No.717839[Last 50 Posts]
((Lore doc https://pastebin.com/JPhEDTcP
((Welcome players! Please post sheets at the start of (solo) session 0 and again at the start of session 1 for easy access.))
Jiándáo, having left her home to travel to Horizon, finds herself on the top deck of a smaller airship of Kirin design. The ship's name is the Dragonfly and she can accomodate the captain and 2 crew. There is currently one other passenger besides Jiándáo, a white unicorn with an auburn mane called Cinnamon Petal. She has been a pleasantly quiet travelling companion, polite and thoughtful. Right now, she stands next to Jiándáo silently leaning on the balcony rail, the wind rustling her fancy dress and mane as she enjoys the view.
The Dragonfly is passing through a narrow canyon between impossibly steep crystalline mountains which stretch into the clouds above. The rock itself is multicolored, shining with a dull reflection on each faceted surface. The effect is that of countless sparkling gems on every surface. Occasionally, they will pass another airship, headed in the opposite direction. Away from the great city of Horizon.
"Not far now!" a cheery voice calls down from above. The voice belongs to the first mate of the ship, a kirin wearing an aviator's jacket, goggles and a big grin. "We'll be able to see the front gate in a couple hours time!" He takes a small leap down from the catwalk, swinging deftly around a pole leading to the fore deck, and lands on all fours with a solid stomp. "You two have any plans when you get to the city?"
Cinnamon Petal turns and smiles. "As a matter of fact, I'm meeting an old friend. I'm just returning to Horizon from a year of travelling, so there's a lot of… catching up he and I have to do." Her eyes catch a dreamy look for a moment.
"How about you, Jiándáo? What do you think you'll do in Horizon? It appears that you've packed… quite lightly."
"Traveling light is ideal for a pony with nowhere to go." she replies, watching the canyon pass by as she takes another sip of tea, the brew cooling from the wind whipping past the ship.
"As for why i'm here, I have heard rumor that Horizon has plenty of room for ponies on the hunt for work. If i intend to make a living for myself, the city seems ideal for it."
The first mate laughs at Jiándáo's explanation. "Been there alright. Nowadays, though, you won't catch me without some serious luggage. Have you seen those boxes down below? They've all got somewhere to be, but me, well I just go where the Captain goes." He jerks his hooded head to indicate the upward direction. Above you, you can see only the segmented balloon and the struts and wires holding it together.
Cinnamon smiles kindly at her fellow passenger. "There is a visitor's center right inside the gates. They get all kinds of new folk coming in from all over. I'm just certain you can find what you're looking for there, especially if it's a lead on a job. I understand AlphaBravo is always looking for manual labor."
As they speak, an alarm begins to sound, then is immediately cut off. A loud voice echos from a conveniently placed horn jutting from the side of the structure of the craft. “Three unknown ships approach from above, astern. Crew is to report to stations. Passengers report to the command deck.”
The first mate looks up into the sky, curses to himself, and then looks back to the ladies. “Best follow me, and have a quickness about it. This might be bad news." As he walks away he mutters to himself, barely audible. "Especially if it’s the Sky Marshals.”
Cinnamon begins to follow, but stops in her tracks. “Especially if it’s… Wait, you aren’t doing anything illegal aboard this vessel, are you??”
Without stopping, the first mate yells over his shoulder, “What’s that matter to the cops?”
Looking perturbed, Cinnamon follows him up a spiral incline towards the top of the ship.
Storing the tea kit away, Jiandao follows the pair up to the deck.
"It isn't common to receive visitors in transit, correct?" she asks, climbing up along with the pair.
Cinnamon, carefully lifting the edges of her nice dress to avoid tripping, is the only one to respond, as the first mate has already outpaced the two. “I certainly don’t assume so. I’ve been on a few flights, and this is the first time I’ve ever felt this alarmed! Normally it’s very uneventful.” She giggles a bit. “Kind of exciting, though, isn’t it?”
