You and Leaf Roost just left the forest and are flying back to the castle with your lead!
In about an hour, the two of you are in sight of the castle and the surroundings!
"That… that looks horrible! Where are all the trees and grass and everything? I didn't expect it to be this dead!"
"Yet equines did not abandon it." I say seriously, guiding her to the place I saw the runes at.
"This is… so, so sad!"
You find the place on the street where you first saw the runes!
Yep, there they are still, looking as disgusting as ever.
"Help me ties these together." I ask her and start laying out the branches for the ritual
You start planting the branches, and she starts aiding you but you hear a voice from nearby.
"Wouldn't do that, if I was you, my friend."
…it's the bearded donkey check!
Leaf seems startled!
"Oh, its the Mayor. We're going to fix your town, isn't it great." I smile at him with a wave.
He purses his lips, shaking his head.
"Listen to me, son, please stop, or at least hear me out. I know you want to help, but don't do whatever you are doing."
"Don't worry about a thing. I know this will do the trick. Just get your traveling pack ready, you're going to need to find your citizens again."
"If you say it will, I trust you. But it could also kill you. Remember when I said the Celestials tried to disenchant it?"
He shuffles closer, making Leaf back up away. The stallion looks sad at her distrust.
"The reason why it is still killing the land is because it is still active, but it needs magic for it. It's dormant otherwise, the paladins have wards everywhere so it cannot feed off the magic from around everywhere else… but if you try a ritual, it will wake up again to unleash demons on you to stop you."
I frown at this news.
Consult with Leaf quietly. "Do you think that's true? We could go ask the Paladins at the Castle to guard us.
She frowns too, whispering."I don't know, look at him! How can you trust him? What if he is a demonologist keeping this thing active and just wants us to fail?"
I blink at the idea.
"No! He was so nice.. but..
" I pause recalling former tricks. "If he is here just to keep this thing active, having the paladins nearby to protect us will still work on him.
She nods again."So… do we ask them for help before we start, then?"
Then turn to the Donkey.
"You're right. Its not worth our lives to try this. We are just going to go rest at the castle now. You sure you won't join us?"
Pick up the branches just to be sure we still have them.
You collect all the materials.
He shakes his head.
"It may not seem much, but this is still my home. When I was voted mayor, I swore I will never abandon it."
"How could I lie to the ponies who trusted me?"
Go pat his back, with a very sad look.
"I'm sorry I couldn't help."
He shakes his head.
"You can… I just don't want you to die trying. I'm sure the paladins will listen to you."
Make a shocked face. Bluffing him.
"Oh no. We are just going to give up now. Tell the Paladins to leave. No reason they should die for a bit of land. You should move too."
He sighs, looking sad.
"If they leave, that means I will probably die out here on my own…"
He sits down.
"I will make my peace with it, if that's the case. I was just hoping I would see the grass grow on these streets and the flowers bloom before that happens."
"I'll come see you before I leave, take you to another town with grass."
And before he can reply ascend and quickly urge Leaf to follow me.
fly to the castle.
She flies close to you.
"…are we really leaving? But I want to help!"
Balcony or main gate?
"Of course we aren't leaving. I just wanted him to think that.. if he's really causing the runes to stay active, then he would definitely set up a trap if he thought we were going to try it."
Gate this time.
"Smart thinking! But what if he will do that anyway?"
The gates open in front of you as you approach.
You see the two robed monk unicorns.
You can see that Leaf blushes somewhat when she sees how handsome the duo is!
"Um…" I scrunch at the notion.
Then greet the two monks. "Hello, May we speak with the Lady of the house?"
"Oh yes, talks will be had."
"But not with our sister, I am afraid."
"It will be the Lord of the House."
"Our father is demanding your presence in his chambers."
"Do not worry about your guest."
"We shall guide her to the quarter where your family resides."
Leaf bites her lips, looking at you.
"Um… is that okay, Kelani."
The two stallions speak again.
"We do not want to make any misunderstandings."
"This is not a request."
"We apologize if this may seem rude to you."
"But our father is not as tolerant as the rest of his family."
Give my bags to Leaf
"Sorry about leaving you alone."
She takes them and nods to you.
"I'll be fine, don't worry about me."
The two stallions stand on both sides of her.
"You may go now."
"You will find his chamber at the top of the tower near the chapel."
"How should I address him?"
They both answer in unison.
"Lord Sidus of the Burning House.
"Lord Sidus of the Burning House." I practice it first.
They both nod, then turn to the bat.
"If you would."
They start leading her away!
To the top of the tower.
You flutter up the winding stairs to find a large mahagony door with an elaborate bronze knocker shaped like the head of a lion.
Knock, but not using the knocker, just my hoof.
You hear a scruff voice from inside.
As you do, you see that the top of the tower is a spacious study with a very simple, single cot in one corner. You see a large desk with papers and such, as well as racks for weapons and armor, a shelf lined with trophies…
One among them is a statue! The Lion statue!
…There's one right here, in this very room!
You also see an old stallion, his mane balding in the middle while the rest is done up in small spikes, some of them with grey streaks in it. The unicorn also has a stubble.
Most surprisingly though, he is… rather small. Despite his age, you are almost taller than he is, if not the same height.
He turns around, twirling a walking cane with a bladed tip in his magic as he looks at you before putting it to the ground and leaning onto it.
"You must be Kelani Rush, or so I have been told."
"I am he."
Approach and bow to him.
"Good day Lord Sidus of Burning House."
He waits for you to do so, then asks sternly.
"I assume you saw the sign for the circus in front of my castle."
"I'm sorry sir?" I blink in actual confusion.
"You have not?"
He knocks on the floor with his cane.
"Then why are you bringing a circus to my home? I have been lenient with having you as my guest, but that does not mean you can bring your own."
"There seems to be a misunderstanding. I brought the Druidess because she can assist with the problem the town below has. Indeed, we would have already preformed the ritual. Had the last remaining local not informed us that doing so would bring horrible demons upon us. Naturally, I wanted to get a second opinion on the matter." Wait for his reaction.
He eyes you up silently.
"It is true. The first time celestial priests tried to undo the curse, not only did they fail, they barely escaped with their lives and my children were left to clean up after them. What makes you think it will be different this time?"
"Because Nature herself gave me a vision of the ritual's success." I reply confidently.
"So you are a follower of Nature, granted by personal visions?"
He raises a brow.
"What is the privilige of druids, then?"
Oh, somepony might say their abilites and powers to interact with animals and plants, but you know that's not true, because in Nature, all are one! That's a basic principle of following nature not a lot of outsiders now!
"I am her follower. She acts through me, rather than me interacting with plants and animals."
I try to explain simply.
"She granted me this vision, because she wishes the curse on your lands lifted. So, I am here again, to carry out that wish."
He leans on his cane with his shoulder, raising a hoof to scratch his stubble.
"Nature followers have not tried yet… but I assume it includes some sort of ritual."
"It does. You seem most knowledgeable about Nature actually. Did you know that you have an artifact of hers here, in this very room?"
He glances at the Lion statue.
"Of course. It was a gift from a druid after we helped drive out heretics from Whitetail Woods."
Huh, whitetail woods… that may have been close to your town. Maybe even your very town!
"It must be very precious to you then."
"It is on the trophy shelf because I have earned it together with my wife, yes. I do not care of trinkets and baubles otherwise."
I give a deep thoughtful nod.
"I do not seek to deceive you Lord Sidus of the Burning House. Do you know the true purpose of that statue?"
"I have been told that when the time comes, it will awaken to an act of selfless bravery."
"Then you were told. Not many ponies know."
I relax a bit actually.
"The time for this statue and its siblings to act is upon us. May I take it to join them at its home in the temple grown by Nature herself from a walnut tree?"
He looks at it, falling silent.
He stays silent for about half a minute, deep in thought…
But then knocks on the ground with his cane and nods.
"If anypony will treat it with respect, it would be somepony like you."
"Thank you. I appreciate this more than I can state."
He picks it up in his field of levitation and floats it over to you.
"Please, take good care of it."
Hold it carefully.
Let the moment fade.
"So, regarding the ritual. I think it should be done as soon as possible."
"Nightfall nears. If we are going to let demons pour forth from Tartarus, we need to wait until daybreak. It is then when they are at their weakest. At night… they are at their strongest."
"In the morning then?"
"I will tell my able children to prepare."
"I will leave it to you." Bow to him and leave.
He nods back.
"Take care… but no more uninvited guests, no matter who they are!"
Whew… that went well!
That went. Really well.
Let's go to the room where my mother and my not-girlfriend are.
You arrive there…
When you enter, they seem to be both happily chatting, Leaf eating some of the salad that your mom prepared!
They both turn to you with a smile!
"Oh, there you are!"
"I won't be long, is that right, now that it's almost night?"
Leaf giggles as the older mare chides you!
I smile rubbing the back of my head.
"Actually we need to wait until morning, for the paladins to assist us."
"Oh, they gave me a room not far from here! They are very nice ponies!"
"That they are… sit down, Kelani!"
Your mom says, standing up.
"I know what you will do is probably going to be dangerous, so I'm not letting you go to bed hungry."
He smooches your cheek.
Leaf snickers again as the pegasus goes to get you a bowl.
"That's right, Kelani, be a good boy, otherwise you will not get to play with a good girl like me!"
The batpony poses to look angelic and cute!
As much as she can look angelic, with her leathery wings an all that!
"Awh, come on, I'm always good."
She lowers her voice to a whisper so your mother can't hear it."Good, I'd have to spank you with my wings if you were!"
She quickly sits back, looking innocent in her seat as the pegasus returns with the bowl, setting down in front of you as she sits down.
"What are you two murmuring about now, huh?"
I smirk at the naughty mare.
"Just something we saw on the way back here."
"This looks amazing." Dig into the food.
It tastes great too!
The two mares who already ate their dinner just chat about stuff, like Leaf telling you two about her village and how it has a bad reputation with some ponies but every batpony there is very kind and your mother telling her that she is here to work as a caretaker for a sick colt.
You finish your dinner, feeling full!
What a pleasant time. Join in by chatting about Whitetail woods and my hometown, and how everyone is a friendly farmer and the little diner with the best lemonade ever.
"Well, we have to get up at dawn, knowing paladin types, let's get to bed now."
They both nod and Leaf starts heading out, but your mother speaks.
"Kelani, can you stay behind? Just for a word."
The batpony smiles
"You can catch up!"
I wait here.
Once she leaves, the pegasus mare puts a hoof on your shoulder.
"Yesterday, you told me you may have met the one… she told me the two of you only met today…"
Her voice is not chiding or accusing more like… worried.
"That's right." I blink a few times before I put things together.
"oooh, that! Yes, I meant Lockbox. She's waiting for me back in Ponyville. A strong earth pony mare, she even saved me
a few times. Can you believe it?" I grin stupidly at the memory, lost for a moment.
Then wake up and speak normally again "Leaf is a druidess, I need her to do the ritual with me. She's.. lonely, her friends moved away, and she lives alone in the forest fighting undead."
"I understand, Kelani, just… please, I know you have a good heart, I can tell just by looking in your eyes, so make sure not to go around breaking the hearts of mares, okay?"
Well… at least Leaf probably knows that she is just together with you for a brief time and she seems okay with it, just like Joy was okay with it too!
I look a little surprised, actually, and lean on my chin giving it thought.
"Her heart? But we just met.. surely she isn't in love already.."
Your mother chuckles and ruffles your mane.
"I didn't mean her, silly. She looks just happy to be spending time with you and be with other ponies."
I sigh in relief.
"Oh good. I was worried for a moment."
"Just be careful with your one
She hugs you, then lets you go with a smile.
"Don't worry, I'll stop keeping you up now… but be very careful out there tomorrow, promise me that."
"The best paladin family around will be there, nothing can go wrong." I reply confidently and give her a kiss on the cheek.
"Goodnight, Kelani. See you tomorrow."
She smiles and heads off to her own room.
As you look on the corridor, you see that one door is slightly ajar and has a flower on the handle.
Ah, that must be it!
That's a good distance away from the other rooms too..
go look inside.
Yep, she's waiting inside already, on the bed.
She fakes a pout.
"Sorry, this bed only has three leaves on it."
What does she-oh, her cutie mark.
close the door
move over to her with a smirk
"Are you sure? Let's count them again."
and use my wing tips to touch her cutie mark.
"No wait, I missed one, gotta start over~"
"Oh no, do you need to take a closer look?"
"Definitely." Climb into bed with her, leaning down and giving each as kiss as I count.
"One.. Two.. Three." This of course leading to being a mere turn away from a 69 position
>>685581This is probably not what other people meant by 'get some rest for the big mission tomorrow' but it sure works as a morale booster! Not to mention you're left exhausted by the time you are both counted out.
You learn tonight that you do not need a blanket if you can just cuddle a batpony.
Their fur is still so soft it's unfair!
Who needs a blanket when you have soft fur and wings to share.
You waste some more time before actually falling asleep.
Said sleep almost feels too short when you hear a loud knock at the door.
Better go open it!
You stumble out of bed and go to open the door.
You see the absolutely stunningly beautiful pink unicorn mare in front of you, Blazing Heart, the lady of the house.
She looks you over, disheveled as you are, and glances at the perhaps even more messy bat on the bed, then chuckles knowingly.
"I was right to guess that I will have to wake you two early, so you may… clean up and get ready. You two are crucial to this ritual, after all, from what I have been told."
I act overly embarrassed about it.
"Right. I'll go wake her and get a bath."
She seems rather amused.
"I shall leave you to it. I will be back in about 30 minutes, do try and be ready by then."
after a pause close the door and go nudge the bat pony awake
She stretches her legs and wings, eyes still closed with a smile, then looks at you.
"Morning Leaf, I'd say Morning Dew, but we slept too long already. Let's get in the bath."
She nods, still rolling around the bed.
"Get it ready for me, please?~"
Oh this lazy little bat!
"Oh, fine, but we only have 20 minutes!"
Go get the water running
You draw a bath! By the time it is done, she shows up too, quickly getting in the water.
Time to get cleaned up then.
Make sure to get the more important areas first, like the parts ponies would notice
You do so, and thankfully she helps you out too!
"You remember the chant?"
"I do, thanks to that birdy. Do you?"
"I think so." I quickly repeat it back to myself
You have it all memorized too!
In no time the two of you are squeaky clean and have all the materials for the ritual ready!
"Time to get to the group."
Meet up with the paladins.
The sun is not even up yet.. Which is good, you suppose.
You meet them in front of the castle.
The twins, instead of their robes, now wear heavy plate armor shining with gold and white both of them armed with flails.
Blazing Heart only wears lighter armor that grants higher mobility, brandishing short sword.
You even see the old, rugged stallion of the house… wearing no armor aside from a tiara and only having the walking cane as a weapon… weird.
Leaf looks a bit awkard.
"Um, are you sure this is necessary?"
Lord Sidus tilt his head.
"You would rather finish your ritual in peace, wouldn't you?"
"I'm not actually sure how many demons might come when we attempt this." I assure her with a wing pat on the back.
"Its what we should do."
She nods again, and your little entourage all goes down to the town.
As you arrive at the demonic glyphs, the paladins spread out to cover each area and the nearby ruins.
You see the old stallion mutter something… and to your surprise, in a flash of unicorn magic, his walking cane turns into a very
deadly looking glaive.
While they do that, I'll get the branches set up and tied together.
You and Leaf both start to get set up on that.
You get further than yesterday and complete the circle.
The moment you do, you feel something wet drop onto your muzzle.
…rain? But it is not overcast.
touch the wet spot to investigate it, what is it?
You touch it and bring your hoof in front of your face… It has a wet spot of deep crimson on it.
More drips of red are starting to fall all around you, most of the ponies glancing around, all except the stallion.
"This is a threat. A warning. They want us to fear them before they come. Stand fast. Start the ritual and let us handle them."
The dripping soon starts to turn into a drizzle…
"I'm not intimidated."
Hold onto leaf's hoof, guiding her to the center of the circle, staring confidently into her eyes, using a wing as an umbrella for us.
You aren't, but she does look rather spooked.
This is… rather unnatural, yes, but it cannot be real.
As you two hold hooves in front of each other, the glyphs suddenly light up with a sickly purple glow.
Soon after, you hear strange sounds and growls from the direction of the ruins.
"Here they come. My sons and daughter, stand fast, you have dealt with worse at a younger age. They are merely mindless monsters. Show them no mercy."
Squeeze her hoof to keep her attention on me, then.
Start chanting, pushing my forehead against hers.
She clenches her eyes closed, muzzle to muzzle with you, chanting the ancient divine ritual.
Despite your own voices, the snarls turn to growls, often quickly turning into pained deathrattles.
Nothing has bothered you yet!
Chat even louder, trying to drown out the sounds. '1d10'Roll #1 3 = 3
Both of you do, but it hardly works…
Still, despite everything, the sounds do sound more quiet… the paladins are driving the demons back! And the chant is about to be done!
Then the kiss is about to happen, I chant more joyfully in anticipation .
It is drawing ever closer, yes…
You even feel the unholy rain has stopped…
As soon as it ends, Leaf and you both move in perfect coordination, kissing each other passionately!
You don't even need to open your eyes to feel the tickling of the fresh grass sprouting under your hooves!
Don't open my eyes until the kiss is over and we step apart from each other.
The two of you keep your licks locked for almost half a minute more before parting.
As you look around, you see beautiful flowers and grass everywhere and the trees that were all charred and withered black are quickly sprouting leaves and growing strong, brown barks!
You see the paladins are all covered in blood, but none of them are actually hurt… impressive.
Leaf frowns, though.
"The glyph… why is it not gone?"
You glance at it at see that the glyphs are indeed still there, glowing menacningly, as if cracks were running through them…
I get a very angry look
Take off flying looking for the old donkey. '1d10'Roll #1 3 = 3
You flap your wings, just in time to hear a sound like glass shattering and the glyphs break…
Leaving behind a whirlpool of demonic power! Leaf grabs onto your forehooves, just managing to beat her wings in time, but she is about to be sucked inside this portal if you don't help her! You were lucky to have been airborne!
"Don't let go!"
'1d10' pull us away from the portalRoll #1 7 = 7
You pull her up and away and she lets out a nervous giggle.
"Oh, oh Mother… for a moment there I thought…"
You never hear the end of that sentence though. You got her away safely, and yourself too, far enough away to not be sucked in or fall in…
But you couldn't really anticipate the slimy, tongue like tentacles to lash out and grab you around your neck and legs, pulling you!
Then you feel… nothing. Darkness, no sounds, only a nauseatuing feeling of the world being yanked out from under and around you… exactly
the feeling you get when you use the portals of Mirage, only this time it lasts about a minute instead of a few seconds…
You realize you are alive when you involuntarily take a deep breath, your neck no longer grasped by anything.
Hoover here getting my bearings again.
You hear a strange noise above you, and see the swirling portal of demonic energy disappear.
You blink a few times and look around.
Barren landscapes… unfathomably deep, dark gorges… jagged, spiky rocks tall as mountains… no signs of anything natural anywhere…
Are you trapped in Tartarus? Was this the real defense measure of those glyphs?
I squint looking for anything alive then
'1d10'Roll #1 3 = 3
Nothing you can see nearby…
You scan around.
In the very, very far distance, something you initally mistook for mountains moves, though… Looks like a demon of uncomprehensible size, locked in eternal battle with a primodial elemental titan… the sheer size of those things makes you shiver. Thankfully, it looks far enough away that it would take a day of travel to get there.
…which also implies that Tartarus is larger than you were lead to believe… but how will you get out?!
I must have gotten in here
, I mean just check the ground here for where the tentacle came from.
'1d10'Roll #1 4 = 4
You look around… there is nothing alive here.
It must have been actually part of the portal!
But there is a way in! You have heard the legends about the Three-Headed Hound, Cerberus guarding it! That must mean there is a way out!
Did I bring anything like chalk in here?
You didn't even have your saddlebags on you, you were naked for the ritual, since it required you to be at your most natural state.
You don't have anything on you.
Punch the ground here, can I make a mark? '1d10'Roll #1 5 = 5
You can scrape the thick dirt to make a mark, yes.
Make a mark like a leaf
and an arrow pointing a direction, since I can't tell which way any direction is.
then once that's done, walk that wayRoll #1 6 = 6
You mark your way to make sure you don't get lost or ever circle back around to where you started from.
You do see that there are several high platues, some of them holding what appears to be caged beats and monsters… these things are connected by a set of jagged stone stairs.
You think you could fly over them too, but the unnatural darkness of the gorges makes you a bit tentative about that prospect.
As you start descending the stairs, you hear a voice from a nearby platue, connected with stairs. It sounds sick, weak and thinly.
"And who are you, then?"
Shit, its probably a demon. Okay. Make a gravelly voice as I reply and look intimidating about it.
"I am Dantinio, wind demon of the south!"Roll #1 2 + 2 = 4
You pull an intimidating voice that would scare and convince any mortal!
As you finish your speech and turn to look you see that thankfully, the voice has come from a cage.
