behind her. "If he is being a butt about it, just come back here so I can give him a good pep talk!"
>>639380 She nods. "You can count on me with it! Just warn me in advance so I can get everything set for a nice meal…" You can see on her she is already weighting options on what delicious plate to make
>>639412 She nods, finishing up her plate. "Thanks." She starts dusting off her tail from whatever was tangled in there during the night, you don't want to know. "So, what's up? Haven't seen you since forever."
>>639423 I give her a sad smile. "You know, I always hoped you'd be my wingpony ever since I started dreaming of being a Wonderbolt as a foal. I know it's a silly thing to think about, but I really wish you could come with me to bootcamp."
>>639424 She sighs. "Well… y'know, I guess I didn't make the cut, but I can still be happy for you. I'm not sure what I could have done differently, we trained the same, we flew the same…" She shrugs. "I didn't get a letter, you did, so just be happy for yourself, dumbass!"
It has been a day since you escaped the ironclad. The native pegasus on board managed to get the water out of the system of the captain you fished out, but she has been unconcious ever since then. In her 'absence', the donkey is still commandeering the ship, trying to get the damaged ship anywhere that could be land nearby. The air has been cold between her and Angler too.
>>640116 "Pirates is probably unlikely, then. Still possible." Frown a bit at the ships. "Well, they're going to catch us, regardless, so the question is what to do when they do. We could secure the wounded down in the hold, and make it look like it's just me and Angler. If they're friendly enough, we might be able to get a lift, and medical supplies. If not, well, I'm sure you'll think of something to scuttle the ship and escape."
>>640125 >>640127 That seems to be right. Soon enough, they land on your deck. Two of them heavily armed and armored, while the one in the middle is dressed a lot more fancy, even having a colorful feather sticking out of his hat! He speaks with a strange accent. "Do you speak Equestrian?"
>>640145 "Our captain may not make it to port, if it will take more than a day. I know it's an imposition, but do you have a doctor available to watch over her until we reach your port?" >>640146 I'll shake my head. "No, they're helping us."
>>640152 "The little one will stay with me, for the time being. She doesn't do well with strangers, I'm afraid, and I did promise to look after her." I'll nod. "But the captain, I can release to your care. If there are no objections, Angler?"
>>640161 AAAH HE'S GONNA NAB ME AND- wait! My eyes widen up and I end up looking at the pouch of fresh water, lips slightly salivating, staring still for a long, hard time. Eventually, my eyes will switch from the waterskin to the armored pony.
>>640168 >>640170 Prod at the neck of the bottle with a tiny hoof, lowering my muzzle to it as well, taking out my tongue to lick at the water pooling onto the edge, before finally tipping the waterskin's neck over just slightly, starting to drink with a passion!
>>640185 "It's alright, little one. Those ships are going tie onto ours, and pull us to a safe place. There, we can get the captain medicine, and food, and clean water." I'll sniff. "And a bath. A nice, warm bath for both of us."
>>640191 'It's… well, it's something that…" I'll be quiet for a minute. "You know, I don't actually what soap is made of, but you use it to get clean. It helps get the dirt off of you when it gets wet."
>>640198 >>640197 With speed like this, it doesn't take much for you to see the port itself… it's quite a bustling place, with lots and lots and lots of ships and even more ponies! There are a lot of nice brick houses on the shore, one taller than the next… or maybe it's because the hill the city is built on.
>>640199 Oh boy, this is gonna be rough on Felfire. >>640200 "Now, there's no reason to be scared. A little warning, though. There are going to be more ponies in that one area than there were on the entire island. So it's going to be pretty crowded." I'll squat down a bit. "Now, there are a couple options on what we can do. You can walk, if you feel up to it. You could ride on my back, if that would make you feel more comfortable." And a little joke. "Or, you could ride in my saddlebag, if you want."
>>640217 >>640218 Everyone who is alive from your little journey, the weary bearded Angler, the even more worn down jenny, Crimson Tides, and even the brownish pegasus native, Buangan. The six guards form a circle around you and start to lead you off the boat, down the wooden pier.
The guards start to lead you through the city, and you can see everypony stare at you. Even though you are surrounded by guards, their stares are not accusational, but ones full of pity.