The two of you reach the end of the spiral ramp at the top of the craft. The control deck itself is enclosed in a clear dome, offering full 360° vision. The captain, a dapper-looking pegasus who introduced himself as Velvet Scar, stands at a large wooden wheel as contraptions and dials all whir and click around him. As the group enters, he snaps, “Valor, get me eyes on the bogey. Is it the marshals?? I swear, if that two-timing alicorn led us into a trap…”
The first mate jumps over a small railing and in a single smooth motion grabs a swiveling telescoping device and points it upwards, where you can make out three distant specks growing larger. “Looks like it’s not the cops, boss.” He pauses and fiddles with a few knobs on the side of his device. He pauses, staring through the scope.
“Well who is it then?? Don’t keep us in suspense! Don’t worry ladies,” Velvet puts on a more composed and smooth voice. “Everything is going to be fine. You two just sit there looking pretty and the Dragonfly’ll get you through this thing. Valor, should I kick it in the ass or what??”
Cinnamon turns to Jiándáo. “This is crazy! Have you ever seen the inside of a cockpit like this??” She starts looking around, then points up at the three ships approaching from the rear of the ship. “Oh wow, I can see them!” She seems to have forgotten her previous apprehension and is as giddy as a schoolfilly.
"An impressive machine, to be sure." She replies with a nod, looking around the room before turning to Valor.
"What can you see of our pursuers? Are they a threat?"
Valor pauses for a moment, then begins to chuckle. “You won’t believe it, boss. Looks like pirates.”
“Pirates??” Cinnamon exclaims. She appears to have remembered her previous apprehension. She clutches at Jiándáo, her eyes saucers.
“Pirates??” the captain sounds incredulous. “Pirates??” He sounds confused. “What pirates? What flag are they flying?”
Valor is laughing outright now. “They’re flying the bloody Jolly Roger, I shit you not. Just like old times. Can you believe it??” He’s fully turned around and making a “get-a-load-of-these-guys” face at Velvet.
Velvet looks slightly relieved, but is more serious than the first mate. “Alright, alright then. Doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous. Can we outrun these clowns?”
“Not without dumping the cargo, I’m afraid. Looks like they’ve got their hands on one decent ship, looks like a G&F Galleon, and two fish.”
“Alright.” Velvet sighs, then flips a switch and leans into a horn among the contraptions at his disposal. “Sunrise, wake your little friends up. They’re gonna get another test-run today.” He flips the switch again, stands up straight and sighs. He seems to remember the presence of his passengers suddenly because he makes a reassuring little smile at the ladies before taking the wheel and tossing it hard clockwise. "Hang on, we're just gonna say hi to our new friends."
Cinnamon starts as the ship jolts beneath your hooves. She almost falls, but grabs ahold of one of the several railings around the tiny room. Velvet flips a lever and spins another few knobs, and you feel and see the ship begin to rise and turn around.
"So, we intend to fight them? Very well. I do not have the means to fight in the air, but i can protect from would-be boarders, if need be." says the kirin to Velvet, her horn a-glow as she grips her sword's grips.
"To stand idly while your crew protects us would be shameful while i have some means to assist."
“Fight them? Hopefully we won’t have to fight them. We’re just going to talk to them a little bit.” The captain is busy playing with all the intricate controls, but apparently not too busy for bravado.
The Dragonfly is now motionless, facing the oncoming craft and hovering in place. Velvet makes a couple final adjustments to the dials, sets a bar in the wheel to lock it in place, and turns to his two passengers.
“Welp! I’m gonna go out and talk to these guys, see if they’re just dropping by for a friendly visit or what. You can either come with, or hide out in here. You will not be in danger either way.” He turns to Valor. “Go prep the cargo for a quick deployment, just in case. We need to be able to get out of here in a hurry if things go south.”
“Aye Cap,” Valor hops over the railing and disappears downstairs.
Cinnamon looks pretty scared now. “I think I’ll just stay here. Are you sure this room is the safest place for me to be?”
Velvet smiles at her reassuringly. “As long as you are aboard my ship, you aren’t in any danger. You have my word.” He pauses. “Unless you fall and bump your head or something.”
He turns to Jiándáo. “How about you? You look like you’re made of stronger stuff. Wanna go tell these clowns to pound sand with me?”
His winning grin doesn’t betray an ounce of trepidation as he deftly hops onto the exit ramp.
"I will join you." she states, following Velvet out of the command deck.
"Let us hope they'll decide to move on."