The beast inside is so unnatural your heart skips a beat.
Inside the cage, you see the body of a spindly, greyish red pony… but where the head is supposed to be you instead see a torso like that of a diamond dog with long hands ending in fingers like that of a monkey…
The head has two, small black horns on both sides, the bull-like nose of the demon pierced with a ring.
You see all four of his legs are shackled and there are weird metal braces on his wrists too.
The creature lets out a sickly chuckle at your, from his perspective, meager attempt.
"Is he friend or is he foe, the pony wonders. I can assure you… I am no
friend. I can assure you cannot fool me either, for I am Lord Tirek!
The Demon Prince who almost caused the downfall of Equestria? The one who rivaled even the power of gods? The demon many of the cultists sacrifice with their rituals to draw on his powers?
"Shit.. I guess pretending to be a demon wouldn't work on you."
"Fool… do you think we do not sense the essence of life
down here? The essence demons will try to get but never have… the pony soul
"Actually I didn't know about that. What's it feel like?" Don't get too close to him, just circle the cage to go around .
He grabs the bars of his cage, his shackles jangling.
"The craving for pony magic? For a pony soul? Unbearable
. Even now I can only think about ripping your soul away to grant me the power to escape this prison."
"You are lucky you are a pegasus."
"I'm not lucky. I got sent here naked."
"You are a lost soul here, little pony. If I, the Lord of Darkness cannot get out of this blasted hellscape, what chance would you have even if you were not naked?"
"Yea.. but at least I could live in style." I suggest cheerfully. "Since I'm meeting a Lord, I could have worn my bow tie."
He blows air out of his nose, making his ring sway and throws himself against his cage, his hands grasping at you. You are smart enough to give it a wide enough berth that he cannot harm you.
"You dare mock me
"Of course not, Lord Tirek." I reply seriously.
"I don't find any of this funny."
He backs off.
"Make yourself useful, do not die in vain. Find me a pure unicorn, that I may steal their magic, and I will reward you handsomely. I will help you escape."
Give him a curious look.
"Just a moment… you said you couldn't escape."
"Not like this! Your pegasus flight is useless
to me! I need the magic of unicorns to be strong enough to defeat that damned mongrel!"
Blink a bit
"And you think that there is a pure unicorn to give you that magic… in this place?"
"I know there is at least unicorn down here… used to be a paladin… now he is one of us. Thinking he can use demonic magic against us. His soul would be a start, enough to open up portals to the surface."
"I see… so its not the same as demonolgist portals after all.."
"Tartarus is everywhere and nowhere. Gates that lead through tartarus are the fastest way between two points… but I am talking about portals. Portals can lead out. You do not want to spend the rest of your life here, do you?"
"Well, not really. I just don't get how it can work.. I thought you needed someone on the surface world to call you."
"You doubt my followers?"
He chuckles weakly and points a finger at the tip of one of your forehooves.
"I can see the stain on you. You have been touched by fel
magic. It can only have been from one of my followers… if they reached you, they can reach many. Enough to summon me when they know the time is neigh."
Look at the hoof!
It seems normal! You don't see anything wrong with it!
You try and think back…That one night you were with the demonologist girl… she was summoning green flames from her hoof but didn't even wince… you asked her "Doesn't that hurt?"
and reached into the green flames, quickly learning it does indeed hurt…
But how could you have known that… somehow stains you? Makes demons recognize you, even!
…Was she marking you on purpose for Mirage
I frown at it.
"I see. Well. I'll just go look for that paladin. And probably die. Paladins are better at fighting then me."
"You are no demon…"
He starts chuckling weakly, pressing against the cage and grabbing the bars with his hands.
"….Are you saying I can be? Isn't that something you're born with? "
Lord Tirek, Master of Darkness… makes a motion and voice like he was about to retch and throw up.
? Demons do no such thing. They are either strong enough to create themselves or are created."
"So you don't actually rape pure maidens, letting the resulting offspring devour the mare, for the demon to gain full strength when its born?"
He makes a disgusted wretching motion again.
"You filthy, disgusting creature of nature… we may steal forms, souls and bodies, but we do not steep that low. No true
"I see.. are there untrue demons then?"
Lord Tirek snarls.
"Mongrels and misbegotten degenerates calling themselves demons."
"I see.. are changelings true demons?"
"Feeding on love
He makes a retching motion again.
"They are not even fake demons. They are a mix of… nature and magic, but nothing to do with my brethren."
"No? What about krakens?"
Lord Tirek steps away from the bars of his cage, making his shakles rattle.
"Stop wasting my time, mortal! Find me the soul!
and claim you due reward!"
"As you wish m'lord." Do a little bow and fly off.
You briefly bow down before a deity that is the anthitesis of everything you fight for then fly off.
Once he is out of sight, you do feel a shiver and the need to take a deep breath…
He looked weak and powerless in there, sure, but despite being locked up and shackled he had such… presence to him. No wonder he is the lord of all demons, and he is quite charismatic too… even though not like you are.
I wonder if this will come back to bite me…
well, I need to find this guy either way.
'1d10' look for signs of a paladinRoll #1 9 = 9
You soon leave behind the prison plateus…
Worryingly enough, you see multiple cages are broken and empty and you don't even want to imagine the force or ferocity needed to make those barriers bend like that…
It takes a bit of wandering, but you do eventually find definitive signs of a paladin, grim as they are…
You start seeing deceased demon corpses. These demons, they do share one thing, they look nothing like anything Mother Nature has created. All of them look similar
to something, but there are always major flaws that make them feel… off. There are demons that look like furless dogs with spiky spines, there are creatures with tentacles instead of legs or ones that have no lower body at all and you have to imagine they floated or flew while they were alive. Their common trait is they all look like they have stolen parts of different animals and turned them into a twisted mockery of Mother Nature's work.
The other common trait they share, which must be a sign of the Paladin, is all of these dead demon corpses have their heads impaled by a sharp bone (always one of their own), the end of the bones bearing carvings of the sun and the moon… some sort of ward or talisman to stop them from coming back, you have to assume. Better not disturb those bones then.
That's a clear trail alright.
You have to wander for quite some time… after all, there is no telling how old those corpses have been, since unlike the mortal realm, in Tartarus, the corpses of demons do not turn to ash or decay. Still, these ones are clearly forming a path along a patrol of this paladin.
You cannot tell how much time has passed (you do not feel any more thirsty, tired or hungry, strangely enough) but you soon hear combat! There is a rock you can hide out behind to peek!
A rock, sounds, totally safe.
Hide there. '1d10' sneakyRoll #1 7 = 7
You sneaky sneak behind it and take a peek.
You see an equine shaped demon, easily the size of a haycart with a bull-like head an large spines growing out of its shoudlers.
Opposite of him you see… the… Paladin?
It is a pony stallion… for the most part.
His left hindleg is missing, replaced by a sharp bone shaped like a blade with strange, purple tumorous growth that look like a demonic mockery of muscle and flesh. Instead of a tail, he has a growth that looks like the stinger of a manticore, ready to strike. For a second, you think his right forehoof is wrong too, but then quickly realize it is a gauntled formed out of demon bones serving as a wearable weapon.
You also see leather straps on his side carrying faded holy texts, blades and several other small weapons and wards made out of bones.
More disturbingly, you see he has the strange, demonic fleshy growth around his horn too, spreading even above his left eye, making the white of his left eye look a sickly shade of red and yellow.
Despite his sickening and tainted appearance, he moves with speed that defies reason and the larger but slow and sluggish demon has no chance to defend itself from the pony jumping on its back and impaling its skull with a bone-ward, the lights in the eyes of the demon fading as it dies.
Whistle at his performance.
He quickly looks up from the corpse, jumping off, hoof-weapon at the ready and stinger posed to strike.
"Who are you? Show yourself!"
Come out calmly.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you, are you a pony?"
He approaches you cautiously, and the fleshy tumour around his horn pulsates and you see a faint glow from the inside as one of his bone wards float out and in front of you.
"The better question is, are you?
He motions with his head as the ward is in front of you.
"Cut yourself with that."
"Looks gross." I pick it up turning it around in my hoof.
It is sharpened to be a blade on one end, the other end full of the sun and moon carvings.
He narrows his eyes, his manticore-like tail still ready to strike.
"Do it. Prove you are not one of them."
He looks awfully jumpy and jittery… probably not the most sound of mind.
Guess I have to do it. Cut my forehoof a little.
It is just a small cut.
As you do it, he drops his bone gauntlet and takes your hoof in his, leaning close to look at it, then up at you.
"You… you are a pony. You are real, you're… here. I'm not alone… I'm no longer, it's not just… not just me."
He starts pacing up and down, hobbling slightly due to his left hindleg being more like an organic blade-peg.
"How… why are you here?"
A pause rubbing my mane to think of how to explain. "I have a really demanding lady."
He stops and turns to you, even more confused.
"…you came down here for a lady? I'm sorry to say, there are no ponies alive down here. Only demons and monsters."
"Not just any lady. A goddess. And… she didn't exactly say this would happen."
He advances on you again, although his tail stinger is not raised this time.
"Which Goddess? Princess Celestia? Princess Luna?"
"Mother Nature. I was breaking a demonic curse in her name. To breathe life and growth back into a dead town. I had no idea that when I broke the curse a portal would open up and bring me here."
"Ah… Nature… I see, it is… it is good, though her followers are good ponies, simple but good…"
He shakes his head.
"She probably didn't know. How could she? How could even a deity be privy to the tricks of these filthy demons?"
I look completely shocked.
"Are you saying there are things Mother Nature doesn't know?"
"She knows only about her children."
He takes up his bone gauntlet and motions at the nearby dead demon.
"She cannot even begin to comprehend the taint of demons. She hates them and fears them because she does not know them."
My wings get poofed up in an aggressive pose.
"She knew how to break their spell, something Celestia's followers couldn't do."
"She knew her own
He looks you over, unfazed by your ruffled feathers.
"The followers of Princess Celestia draw their magic out of things like… light and hope. You can't fix dead land with only hope. Mother Nature knows how to fix her own land, yes."
He looks you in the eyes.
"But she doesn't know the consequences of her actions. Look at the 'natural' weather over the Everfree, it's just like she is. Unpredictable. She loves her children that much I know, but she has an awful temper and does not always think through her actions."
Okay, now I'm mad. Stare back at him with a glare and a growl in my voice.
"Take that back! Right now."
"Or what? Do you think my
deities are any better?"
He takes out a bone blade and flips it around with his magic, showing you he carvings of sun on it.
"Princess Celestia could fix all the wrongs of the world with a wave of her horn and the Elements of Harmony, yet she sits on her flanks doing nothing."
He flips it over, showing the moon carvings.
"Princess Luna let her hatred control her and turned into Nightmare Moon who whispers to ponies in their dream with her poisionous words, subduing what little is of left of her so only her true believers can her hear true voice."
He sheathes the blade.
"Doesn't make them any less worthy of our praise."
"And look around you. It's not that any of that matters down here. Down here you cling onto what you believe in with everything you've got or this place will wear you down and what little is left of your soul will blow away like sand in a gust of wind."
Huff into the air.
"Well, you don't sound insane. The demons said you were."
"You have been talking to demons? They send you to kill me? Take my soul? You let them drip their poision in your ears?"
He takes a deep breath and holds his head in a hoof.
insane, but the loneliness and the corruption and the pain… it gets harder and harder to find every day, until I'm afraid one day I will be nothing left of me anymore."
Well…he does already look like he has quite a few demonic parts.
"I stopped to ask for directions. Not like there are any… maps down here. They wouldn't help me." I shrug.
"something about there being no source of magic down here. But. " Tap my head where a horn would grow. "You still have magic, can't you open a way out?"
"I could, if I wanted to. I know how their magic works, and the horn of a unicorn is a perfect catalyst to cast the spell."
He taps his own head near his horn surrounded by the fleshy growth.
"But I'm not going to. I'm not leaving."
"I'm not opening a gate to the outside world. I'm not leaving. I have a duty to fulfill here."
"I see.. Well then. …Would you open one for me?"
"I would need your help for it. These demons, they do not have magic as we know it… but they can feed and store… raw power. The more they have, the stronger they are. And they can syphon a lot from a pony soul."
He looks you over.
"If I want to open a portal that doesn't collapse as you're halfway to the surface, we'll need some of that power back from a very big demon. Not a mindless pawn like these corpses. One that is more dangerous than any other not by fang and claw but by cunning. I never lost any part of me to the lowly minions."
He motions over his demonic parts.
"All that I have lost have been from battles with foes that weren't better but smarter than me."
Uh. Pat his back. "Everyone makes mistakes.."
He punches the ground, cracking the rocks with the force of the bone-gauntlet.
"I should not… let those demons take me for a fool. Not ever. Every victory they win is another part of me gone, another part of my… ponydom less that I can cling to until I am nothing but dust."
I stare at him for a long minute.
Wondering a great deal of things.
"One thing I heard is.. there is no time here, but endless time here."
"If that's true, then you have, we have, endless time to recover your stolen parts."
He shakes his head.
"You won't need food, you won't need water, you won't need a bed to rest your eyes on… but what is lost is lost forever."
He takes a deep breath, regaining his composure.
"What is dead here stays dead. You can kill a demon on the surface but it will do nothing to them, they will just return here, lick their wounds and wait for another chance to ravage anything that could bring joy and hope and beauty to ponies… that is why I have to be here. Kill them here. There is nowhere to escape. For them… or for me."
In the silent barren lands.
As I take in that information.
Then finally breathe out and speak. "Then how did you mean that we need to get power from the demons that stole it from you?"
"They stole parts of me and… refined
it into their power."
He says with disgust.
"But they have more power. Corrupted souls of ponies who helped them. Pure soulds who were sacrificed to them."
He narrows his eyes.
"If we somehow manage to kill one… the raw power their bodies will have will be more than enough to be used as fuel for tartarian magic."
"Alright…. Gotta be honest, I'm not much of an assassin, I tried once or twice but.. uh, it didn't work out, need more training for it."
He looks you over.
"You could be bait."
I flex a bit.
"Oh yea? You think there is a demoness around? I could definitely work some" flex a wing here. "Distractions. Her way."
He gives you a weird look.
"Your… soul being tasty for a demon lord will be more than enough."
"…my soul? Is that the same thing as my ability to fly? Because I'm really kinda attached to that one." I cradle my wing in my hooves.
"They won't be able to hurt you. I won't let them."
He thinks for a few moments.
"But we would have to pick the demon carefully… as I said, they are not easily decieved."
Relax sitting by him.
"Okay, the planning stage. I'm good at this one. Tell me about the possible targets."
"There are ones that are too powerful or too well protected for this…"
He takes off one of his bags and opens them, taking out some parchments… parchments that seem to be made out of tanned demon skin.
"That leaves us with… two."
He unravels two parchments, both of them drawings made with charcoal from the looks of it.
One of them portrays a demon with the shape of a diamond dog, but very, very fat… not to mention having four clawed arms. A little image of a pony beside him would seem to imply he is the size of a small house. His head is also… unspeakable and undescribable and even the drawn recreation makes you sick.
The other one seems to have the lower body of some centipede, ending in an upper body that looks vaguely pony-like bu with griffin-like talons and crude, leathery wings. The comparison pony would imply this demon is tall, but not much larger than a pony.
"The first one looks slow, and the second one looks like it could overtake even a wonderbolt in a race."
"It is slow, yes, but incredibly strong, he could crush your spine like breaking a twig… and do not forget, these ones are clever
"Well.. alright let's see.. where do they stay? Any mountains or something I could lure them through so I have room to weave and dodge?"
"The first one we need to lure out of its hole that it is hiding in… the other one… it is usually on the move… but it is careless, it sometimes leaves trails for me to follow, little sheds of its carapace…"
He looks you over.
"If we split up to look for some to speed this up, can I trust you not to get lost?"
I put a hoof up in the air. "Whoa, and just what should I do if I find one first? Without you there to kill it?"
"Finding it is more than enough… we can use it to summon it. It will have no choice but to obey a summon, even down here."
I look really really
"I think I'll stick with you. Let's go to the large one. Do you know what.. it likes? What would get its attention?"
"That won't be any less dangerous, but we can do it. It does like the taste of pony meat, not just soul…"
You see him glance at his… demonically weaponized hindleg.
"Let's go then. It will be a long trek."
"…So like a shark? The scent of blood?" Walk along with him.
"…you could say that, yes. Like that."
As you start making your way across the barren landscapes… your ear sometimes picks up something that vaguely sounds like a distant scream, but you can't tell if it's just your imagination or not.
This is very disturbing.
You keep walking but you see the Paladin freeze up, raising his tail in a defensive position and grasping his bone-gauntlet.
You see his ears swivel.
"Hellhounds. A whole damned pack. They got our scent!"
You soon hear the snarling too…
"…" I realize I have no weapons, and then fly away. '1d10+1'Roll #1 6 + 1 = 7
You fly away safely!
Unfortunately, your paladin friend cannot fly and gets bogged down in combat, but he is doing well from the looks of it.
You hear more subdued shrieking around you… perhaps stopping now would be not wise.
'1d10+1' Yea.. just gonna keep flying, and hope that 'hell hounds' don't fly tooRoll #1 3 + 1 = 4
You manage to fly away and hide out inside a small ravine, out of sight.
You start catching your breath when you hear the screams again, this time much closer!
… the demon lord lands in front of you.
Oh, it was the wings of this thing that sounded like screams as they pierced the air. You're not sure if that is a more comforting thought or not.
It is the second target, the one that looks like a cross between a centipede, a bat and a dragon.
It raises a hand, speaking in a voice that sounds like… a middle aged mare, oddly.
"Do not be alarmed. Do not try to run."
I look as composed as possible, like a horse who is really a wind demon. Make an intimidating pose with my wings too.
"Who are you?"
It looks you over with a bemused expression.
"If you were a demon, you would not have to ask."
"Are you reading my thoughts?" I look suspicious of her, and think about summoning rock golems like its familiar to me.
"No. I was just reading your body language. The most subtle hints. The way you tried your best to look like you are not afraid… an actor, are you? Nothing is hiding your cutie mark down here. Demons don't have those. We don't have our destinies."
Oh… crap, that's right! Your cutie mark is a dead giveaway!
I scoff a bit and relax my pose, looking upset.
"Well don't say it too loudly, I don't want that paladin to hear I'm just a lowly actor."
"I have to give it to you, you are smarter than he is. I was hoping you would be an imbecile enough and follow his plan to split up and look for pieces of my carapace to summon me. Now… I had to send my minions in to seperate the two of you."
"Couldn't want to have me all alone for a private show I see." I reply with a wink
Her face turns into one of disgust and she raises one of he clawed hands.
"Leave that to the succubus. I have a… propositon for you, involving one."
I sigh a bit, putting my hoof on my head.
"Sorry, its just so lonely down here, and the only pony around is a male! Not even one with a cute voice like yours."
"I am sure that my familiar will be able to take care of all your… disgusting needs while the two of you are on your way out."
"Wait your familiar? I thought you were talking about a succubus."
She… no, it, chuckles.
"What, you thought only your kind could enslave demons? The weak will always obey the strong, especially when they are trapped together."
"Studying demons is actually heresy, Not like I could look it up at the library." I say defensively.
Then curiously. "So, wait, what's this about? You uh.. need me to feed your slave?"
"I need you to do whatever it is you ponies do with succubi."
She… no, IT! It clearly has a distaste for this topic.
"After that, I she will go with you to the surface. I will need her out there once I am out myself."
She gives you a dark look.
"I will be free from this wretched place without needing the help of such lesser species, but I will need a familiar out there and for that I need you to take her out."
The demon folds her large wings and starts skittering around you with its many legs.
"In exchange, I can get you
out of here. Before you know it."
I smile at her.
"Interesting proposal, but there must be something more to it. "
It keeps cirlcing around you, the many icky legs making a pitter-patter on the barren rocks.
"That's it. You take a simple, harmless demon out with you and you are out. Nothing more to it."
"Ah, but how would the paladin ever agree? He's sworn to kill every demon in this place, even the harmless ones."
"He won't. You don't need him to get out. His plan is suicide. Mine is guaranteed freedom."
I look a bit confused.
"What are you going to use as the magic to power the portal?"
"A portal? No. You will go to the river Styx. Once you are there, I will give you a tarnished coin, the only thing Charon, the boatpony will accept to take a soul back to the surface. And as he does, you will take my familiar with you."
It stops in front of you and crosses its claws in front of itself.
"It is that simple."
"Oh. I have
heard of that actually. So that's how it really works. Huh."
I smile like a pony who just learned the tooth fairy was real or something.
You're pretty sure Charon only guides the souls that are lost to the afterlife, ones who are not embraced by any deity… or he dumps them here if they were bad, evil ponies.
The demon lord nods.
"Tarnished coins, the only way back are, as you may imagine, rather rare. I doubt you can find one on your own… in time. Before something happens to you. My offer still stands, then."
"What will you do on the surface?"