As you proceed from the port to the narrow streets between the brick buildings, you go across some sort of marketplace. There, when some of the merchants see your ragged state, despite the guards, do their best to levitate fruits and drinks to you, even as you go.
None of you are really in any condition to refuse it. At least the donkey and the two other ponies start chomping and gulping on the free stuff right away without shame.
>>640224 Extend a tiny hoof from the saddlebag out to catch something! Even go as far as allowing the lid to peel back and reveal my hidden figure for just a split second before gasping and jumping back down, covering myself again!
>>640225 Some ponies saw you! A fat mare (how did she get fat? How is that even possible?) even waves at you as you do get out! You have some very juicy fruits to attend to though!
>>640226 For a second, you consider the option that it must taste so good because you have all died and gone to heaven. You don't see Luna anywhere though, so you conclude that it's indeed just fucking amazing fruit and you have been starving.
The winding path is full of twists and turns as it ascends the hill, all your hooves clopping on the cobblestones.
>>640232 You've never felt this content! Never ever! You didn't even think it was possible to be not-hungry like this!
>>640231 The elaborately decorated gates are opened to you, and two of the guards stay behind. One of them who still follows stops you in particular, with some strange magical tool in his hoof. "I will need to take a precaution with you. I hope you do not mind."
>>640245 You can always take a peek… it might be worth it.
>>640244 As all of you enter, you can see the fancy, rich hall is giving place to a centralized throne, on which a blue and red mare sits, wearing regal clothing and some beads and jewelry in her mane. She claps her hooves and quickly sitting pillows are brought to all of you.
The guards stand to the side after that. She speaks up. "Welcome to Pontugal, weary travellers. I am Mareia Calado III, the regent of our prospering city state."
>>640248 She is a lot more pretty and a lot less scary and bloodthirsty and threatening!
>>640247 She is bowing too, so is Angler. Buangan too, but from her motions it's obvious she is just mimicking you to not offend. Tides does take the lead. "In the name of this crew, as their captain cannot speak for them, I express gratitude for allowing us in your port and letting us in your city." "It is my pleasure to do so. Please, introduce yourselves so I may now the proper course of action."
>>640250 I'll wait for the others to introduce themselves, and then recall that Felfire's in my saddlebag. Take that off, and set her in front of me, between my front legs. Then I'll introduce myself, and Felfire.
>>640251 >>640252 "Crimson Tides, Chief Security Officer of the Equestrian Navy. My vessel has been destroyed, I have been commandeering theirs ever since." That visibly perks the interest of the regent, but she stays silent. "Angler, simple fisherstallion. I serve under Captain Splinterproof, the mare who you are currently treating, and in her name, I thank you." "Name… Buangan. Native island." The regent is somewhat confused, but doesn't interrupt. Your turn!
>>640253 "I am Curry, formerly of Autumnsreach, now wandering the world. This filly is Felfire, from the same island that Buangan is from. It is where our ship originally crashed, and how we came to be in such dire circumstances."
>>640254 She nods at all of you. "I see. You will all be treated as friends here. Hundreds of years ago when this city was founded, it was founded on the idea of Friendship. Kindness and Generosity are vital point of that. Equestrian, or not, you will be medically treated, fed, given shelter, and if you so desire, we can find you a place in our thriving society."
>>640259 "I cannot make any guarantees, but she will be treated to the best of our abilities."
Tides speaks too. "I would like a vessel, if possible. I need to get back to the Equestrian Navy as soon as possible." "Let us discuss such matters at a later time." "But…" "You can hardly make such a voyage in your current state."
>>640260 Her ears flick. "Excuse me, filly, could you repeat that?"
>>640261 "Again, my thanks." >>640262 >>640264 I'll place a calming hoof on Felfire. "You will have to forgive her, your grace. She's not exactly had the best experiences with other ponies, and it's a small miracle she's taken to me so well." >>640265 "It's alright, little one. No one's angry. You don't have to be afraid."
>>640265 The quitest type. If only they could hear the frantic beating of your heart!
>>640266 "I see. All of you must be tired too. My guards can show you to designated quarters where doctors are already standing by. Later on, you might request to discuss matters with me again. Dismissed."