The captain shoots a suddenly very-serious look at Cinnamon. “Don’t touch anything. You might blow us all up. You hear me, girl?” The unicorn looks scared. She nods her head blankly, looks around, and finds a small spot not near any of the dials to sit down. She is now eyeing the contraptions around her as though they are a bigger threat than pirates.
Velvet stares sternly at a her for a moment before appearing satisfied and turns back to leave through the only exit to the crowded glass dome. Instead of following Valor (who you can see disappearing into a small porthole below), he takes a detour to the fore deck, where he leans against the balcony casually to wait, almost exactly where Cinnamon and Jiándáo were standing earlier.
You can see the ships begin to resolve themselves into very large, very threatening-looking blimps. There are several visible cannons on the side of the largest one, which is in the lead of two smaller, pointed vessels, each with a serious-looking contraption on the front. Tiny figures come into view, scuttling around the ships like ants on a treetrunk, busying themselves with various duties or just staring at their prey menacingly.
As they approach, a sense of scale becomes clear. These ships are all much larger than the Dragonfly. The lead galleon is probably 10 times the size of Velvet’s craft, and as it approaches it seems to dwarf the landscape oppressively. You become very aware of the amount of guns facing you. All three ships have a long pole with the classic pirate flag fluttering violently in the wind. Despite Valor and Velvet’s demeanor, the situation seems pretty serious. As the ships slow to a stop nearby, Velvet offers a reassuring wink at Jiándáo. "Pretty impressive, huh? These guys really think they're hot shit." His expression seems to imply that he does not share this assessment. He snorts to himself. "Pirates. Can you believe it? I thought pirating went out of style YEARS ago!"
"The allure of wealth will drive anypony to take it, if not through work then by force. Hardly surprising then that some would take to the skies to search for it instead."
"This notion of air travel is new to me, are there not usually those 'Sky Marshals' you mentioned patrolling as well? Are there not enough to keep the area safe?"
The captain nods. “Taking through force I get. Everybody around here does that. That’s not the problem with piracy. The Sky Marshals are just one group that offers protection. You know the major weakness of unmarked pirates? They have no allies. They aren’t affiliated with any syndicates, so they are systematically hunted down by them. Flying the Jolly Roger? Huh-uh. That’s asking for trouble. See, you’re only powerful if you have resources, and the best resources can only be acquired by knowing the right ponies.”
While he speaks, Velvet appears to be waiting for the ships to fully stop, but he also appears to be impatient. He checks his watch, looking back and forth between it and the hovering battleships. “Just making us wait, huh? I would have thought they’d have tried to make some demands by now. Slow ones. Bet it’s probably a new ship. Well,” he offers a critical glance of the ships, “new to THEM.” He tuts before pulling a golden device out of his breastpocket, pulling on it to extend it towards the imposing hull, and raising it to his mouth.
[font16]“This is Captain Velvet Scar of the P.A.F. Dragonfly. Identify yourselves immediately, and declare your intentions.”[/font16] His voice, although not seeming any louder to Jiándáo, echoes back from the hull of the great battleship as though it were an impossibly loud bellow. The ponies on board the other ship all seem taken aback by the force of his voice, some of them actually falling to the ground. He again winks at his passenger, dropping the device for a moment to speak in an aside to her. “New toy. Magic amplifier. It’s really, really loud in one direction. Betcha anything they’ve got no idea what just happened.”
"Impressive." she notes, seeing the pirates scramble back in shock. "No doubt they'll make themselves known now, if only out of fear."
A small voice rises on the wind. You cannot make out what it is shouting, but you manage to place the source. A distant pony dressed in bright clothing is leaning over the balcony of the galleon, attempting to communicate. Velvet furrows his brow at the would-be hailing. He raises the device again.
”What? Could you speak up?” The distant shouting increases in volume slightly, but is still mostly inaudible. ”Stop, stop. I can’t make out a word of that. If you don’t have a proper communication device I’m afraid you’ll have to send a boarding ship to parley.”
He puts back down the device. “See, this is how we get ‘em. They’re probably going to send their leader or second-in-charge on over, then we can just talk it out one-on-one with them.” He looks supremely confident.