"You misunderstand. I will
get out, with or without your help."
It circles around you again.
"But you need not worry. We can have a cordial accord on the surface too. I do not plan to burn down any villages or slaughter innocents. I do not plan to escape this realm just to be banished to it again by zealots."
I watch her circling, trying to judge how fast she is.
"That sounds too good to be true? You're not planning to eat fillies and colts?"
You could easily outrun her if she just skittered… but her wings are rather large and imposing, even when folded. You can definitely outrun her but you may have trouble out-flying her.
"Let me put this on terms your simple mind can understand… if you were trapped in a prison but managed to get out, what would you do? Hide and enjoy your freedom or make the whole world know you are free by commiting hienous crimes?"
"Well.. I mean I'm not a demon, but I have heard they enjoy
doing horrible things." I give here a concerned stare.
She stops in front of you.
"I told you alredy. Whether you get out or die down here is not a concern to me. You should stop worrying and tell me if you want to accept my propositon or perish."
I look a bit annoyed.
"And now you're threatening my life too. Do you even have
a succubus familiar? Familiars are like, cats and birds and stuff. Maybe you lied about that the same as you liked about being friendly." Start to walk away!
The demon lord does not follow you.
"Walk away, if you wish, but at least have the common decency to answer a yes or no question. She will guide you to the river, should you answer yes."
I look back at her with something of pity.
"Sorry. My girlfriend would be really pissed with me if I brought some succubus home. I have to say no."
Then cautiously fly away from her.
The demon lord narrows its eyes.
"So it is."
It spreads the huge wings and takes off, the wings creating that awful shrieking as it goes…
It is awfully silent again after that.
Let's go look for the paladin
You fly towards the direction you think you came from… It takes a bit of flying around until you see the telltale signs of his passing…
A dozen hellhound corpses, all motionless with bone charms in their skulls.
Keep flying this way.
You keep flying in this direction.
You soon see the paladin, sitting on his haunches. You see the fleshy growth around his horn pulsate with strange light.
You wince when you see he has quite a few severe wounds all healing at an unnatural rate, gashes and tears closing before your eyes.
He seems to be… praying as he is doing this, with closed eyes.
sit nearby and don't interrupt him.
His ears twitch as you sit down and he opens his eyes briefly, closing it again when he sees it is you.
He keeps praying a desperate prayer to both Princesses, finishing only once his wounds are healed.
He groans standing up.
"Are you hurt? Did you manage to escape in time? I tried to hold them off as best as I could."
"I was not hurt. Merely tested." I reply.
He looks confused.
"Tested by who?"
pickpocket the picture of the flying demoness and show it to him in silence.
You quickly grab it out of his pack to show him.
"What… what happened? What did it do to you? How are you still alive?"
He sounds very concerned!
"She wanted what all demons seem to want, to make a deal for her freedom." Shake my head.
"Nature, Celestia, Luna.. the three don't usually agree on anything, but all agree that demons cannot
exist in our world."
"Who I am, to think to make exceptions."
"You did good, yes… but how did you manage to escape with your life?"
He suddenly levitites most of his weapons out, raising his stinger.
"Is it still following you?"
"More than likely. She seems to have enslaved other demons, those dogs you fought were her minions."
I stretch and go to one of the dog corpses actually, can I break off anything for a weapon?
You could try to break off one of those sharp spines to use as a shiv.
"… I should have thought the lords would send minions but… if that is the case, and you passed the test… it will no doubt notify the other demon lords. I am not sure what we can do next."
"Do you know the way to the River Styx?"
"I do, yes, we can make it there fast if we keep our wits around us and avoid any nastier demons… why?"
"I can leave from there. I need something called a tarnished coin."
He stops, and starts pacing.
"That will not be easy to get… but… I do believe one of the demon lords hoards whatever it can… it must have one of those things, too."
"Stealing form a treasure horde? Now this
sounds like my kind of mission."
"In that case if you are good at that, I can be the distraction."
"But we need to get there first."
"Right. Its gonna be dangerous."
'1d10' break off a spike to use as a weaponRoll #1 1 = 1
You see one of the largest spine-spikes that seems like it could be a good weapon…
You start twisting and yanking it until it eventually breaks…
When it does, it makes WAY more noise than it had any right doing and you feel a wave of cold, dark magic wash through you, expanding in a circle, chilling you to the bone…
You feel as if you just tripped a security alarm of some sort…
The paladin gasp.
"What? That… no.. this… you just… something enchanted that spine to do that when breaking… probably to get me! Something… something will be coming, we have to move!"
I step back dazed, but hold onto the spine anyway.
"right, lead the way."
He starts galloping away, surprisingly fast despite he just recently finished healing from some grievious wounds.
"Whatever it is… I don't know how they did it, but they will be tracking us now… but how? How did they know?"
He seems to mutter to himself as you go.
You have one large sharp spine for weapons now!
fly after him! '1d10+1' fsatRoll #1 4 + 1 = 5
You can keep an even pace with him but can't quite catch up!
He might be missing a leg, but all those demonic growths on him are apparently giving him power…
But demons are quick too.
'1d10' try to be sneaky now.Roll #1 10 = 10
You seem to arrive at some strange mountain… on a second look, you realize it is the decapitated head of an Earth Titan! Once a primodial champion of the elements back before life existed and the continents and seas were nothing but a battleground for the elements… those who were not willing to retreat to their elemental planes were banished here. This one must have died to something aeons ago, it's pony-like head the size of a mountain, mouth wide open to form a cave.
The Paladin looks at you, still looking worried.
"We cannot waste time… whatever set that trap will be onto us soon… what you are looking for is inside. You will know the tarnished coin when you see it. I will… distract the demon that lives here to hoard."
There are many nooks and crannies in the cracked stone head of this titan… little light, lots of shadows, many crevices… you can stealth is going to be a non-issue.
No need to roll to get by anything or to re-enter stealth as long as you are near this area.
"Get an old coin, get out, don't get caught. Got it." I tell him and sneak my way inside the cave-mouth
There are quite a few beast-like demons sniffing and snarling at the mouth of the mouth-cave, but they are dumb and animalistic, making it super easy to slip past them. It is only when you start making your way inside that the cave narrows and you see a strange metal door… With two guards.
One of them is a demon that has the shape of a minotaur, only his upper body is covered in scales, he has three pairs of large-bull-like horns and his hands end in wicked, jagged claws.
The other one is… that must be a succubus.
Long, snake-like spaded tail, slit-iris, scales at the tips of her hooves, batlike wings and a twisted horn. Very much mare-like parts though, quite visible as she is rolling around the dirt with her legs spread.
"Guuuuuuh! I am sooooooooo bored! Can't we go check what the commotion outside is? Maybe it's something to play with."
"Pretty please? It's your fault we are back here anyway!"
"Don't you ever shut up? We guard good and we get to go up again. You can eat as many souls as you want and… do that disgusting thing you do."
"Eheh, it is rather fun! The suckers never see it coming!"
Opening that large door will no doubt make a huge racket. You'll have to figure out something to get past these two, and they seem to be more dangerous demons due to being able to think and talk!
Let's try this.
Go to the opening and throw a rock at one of the large beasts, mimicking the scaly minotaur's voice.
"HAHA YOU ARE DUMB!
while being hidden.
You manage to mimic it rather well, can't quite get as deep but the intonation is the same!
You see that outside the cave, the paladin is actually fighting multiple smaller, weaker demons at once, but it looks like whatever is controlling these ones hasn't given the order to go and kill yet.
However, orders or not, your pebble throwing and rude remarks manage to really
piss of a demon with a body like a bear but with six paws and no fur and a head like a crocodile!
It begins coming the way you are, not knowing where you are, but following your rock throws an your voice! This bait worked!
Try luring it back to the door with more rock tossing
You lure it back bit by bit until it sees the minotaur-like creature and starts charging!
The succubus, still rolling in the dirt in boredom quickly jumps out of the way and the other one has no time to react, being tackled!
He groans in frustration and pain as the beastly demon claws and bites at it and begins to try wrestling it off!
Now to involve the demoness.
Use the minotaur impression, while hiding somewhere kinda close so it could sound like its from him, and sound embarrassed. "You know.. we could do that gross thing if you help me out here..
You wait for the perfect moment when the large demon is not grunting in pain or anything to quickly seduce the demoness into whatever-type of degenerate acts demons do!
The succubus lips her lips immediately and stops enjoying the show, spreading her wings and leaping onto the back of the beast-demon, whipping it with her tail and slashing it with her horn!
Let's open that door while they are busy.
You push the big and heavy door open while they are distracted, slipping past!
Do you push it back to close it or leave it slightly ajar?
I will… close it.
What's in this room?
You close it behind you.
The narrow corridor continues for a while before opening up to a giant chamber… it's full of glittering trinkets and baubles… but also a ton of junk.
Looks like every type of item you can imagine from up the surface.
There are tiny, flying bat-monkey-like beings nested on the ceiling, some of them flying around.
This chamber has a lot more light, coming from blaziers and glowing gems too, making hiding a bit harder…
Not to mention you see some sort of sticky web on the ground.
This must be the hoard, so the tarnished coin must be in here somewhere, but you are guessing the demon lord who owns this hoard of pony-items can't be far either.
That's unsettling. Just quietly hoover over the pile scanning the items.
You hover slightly to not step on the web an start looking through all the junk…
You hear something approach a few minutes in the search.
"Where could it be? We cannot have lost it."
"Brother, I am telling you, it has been stolen from us."
"Impossible. We cannot be stolen from."
"You keep saying that, brother."
You hear a strange skittering sound too…
Hide in a corner and wait for these guys
You have no time to hide in a corner but you climb over a nearby bed (that has no matress) to be compeltely out of sight.
You see a spider the size of a carriage skitter along nearby. Where the head should be, you see a thick torso, like two bodies of two stallions conjoined, but instead of hooves they have long, spindly insectoid claws.
They stop momentarily.
"Did you hear anything, brother?"
"The loneliness is making you hear things again."
"It has been too long since we have been to the surface… the lack of new loot is killing us."
"We must get better servants…"
Once it is done musing, it skitters away again… Whew.
That was way too close..
I will just calmly look through the loot.. I'm going to look for the most shiny and valuable thing as well as the coin.
You find a golden rod shaped to look like the head of a unicorn mare with diamonds set for the eyes… that's probably the most valuable, despite just sitting there with the rest of what you percieve as junk…
After some digging, you do find a strange coin.
A feeling of dread washes over you as you touch it… oh, yes, this thing is.. it is just infused with necromantic power. So that
is why it is tarnished and that
is why Charon can take you back to the land of the living with it! You could use it even if you were dead!
I see. I see.
Well. Let's get out of here before they come back.
To the door.
You manage to hover and then sneak away…
You do hear things have gone quiet on the other side of the door though, and opening this metal thing will grate against the stone loudly!
Inhale softly in annoyance.
Try to mimick the two spider-voices
"No, not this time, I'm going to eat those fools."
"But they are good guards."
"I KNOW something was taken, and its their faults."
"Fine, but I get to eat the big one this time."
And then stick to the ceiling listening.
You hear a pair of large hooves rush off with heavy thuds and you hear the leathery flapping of a pair of wings!
After that… silence.
Push the door open slowly
You open it slowly to peek out, but it still makes a lot of noise nevertheless!
Still, there is only the corpse of the beast-like demon there along the wall.
…from the way the flesh is reforming on it, you are sure it is going to be reborn in about 10 to 20 minutes. The Paladin was right, blessed wards seem to be the only things that can kill them for good down here.
Let's get out of here.
Close the door behind me again just to make it look like I wasn't there.
You pull it closed and then stick to the shadows, leaving as quickly as you could.
Outside, you see that dozens of demons have been slaughtered and killed for good, but you do not see the paladin anywhere…
Perhaps I took too long.
make a whistle like the ancient tune of the sun-song, pausing at a key verse to see if he replies!
You hear a reply… in the distance. Very, very far off!
I'll fly toward that.
quick as can be.
'1d10+1'Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8
You fly towards that direction, but pause halwfay there… you see him below you, hiding behind a rock, praying silently as you see his wounds mending..
Land beside him ready to attack anything that makes a move toward us.
It seems to be eerily silent again, aside from his prayers…
You see a fresh demonic growth over three swipe-marks… they weren't there before.
…did he get hurt that badly in the fight he made for a distraction?
Or maybe.. he's using the demonic powers to heal so quickly..
"…Friend, you look pretty bad. You feeling okay?"
He does not budge until he finishes his prayer, panting and looking at you with tired eyes once he is done.
"I will be fine… I have survived worse… but I will need some time. Did you… did you at least get what you went in there for?"
Smugly hold the coin inbetween two feathers.
"I always do."
For the first time since you met him, he lets out a pained smile.
"We… we cannot wait for long. Whatever has set that trap up must still be looking for us."
"To the great river styx then. Maybe we can wash off your mane too, you've got demon guts sticking to it." I jokingly poke his side.
He clears his throat awkwardly.
"That's… actually my mane. But yes, let us go."
He is noticably slower now, though.
At least I have a weapon to help out now!
"Oh.. So, anything you liked on the surface?"
"I was a very pious stallion… I enjoyed serving the Princess. I never held Lunites in bad regards either… those who preserved their fate well, at least."
You hear the response note of the whisle again… you see his ears twitch too, but he does not react!
"I can relate to that at least." I frown at the notes.
"Guess its looking for you with that."
He stops mid-step, freezing up.
"I… I wasn't just… that was not my imagination?"
He seems… scared. Almost terrified.
"Well.. it might be my fault.. I tried whistling the first part of that thinking you'd answer."
He shakes his head, sitting down on his haunches.
"No, no… it makese… it all makes sense… that magic… it was not a demon, no…"
He slowly starts to mumble incoherently…
"…What are you saying? Should We reply?"
"It is… it is the pony I came down here with! But she…no… we shouldn't… we couldn't… she could not resist the demonic influence as well as I could. She succumbed but… I couldn't bring myself to kill her. She still has to be in there somewhere."
"Hold my coin."
And give it to him before he can complain.
And then fly off toward the whistle.
You don't give him a chance to protest as you give him the tarnished coin.
You fly off, leaving him behind.
You soon hear the whistle again, very close… it is coming from the nearby plateu.
fly over that plateu to look
You fly over an see a pegasus mare.
…She used to be a pegasus once, at least.
All her feathers have fallen out, the exposed bones of her wings now grown over by sickly demonic tissue forming a thin leather.
Her backside and rear legs are the most intact things about her, but her barrel, chest, neck and most of her face all have the same growths that the paladin has. You can see the white of her eyes has turned a purplish-red and her irises yellowed…
You see she has two knives made out of blades too, as well as some other ritualistic wands and such… but nothing like the paladins. Judging by the crossed bones on her cutie mark, she must have been a necromancer in life.
She looks you over, her voice sounding broken and twisted, almost having an echo to it.
"You are a pony… down here… but you are not the pony I am looking for."
She takes a step back, readying her double knives defensively.
I gasp. Fluttering around up here.
"those wands! You use magic!"
She narrows her eyes.
"My magic will not be yours, filth! Not while I draw breath!"
She spreads her unnerving wings wide to look more big and threatening!
"Oh. That's okay. I was just going to ask if you knew how to open portals to the surface.. but then, I guess you wouldn't be here if you could."
Her voice breaks and falters again, still maintaining her defensive pose.
"This must be trickery! What are you? Why do you seek the surface?"
"Kelani Rush, Highly Dangerous Stallion of the Skies." I announce with a smirk and a flex.
"What are you doing here? You are not the pony I was looking for! You were not supposed to trigger my tracking curse!"
"I'm here to the save the day and win the kiss of a princess of course!" Float closer to her.
"And what may I call you, lovely sweet princess?"
She backs up a bit.
"Stay away from me, you incubus! I will strike you down if you try to do anything filthy!"
I frown at her.
"Oh. Alright here." extend a hoof. "Give it a tiny cut, you'll see its not demon-blood."
She looks wary still, as if this was a trick for you to let her close, and quickly stabs your hoof with a thin bone-needle. Ow!
A single drop of blood is drawn, and her eyes widen.
"You… you are a pony then."
She relaxes a bit, folding her wings.
"Why speak like an incubus then?"
She raises a brow as she questions!
Shrug a little.
"You looked a little sad, thought it might cheer you up."
"It… has been lonely down here, but if you were here for long, you would know better than to blindly trust offer like that…"
She eyes you up.
"You look… pure. Clean."
"I'm clean, and pure muscle baby
." I flex my wings around with that smirk.
She looks away… you can't tell if she is blushing or not!
"Stop it! It was you who triggered my trap and it was you who sang those notes!"
"I did." I sigh rubbing the back of my head giving up the posturing for now.
"And I know who you're looking for actually. The paladin."
She looks at you, leaping in front of you, her wings spreading.
"He is alive? A unicorn stallion?"
"Yes. and Yes."
"He's the one making moon cravings in all those demons horns."
"I fear it my be too late for him, however… the demonic infestation has made him lose his mind. He blindly follows his duty, but for how much longer before he succumbs?"
"I was looking for him to put him out of his misery. When you showed up, I had hoped he had passed already so I would not need to."
I get a very serious look on my face.
"Really? He said that you
were the one who lost their mind. Are you sure some demon isn't playing a trick on you two?"
"He… he said that? But that is impossible! I am… I am sane, I know it!"
"I can see that! Maybe its some spell or illusion making you see each other differently? Describe your last encounter with the paladin."
"We encountered each other at the steps to the prisons… he was muttering to himself and his demonic flesh was pulsating… The moment he opened his eyes and saw me, he attacked! I had no choice but to blind him with magic and flee, I could not have taken him on in combat."
"Where did you see the demonic flesh? What areas?" I ask her and recall the paladin as best I can to compare to her description.
"His horn… one of his eyes, his leg… some other parts of his body too, it was very quick, I did not have much time!"
That seems fairly accurate
"Alright, those are real. Maybe not illusions to look like a demon then."
I hum in thought of it.
"Maybe he's the one bewitched, he got too sad to talk about you when I asked."
"… you think he can still be saved?"
"He is a little off
, but not insane yet." I nod.
"It would be preferable if he could be saved, then…"
"But I doubt I could travel with him again. Not after how many times we have tried to kill each other… apparently only thinking the other was insane."
I roll my eyes.
"Nonsense. But first, do you want to leave?"
She looks… apprehensive.
"I fear he might attack me if he sees me…"
"No.. I mean, do you want to leave this place? If you could. Would you leave?"
She shakes her head.
"I could have murdered a demon and opened a portal out of their bones… I taught him how to do it while he was pure too, but it is too late for both of us now. I cannot go to the sufrace looking… looking as I do."
"He feels the same. He wants to kill as many demons as possible while he's here."
Pat her back.
"I'll tell him you're not evil, just follow from a distance and when I sing that song, come out."
"I would if I could… I have no wish of staying down here, no reason for it like he does."
"Better than being lonely and scared of demons forever right?"
fly real low toward where I left the paladin.
"Is insanity better than lonelyness?"
She asks before you fly off.
Out of the corner of your eye, you can see her following.
The paladin waves at you at your flying approach, handing you your coin back.
"Did you… find anything?"
"Oh yea. You might wanna sit down for this one."
I say as I accept the coin back.
"Your girl, she's just as sane as you are, that is, wants to stay down here and mess up demons."
He does sit down, looking surprised and sad.
"She… is sane? Are you sure? But all this time…"
"She claims you attack her on sight, which made her think you were lost to corruption." I sympathetically.
"And that now, she's not sure if she can approach you after so many battles."
"I… would not blame her. We were never on good terms, we only worked together because our skills complemented each other… I guess this place just made it worse."
"At least now I know she is still herself."
"Would you try to work together.. now that you know?"
He shakes his head.
"No… I don't think we could… work, together. But if I am in trouble… now I know how to call her."
I frown at him poking his chest.
"Come on, just stallion up and apologize to her."
He shakes his head.
"I cannot… I am sorry, but he would be a distraction from my duty. If I am down here but I am not hunting demons, then what am I? Just a prisoner like them, nothing more."
say a few words to the other pony trapped in this awful place with you? Perhaps you are insane after all…"
I turn away from him.
"No words can undo the hurt I must have caused her. If she must know, I am truly sorry… but I cannot face her after all I have done."
"Leaving a mare you know is hurting and alone behind when you could do something about it. And I thought they didn't allow cowards to be paladins."
I huff and trot away from him.
He doesn't follow you…
Well, you got your coin and you are sure the mare can give you directions to the river too.
Whistle away for the mare and wait.
She soon glides over and lands in front of you.
"…how did it go?"
"He's a damn fool is how it went. He was happy to know you're you, and says he's" pause and mock his voice. "Truly Sorry,
for the hurt and being unable to face you
"She never was a stallion of words… so I cannot blame him."
"At least I won't have to be afraid of him, at least. He was the most terryfing force down here, without a doubt."
I make a 'tch' sound.
"You two are making this so complicated. Just go up and talk to him if you feel like it."