A female Kirin, covered in black grease and goggled like the other members of the crew, pokes her head out of a nearby porthole. “Drones are ready, Captain. Awaiting your discretion.” Velvet merely nods in response. The kirin ducks back inside.
A dozen single-occupancy aircraft detach from the underside of the huge battleship and take flight towards the fore deck. Velvet blinks as they begin to close in. “Oh. Or they’re bringing a couple buddies with them.” He looks over at Jiándáo. “You said you’re willing to fight, right? Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but it does look like they’ll be right over. And they're probably not going to want to play nice. Don't worry, I don't always play nice either." He fidgets with his breast pocket a little bit.
"Correct. If i ever hope to find work in the city, i may have to prove my worth here, if it comes to a fight." she replies, magic on her sword hitls once again.
Velvet nods, looking slightly less confident. "Again. It might not come to that. Let's see if we can talk this out like civilized folk."
The group of flying contraptions surround the Dragonfly, hovering in place. They are each manned by a hard-looking rider, each more scarred and dirty than the last, leering threateningly at Velvet and Jiándáo. Finally one approaches the fore deck and lands gently, the pony on board dismounting and standing up straight, removing a wicked-looking helmet and shaking out his tangled black mane. He is a tall, imposing pegasus wearing, fittingly enough for a pirate, an eyepatch. He looks just as confident as Velvet had only moments before. As he slowly strides up the deck, two additional craft land behind him. The riders dismount. They are wearing similar helmets which obscure their faces, but they appear to be unicorns, or maybe that’s just part of their look. Hard to tell. At any rate, the three of them close in around Velvet and Jiándáo intimidatingly.
The leader walks right up to Velvet, who attempts a friendly greeting. “Welcome aboard! You must be the negotiators. My nam-”
The pegasus talks over him as if he hadn’t begun to speak. “Oi. ‘ow is it you can talk so big? Izzat some kinda magic wand you got there?” Velvet very obviously attempts to pocket the golden device clumsily, but the pegasus reaches out a meaty hoof and stops him. “Not so fast, scummer. Give it ‘ere.” He snatches it away from the captain, who doesn’t try to fight. He doesn’t look exactly scared, but his previous bravado has been taken down a notch. The pegasus fiddles with the device, holds it up to his mouth and points it right at Velvet.
“Oi!!” he shouts. It’s just normal volume. He looks at it, confused. “Oi!” he tries again. He looks like he’s starting to get mad.
Velvet sighs. “It doesn’t work like that. You have to attune it. I can show you…” He reaches for the device, but the big pegasus smacks his hand away with a snarl. “Okay, okay. Take it, then. That’s a gift from me to you, a sign of goodwill.” Velvet shrugs placatingly. “Now, would you mind telling me what this is all about? I’m simply a peaceful trader, transporting goods and passengers to Horizon. I don’t have anything of value that you could steal, just a few boxes of food and books for the poor.” He smiles apologetically. The dark-colored pegasus, who has been fiddling with the device, looks up angrily.
“We’re takin yer stuff,” he snarls, “and if ya don’t like it, maybe we’re takin yer lives too.” The two goons in the back chuckle through their helmets. They’re loving this. Velvet looks at them, then back to the leader expressionlessly.
“I have already explained to you that we have nothing of value. Take that trinket. It’s yours. Maybe you’ll find it useful for making your intentions less ambiguous.” Velvet looks to Jiándáo, flicks his eyes towards the goon closest to her, then back, but if he is trying to communicate something, it isn’t totally clear what the message is.
Stepping forward, she fixes the captain with an icy glare.
"We hold nothing worth taking, pirate. Return to your ship and leave or your crew will haul you back on a sling."
[1d3] BonusRoll #1 1 = 1
/ Roll #2 1 = 1
The big pegasus glares at Jiándáo. “Freatening us, are you?" He laughs menacingly. "‘Ow about we takes this little toy, AND we takes your cargo, AND we takes your lives?” The pegasus gets a gleam in his eye as he pockets the device. He starts to pull what is likely a weapon from under his coat.
Velvet shakes his head ever so slightly. “If that’s the way you want it." He kicks his hoof against the deck of the ship sharply, twice, simultaneously reaching into his breast pocket. There’s a momentary pause as the world seems to slow down, hold still. A whirring sound begins somewhere below.