Fly up in the air leaning backwards on my hooves.
"I need to get home. Walk with me to the river?"
You can't help but notice she steals a look as you fly up like that.
"Walking is safer than flying, more low profile. I can go with you. Why the Styx though?"
"Your not-friend-not-enemy helped me get this." I show off the coin.
"A safe way out… clever."
She motions with her head and starts walking in front of you, leading the way.
"I can't fight too well, but getting special items. That. I can do."
"Could find one for you too, if you want to get out of here that way.."
She shakes her head.
"I think I will just keep trying my luck with Cerberus… one day I will be able to slip past him with my magic."
"If you're sure.."
I sigh as we go.
"I hate to think of you stuck here forever. Maybe I can summon you two out of here.. or get someone to do it for me.."
She shakes her head.
"I could do it on my own well enough. I just fear what will happen on the surface to me if anypony sees me like this."
"Right." I look her over with concern. "You two do need some.. help.. There must be a way to restore your bodies."
"I don't know anything that could help… but then again, I am no demonologist."
Thankfully or unfortunately for her, only her front half seems to be suffering, compared to the unicorn who was messed up all around.
"I know a few ponies I can ask when I get back.. but.. how could I get that solution to you two." I frown contemplating it.
"He wouldn't go even if there was one. He is… obsessed."
She frowns as the clopping of your hooves are the only noise that echoes in tartarus.
"Good question… I know not the answer."
"Maybe if you give me something of yours.. Like.. What about a lock of your tail hair?
In the stories spells work off things like that."
She almost trips on a rock, flapping her weird wings to stay upright.
"What? You want some of my tail?"
I make a very serious face and suppress smiling.
"Yes, to keep a link to you for when I find the cure. Also you never said your name, I probably need that too!"
"Marrow. My name is Marrow."
She looks to be in thought… but then hands you a bone-knife and turns around.
"This is so dumb… just make sure not to take too much of it!"
"I would never hurt your beautiful tail." carefully pet it in my hooves, smoothing out the knots from lack of brushing, separating out just a few strands of hair. Making a thin thin braid. And cut that little bit to take with me.
After seeing nothing but barren, lifeless vistas stretching forever and horrible abominations… looking at working with a pretty mare tail is rather relaxing.
Just as you cut the small braid away, she lets out a strange sigh and you see one of her hindlegs twitch.
"Are you done yet? We need to keep going!"
I reply letting go of the tail and walking beside her.
"I will keep looking for a cure, when I get home, Marrow."
"Thank you for your kindness."
"Anytime." Keep a nice pace with hers.
You keep trotting with her.
The trip is not very eventful, she occasionally stops to flick her ears, sometimes ushering you to cover and hide for a while, sometimes even chanting something that makes her enchanted bone wands glow.
Still, you never actually see any demons (must have been how she stayed alive for so long) until you come onto an outcropping.
Down below you see a barren, rocky landscape cut in half by a mighty river.
The river seems to be boiling, hot steam making it impossible to swim in it or fly over… and from the looks of it… there are ponies or demons trapped inside it, trashing about and fighting each other in some eternal, pointless brawl as they drown but can never die.
I look very very disturbed.
"So.. this is the river.."
She looks at you, seeing your disturbed expression.
"Don't mind them. Don't feel sorry for them. They are there because of who and what they are. If you fell in, you could get out by simply… not fighting others. They can't. Ponies or demons, those who are in there cannot save themselves because they cannot put their own needs over the need to hurt others."
She spreads her skeletal-leathery-demonic-notpegasilikeatall wings.
"Now comes the tricky part. See that little pier in the distance? It was actually built by the first pony who used a tarnished coin."
You do see a stone outcropping into the river with a little rusted brass bell on a post.
"We ring the bell, Charon will show up. But we'll have to glide down there and the bell will sound like a dinner bell for some demons, so we will have to hold out until he arrives, since this place does not have much places to hide at."
She clears her throat.
"I can of course just… use the souls of the dead from the river to protect us. He would not have allowed me to do that. I am telling you now in case you have strong feelings against necromancy too."
very unnatural… not as bad as demons who are outright trying to destroy anything natural, but necromancy goes against the basic laws and rules of life and death.
"In this place? As a tool to survive? I can't think of anything more natural to do."
I nod at her.
"If you feel threatened enough, then proceed."
She nods, then takes a very deep breath and exhales.
"Let's go then. Don't worry about me, I can disappear to safety once you are on board."
She takes a step off the outcropping and starts glidings towards the pier without a flap of her wings.
"Alright, thanks for helping."
Fly along side her toward the pier.
She lands on the stone, taking out some of her bone tools and arranging them on the floor.
She motions towars the bell.
"Do the honors whenever you are ready."
Ring the bell.
'1d10' nice and loudRoll #1 5 = 5
Despite being a rather small bell, barely larger than a soup bowl, the bell is INCREDIBLY loud!
While it is not deafening where you stand, you see it send expaning waves outwards with some sort of magic!
Once the ringing in your ear subsides there is just eerie silence and stillness for a second… but you soon see shapes moving across the horizon, the first ones approaching cautiously in the distance… they will be here soon.
I'm not leaving this dock!
You see Marrow chant and the sharp bones she laid out on the ground glow and explode, growing into bone-spikes acting as a barrier!
You see several demons that look vaguely canine and feline, never the smartest, charge right into them and promptly impale themselves!
She even smirks at you.
"Don't get comfortable, we'll be in for trouble once the smart ones show!"
"I just have to stay at the pier right?"
Hold the bone-spear I picked up earlier in a ready pose.
You see a faint light through the fog and steam!
"He is coming… but so are the demons."
She looks back at you, her tainted eyes meeting yours.
"I… shall hold them back. I cannot let them hurt you, you're still yourself. Just promise to get in touch if you do find a way to help."
Before you can stop her, she leaps over the bone-barrier with a flap of her wings!
You see a surge of magic from her and feel a shiver as you see the river bubble as long-dead corpses of drowned ponies emerge and crawl to the shore, throwing themselves mindlessly at whatever demon they find!
I'm not sure I can fight while standing here pretending not to be horrified.
"I won't forget my promise." I call back to her.
That was probably the reason… she wanted to make sure you are well out of the fight.
The light comes closer and the few small demons that managed to slip past the defenses screech and run at the sight…
So that must be how the boat stays safe! That lantern seems to hurt them!
The giant, strange boat pulls up to the stone pier and a board to let you pass slams down onto it!
Trot onto the boat with hurry.
Just as you are taking the last step you bump into somepony.
Erdei? Wait, no…
It's Charon, the boatpony of the damned… but his body, his huge size and everything… he looks exactly like your immortal forest friend!
…then you are stuck with the realization that he is not the last of his kind, after all.
Charon has been alive just as long as he has, only he has been down here since the creation of… death itself. You wonder if he volunteered or if Mother Nature made him take up this task.
The large stallion before you extends a hoof expectingly without a word.
Give him the tarnished coin.
"Hello." I try talking to him.
You put it into his hoof and in a few seconds, you see it evaporate and turn into black mist that rises away in a puff of smoke.
He steps aside, letting you aboard.
He pulls the stepping board back.
"Do not disturb the dead." He says in a gravelly voice as a welcome.
You see that on board there are dozens of ponies, all sleeping on top of strange coffins, coins over their eyes.
Ponies who died without any deity embracing them so their souls will turn into nothingness so it may perhaps form another from nothingness again one day.
I nod and carefully stand in an empty place on the boat.. can I see if the fighting is over?
It has gone too far away from the shore to see.
Looks like the lantern really scattered the demons who are left with attacking the dead now.
Marrow probably found her way out during that time.
Charon takes a large, ancient paddle up from the floor of the boat and puts it in the water, turning away from the shore.
As you try to find a space that is peaceful enough not to disturb anything, you see… a familiar face among the dead.
…Oh no.. Who is it?
It seems to be the little filly, the assistant to the zebra doctor.
The filly whose dying brother you saved and who Mother Nature embraced to herself as an act of mercy… that apparently did not apply to her.
She looks as if she is just sleeping… but why? How could she have died?
I frown in contemplation of this news.
Whisper to Charon. "Can you tell me why they any of them are dead?
He keeps paddling and thankfully, the mist obscures anything over the railing of the ship, as this thing was a plane of it's own existence inside Tartarus.
"I can tell you how any of them died. Why must you know? You had only one coin. They will not be returning with you."
"I believe I knew one of these souls. Even if I can't bring her back with me.. I feel I must know what happened."
"Knowledge of the dead often brings only misery."
"Misery is part of life. This filly. What happened to her?" I gesture to the girl.
"She succumbed to poision. Along with three others."
Charon raises a hoof to point, stopping the paddling only momentarily.
You see the three other ponies are all adults and look like they could be relatives to her. Definitely not parents, but still close.
"Poison." I frown.
"I see… When did this happen?"
"A few hours ago, in the morning."
"It was her enemies. Wasn't it? "
"I just ferry her soul to where she must go now. I know nothing of how it has come to pass."
You see some of the dead ponies start to… fade.
"Where she must go? Does that mean you don't know where they go?"
"How could I? I am no deity. I'm just a mortal with an eternal duty. I do as I am told. I help the souls of the dead over the 'other side' as many call it with dread in their voice. I have only talked with ponies like you who have cheated death and they all ask this same question. I could never satisfy any of them with an answer."
I stare a moment.
"I will ask a different question then. Do you know of the first ponies. Whose lifetimes never expire?"
"I knew them, yes, from the First Garden. Why? I have ferried most of them on the other side, the rest must be with some deity by now."
"I am friends, well, allies I suppose, with Erdei. Did you know him?"
Charon stops paddling for a second, staring into the mist.
"Yes. I did."
He returns to guiding the ship after that.
"What about Aerianna? Are they still together?"
You remember that name… it was the name of his wife… but if he never saw her, that must mean she must be with Mother Nature!
I give him a sympathetic look.
"No… she was killed a while back, by a thief."
He stays silent after that, for a while.
"…Tell Erdei I am sorry. Tell him I never saw her. That might bring him some peace. She must be in a happy place now."
"I will.. They were both servants of Mother Nature, surely this means she is in the eternal gardens."
Try to sound hopeful at this.
"I do now know any other place where she could be."
You start to see… that… that is sunlight filtering through the mist!
Blink at the light. It must be close to time.
"Do you know, how a creature trapped in a cocktrice's petrification might be killed? That its soul could come to your boat?"
He shakes his head.
"I am not an expert on such things. I do not remember any souls that have died to a cockatrice."
I look disturbed actually.
"Wait really? No one ever died after being turned to stone?"
"They could have died in other means. I do not know."
He looks at the approaching light.
"It is time for you to depart this ship soon."
"I feel it." I look ahead boldly.
"Do I just.. walk toward that light?"
"I will put you down at the shore. Where you go from there is up to you alone."
You feel the ship come to a stop and he lays down the boarding plank.
Step onto the plank and start to walk off.
He says stoicly as you step off.
You glance back and see no ship, only a strange mist rolling away on the river.
You take a deep breath…
Fresh air, chirping birds, sunlight, clouds!
Reeds and tall grass around the river too!
You do see that the immediate surroundings of the river are more like a desert! In one direction you see red mountains and hills… that… that must be the desert of the Badlands! You're in the very southern edges of Equestria!
I run over there and roll in it.
'1d10' rolling qualityRoll #1 4 = 4
It's riverside grass, so the edges are a bit sharper than the soft grass of hills, but it just feels oh Mother Nature it just feels so good to be back where you belong!
It is good to be back.
Fly to the clouds to get a sense of where civilization might be.
You see some small settlements nearby, but most promiment is the city that seems to be an hour's flight away.
That must be Dodge City, judging by all the traintracks going there!
I'm sure I am hungry.
Let's get some fresh haysnacks
Want to wait until you get to the city?
You could just go full natural and graze too, of course. There are plenty of nice but raw flowers and plants around here that could be tasty.
I could graze a bit before I take off.
'1d10' find some tasty flowersRoll #1 1 = 1
You find a batch of nice flowers but as you lean down to munch on them you see that something has taken a dump there…
Well, the circle of nature and life and all that, but that completely kills your appetite for now.
Well just fly off to the city.
A bit dejected, you take to the skies and fly towards the city!
You make pretty good time at least, and it is around the middle of the afternoon when you start approaching the city… that is when you notice a pretty butterfly, a bit out of place flying so high up!
Hoover beside the butterfly, offering it a hoof to land on.
It does, fluttering its wings a few times before flying a cirle around your muzzle then flying off… you think it wants you to follow it!
Such a cute butterfly.
I'm gonna follow it.
You follow it for a while, to the edge of the town… Even from afar you see that while most of the surrounding area is dominated by the desert and the prairie, there is a spot there that looks like a lush jungle, full of green trees, plants, and all kinds of colorful flowers!
In the middle you see multiple buildings of white marble with exotic pointy domes, vines climbing onto the pillars!
Could this be a temple?
Land by the pillars and look around.
As you get close you are hit by the almost overpowering scent of the different flowers (especially after having been subject to no scents whatsoever in Tartarus) and you also hear some sort of music, accompanied by the throaty, humming singing of someone with a very deep voice, occasionally intersped with the sound of a blaring horn or trumpet, coming from inside the large marble building!
You see tiny statuettes of a beautiful, faceless mare lining the walls of that building, so it IS a temple!
Fly directly towards that sound.
You fly inside the temple where the sound is coming from.
The middle of the chamber is dominated by a giant tree that was grown in the shape of Mother Nature, moss, vines and flowers covering most of the bark.
In a corner you see a middle aged, exotic looking brown earth pony stallion with dreadlocks and flowers in his mane and several piercings through his muzzle and ears that are all different types of wood from the looks of it!
But more importantly, the deep chanting and the trumpets were not by that pony like the rest of the music…
In front of the statue you see an elephant!
He is HUGE!
He is sitting down in his musical prayer, his giant ears flapping sometimes, similar piercings of wooden trinkets hanging from all sides, flowers and moss growing all over his enormous ivory tusks too!
There is only one thing I can do.
Go join in the singing.
'1d10'Roll #1 6 = 6
While you can't quite go as deep as he can or replicate the sound of trumpets when he uses his trunk, you join in and he turns his head towards you, smiling but not stopping until the two of you finish the singing prayer, the pony in the corner playing his instruments with love too!
Once the final note dies down, the huge elephant shifts and stands up, turning to you with a strange accent.
"Hello my friend! You must be the lost little lamb of Mother she has been telling me about! You made her worry a lot, disappearing like that!"
"She told you? How long have I been gone?"
He twirls his trunk up then back down and flaps his large ears.
"I think… about nine hours of not knowing where you went or what happened to you. She couldn't feel you anywhere."
I sit down in surprise.
"Only nine hours? It felt like days, weeks."
"I do not know where you have been friend, but you have only been gone for less than half a day!"
"The land below. The kingdom of the demonlord, where he remains imprisoned." I say seriously.
"Oh I am sorry to hear that… do you need anything to help, friend? Are you hurt?"
"Well, a few things, first off I'm starving."
"Second, do you know how to remove demonic marks or corruption or anything related to it?"
"Let me fix you something! I make very good spicy foods, so I have been told by ponies!"
He laughs, making his trunk wiggle.
"I do not, but my friend knows a lot of ancient druidic magic!"
He motions at the brown stallion sitting in the corner, meditating.
"Oh." I rub my grumbling stomach.
"Food first, then we ask him."
"He… is mute and he takes his times with these things. Slow as a moss! But how long are you staying? If you are leaving and give me the place, I can send it with a carrier pigeon!"
He starts stomping his way out of the temple and into the garden!
"How long should I stay is the question.." I rub my head with my wing.
"I don't know how safe a carrier pigeon is but staying for too long would make the ponies counting on me worry."
"It is your choice my friend! You can always just visit us when you have the time, we will be happy to have you!"
He starts colleting flowers and vegetables into a basket with his trunk.
I'll wait like an impatient colt, hoovering beside the elephant.
"This place is pretty amazing. How long have you stayed here?"
"Oh, more than a decade now! I have heard very good things of Equestria and the ponies here really are nice! They really appreciated my exotic plants I brought with me too!"
He finishes collecting and puts the basket down in front of you.
"Heh, just dig in, I can see you would rather have them raw! I will have to treat you to a warm meal next time!"
I stick my face into the basket and start eating.
When I take a break to breath I ask curiously.
"How slow exactly is your friend? Would a few days be enough time to talk to him?"
You almost choke on the food you gobble it down so fast but by Mother Nature it was worth it!
You do take a breather at least, the elephant was almost looking concerned.
"A few days to a week, I do not know!"
"I have to repay the ones who helped me escape. They are real ponies, but corrupted by the foul demons. Losing their minds and bodies. If I could reverse this then my debt would be paid." I explain completely.
"If he might have the answer I have to ask him."
He nods thoughtfully.
"I will consult him on the matter and hope he has answers."
"Alright. Let me know how it goes."
I take in the garden now that I'm not blinded by hunger.
Pretty butterflies nest on exotic leaves, bees fly from one pretty flower to the next, birds chirp on the branches of these trees from distant lands…
It is so very peaceful!
I will meditate for a bit here.
You sit down and close your eyes… focusing on the scents, the breeze, the sounds…
You feel invigorated!
I should go see if the elephant spoke to the wise druid yet!
The druid seems to be in a trance of some kind, rocking back and forth with only the white of his eyes showing…
The elephant smiles as you approach.
"Good news! He said he could find some solution in four or five days!"
"That's not too long at all." I reply cheerfully.
"Say, where exactly is this place anyway?"
"Just southeast of Dodge City! Climate is perfect to grow just about any plant… not ones that like the cold, of course, but all the rest!"
"Dodge.. that's.." I reach for my map but then realize its back at my mother's place…
"Pretty far from Ponyville. I better stay here the five days."
As well as your memory serves you, it's a day's flight or train ride, yes.
"You are welcome to stay as long as you wish, friend!"
I sigh relaxing a bit, well it might only be a day, but maybe I need to break after such an experience. A week won't be too bad..
And this place looks like it has great food and an even greater garden!
This is exactly what I need.
Let's go talk to the elephant some more.
"Do you have any lessons to share, Wise Elephant?"
"Just call me Mandeep, my friend!"
He pats you on the shoulder with his heavy trunk… a friendly backpat with those giant legs could be dangerous, so it's still preferable!
"That depends on what lesson of Mother you seek!"
"The meaning of her gifts?"
"Her gifts, whatever form they take, big or small, are always a great honor… but they are also something you must internalize for yourself! By knowing why she has gifted you, you may get closer to her!"
"How can I know if I am using her gifts fairly?"
His long grey nose pokes your chest.
"You must listen to your heart. Sometimes we may use the gifts she bestows us in ways she never intended."
He looks at the druid in the trance.
"But that doesn't mean we abuse her good will if we do it for what is right."
"I think I understand.." I take a deep breathe myself and think on the matter.
Maybe I will gain some insight as to what is right.. '1d10'Roll #1 4 = 4
As peaceful as this place is…
You will have to meditate for more than a brief time to come to such realization by yourself!
Well, there are several days here yet!
Here is what I will do, I will walk the garden, help with watering, fly the skies, and sleep early.
The elephant is incredibly thankful for your help!
And after that horrible long experience of nothing but barren wastes and sounds from another world, it feels incredibly good to be surrounded by plants and animals!
Let's sleep outside in the garden too!
'1d10' sleepRoll #1 6 = 6
You roll around in the grass a bit before falling asleep.
With how exhausting of a day you had, it's no problem!
You thankfully get a long night's sleep without dreams… until the morning comes, but that one is not quite a dream…
You feel like the empath is trying to give you a vision again, but you are half-waking up…
Do you relax and let him show you what he think you need to know or do you force yourself to wake up?
Let him, I'm sure its worth seeing
You let the vision take you.
Your point of view is… shorter than usual, and you feel a horn on your head.
You see flowers, grass and trees blossom and bloom all around you… and you also see yourself, getting grabbed by a weird squirmy icky tentacle, being dragged through a portal that looks sickening to even glance at.
The very same portal, on the verge of collapse now that the glyphs have been removed, begins spewing demons in a desperate attempt to exact revenge.
You motion to the beautiful unicorn who is standing defensively in front of the cute batpony you performed this ritual with.
"Take her to the castle with your brothers! Raise a shield! There'll be more of them!"
There is indeed no place for argument in your voice.
You whisper something under your breath… did he just whisper 'Greater than the Gods' to himself? To reassure himself maybe?
But then you realize his horn and weapon was glowing…
In a bright flash, the same walking cane you saw when you met this stallion, the one that he effortlessly turned into a sword, is now more than just a single, mere weapon.
You feel spiked gauntles on your forehooves, heavy horseshoes on your hindhooves, a heavy mace attached to your tail, two small scythes with chains connecting them on your forehooves and an impressive glaive levitating in your magic.
…this probably explains why these paladins have all those weapons on their banners and cutie marks.
The stallion leaps into combat, hacking down demons as you see the young unicorn mare teleport the other ponies into the castle with a flash, a protective pink bubble quickly rising around it.
You wake up, back in your own body on the soft grass.
I gasp in excitement at the energy of the event.
There's no one around you to wake up, at least!
Just the crickets and the morning birds!
They seem okay at least.. perhaps that's what he wanted to show me.
Leaf was not hurt, apparently, and the other seemed okay too…
That's a relief, at least!
That is one less worry.
Today I will help around the temple, dusting places hard to reach for the elephant.
You help out by using those
wings of yours to fly up and and clear and clean places that an elephant couldn't reach, not even by holding his trunk high!
You do leave the spots alone where you see bird nests or spiderwebs!
And the food, Mandeep can make a mean salad from all these fruits and vegetables!
You are tired by the end of the day, but it's a good type of tired, one brought on by labour you love!
Caring for her temple is a kind of peaceful rest I could do for a lifetime.. maybe once I retire..
Still a long way to go until then!
…but it's definitely a life that could fit you after all this hustle and bustle.
Will you sleep outside again?
Yes, provided there is no rain!
I will sleep here the next 4 or 5 nights too I'll just roll for that '5d10'Roll #1 6 = 6
/ Roll #2 3, 9, 4, 9, 10 = 35
You don't get any more visons… and while there are two nights when you wake up with some cold sweat, hearing the horrible noises of demons closing in sounding only in your head…
The other days you get some of the best and most relaxing sleep you ever got… and on the last night, as if it was a sign from nature, you have a lovely dream of Mother Nature herself embracing you to her, making you just calm and relaxed, waking up with a smile on your face!
I stretch and get a trot in my step on that last day. Going to see if the druid has an answer for my questions.
The elephant told you not to be concerned when you saw earlier that throughout the days, the druid in his trance has not moved.
He hasn't drank or ate anything…
Yet today, as you approach, he is no longer rocking and his eyes are closed with a seren smile as he hums to himself!
"Hello, I don't believe I properly introduced myself all these days. I'm Kelani."
He takes a deep breath and opens his eyes, smiling at you.
He nods shaking your hoof.
The elephant told you he is mute!
shake his hoof back.
…wait how will he tell us the solution… I look around for the elephant as if lost!
As you start looking around for Mandeep, you feel the hooves and unshorn fetlocks of the pony turn your face back to his, shaking his head.
He open his mouth and makes some noises you don't quite understand, but puts a hoof over your chest and then his, then taps the soil.
I look really confused, but try laying my ear to the soil.
You see his chest rise with a smile, and you're pretty sure he just laughed without a sound, shaking his head again.
Once again, he puts his hoof on your chest then back at his, staring in your eyes…
You… begin to understand.
He is mute, yes, but Mother Nature has given him gifts for his service. You realize you only realize this due to the deep connection you share with Mother Nature…
You can undertand him, not by understanding what he says, but by Nature itself being a mediator!
He smiles, and opens his mouth.
"I see you are starting to get it."
…from the way his mouth and tongue moved, you know it would have been impossible for him to ever utter those words.
"I think so. Its very different."
It is a bit uncanny to hear his jumbled noises as a very faint background noise yet understand him perfectly.
"I rarely get to talk to anypony. It is nice to have somepony understand me again. Not the way Mandeep does."
He smiles again.
"He can't hear you like this?
"He could, but he doesn't need to. He understands me on… a spiritual level. I was only a lonely foal when I stumbled into his temple, back when it was in a far away land where his kind lives. Elephants live long and have huge, kind hearts like no other… we understand every thought and emotion of one other without needing any magic."
"Empathy?" I ask curiously
"No. A stronger bond. He loves me like a son but respects me as another child of Nature."
"It sounds very special."
"Not to be rude, but did he tell you about my request?"
"He didn't have to. Mother Nature did. She told me all about you, too, Kelani."
I chuckle back.
"Good things I hope."
"Only the best. As for the issue you are facing… There is a ritual you can perform. I can tell you the ingedients, but you will have to travel to gather some…"
His smile falters a bit to an expression of undertanding.
"And purging such powers… restoring what was lost to such a degree… it will be very painful for anypony who is treated that way."
"They are both in quite a lot of pain already.."
"It will not be easy, and it will be taxing for you just as much as them."
"Uh, What will happen to me?"
"Such a ritual will be very trying for you. The deep bonds and connection and above all, the amount of magic from Nature you will channel may leave your body frail, sensitive and weak for a day or two afterwards."
I look very serious about considering this. "Then I need to be somewhere very safe."
"Someplace where you can be one with yourself and nature in the days following would help."
Hmmm… the shack of Erdei could work! Plus Chell must be getting worried by now.
I never did bring her those candies either.. of course I don't have them here..
"I understand, I will pick the location carefully. Can you tell me how to do the ritual? What do I need?"
"You will need some herbs and flowers that can be found in this garden, those I can pick for you. However… you will need three items that are not so easily obtained."
He motions around with his fuzzy hoof.
"First, you need some snow moss from the peak of Dragon Mountain. Second, you will need a plume feather from a Phoenix, willingly given. Third…"
Here he frowns.
"You will need some bark from the corrupted ancient tree, Wormwood of the Everfree Forest."
I pay close attention. "What does the wormword look like? Where can I find phoenixes?"
"Wormwood is an ancient, sentient tree in the shape of a pony. It's blackened bark sets it apart from any other."
The pony takes a deep breath before continuing.
"Phoenixes may be found anywhere in Equestria, from the deserts of the Badlands to any mere forest… however proud they are, they are just as elusive of creatures. However, many say that dragons share a special bond with them and often know how to find them."
"Dragons do?" I look amazed at the idea.
"Any creature with a profound connection to the flames dwelling within their souls and the elemental plane of Fire do."
"Incredible, this will.. take quite a bit of time." I scratch my head.
The pony chuckles. This time, you only hear his weird, garbled, real voice, as laughter can be understood even if he cannot speak properly.
"Maybe you will get lucky and find a dragon dwelling within Dragon Mountain as you go there for the snow moss."
"Or hanging out in the everfree forest." I chuckle back.
"The creatures dwelling there are less than amicable… from what I hear."
Well, that one Sea Serpent wasn't too bad!
"Its not all bad." I reply with a smile. "Just more wild."
"The greatest fear of modern ponies."
"Well.. if it keeps them away from the wormword then its not a bad thing.."
"As bad as the Everfree Forest is, it is good for one thing… it contains many things that are not meant to be seen by pony eyes."
I nod in reply to his wisdom.
"Thank you for guiding my path. I have a long road to walk, I should get started."
He nods with a smile.
"It has been a pleasure meeting you, Kelani. I will collect the herbs you will need that are found in this garden."
"I will be back for them." I promise him and go say goodbye to the elephant!
He nods and heads into the garden.
The Mandeep, the elephant, looks at you with a smile as you approach.
"Ah, good morning, my good friend! How do you fare!"
"I have my answer, and my quest." I look kind of proud, determined.
"Thank you for having me. I must depart and begin brother."
You see his shoulders and trunk pull up a few time in shrug… before you realize his large eyes are welling up with tears, too!
He wraps his heavy trunk around your neck to pull you into a warm hug, his tears soaking your mane wet!
"I-I already miss you, my friend! I'll never forget you!"
…awww, despite his size he really is a softie, just like that druid told you!
I hug him back, or his chest anyway, I can't reach all the way around an elephant.
"I'll come back when I've got everything. You'll see me again."
You stretch your hooves over his chest like a cat trying to get comfortable on a couch.
He sniffles, but then nods, letting you go and wiping his tears with the trunk, flapping his huge ears.
"I'll make that carrot and basil salad you loved so much!"
"Carrots are my favorite!" I smile broadly at him.
"I will make sure to pick the best ones for you!"
You feel a breeze ruffle your mane and tail..
A wind of adventure!
It is time!
I must go off, to the nearest city.
That would be Dodge City, you're right at the edge of it!
Fly to dodge city.
You're there in less than 20 minutes!
Where will you go though? City center, the market, the ranchers, the train station? There are so many places to see!
I don't have money! but I'll go the city center and see if I can browse the headlines
You don't have much of anything on you at the moment!Good thing ponies walk around naked anyway
There is a colt nearby who is selling a newspaper Daily Dodge… but you don't have the bit to buy one!
Just look at the cover, sneaky if need be '1d10'Roll #1 4 = 4
The colt crier lets you look at the cover at least!
The headline is that a large ship thought to be a civilian trasport vessel was sunk by something
or someone near the east coast of Equestria, but investigation seems to prove the civilian transport was to cover up something illegal the guards did not disclose!
I frown in concern.
"Ponies always throwing their lives away.."
The crier colt speaks loudly, so others can hear too.
"All civilians on board have been rescued by the heroic efforts of the coast guard! Bodies of the captain and first mate never found! Read more inside, Daily Dodge, just one bit!"
I nod at the kid, and move along since I don't have any bits!
…actually I don't have my crystal either…
But maybe if you asked around in the… less reputable parts of town, you could find a lead? You know Mirage has a lot of active agents near Appleloosa and Dodge City since they are actively engaged with the Emerald mercs around these parts!
If you could find someone, they could help you get to the hideout somehow, maybe!
Maybe… Let's just go the dangerous side of town and look around '1d10'Roll #1 10 = 10
You take off to the air and your sharp eyes let you see quickly what most sane ponies would avoid…
The wooden walls full of patches to fix bullet holes and scorch marks, the sand and dirt wet from the water that has been used from washing away the filth or blood of ponies beaten up on the streets…
You quickly arrive what seems to be the center of this bad part of town, namely, a Saloon without even a name and a very gruff looking Buffalo as a bodyguard.
Something tells you there is 100% definitely somepony working for Mirage in there.
I will go up to the buffalo.
"Move aside, I need to talk to somepony here."
He snorts hot air into your face, narrowing his eyes, speaking in a deep tone.
"Wimp like you could get chewed up and thrown out in minutes. That happens and you call the guards, you won't be alive to see them get here."
I look really offended!
"You kidding? I don't want any guards around."
"Neither do we. Don't start any trouble in there."
He looks you over, checking for weapons.
"Spread 'em. The wings."
Spread the wings for him.
He scans briefly, then opens the door without a word.
Inside it is… damp, warm and filled with smoke, not to mention incredibly dark compared to the shining sun outside.
That is just the place those mares would be.
Maybe I can recognize someone? Just slowly walk around the place.
Most ponies and creatures in here don't take too kindly to your gaze…
But a gryphon sitting at a corner table whistles, beckoning you over with claw.
Let's go sit with him, why not.
"Hey, what's the word?"
The gryphon looks rather confident, smirking at you.
"You've been gone a while, haven't ya? She's been looking for you. Thought you were dead, died in the hit on the Bay."
…right, they were going to set up shop in Horseshoe Bay before Porcelain ratted them out and lead the Emerald Mercs to them.
"She's not all wrong, I did
just come back from the underworld."
He turns his head, focusing a single eye on you, trying to tell if you were joking or not.
"…What were you doing there? Why? Why didn't you just get word to our demonologist to get you out?"
"Its a really long story. Buy me a drink first bud?"
He rolls his eyes but signals a waiter with a snap of his claws.
"You should get back to base and check in with her once you're done here."
The earth pony mare in clothing that only serves to accentuate her curves arrives, taking your orders.
"Yea, about that, I need a lift, emerged from the place totally naked." I tell the groof with an uncaring sass and exhaustion in my voice
"bring me a beer." I tell the eathie.
"You know those crystals can't be lended… but I know a pony who can get you there."
The mare winks and clicks her tongue at your order, probably hoping for a tip.
Shame you are broke!
Smirk back at the waitress, she is a cutie after all.
With interest I ask. "Really? I suppose this pony has a price?"
"It's a small one. The only price is for you to… let her do her magic. It's very creepy."
"And that's more valuable than money to her?"
"She doesn't care much about material things. Not even sure how she affords food to begin with."
"I see… what's this magic do anyway?"
"From what little I heard, she used to be an adventurer collecting magic from all around the world… some say eventually she came across something that changed her forever, for the worse."
"It's creepy… but she is harmless. I think that's her point, she must have lost most of her power ages ago. She could be easy pickings for anyone in this inn, she just gets in the head of folks with her whole… hag thing."
I still look a little unsure.
"I dunno, maybe I should just get my stuff back.. its probably back where I got sucked in.."
The gryphon snorts.
"What, are you afraid of a creepy old lady pinching you and telling you your fortune?"
The cute mare comes back with a drink, making sure to lean incredibly close to both of you as she puts the tray with the two drinks down.
Admire the view and take a sip before answering him.
"Hey, I just went through hell, I have a right to be cautious!"
Just don't get too
The waitress leaves again.
"It can't be worse than that, then, can it?"
"I think I'll risk being later checking in instead, its already been.. what did you say, two weeks.. yea, a few days more won't hurt."
Sip a bit more.
"You know the demons down there don't die."
"Is that so? I heard demons only die for good if you get them down there. Then again, I'm not the expert."
The gryphon narrows his eyes.
"Stop being a pussy. Mirage would hate
to hear you were late when you could have checked in if you weren't a coward."
"How about this, I'll talk to the old hag and see what it actually is. If it feels wrong I'm walking."
"You won't have to go far. Just go to the back of the inn and take a right to the stairs down. She has her place to the left, near the enterance of the wine cellar."
"Okay.." I take a bit more of my drink and then look at his serious expression.
"Right, I suppose I should go now." And get up to go to the spoopy hag
You take a gulp to embolden your spirits before descending the stairs into the dark.
You find the open doorway, seperated from the basement by a curtain of beads that tinkle as you walk past them.
The room is tiny… but it is full of ancient, dusty looking relics and trinkets from far away lands, some of them reminding you of the fetishes you saw in the tribe of tiny monsters in the Everfree, some of the items looking like nothing you've ever seen before.
There is a dim light coming from a dozen candles scattered about a room.
There is also a tiny, short table.
Across it sits a unicorn mare, old, shriveled up like a raisin, her eyes clouded by cataracts. She smiles as you enter, her ears flicking at the sound of the bead curtain moving.
"Eheheh… you let your wings brush against the beads… you must be a pegasus, a stallion, from the weight of your steps.
Sit down dear, sit right down."
The hag pats the table and motions before it.
"I am a Stallion indeed."
I sit by her looking distractedly at her stuff.
You notice a few skulls… but nothing that seems to belong to a pony or any sentient being.
She seems to be wearing a leather scarf too… wait… the light… that's not a scarf! She has a snake coiled around her neck!
You also see a tiny, hoof sized round cage with the skeletal remains of a rodent inside, sitting at the edge of the table.
"And what, oh brave stallion, have you come here to seek?"
"I was told you can give passage, the same kind that a special crystal once gave."
"I can grant you passage, but only you will know where that path leads you."
She turns her two blind eyes from where she heard your voice from.
"But I can only do it if you let me find out who you really
She grins again.
"What does that mean?" '1d10' watching out for weird stuffRoll #1 2 = 2
"Just show me your hoof."
Her horn is not glowing at least.
Well. Maybe it is a fortune telling act.
'1d10' keep aware but show her it from just out of her her reachRoll #1 2 = 2
You do so…
She extend a foreleg, her hoof facing upwards, waiting expectantly.
"Maybe you didn't notice dear, but I do not see with my eyes."
"I was told you had.. other senses.."
Put my hoof in her hoof.
'1d10'Roll #1 5 = 5
She slowly hovers over yours with her other foreleg.
"Ahh… yes… Kelani Rush, is it? Hmm… I do need a closer look though."
She levitates out a tiny needle, tilting her head.
"This won't hurt, I promise."
Still, she just hovers the needle in her magic above your hoof in a circle, as if waiting for you to say if that's okay or not.
I pull back my hoof.
"Wait, are you using some kind of blood magic?"
"Taking a drop of blood does not make any magic blood magic. Do you expect me to be able to manipulate anything with a single drop that will go away as fast as it has been taken?"
I sigh "What will you do with it, exactly?"
"I will taste your destiny. Tell you what I can see. The future is a lie, but I can tell you what the path you take is like."
Take a deep breath and let her have my hoof again.
"Alright.. Sounds vague enough that it can't hurt anyone."
She smirks, hovering her hoof over yours again, before striking with the needle to draw a single drop of blood.
She quickly draw it back, dragging it along her tongue. Eugh…
Once she does, the snake around her neck stirs, raising it's head to gaze at you, the eyes glowing purple…
You notice that while the blind cataracts of the hag remain white, the edges of her eyes have the same purple mist.
She lets out a chuckle, breaking out in… an eerie song?"Have I got a tale to tell
Of how a mighty witch fell
Neither alive nor dead for years
Hidden away by the four seals
Poision seeps through her every word
Her ire seeks to topple the very world
She wants to see the four comets burn
Not knowing it's her own fate she'll turn."
"A witch? That doesn't sound like my fate, but someone else's."
The snake coils back around her and the light in her eyes fades.
Still, she grins, her magic discarding the needle.
"You have nothing to worry about then, I am sure, just nevermind it."
The way she says that and grins does not have you convinced.
I frown uncomfortably, thou she can't see it.
"So, you will give me passage now?"
"I know not where you need to go, but it is a journey only you can take."
She shifts in her seat, her magic opening the circular cage with the rodent skeleton.
She leans close and opens her mouth, letting out long, eerie sigh that sounds like an old pony exhaling her last breath before dying…
But instead, you see the skeleton of the rat animate, jaws opening to let out a silent, impossible squeak it cannot make due to being a skeleton.
It jumps off the table, hurrying into a pile of magical artifacts.
"She will be back with the item that will let you go where you need to be in just a minute."
"…Oh! What's her name?"
My first familiar. I just couldn't let her go."
"That's a cute name." I comment.
She smiles, and you can see the little skeletal thing scurry up the table and drop a tiny ring in front of you.
"Thank you. I am glad you like her."
"And this must be my gust of wind." I smile at the ring and cheerfully touch it
The moment you touch it, it flies up into the air, expanding until it the size of a pony, swirling magic filling up the inside and sucking you in!
You are dizzy for just a second before you find yourself sprawling in the teleport room of Mirage's Mystery Mansion…
That was sudden, but then again, it's what you came here for.
I shake off the disorientation, walking toward the zebro's lab.
You get there, but he is nowhere to be seen.
You see papers and tools scattered all around, as well as a metallic frame that looks like a pony… reminds you that it could be a 'skeleton' of Chell.
The door to the back of the lab seems to be closed down.
I see.. he's off getting parts..
Well, I better check in with the big M lady
You knock on her door and the lock clicks open. You hear her voice from further inside.
I open the door with confidence and step inside her office.
You see her behind her desk, looking you over.
"Not dead after all then. You keep surprising me."
"I just wasn't ready to die."
I approach her desk standing in front of it
She narrows her eyes silently at that, contemplating the implications.
"You will probably want to get your trinkets back before I can send you to do anything for me. Which is good because I will need you to have your crystal on you."
"It is kind of hard to get back without the crystal." I nod.
"We can let you use the teleporter to whatever is closest to where you left it. I just hope you didn't lose it."
"Only way to know is to go look.." I sigh heavily imagining the trouble it would be to replace
Or how mad she might be.
"You may need it to make some fast escapes. There is someone other than the saddle arabian out there to hunt us down."
"Is it those .. emerald something girls?" I tilt my head
She shakes hers.
"No. It is the pony you convinced to work for us in Los Pegasus. He has been laying low since then, but he was just planning to get her family to safety. Now that they are out of the picture and can't use them as leverage, he wants to take revenge for threatening him. He has killed multiple agents across Equestria already."
Across Equestria? How can he move that fast, he's a unicorn! And teleportation is not an easy feat of magic!
I look worried.
"How does he know where you all are?"
"It is the reason he is so good at killing. In a far away desert, he once made a deal with a Changeling Queen to save the life of his wife. In return, she turned him into a weapon. He has been imbued with changeling blood. He cannot shapeshift, but he can travel vast distances, his wounds heal in the matter of days and he has a sixth sense for tracking his targets down."
"And you decided to force this pony to work for you.." I frown more in disappointment than anything
"I needed a killer. A good one. How could I have known he had enough money and resources, or the balls to get his family out of my reach?"
She looks rather annoyed.
"Because he has motivation. A stallion with motive, and skills to act that's dangerous."
"Anyway, did you have any other news for me? Somepony I know die recently?"
She raises a brow and waves a hoof dismissively, as if it was nothing.
"Probably nopony you care about."
"No? Did the doctor go somewhere?"
"He has been rather insubordinate recently, but he has not gone anywhere. He is down at the training range. I told him he needs to make the latest… project more combat capable. But of course, it could not have been completed without your help."
"I suppose he's still upset about the metal mare. I better go see him before I leave."
Mirage smirks. "He has been working on his own in his free time, but what we have achieved together is much better."
"Go on. I will let you know as soon as I have something for your… talents. Just try not to get killed or disappear again."
She seems awfully calm today…
"Right" start to walk away but stop "Hell is actually cold. Did you know that? "
She narrows her eyes, leaning forward and putting her hooves on the desk.
"You better be careful with what you say and do to avoid going back then."
"I don't plan on it. One year was enough."
You can feel her glare daggers at you as you leave.
…well, that went well.
The training range is downstairs from what you recall.
Let's go see my zebra friend. I maybe get a beer in Los Pegasus.
You go down to the training field.
You indeed see him, sitting on a bench, taking notes. His eyes are red and puffy like he hasn't slept in a week and his beard and mane are even more disheveled than usual. In the training field, you see machines that fire bolts and arrows in a certain direction every 10 or so seconds.
…but what is the most unbelivable, is you see the red pegasus Stingray up against them… but she has been killed! By the Angel of Death! You can see it in her eyes and her general shapet that she is not undead… however, there is something rather shocking about her.
On her chest there is a large gash, and where her heart should be… that's… that's the heart-shaped gem that used to be the core of Chell! Hooked up into her! You see some machinery hooked up into it, as well as magic that is visibly different than when it was in Chell coursing through it.
I will stand by his side waiting
Actually look over his shoulder.
He doesn't even notice you at first.
He scribbles down some more notes about reaction time and speed of healing properties 'exceeding expectations'.
He finally looks up and notices you, his weary eyes meeting yours.
"Oh, it's you. Stingray got better. She's not thrilled about it. Mirage made me do it."
He speaks slower than usual, clearly tired and probably on some substance that keeps him calm.
"Its… unnerving " I comment on his invention.
"You about ready for a break?"
"It is. I hate it."
He clears his throat.
"Stingray, let's take five. Do… whatever."
The mare stares at you two with a cold expression. So much so that she forgets to dodge an incoming arrow that is buried in her shoulder.
She doesn't even flinch. Just grabs it with her teeth and yanks it out.
"Oh, right, that…" The zebra says, taking a hoof off a pedal which was apparently powering the arrow machines.
"Let's… go. Break. Sure. I could use one." He puts his notes down on the bench he is sitting on.
"How about a drink? You got any thing around here?"
He stands up slowly.
"Oh, no, sorry. You can have something from my cabinet in the lab but I really shouldn't drink anything. It would mess with the tranquilizers."
I look worried and pat his shoulder "Coffee then?"
"Yes, coffee sounds good. Let's go get some from the Doomsday machine."
He walks back to his lab with you, pressing the large button on the wall-mounted machine that makes that awful noise. At least it seems that he wasn't just messing with you specifically when you first met him but actually calls it the doomsay machine because of the loud sound!
I can't help frowning "mirage told me, that the assassin is hunting us."
He nods, grabbing his own mug before making one for you and slumping down against the desk nearby, not even bothering with the chair.
"I rarely leave, so I'm not worried. I'm sure I can come up with something to help you if you give me some time."
Sip on my cup, and pull up a chair.
"how's your little assistant doing? "
He stares off into the distance without saying anything for what feels like a solid minute, but the silence is too uncomfortable for you to try and break it.
Once he shakes it off, he pulls out a small container from his labcoat and pops a pill in his mouth, washing it down with coffee.
"She's dead. Bless her soul. I hope she is with her brother now."
I take a swig of coffee And ask one thing "how?"
"She said she no longer needed to be here, with her research and brother gone. Wanted to go back to her aunt and uncle. I told her it's not safe. she did it anyway.
Mirage had the cake of her welcome back party poisioned. Said she knew too much about us to be let go. I tried everything but she would not listen to me."
His voice hitches multiple times and you're starting to guess his eyes aren't red only because the lack of sleep…
I stare angrily ahead
"Right. Of course she did. "
After a pause I move to another topic. "Know anything about fire creatures? Dragons?"
He blinks a few times, sipping his coffee again.
"I'm not a mythologist, but I know all fire creatures love gifts and praise."
"Ah, gifts? Like virgin maidens?"
He raises a brow.
"For a dragon maybe, but good luck finding one."
Finding another, anyway. Lockbox is no longer one, thanks to you!
"Anything shiny and valuable. They like to pretend to be important."
"Shiny and valuable. That's not too hard."
"But it's even better when they can tell it is something important to you personally. Makes them feel superior, to have a gift to them be a sacrifice of that kind."
He sips on his coffee.
"Fire creatures are dicks."
"I'm going on sort of a treasure hunt, soon, anything you need out there in the world bro?"
"Just… some hemlock flower."
"Simple enough. I'll pick up a few on my way back from dragon mountain."
"Make sure none of your food touches it. It can be made into a potent infusion of poision. It is especially bad for gryphons."
"I'll be careful. " I sigh kicking back a bit. "Truth be told, I don't want go anywhere, being in hell made me feel lazy. "
"And I need to get my stuff back.. " that castle was near Los Pegasus I think
It's actully midway between Fillydelphia and Manehatten, on the edge of the forest where Hollow Shades is, near Foal Mountain!
"Hell… what were you doing there? Met any former friends?"
He seems genuinely curious, but still a bit out of it because of whatever he is on right now.
"I met some new ones actually. An old paladin and a necromancer. And I met the Lord of the place, not exactly friends "
You actually see him smile, then let out a laugh.
"Bullshit you did! Tirek, the Lord of Demons?"
"Yep. Big, red, caged up on a platform. He tried to eat me, then wanted to make me into a demon, provided i freed him."
"Hell sounds like a normal day at work, huh."
He sips his coffee again… but at least he made a joke.
Chuckle at his joke. "But with less bitches"
"Oh there are plenty here, but not the good kind…. and not diamond dogs either."
"Let me know when you get a vacation. We'll go somewhere with fun girls."
"I will make sure to look for you first if I have some time."
Despite the coffee in his hand, his head bobs a few times and eventually falls onto the table in front of him.
All that lack of sleep and whataver he has been taking finally caught up, it seems.
Move the coffee away so he won't spill it in himself.
You make sure the mug is out of hoofreach so he can't knock it over as he starts snoring.
Time to get going to my stuff.
Which teleporter will you use? Canterlot, Manehatten and Fillydelphia are approximately all the same distance.
Canterlot will be good. They are having a huge gathering about now.
So you do remember!
It is a march for peace parade or something, you've heard about it in the news.
Once you use the teleporter, you feel sick temporarily as you are reminded just for a second of the portal that got you to Tartarus…
But you soon find ground under your hooves as you open your eyes and see you are in some sort of tower!
A tower is a great place to fly from.
Let's go the opposite way first and then dive into the clouds spinning and going the way I needed
You can always check those out later!
For now, you got adventures to take care of!
You fake out anyone who might be trying to track your movement before heading the proper direction.
It takes about an hour of flight on the wind channel once you find it.
As you approach, the change is visible from a distance… the castle and the ruined village are now surrounded by grass, flowers and trees!
Nature has returned!
I gasp in surprise and joy.
I will stop in the town first. See if anyone returned.
Even as you fly closer, you see a few tents at the edge of town… and ponies!
Unicorns, pegasi and earth ponies, all wearing hard hats!
They seem to be inspecting the damage to the houses and talk over blueprints!
My wings get a flutter in them
Check the temple too
You dip in the sky a bit as your wings flutter, but land in front of the temple.
You hear a gasp coming from inside!
Followed by… sobs?
You walk inside and see it is the old donkey jack!
His beard is now shaven and he has gotten his mane cut to be more presentable too, wearing a new looking hat on it.
You see tears streaming down his face as he approaches you, grabbing you into a hug.
"You… you are alive!"
"Hey, you look well Mayor." Pat him with a wing
He steps back, wiping his tears with a hoof.
"Sorry… Didn't mean to get so sentimental on you… but it's all thanks to you! Word has spread and ponies showed up! They will bring others to help rebuild the town… they say that in a few months, families can move in again!
I don't know if I can ever thank you enough… you have made my dreams come true and gave my life purpose again."
I get a proud look on my face. Wings up even.
"Its just what I do."
He smiles, taking his hat off solemnly.
"I just want you to know… once the town is fixed up all nice n' proper again, there will be a home waiting here for you should you ever want to settle down."
"Depends.. do you think your new town will need police ponies?" I reply almost jokingly
"We have the paladins in the neighbouring castle for now, but once the town grows again, we will need our own."
Since he doesn't know Lockbox, he replies seriously!
Of course! I chuckle to myself. "Then Its a matter of asking a pretty city mare to settle down in a little country side with me."
Ponyville is hardly a city, but it sure is a whole lot bigger than this place at least!
"That would be lovely. You could hold a ceremony in this very temple."
His face falls a bit.
"Speaking of ceremonies… you should go to the castle now. Your mother has been worried sick about you. Let her know you are fine."
"I was just on my way.. I wanted to see if that statue changed.." gaze up at Celestia
You see it still has tears streaming down her face…
But it now has a bittersweet smile!
The donkey speaks.
"She has been smiling, she knows her subjects are going to be arriving here soon… I am sure she will laugh once the families have moved in again."
"So it did change. "
I nod at it.
"Alright, I will see you another time Mayor." Immediately fly off to the castle
Main enterance or balcony?
Balcony so Mother sees me first!
You land on the balcony you remember belonged to her place.
You see her inside.
As you arrive, she sees you too!
She immediately rushes outside, her gem-eyes sparkling with a few tears but a huge smile across her face!
"Kelani! You're safe!"
She tackles you into a hug, peppering your face with motherly kisses.
"Thank heavens you are safe!"
I hold her tight in my hooves in return, a sudden feeling of relief I didn't know I was scared of.
"Mom.. so much happened."
She holds you for a few long moment before letting you go.
"The most important is that you are safe… I knew I do not need to wear a black veil. I knew you would come back!"
"Thanks Mom." I smile at her brushing away some of her tears.
"Should we tell the others?"
"Of course… your brother already started to miss you dearly! And it took me a lot to convince the Lord of the castle not to hold a honorary funeral for you! I knew you would come back!"
She motions you inside.
"I have some steamed cauliflower, do you want to eat some before you tell them you're back?"
"Yea, we wouldn't want it to get cold while everyone is making a fuss about my coffin." I smile warmly.
Imagine that, looking at your own funeral.
Must be weird!
She clicks her tongue, guiding you to sit at the table, giving you a plate of the stuff.
"Paradise! Come out for lunch! There is somepony here you'll be happy to see!"
She yells in the direction of his room.
Set the plate down on the table in anticipation of a similar tackle.
You are just very dishware concious today!
You make sure it's safe, and soon enough you hear the door open and soon after the gallopping hooves!
The tackle is knee heigth this time though, as Paradise clings to one of your hindlegs with a squeeze.
I lift him up by hoovering and holding him with my hooves.
"Just like Mother said I would be." I reply almost teasing. "I hope you didn't give her too much trouble."
He giggles as you lift him up, flapping his wings.
"Not more than usual!" He laughs.
However, the mare taps the table.
"You'll have plenty of time to play later. Your food is going to get cold!"
"Yes Mom." I reply right away dropping us at the side of table before going to sit down.
Paradise doesn't want to disappoint her either as you two sit down to enjoy the nice lunch she made.
Paradise keeps trying to talk to you about where you have been, but your mother shushes him every time, since he cannot learn not to talk with his mouth full.
"It's not a nice story. I had a very hard time getting back."
Very tactically, you add some oil to the fire, making the little colt excitedly hop around in his seat!
Chew as slow as possible
"It must have taken a year."
He has long since finished his dish.
Your mom seems rather amused at least.
You can almost see the cold sweat that is breaking out on the forehead of your little bro as he clings onto his seat as to not propel himself into the ceiling with his excited wings, hanging onto your every word!
Time for dramatics. Make my face shadowy as I go on.
"Have you ever heard of the Underworld? The land of fire? The land below? "
"Its real. I was down there, lost and with a million demons around me."
Your mother shakes a spoon at you threateningly.
"If you scare him too much and he won't be able to sleep, I'll have some harsh words with you."
Paradise flies off of his seat, quite literally, before settling again, grinning.
"Tell me! Did you fight them? I bet you fought them all to get out! And then rescued some Princess who was locked up down there!"
I nod at mother.
" Oh yes, there was a lot of fighting, and a pretty mare. But she saved me instead. You see.. the pretty mare and a stallion had been fighting demons since before we were born, and they each thought the other was dead. I helped them find each other, and I return the mare used a powerful spell to help me get in the boat of the river Styx. "
I recall the story in a mostly kid friendly way.
You are very thankful for Mother Nature that jaws are attached well, because he most certainly would have lost his now with how much it dropped!
"Why didn't they come with you?"
He asks innocently.
" Oh. The boat take a toll. We had to steal a coin for me, from a huge two headed monster of a demon. " I wave my hooves to show it was scary.
" But there was only one coin. So only one could leave."
He covers his hooves, his wings folding up and shivering as he imagines the spookyness!
"Did you see… any dead ponies?"
"Paradise!" Your mom chides him.
I simply nod
"Speaking of dead ponies. I should go tell the others I'm not."
You tactfully ignore the question and while you see that Paradise wants more, your mother nods.
"Go ahead. Your brother has to help me with the dishes anyway."
Leave the room to go into the castle proper.
As you head out and look at the stairs, trying to remember which one to take to get to the tower of Lord Sidus, you bump into someone, hearing a startled 'Gah!'
You see in front of you a unicorn colt, barely older than Paradise. What immediately strikes you is how… he seems to be crippled.
One of his forehooves is raised as if it hurts to put weight on it while his shoulder and back has some bumps.
He quickly averts his gaze, looking at the ground.
"I apologize, I didn't see you there, Sir."
Then he's nobility.
Bow and step aside
" My apologies young master, I was lost looking for the tower of Lord Sidus."
He is a bit surprised by your bow.
"You are looking for my fa- I mean, Lord Sidus? I am in no rush, I can take you there, if you are lost, Sir."
"It would be an honor young master." I smile and rise to follow him.
He chuckles awkwardly.
"You… you don't need to call me master, Sir."
He turns around, hobbling down the corridor.
You almost feel it'd be faster to look by yourself…
That would be horribly rude. Instead stay with him cheerfully.
"How would the young master prefer to be addressed?"
"You can just call me like everypony else, Sir. My name is Malady."
Not a very nice name…
He keeps hobbling along the stone corridors.
"I'm called Kelani Rush." I tell him. "Pleased to meet you Malady "
He smiles at you.
"Oh, so you are the one everypony has been talking about! My father has told me you died restoring nature to the area, Sir."
I chuckle "I'm so easy to kill."
He smiles at you.
"All a pony needs is the overwhelming will to live above all else to overcome any difficulty, Sir."
He is so young… but looking at him, you're pretty sure he is speaking from experience.
"That's very true. You are wiser than your age Malady."
"Thank you, Kelani, Sir! I have been taught by ponies I respect greatly."
You two reach a stairway, which you recognize leads to the room of Lord Sidus.
You see the horn of Malady glow puprle, and soon that glow surrounds him subtly as he starts walking up the stairs.
…he is negating some of his weight through levitation! Doing that to himself… that must be not something any unicorn can do!
He must have to do that everyday…
Carefully follow him upstairs, a step behind in case he falls.
He seems to reach the top without problem, knocking on the door.
"You have a visitor, Sir!"
"I see, thank you, Malady. Come in."
The colt motions for you to open the door.
Open it and step inside giving the Lord of the place a proper bow.
You fall to your knee on a respectful bow.
As you rise, you see him walk around his table.
"You… how are you alive? I saw you disappear into Tartarus! I wouldn't expect a well trained paladin to survive something like that!"
"I can explain in detail if my Lord wishes. "
"The short version is i had help from ponies trapped there."
"Ponies I hope, and not demon."
He narrows his eyes…
Then he looks at the colt.
"Thank you for showing him here, Malady. Have you gotten your treatment for today yet?"
"Not yet, Sir. I was on my way there."
"Do not tarry. You would not want to worry her."
The colt nods at you, muttering a 'Sir' to you too before leaving.
The short, old stallion walks back behind his desk to sit down.
"Please, explain yourself."
Come close to the desk and take a breath.
"At first I wandered in emptiness, by a mountain that was a demon' s back, past a dozen empty cages. I met with the Lord of hell, still imprisoned in a steel cage and robbed of his magic.
He at first attempted to devour my soul, then promised a way out if I gave him the unicorn paladin that was killing demons.
I met with the paladin, his body a pony's but.. with several parts replaced by demon ones. He was hunting and killing demons sealing them away so they can not rise again. He wanted to use the power of a dead demon to free me. In hunting that demon I learned of a coin that lets one return on the boat of charion to the world of the living. You see my Lord, It was almost certain that the paladin would become further damaged and less pony if he fought one of the demonic lords. Instead we decided to make use of my abilities and steal one of these coins.
On the way toward the river, a second pony, a mare, appeared to be stalking us, her body also corrupted in the same manner as the paladin. Both had thought the other was turned to a demon and had been fighting for a long time.
I must have spent days trying to get them to make up but they both felt the other would never forgive them." I sigh at the long winded nature of this story.
He nods every now and then attentively, and you can almost always see when his eyes flash, probably taking a mental note.
"Taking the boat of Charon… you must have arrived back on the surface near the Badlands then. No wonder it took you time."
"It is a shame about those two, but the most important aspect of your story is the confirmation that Tirek is still safely imprisoned."
"Yes. No demons dared approach the area of his throne. If time moved it would surely have been dusty. " I confirm to him.
"There is one thing.. I promised that mare that I would find a way to restore her body, in return she used necromancy to defend me. I have discovered a way to do my part, but it is a long journey."
"You have done all you can here already.
However… there is one thing that concern me. We need some sort of assurance the unicorn never approaches the prison of Tirek. Even in a weakened state, he could probably steal the magic of a unicorn."
"How might we do that?"
"We can only hope he dies before he can do it."
I look concerned. "My Lord, I don't believe that he can actually die down there. Unless the mare were to seal his body as well. "
"She may have to then. I am sure he has done good work dispatching a great many demons… but he cannot win against them alone. His sacrifice will be remembered forever, but the imprisonment of Tirek cannot be risked, not even if it costs a life."
"Perhaps we could bring him out of hell instead? If he's not down there he can't get eaten by Tirek."
"What if he is not willing to give up his oath?"
"Ah, but isn't killing him just another way of ending his mission?"
The unicorn nods.
"His oath is for life. Ending it would… free him from his task. The mare you want to help return my be able to do it so he does not need to suffer anymore."
"I see.. You believe this to be the best way.." I look concerned.
"I believe she will do it, if I can fulfill my promise to her first. Do you know anything about fire monsters? Phoenixes?"
"If I knew that giving up my life would ensure the safety of all of Equestria, I would do it too. So would any paladin."
He thinks a bit at your question.
"I know about their pride and that they can be useful allies against demon they hate, but the fact that commanding them is impossible makes cooperation troublesome."
"Do you know where any live?"
"I have heard of some living in Whitetail woods, but they are elusive. I also know they may appear as familiars to Fire Elementalists, but your best bet would be going to the island of Dragon Lair, the home of all dragons. Phoenixes live in the forest surrounding the mountain where dragons are born and raised."
"The Dragon Lair. Sounds impressive." I nod a bit.
"Dangerous too. Most dragons are not exactly friendly towards ponies, especially their young."
This Dragon Lair, is it on Dragon Mountain? "
His magic takes a scroll off the wall and unfolds it before you.
"It is. It is on this island-"
He points it out with his cane using his magic.
"Southeast of Equestria. From Horseshoe Bay you could get there in a day or two, provided you find anypony crazy enough to sail you there."
"I might know someone." A smile curls over my lips.
"Thanks for showing me, my Lord."
He shakes his head.
"Think nothing of it. You are always welcome in this castle, after everything you have done, as well as the service your mother has done to my family."
As he floats the map and his cane away, you see his eye flash with realization.
"Oh, and one more thing. The mare who has arrived with you has asked me to give you a message should you come back alive. She said she would pray for Mother Nature for your safe return and that you should visit her home exactly at the end of this moon at night."
That is a pretty batpony day to call a month… but that is in 4 days time.
"I was wondering how she was, it can't have been easy on her."
"She was shocked initially, but was not scared at all from the demons that poured out of the gate that grabbed you. She later told me she was used to fighting the undead which is why she could remain brave. Before she left, your mother convinced her that you are going to be okay, which is still somewhat of a surprise to me, but now I can see why she would believe in you like that."
"I am not sure how she could have known , but my mother told me she knew I was still alive. " I say with awe.
The unicorn chuckles.
"Maybe it is some of her magical heritage."
Oh. So he knows she is a descenant of pegasi from that legendary city in the clouds.
"Ah, or the fabled mother's extra sense. " I smile at him warmly
He chuckles again, gazing at some of the trophies.
"Of course. In all my years, I have very rarely seen a demon being afraid… but whenever my wife grew fierce with determination to protect our foals, even demon lords grew weak in her presence from sheer terror."
Look amazed at the idea.
That must be what I saw in the dream.
"It's a good thing demons don't have mothers!"
Even thinking back, the speed and efficientcy at which she moved and fought seem hard to comprehend!
He lets out a laugh.
"That it is. It grants us knowledge they do not have, power and magic stronger than any spell or sword."
He glances at a pair of wedding rings for unicorn horns encased in glass on his table.
"Love, friendship and family. A demon cannot comprehend the strenght a pony can draw from these if they are threatened."
I admire them as he is showing them to me, a sense of pony pride swelling up.
"Does any other creature have such a strong heart?"
He shakes his head.
"They all have their own strenghts, but no other creature can come close to ponies when it comes to such thing. There is a reason the Elements of Harmony chose the Princesses to be their vessels."
Then let the conversation naturally pause
"I should see the others. Let them know I'm well."
He looks out the window to see the position of the sun.
"At this hour, you will probably find my children in the Chapel, praying."
"I will be very respectful. " I reply and try to excuse myself
You leave his chambers and find your way down to the Chapel. It is easy to find, just by following the soft music that the enchanted statues there let out constantly!
You see the beautiful pink unicorn mare, bent over as she is kneeling before the altar, her robed twin brothers some distance away on both sides, sitting and swinging incense around with their magic.
I will sit in the chapel and wait
You wait patiently until the beautiful mare with her near perfect body stops praying with her head bowed down low and her rear up in the air…
She turns around, smiling as she sees you.
"Ah, so you are alive. I am pleased to see you safe. I do not suppose you came here to say a prayer of thanks to the Princesses?"
Strangely enough, the two stallions do not move at all still, only their magic swaying the incense around, making the thin smoke curl up and disappear.
"I'm afraid I wouldn't know how to pray to her." I admit.
"It is simple. You may be a follower of Nature, but you are still a subject of your Princess. Just bowing your head before the altar and telling her that you are thankful that you and the ponies you care about are healthy under her watchful gaze will surely make her smile."
She smiles too.
"Oh, and make sure to start the prayer with 'Dear Princess Celestia'."
"That does sound simple!" I say positively and approach the altar, bowing my head over folded hooves.
Take a deep breath and say "Dear Princess Celestia, thank you for watching over my loved ones and myself . Thank you for seeing that we are all safe."
You wait for a few second…
And the large, stained glass window behind the altar flickers with sunlight, illuminating you for a second!
The unicorn mare chuckles.
"I think she has been keeping an eye on you. She must be very thankful for what you did with this town and that is why."
Look up at the sunlight and silently add 'please grant me good fortune in finding a Phoenix. '
The light flashes over again, this time, across the face of the statue of Celestia.
It almost made it look like the Princess winked at you playfully!
What a playful goddess, warm and friendly.
Stand up to turn to the mare.
"Thanks for showing me how."
"Ponies with good intentions may always ask for her favour and protection, you ought to know. She is not our Princess for nothing."
"I hear you prayed for me, my lady. Thank you."
"Short of jumping after you to Tartarus, it was the most I could do from up here."
Nod and vaguely stare into the distance.
" It was, unpleasant. "
"Yet here you stand, strong and unwavering."
She encourages you.
"I don't have the luxury of quitting. " I say, knowing she understands as well.
"From what I have seen from you… you would have a harder time quitting than getting out of Tartarus."
She is a paladin and not a priest like her brothers (still unmoving) but she has quite some wit for sure!
Exactly why she knows!
Smirk at her. "You and your father as well."
She raises a brow.
"And you have not seen us in any real
So were all the demons that they fought during the ritual merely warmup for them?
"There are more heroics then ? We should trade stories over dinner sometime " I suggest
"Perhaps when we find the time. I hope you have a family dinner in mind, though."
She smirks, mischievously this time.
"You'd probably have to beat my father in hoof to hoof combat before attempting to ask me out for a date."
" Is that a suggestion I hear ?" I smirk equally playfully at her.
"I saw how in what state you left that poor mare on the morning I woke the two of you up. Would not want to get between two Nature lovers."
You never really realized that you two only took a bath after
she woke the two of you.
"I wouldn't want to distract you too much either. " I chuckle softly.
"Being dead a week really lets the chores stack up. I'll have to tell you how i tricked a demon Lord when I get back." Stretch and flutter my wings a bit as I back out of the temple
Trying to impress her with your slender pegasus form, huh?
"That must be quite the story. Be safe, Kelani!"
Where to now?
To the room I was staying at here
I must retrieve my things
You go the room where you last stayed.
Everything is still in order!
Your saddlebags have been untouched!
Thank goodness, that means the crystal is still intact
It is stil there, cold to the touch just like before.
Tuck that away again.
Which statues am I carrying?
I should go see my mother again, before I rush off.
You have the Killdeer, the Rabbit, the Lion and the Rat statues on you!
The rest are stashed at the cottage of Erdei for safekeeping.
Once you get back to your mother's residence, you can see the crippled unicorn colt from before is here, drawing together with Paradise while your mother is… using some for of penadant, the soft glow of healing magic seeping out of it as she treats Malady.
Stop in surprise as I realize that this what she's been doing
The child that was born that night needed constant care so she could not leave
I'm sort of staring at the process meanwhile…
While she is deep in focus, she can look up at you with a smile.
"Welcome back, Kelani. Malady has told me that you two met just now."
"He told me you were a very gentle and well-mannered stallion. I'm proud!"
Blush a bit actually. "Awh thanks Mom."
"I don't want to interrupt, but I need to get started on my journey. I have to find a friend with a boat."
She frowns for a moment, but tries to hide it.
You hear an 'awwwww' from Paradise too, but your mother speaks.
"I know you have important things to do… just stay safe out there. And if you can't drop by, at least try and write a letter, okay?"
"I will come back when I can, or write you.. Maybe in mail addressed to the old mayor.. you know he said i could move in someday!"
That makes her brigthen up.
"I encourage you to do that! I could cook enought that you can always have some too…"
Ooooh, she drives a hard bargain!
"There is a lovely forest close by too, with its own nature temple. I could worship every day. "
"Looks like I will need to bake a large batch of cookies…"
The two colts look up curiouly too.
"To encourage the workponies in town to rebuild those houses faster of course!"
"Be careful, the scent might bring me back again before I can really leave. " I tease
"If I wasn't so busy, I'd start right away then!"
"Will you really?" Asks Paradise
"…could I stay until they are ready, Miss?" Asks Malady
The mare has to sight.
"What have I done, now I will need to make them by tonight!"
I chuckle a bit and step toward the balcony with a dramatic "and the culprit sneaks away while the nurse and brave colts are busy!"
"Just stay safe out there so you can get some of the cookies next time!"
"Byeeeeeeeeeeeee, come around soon so we can play again!"
"Goodbye Sir! It has been nice to meet you!"
"Goodbye Malady, Paradise. " and with more tenderness. "Mom."
Then fly off before I get tempted to stay.
Your heart aches slightly with the urge to stay, but your duty calls.
It is starting to bend into late afternoon.
Where to next?
First to town. Land and sneak into the construction workers break area.
You see the zone with the tables for food and drinks and such, as well as blueprints and plans with tents set up nearby.
It is easy to sneak here, since the workers are all surveying or deconstructing the houses that are beyond saving, working while there is still daylight.
The only pony you need to sneak past is the nurse stallion in the emergency ward tent in case something happens to the workers, but he seems busy reading so it is easy to get there!
Great. I need a hat and little jacket. Gonna change my color to a more pale green too..
You grab one of the extra hard hats and a tool jacket lying around afer taking on the color of a green pegasus.
You blend right in!
How far away is horseshoe bay?
45 to 60 minutes of flight!
I will fly there.
Roll #1 4 = 4
A wind from the south is picking up, making it harder to fly there, taking up an entire hour, the sky now being orange colored over the ocean as you get to Horseshoe bay.
This is good, most of the sailors will stop for a drink… do I have much money left actually?
You have enough bits to get by (fencing off stolen jewelry to the Ponyville donkey information dealer got you a nice sum), but you probably should stop buying the most expensive chocolate if you don't want to run out of money.
Do I have say, enough to pay a fee to some swamp ponies ?
It may cut down on your finances quite a bit, making you consider where to eat or drink more, but you can afford that, yes!
Time to go to a bar near the docks.
Maybe I'll even see their boat while I'm here. Walk around the docks looking
You see some bars but on one pier you see a stallion with a tankard for a cutie mark, selling beer from a stand he set up (probably less than legally).
Sailor mares and stallions drink and laugh near it, enjoying the brew and sitting or standing against boxes and barrels.
You do also spot the many lights of the ship on another pier!
Wander slowly, naturally, towards those lights.
You wander around, nopony really paying you any mind as you do.
On the steamboat itself you see the scrawny stallion on top, cleaning the large, crooked exhaust pipes with some long tool.
The fat mare is running a stand on the dock beside the ship, chopping up seaweed with a heavy cleaver, probably to sell to sailors as a snack.
Trot directly onto the deck of the ship.
Seafood is not for everyone!
You walk onto the ship like you owned it.
The fat mare, when she sees it, smacks the heavy cleaver into the stand so much it stays upright in the wood and almost makes the pier shake as she storms over with heavy steps.
"Oi, buddy, where do you think you are going?" She yells at you!
You see the scrawny stallion peek over from the edge too, eyeing you up warily.
Flutter to her with a gentle bow taking her hoof and kissing it. "Maim' , I wish to board your lovely boat."
She takes the hoof back so fast and hard you almost faceplant.
She wipes it in her dirty apron like you had the plague!
"You drunk? Does it look like we are going anywhere tonight to you?"
Smile at her, rubbing the spot. "that's what I wanted to discuss. That and getting some of that… granny' s herbal cream for effective healing. "
Despite the hint, she does not really see past the disguise or connect the dots, narrowing her eyes.
"Have you been peeping our ship, you creep?"
You hear a thud as the stallion jumps from the roof onto the deck, walking close.
"Do I need to throw somepony overboard?"
No, I just thought, ponies who survived the wilds of the everfree would be brave enough to take a special job. One I wouldn't want to trade to mr. emeralds." I lay on the hints thicker.
They are not very smart ponies, unfortunately.
It might explain their career choices and genereal health and looks.
They may be decent folks… but not very smart.
The stallion grabs your jacket, yanking it to press you against the metal wall of the boat with a hoof.
"Just who in Tartarus are you saying these darndnest things? What do you want from us you freak?!"
Squint and whisper to them wiping off some of the make up from my face.."its me Kelani. I need a boat."
You manage to wipe off just a smudge and whisper, the eyes of both of them widening, the stallion quickly letting you go.
"Oooh, I'm so sorry sugarcube! I couldn't even hazard to guess!"
The unicorn just scratches his head.
"Why didn't you just say so? Freaked us right out!"
I half groan and half laugh.
"I couldn't tell who might be listening. Can we talk inside?"
They nod, the mare smoothening her ruffles, stubby little wings (that you still not seen her use once) as she gets inside, the stallion hobbling in after.
"Where do you need the boat? Back in the Everfree again, or just Ponyville the long way?"
Shake my head. "To the dragon lair." See if they know where it is.
They look at each other strange, then back at you, the stallion speaking.
"I haven't got anything about danger and dragons, but this boat ain't exactly seaworthy. I'd take you there myself, but the ocean is not always regulated by pegasi. We meet some big waves or worse, a storm, this ship would not stand a chance to stay afloat in open waters."
"So, you could do, with A better boat?
Because… I absolutely need to go there. "
The mare speaks.
"You said you still got an issue with the emeralds, right?"
The stallion smirks, looking at her.
"…are you thinking what I am thinking you are thinking?"
"What? They sure as shoot ain't going to get close to her, and she probably has to leave port soon to avoid authorities after sinking that ship off coast."
"Oh. This is getting interesting." I smirk and wait for them to reveal their plan.
The mare turns to you.
"There is this… sailor. Call her a pirate or as you call it. Used to know the leader of the Emerald Mercs but they had a falling out… thing is, she has been trying to annoy her ever since… which she can pull of because of some magical artifact she found at sea years ago."
The stallion clarifies.
"She… is not a mare the mercs could put down. You tell her that you have been imprisoned by the emeralds and bothered them some, she will help you just for that."
"Oh. Would you introduce me to this pirate queen? " I ask politely.
The stallion nods.
"I don't know her well, but I know some of her crew likes seaweed."
The mare smiles.
"You can grab a bucketful and take it over to them, get on the ship that way!"
"Great idea! Then I only need to find her on her ship and explain."
The mare laughs, the stallion scratching his chin amusedly.
"It's not exactly hard to find. It's the one that docked right next to the building of the Emeralds Mercs. I think she did it to spite their boss and block her view of the port with the sails. You can see pegasi patching it or extuingishing it just about every hour because that crazy emerald mare keeps taking potshots at them."
"Oh…" I take time to fix my make up again. "I better be careful then, she knows who I am."
You make sure that your disguise is top notch.
They both nod.
"Huh, where did he go?"
"Yep, sugar, I would not have stormed you liked that if you didn't look so weird like this. You's like a new pony!"
I chuckle a bit
Put on a northern accent
"Just wait until I get in full swing darling."
She lets out a rather un-ladylike laugh and goes to grab a bucket of the unchopped seaweed.
"Just be careful out there, pal."
Says the stallion.
Grab the bucket in my grinning mouth and trot off towards the emerald building looking for the boat!
You waltz off in the direction of the big three story building, none of the dock workers or sailors giving you any attention as you blend in completely.
You do see that the amount of guards has doubled in front of the Emerald HQ.
You don't need looking for the boat.
It is not even docked at a pier.
It is literally anchored as close to the shore as possible without running to the ground, and with such a large ship, it is taking up quite the space!
As it has been implied, the large sails (that are unfolded even when anchored, once again, purely out of spite) block the view of the building almost entirely.
You can see burn marks on the ship where it has been charred, patched up gun and cannonholes, cuts in the woodwork all along the railing… this ship has seen some action!
You see ponies, gryphons, donkey, even a few diamond dogs on board, bustling around.
Since they have no pier to dock at, they just threw a long board to the nearby stone road and fastened it there with rope and weights.
Trot up the long board.
No one stops you when you walk on board, but once there, a large diamond dog that tower over you, easily four times your size (his clawed hand is the size of your head!) puts a leg over the railing next to you to block your way, brandishing a scimitar in his other paw.
"Hold your little horse, pony. Got lost? This boat not for daycare."
He speaks Equestrian rather well, for a dog, but not quite perfectly, as they do.
"Oy, I'm here wit the seaweed delivery, are you not your ponies hungry ? It's been a whole ten minute walk past the arrows and fire bullets."
He scratches his head, then still blocking his way, barks back over his shoulder.
You see a donkey jenny walk over, wearing… the robes of a judge pony? Patched up multiple places, but more importantly, from the loose fit you can tell it was not originally hers.
"What do you want, you big dope?"
"This pony here with food. Delivery."
The jenny perks her ears and approaches you with a smirk.
"Is that so? Who ordered it?"
Put the bucket down and look in my hat for several minutes mumbling "i wrote the name down with the order, it's here somewhere. Put it by my ear soes it would never drop.."
But actually scan the boat for the captain
You can't see her anywhere… damn, that must mean she must be in her cabin.
The donkey and the dog let you look around for about a minute before she speaks.
"Okay, how about… you leave that bucket right here and buzz off! We'll figure out who wanted it eventually."
Well shrug and fly up slowly.
Then accidentally drop my hat so it rolls across deck toward the cabin area.
You drop it by seemingly complete accident, and it does roll all the way to the stairs!
Dart after it without a word, picking it up and totally accidentally blow into the cabin door as I take my leave.
Causing several knocks on it.
Then stand there waiting.
After a few seconds, the donkey rushes up to you.
"What are you still doing here? Are you a spy? Huh?"
Thankfully, you hear the door open behind you and a raspy but exotic mare voice say "What's all this then?"
"Hello miss! You must be the captain. I've heard you are lovely and fearless. Not even afraid of the Green mare up there. I have an interesting offer for you. If you can spare a moment to hear it. "
You turn around, and… wow, she is… not pretty?
The zebra mare seems to be in her late thirties, but that's the least of her worries, probably.
There is a giant scar running all the way over her neck, like her throat was slit open with a knife at one point.
Her left cheek has a dent in it, as if someone bashed her skull in with a heavy mace.
Her right eye lacks color, but seemingly works just fine, but the area surounding that eye looks charred, the fur gone, as if she was shot in the head with fire.
Even a quick glance tells you that her body is full of scars that imply stabbing or having been shot, and the coat on her lower left forehoof looks shorter than the rest, as if she… regrew that leg recently.
She grins at your proposal, letting out a short whistle.
The donkey jenny steps up next to you and… hey, what is she… ooh, her hoof, that's not proper, not at all!
But that second of a distraction is all she needs, because by the time you look at her to see just exactly what she was thinking, she has drawn her hoof back, grinning.
"I'll hold onto these for you~"
She says, waving your daggers around!
The zebra captain clops her hoof against the deck.
"Now that you have been relieved of those… work tools, step right in! I am sure I'll love to hear whatever you have to say!"
"Ah, thanks, they were getting a tad heavy. " I grin at ease with the situation, trotting inside.
The jenny that just felt you up and took your only weapons closes the door, and the zebra walks up to a large table with the map of the seas on it, leaning against it to face you.
"Since you came here right onto my doorstep, I assume you know I am the one and only Captain Star. But you… what construction pony has daggers in his saddlebag, hmm?"
"I'm not a captain, but.. hmm i wonder if you have heard of somepegasus giving the Emerald Mercenaries a headache. While not being liked too well by a saddlearbian. "
She licks her lips then lets out a laugh.
are the pony who is the talk of the town? Oh yes, you have made yourself quite the name in certain underground societies… but most of them don't know what I know."
Her eyes flash at you.
"I know you are playing for both teams. Swing both ways. Lie in two beds at once… all for your own personal gain."
"Well. It was either please two ladies, or one of them kills me put of jealousy. " smile at her taking her hoof in mine, kissing it
" And Isn't giving a little care more fun?"
She laughs, using the hoof you kissed to stroke your cheek and leans closer, lowering her exotic voice to a whisper.
"It is, isn't it… but I know what you are after."
Her eyes narrow.
"If you try to steal my statue, I will personally break your neck and nail you to the crow's nest as decoration."
Wait WHAT?! How does she know? And she HAS a statue?
Geez my wings shiver in response !
"I did not come to steal, but to trade. Actually. Most urgently I need to go to the Dragon Lair. " I point on her map. "I thought perhaps we could discuss your willingness to part with the statue after we agree on a price for passage."
She looks at the map, then at you.
"That would be a good place to get off the heat that came with sinking that smuggling ship… but of course, if you want to tag along, it will cost you some bits or jewels, whatever you like to pay with."
Then she laughs again.
"But I doubt you can make any offer that will sway me. Look at me. Do you think I would have survived all this without the regeneration I get from the Starfish Statue?"
I take the time to really check her out.
"I see what you mean, perhaps the only thing that would work is.. if you were unkillable.. or if everyone thought you were.."
I say mysteriously
Then put up like, a little over 1/3 of the coin I have. "How's this for a ticket?"
As you look her striped body over some more, you do realize that while most of the wounds would have been lethal… none of them would have killed her instantly. So she can be killed, but nopony figured out how to kill her fast enough yet.
She flicks your nose with her tail as she grabs the money you have offered to her.
"You'll have plenty of time to stare once we're out at sea, focus while we negotiate at least!"
You were just looking at her scars, honest!
But that implies she will take you along for the ride, at least.
"Why would I risk giving it up? I had to dive to retrive it myself from the bottom of the sea. Mother Nature is a real
bitch out at sea, brewing up her storms and crazy waves and bad weather… there's no pegasi out there to stop her from being the wild lady she is."
Oh… so that's why she'd know. She knows about the statues and activating them because he is a water-naturalist! That's how she figured out what you are after from rumors and whispers!
"Because, Mother wants her toys back. And if you think she's mean out at sea, she is just relaxing now. If you hold her things from her, she might get angry "
"If she has a problem, she can come and get me herself."
"If she does that your boat and anything around it might suffer as well."
Then laugh a bit more.
Finally settling down. "But I meant. Using the Phoenix. If we make a grand display of it, you die, and come back… that would be enough of a story to reach every shore.."
Her eye flashes again.
"Not only that… but if I am reborn in ash and fire."
Her grin widens.
"That would mean I could kiss goodbye to all these scars."
"You may just have yourself an offer, once we made this trip."
You will have to get the statue from the cottage of Erdei first!
"I knew we could reach an understanding." I smile at her.
"So when do we leave?"
"In just a few hours, when the night is darkest… and the guards are going back to wake the next shift."
"moving fast? I like it. "
"I think I'll get some of that seaweed while I wait." Stretch and flutter toward the door.
She picks up a star shaped brooche and flicks it your way.
"Put this in your mane. The crew will know it means you're okay in my books."
"Much appreciated Captain " pin it in my mane like a pretty clip.
It IS a pretty clip!
However, once you are out, you see that the crew has already emptied the bucket of seaweed, leaving it empty, by the time you have finished your negotiation!
I haven't eaten in a while either.
Well.. I do have a few hours. Can I spot some cart close by?
You see a cart that is steaming cabbages a few piers over!
Fly over to that like a hungry poni and stand in front of the line.
Once the two sailors before you are served, the mare running it says in a bored voice.
"One bit for one cabbage, come and get it hot!"
"I'll take 5." I tell her eagerly and put the bits on the table
She sweeps them away and picks out five of the veggies from the water with a long, sharp fork, collecting them into a bag for you.
"Have a nice night. " And take my dinner back to the boat, settling in a spot to eat.
You grab your food and start eating it near the bow of the ship, mostly away from the rest of the crew.
Until one by one your dagger fly past your eyes, embed into the wooden railing right beside your head!
You see the jenny nearby, grinning.
With my mouth full of cabbage I shout at her. "Hey watch it! I'm eating here."
Weren't you taught any manners?
"I know, figured you may need a knife!"
She's a pirate! Wouldn't respect me if I was too polite.
Swallow that food and get my knife from the post.
" You want any? I might have bought a few too many.." as an example stab one of the cabbages holding it up.
She walks over, rubbing her belly with a hoof.
"I already got a peck or two of the seaweed you brought… but I might as well eat the rest of your food!"
She puts a hoof on yours to keep the dagger steady and bites into the vegetable to pull it off!
Smile at her
"And what do I call you pretty sailor?"
"Sailor? I'm the first mate, featherbrain! First mate Justine."
"Justine." I pause a minute. "Reggie Rush, Nice to meet you." Then munch on a cabbage of my own while holding hers still.
She munches around the cabbage until she can take it off the dagger with one bite.
She wipes her muzzle in the sleeve of her not-fitting judge robe.
"I'll say… you can play the part of a clueless dumbass well. Your act really had me sold, and donkeys are not tricked easily."
"Acting dumb isn't a skill you can really brag about." I chuckle.
"Glad it worked out this time."
She shakes her head a bit.
"By blind luck… I was just about to have a diamond dog take you to the shore and dunk you in the sea until every hole in your muzzle was full of saltwater."
"Hey, good thing you didn't. I couldn't hear your pretty voice if I was drowning."
"No, you couldn't… you could only hear my laugh!"
As proof, she proceeds to laugh at you!
Laugh as well, nudging her a bit.
"So, you heard I'm joining you for a bit?"
"Saw the pin of the cap'n on you, yeah."
She nudges back.
"Sorry, I don't think I'll have to check you for weapons again now that you're officially with us."
Smirk at her.
"Did you see something you liked last time?"
She shakes her head, pouting.
"I felt a third dagger so tiny I didn't even feel the need to swipe it off of you."
"Tiny? No, i don't think I have anything tiny.. Perhaps it was too far away and you need a better look? " I suggest curiously
"I have the eyes of a gryphon. If I didn't see anything, no amount of looking is going to help you."
She pats your back, as if expressing her condolences.
She's playing games huh, it's a long boat ride yet.
Stretch my wings to tickle her sides while making dramatic sighs. "Its such a shame, my talents and muscles unappreciated yet again. What is a pony to do?"
She waves a forehoof around, making some of your feathers tangle into her robes 'accidentally'… Ouch, that actually hurts a bit!
Although that was probably the point!
"Maybe you can find a gryphon or diamond dog boy who'll knead that clay body of yours and… appreciate you their own way, despite your shortcomings."
Ouch, that stings. Pull back the wing. But keep up the bants with a hearty chuckle
"Or maybe i can find two of them willing to make up the difference in size."
"Whatever floats your boat, or cloud, or whatever you pegasi say. I'm not judging if that's what you're into!"
"Maybe we could dress you as a princess and lure a dragon in to fill your needs." I suggest playfully.
She bites her lips, letting out a small moan, her long ears drooping.
"Mhhhm, oh yes! You mean getting a hoard of gold and jewels for myself, right?"
She shoots you an innocent look. Amazing she can pull it off after everything!
"Every cute pirate's dream right ~"
She holds up her hoof.
"Whoa, easy with the accusations! Who said we are pirates? We are respectable-"
You can't hear what the last part of the sentence is because a loud gunshot echoes across the bay!
You also see that the sail has caught fire.
"Oh, there she goes again."
The zebra captain storms out, shouting up at the balcony of the Emerald HQ.
"LOVE YOU TOO CUPCAKE!"
I frown as well.
"You need a hoof fixing that?"
"You're a pegasus, what are you waiting for? Grab a cloud and squeeze!"
Go get a fat cloud and squeeze it over the fire
'1d10'Roll #1 3 = 3
You can't find a big enough cloud in time!
A gryphon and a pegaus flies up though, and starts blowing it out with their wings, at least you can join in on that!
Well a cloud is just water.
Take a little cloud over the water we are sitting in, make a little twister to funnel water up into it.
'1d10+1' Pegasus movesRoll #1 6 + 1 = 7
While the other two keep the fire contained, you make a tiny twister to funnel the water right into the fire!
You hear ponies clopping their hooves to deck and creatures with hands clapping as they cheer for your efforts.
"SUCK IT, WATER STILL BEATS FIRE, CUNT!"
The captain yells at the shore.
I'll land on deck after the fire is totally out. Wings spread proudly .
A some of the crew surround you, shaking your wing or hoof!
The large diamond dog pats your back too, but he is so strong it almost knocks the wind out of you!
The captain smirks.
"Not bad. Maybe one day you can join full time."
"Lucky I used to do part time weather stuff at home."
After a while, the crowd disperses to get back to working on setting sail soon.
"Had to do this trick often?"
The donkey asks.
"A few times, usually just to move water into a few clouds to make them rain clouds, for the crops, when it got too dry." Trot around with her. "Once to help refill a lake, that was not easy."
"I'm sure it must have been harder than keeping a ship afloat in a sea storm after it had more holes than a flour sieve from a battle, you big hero."
"I didn't know we were measuring feats here." I say with a curious smirk.
"I fought against an angel and several demons you know."
"Angels and demons? Where is your Sun talisman, Battle Priest?"
She says mockingly, walking below deck.
I make a loud laugh and follow her , not sure how much to insult her yet.
She goes lower and lower until the two of you end up in a room thick with smelly bilge and from the smell of it, some other waste and refuse too.
"Here it is, your room for the night!" She grins.
I just give her a flat look and wait.
She stares at you for a while though, then laughs, punching your shoulder.
"Okay, fine, you got me, you only get locked down here if we catch you stealing anything from us."
She turns to leave, since the smell must be as unpleasant for her as it is to you.
Trot after her with a snarky "come on, why would I steal your patched up pots and coats?"
She motions at the judge robes.
"Is a trophy."
She looks you over.
"But ah yeah… maybe we should rob you! Got quite the money on you, huh, to afford a ride with us?"
"I stole it from a rich politian pony. " I shrug. "Guess there are more around. "
"Not out at sea! Most ships hurried to get across the sea or turned back around to dock at the bay."
She leads you to a tiny room, barely bigger than a closet, with a hammock.
"Can't imagine why!"
"Not even a cruise boat?"
"Technically the bay is closed until the threat of piracy is resolved."
I chuckle "That makes it harder "
Then flutter into a hammock.
"Uh, you got a bucket nearby?"
"I think the captain will find a way to get us out."
She raises a brow.
"What do you need one for?"
Frown and look away to cover my embarrassment
"I ate too much cabbage, and beer before spinning around like that and might need to throw up. "
She starts laughing.
She laughs harder.
"Woooh… well, don't worry, if you throw up, it's no big deal! We'll just make you mop it up with your tail!"
"Only if you want to smell it when I put the tail in your face after. "
"I won't mind, but the sharks will love it's scent! Especially once they got drawn close by your bloody nose!"
"Just get me a bucket you bloody privateer. " I call at her curling up in the hammock
"I'll see what I can do… this trip isn't all inclusive!"
She says, trotting away, whipping your side with her tail.
She's got a thin tail, I'll have to practice grabbing it
Yep, donkey tails are way different!
Means they are a lot more muscular and meaty too, so getting whipped by it actually sorta stings.
You are left alone with the rocking of the ship.
Let's hope that I don't actually need it no idea if I get sea sick or not.
'1d10' luckRoll #1 4 = 4
You manage to fall asleep fine.
You do wake up in the middle of the night and have to bury your face into it, but thankfully you just dry heave, without actually throwing up.
After a few minutes of that, your stomach settles again and while you got a bit sweaty, you can fall back asleep.
Hey, at least she did bring you a bucket.
Thank goodness that would have been embarrassing!
You feel well rested, but obviously cannot tell if it is morning or not in the semi-darkness of being below deck.
I suppose I can go above.. brush up my mane first.
You make sure to make your mane look presentable for the bunch of pirates.
You have to cover your face with a wing and filter the sun through your feather, it's so bright out compared to below deck!
Even more importantly, it's just blue seas in every direction you look!
Time to find some pirate ladies. Look around the deck.
You do see the Captain at the bow of the ship, looking out over at the sea!
Flutter over to her with a yawn and look over her shoulder
You feel something hard prod your chest, and you see she poked you with a spyglass, urging you to take it.
"You can already see it in the distance. The sea is working with us, we are making a very good time. Might get there by dayfall."
Look through the spy glass "wow, that is fast. I thought it was a bit further away from looking at the map. " I say impressed
She bumps her rump into yours.
"Looks like Mommy is giving us a helping hoof. The sea and the wind are both giving us a boost."
Did she just rhyme accidentally?
Must be a zebra thing!
More importantly she is being playful.
Nudge her side with a wing in return.
" It looks so close i could glide there."
"I wouldn't try. Even pegasi use boats and airships for a reason! The sea is a fickle mistress, our luck could turn at any moment!"
"Don't say anything to upset her then. "
And call out to the sea "you look lovely this morning!"
She raises a brow amusedly, her eye scar widening bit (eugh).
"Need a moment alone with the sea?"
Grin happily. "I think she likes you better, see that wave there? Started as soon you began speaking." Point vaguely at a larger waver
She waves a hoof.
"Don't mind that too much. The sea has a love-hate relation with me. She just tries to be nice to me now that you're here so she doesn't look bad and you'll return again."
Snicker "got that long relationship blues huh?"
She leans onto the railing.
"The sea will always make it blue."
"Does she always make that sweet coo?" I say with a sigh of longing then act embarrassed
"Wait, I believe that was you "
She turns to you with an amused smile.
"I know you are new to sea, but I think even you could tell the difference."
She snorts with a chuckle.
"Have you not heard of the ancient sailor wisdom?"
"I didn't grow up around many sailors. What do you mean?" I meet her gaze with a smile, more interested in seeing her talk than the wisdom.
She would be incredibly pretty, if not for the many small imperfections or blaring scars…
"It is bad luck for a sailor to try and woo the captain and steal her from the sea!"
" What accusations abound, I could never steal a heart that's bound."
She clicks her tongue playfully.
"Tsk, gotcha. Then you just want to sleep in my bed, not a hammock!"
"Your bed? Well I might have been a bit curious. Is it the reason you look so soft?" I smirk at her giving a play eyebrow lift.
"I may look soft, but tread carefully… You don't get to be a captain of a crew like this if you're soft."
"No, I'm certain you could out match me in a fight maim." I reply calmly to her.
She eyes you up.
"Oh, are you one of those types of stallions?"
"I don't imagine myself defeating a captain veteran of more fights than meals."
"No, I meant, the type who loves
not having a chance against a mare."
"Are you the type of mare who likes having the upper hoof against stallions?"
She shrugs, looking out at sea again so you can't read her expression.
"I don't know, you tell me."
Only one way to know, kiss the zebra.
She seems surprised for a second…
Then you feel your center of gravity shift as you are lifted off from the ground and slammed into the wood of the deck, the zebra pressing a hoof onto your chest to pin you down, laughing.
You hear cheering and whooping from the crew!
"I am flattered, really… but you don't just do that in front of my crew without consequence. Or even without them seeing."
Laugh softly sliding out from her hoof to stand a step away.
"Ah , thanks for not tossing me over."
When you start wiggling away, she puts on some more pressure on your barrel, her strong hoof hold being uncomfortably close to your softer pony parts, as if to give incentive that you stop moving until she lets you.
"I considered it…. but I believe the word you were looking for were to tell your captain how sorry you are!"
"I swear to the stars in the sky, I'm sorry." I reply loudly so the crew can hear but can't stop that smile.
She squeezes your belly, knocking the air out of you and to show you she totally could
, but then lets you go.
"And wipe that stupid grin off your face or I will dunk your head in bilge, you skyrat!"
It's easier to stop smiling while I'm coughing for air, I manage a "yes maim." Between the coughs as I step away from her.
You scurry away, much to the laughter of the crew who are on the deck right now.
The captain gives you a stern, but amused look, but walks off to order her people around to sail.
…that went well!
More interesting than not doing it at least!
And now I can say I kissed a pirate captain. Ha.
I'll go sit and watch the sea a while.
You could have said it before too, it just would not have been true!
Since you have no duty to do on board, you can just listen to the waves crashing against the ship as the waves roll around.
Occasionally you see fish in the sea too, but no mythical creature yet!
You also start to be able to see the island in the distance even without the spyglass now.
Oh man, I'm getting excited.
I better check my gear out.
Your wings flutter on their own!
You got your daggers back yesterday (although one of them still has some cabbage juice on it).
You also have some Adventurer's basics, like a short lenght of rope and some flint&tinder.
And of course your statues and the crystal from Mirage.
Take the time to wipe that one dagger clean, straighten up everything in the bag, and such.
By the time you are done with the organizing and get everything in order, it is the afternoon!
An hour or two more and you will make it to the island!
What a good way to spend the morning
Let's find the Jenny and see what she's doing.
You find her below deck, in a room that was locked before that seems to be an armory.
She seems to be sorting weapons!
…large, and small but fancy weapons.
She is also naked, her robes tossed to the side. You can easily figure why, it'd be very stupid to work with sharp weapons in loose fitting clothes.
"Cleaning the trophy room?" I ask her from the door
She looks back over her shoulder, smirking when she sees you.
"I'm just smart enough to sort the weapons we may need soon… the ones that can kill giants or piece the thickest hides."
"Planning to take on dragons at their own nest?"
"No, but it would be dumb to land at their home and not prepare for them to attack us if they get pissy."
She chuckles, putting down a spear and tapping her head.
"I am a first mate because I think ahead!"
I nod approvingly.
"So any of these weapons have a name? A story?"
"Any of them? All of them!"
She motions at just a few.
A large, charred wooden crossbow.
A beautiful purple staff with a… severed white unicorn horn for the tip.
A spear with two bladed tips and what looks to be the imprint of claws in the handle.
"Please tell me they came with those parts on them "
She looks at the staff.
"Horns grow back, you baby.
Plus he crafted it himself."
"Bastard left us to teach magic in Canterlot now instead."
I sigh with relief
Then look sympathetic "left for a normal life in the big city huh? That's a hard pill there."
"Normal? Hardly. From what I hear, it's more whacky and dangerous there than being a pirate. All it takes is one uncontrolled burst from a foal and boom, the chair you are sitting on turns into a cactus!"
I burst out laughing at the image. Use that to come lean on the jenny and pat her shoulder. Once I calm down reply smugly
"So , you're jealous of his adventures."
She raises a brow and perks her long ears, but doesn't shake you off.
She smirks back.
"Oh yes, how did you know I love the pricks of tiny needles… I guess that's why we are on such good terms already, since you're not so far off from that."
Oh snap, that is as fierce of a pirate comeback as it gets!
"It's just the thing to fit in your tiny heart." I suggest in a dramatic voice
"And just how do you think you plan to get there with your tiny key?"
"With a door that wide I won't need a key, I'll just fly in." I jokingly pat her butt with a wing
It is different from that of a pony mare, but not any less nice.
She shoots you a look, but doesn't stop you.
"I haven't had my date with the dragon yet, he said he is saving himself for you."
"Oh, he's teasing us both then, he told me he was waiting for you, even arranged for two of his friends to be there."
She feings confusion.
"Huh… I thought those two would be your double date!"
Roll my eyes a bit , touch a random weapon.
"So what's the story behind this one?"
"Belonged to twinge, the fencer.
He did a double cartwheel then jumped off a roof to stab a Bugbear in the mouth and bring it down."
"Gave his favourite weapon to the armory, saying it's not going to get any better than that with that rapier of his."
I gasp in amazement "a bugbear? You fought them?"
She perks her ears excitedly.
"We needed to get in to the Los Pegasus Cooking Extravaganza. Obviously to steal the Golden Bowl. Security was tight though, we had to arrive as contestants… but the only recipe the captain knew of that stood a chance had 'Bugbear Royal Jelly' as an ingredient."
She clops her hoof on the floor.
"We didn't even need to steal the bowl, we won it with that!"
"Wait, that must mean… you stole the jelly for it from their hive!"
"We never ran so fast in our entire lives.
Can you even imagine the sound an angry bugbear hive makes?"
"That is incredible. " I reply in astonishment
" No wonder you like this life so much."
She bumps shoulders with you.
"Not thinking of joining us, are you?"
"I doubt it would make much difference. " I shrug dramatically
"After all, I'm not dragon size, you'd never notice even if i was here."
She pats your back symptatetically.
"There there, you always have your wings."
Smirk and flex a moment inching close
Then declare "My wings yes, so hard to control."
And try tickling her.
You manage to get a cute giggle out of her before she can shove your wing away!
"Woah there, will I need to hogtie you then? Must have been your wings that blew you into the snout of the captain too!"
"Simply dreadful isn't It? The wind carrying me into lovely mares all the time." I flutter back a step in case she was serious
You don't see her reaching for any rope, at least!
"Just mares huh? Whew, thank the winds then, I'm safe from your calamity!"
Chuckle at her.
"Lucky and pretty, you've got it all."
"Is somepony jealous? Do you want to be pretty too?"
"Not at all, I wouldn't want to be outshone by your radiance "
She chuckles, flapping down one of her long ears.
"Now you're just trying to flatter me."
"And you're immune to my tricks, what a wonderful first mate."
"That's why you don't even try, huh? You can only win by cheating!"
"Its a game with no rules, you can't cheat."
"Oh some pirates would disagree with you on that!"
"Really? Like you perhaps ?" I tease her a bit. "Oh, right, you're privateers aren't you?"
She looks innocent.
"I never said it was one of us!"
"Of course not. You're too cute to be a pirate."
She rolls her eyes.
"Can't help but notice you've taken back on the insults and started on the flattery ever since I'm out of my clothes."
Rub the back of my head with a hoof.
"Whoops you caught onto that huh."
"You just have such a nice body under those loose robes. "
"No need to tell me, I know, I owe it."
I smile and slide over to another weapon
"So.. you own this too?"
And listen to her story about it until we are closer in.
She regales you with tall tales about all the weapons as she sorts them before she has to put on her robes and rush off to do her duties as the ship prepares for a landing!
What a nice way to spend a morning
Afternoon, actually! You slept in a bit then talked to the captain!
Probably should eat up quick!
That I can do. Eat heartily and quickly
You quickly eat to get ready!
By the time you are done and get on deck, you see that the crew is buzzing around, seemingly somewhat concerned.
You see the island close by now, a giant volcano dominating the middle, the rest surrounded by semi-jungle forest, the northern parts seemingly a rocky, mountainous area. You even see shapes of somethings flying over there every now and then…
This is the place.
Go to the front of the ship eagerly staring at the island.
You are soon joined by the zebra captain, looking grim.
"We may have a problem. I don't think we're the only ones here, and I do not mean the dragons."
"What? Who else is here?"
She puts a striped hoof on your chin to make you look to the sky over the jungle.
You see a very stormy set of clouds there.
"That could be just some rogue weather drifting over there from the sea, and it's not like the dragons care. But it looks too… perfect. I think there is an airship there, hiding."
"An airship.. do you want somepegasus to… scout?"
She glances at you.
"If you aren't afraid to. If they brew up storm to hide themselves, chances are they will kill you, given the chance."
"I'm not scared. But In return, when I get back I want a payment, a piece of treasure or something."
"IF you return."
"We'll figure something out."
"Back on a breeze beautiful." I wink at her and fly up to the sky.
You fly up in the sky.
The stormcloud is about twenty minutes of a flight away, deeper in the island.
Approaching it from the sky without cover without being seen would be nigh-impossible.
If it's over the island
Let's use the island as cover.
Fly to it's jungle side.
You hear the cacophony of different insects buzzing and chirping, as well as different bird calls from all over as you enter the jungle.
The giant leaves on the trees here and all the vines look nothing like you've seen in any forest before.
Keep under the huge leaves, gliding toward the cloud.
It takes a time to navigate between the branches, and you see some of the birds whose calls you've heard before, keeping well out of sight.
…some of these sounds you can't even identify!
Nature is so vast
A few more minutes and you arrive under the cloud.
You can see lighting running through the bottom of it every now and then.