The leader of the pirates, having drawn his pipe-like weapon, does a double-take. “Huh-” he starts to ask, as something Velvet touches in his own pocket makes a peculiar clicking sound. The area around the pegasus’s pocket with Velvet’s device inside starts to glow, and crackle; light surrounds the pegasus and the brute goes completely rigid, as if frozen.
At the same time, a swarm of small golden mechanical creatures, no more than the size of a hoof, emerge from the side of the Dragonfly and begin to attach themselves to the single-occupancy crafts that are still hovering around the ship. A few of the riders swerve violently away, trying to escape the cloud of small clicking automatons. The rest of them are enveloped. It appears that, once they attach themselves, these little machines begin to dismantle whatever they find. All of the small craft which are caught drop from the air, shedding parts, their helpless riders screaming as they plummet to the ground far below. The cloud of drones does not stray far from the ship; they spread equidistant in a sphere around the Dragonfly and hover in place.
The two goons still aboard the ship are poorly trained, becoming distracted from the flurry of activity. They don’t notice Captain Velvet produce a gleaming silver revolver from within his coat. He quickly fires at the one furthest from Jiándáo.
Trick Ammo (Knockout) [1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
>>717859>bear stance>Tactician: Negotiator, 4 turns
Flashing one of her swords across the closest goon's head, Jiandao dashes across to strike the second goon with another blade.
[1d10] Revolving blade
[1d10] Melee, Bonus actionRoll #1 9 = 9
/ Roll #2 6 = 6
The first goon is clocked across the head with Jiándáo’s wooden sword. He wasn’t expecting such a flurry of activity and falls helpless. The second goon has the wind knocked out of him by her second attack, and is unable to react quickly enough to Velvet’s shot to attempt to dodge. He falls helpless as well.
Velvet whistles loudly. The female kirin from earlier steps out onto the deck. “Yes Captain?”
Velvet jerks his hoof at the three incapacitated ponies lying on the deck. “Can you tie these guys up real quick? I’ve got some further negotiating to do here.”
“Yes captain.” She disappears again, then reappears a minute later carrying a long rope and starts to efficiently hogtie the helpless thugs together. It appears all the fight has gone out of them.
Velvet pulls a golden device from his breast pocket. It looks very similar to the one confiscated by the pegasus. His eyes twinkle as he looks at Jiándáo. “Sleight of hand, you know. I had these custom made to look quite similar.” He reaches into the brute’s pocket and pulls out the other device. Throwing it in the air, he catches it with a flourish. “This one is a stunner decoy. There’s a button on the original that will put stop anything smaller than a buffalo for at least an hour. You probably should tie him up too, just in case.”
He puts the real amplifier up to his mouth and points it right at the completely rigidly motionless Pegasus, careful not to catch any of his friends in the crossfire.
“It works like this, dummy,” he says, and the sound is unbearably loud, although the pegasus does not flinch. A bit of drool starts to drip out of his still-open mouth.
Almost waltzing to the edge of the railing, Velvet points the magic amplifier at the gigantic warship. “We’ve got your leader,” Velvet echos across the canyon to the floating other ships, “or your second-in-command, or whoever that was you just sent over. If you don’t turn around and fly away, that’s not all you’ll lose. I’ll give you one minute to make your minds up.”
Intimidate [1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
sheathing her blades with a wooden clatter, she stands by to await the pirate's response.
"A clever move, tricking them. With these three with us, we may have enough leverage to have them leave us be."
The giant warship does not wait the full minute. Huge engines rev up and start to move the galleon, which turns around slowly and starts to pull away from the Dragonfly. The two faster escort ships turn and follow suit. They rise and disappear back into the clouds where they came from. Velvet breathes a sigh of relief and knocks the deck twice again. The drones, as one, condense and fly back into whatever portal they emerged from belowdeck.
Velvet looks pleased as punch to be called clever. He grins at Jiándáo. “Thanks for your help back there. Honestly, I didn’t really think it would come to blows, but I’m thankful you had my back nevertheless. You know, I think I know somepony who’d be willing to pay for your services. But for now, let’s get out of here.” He starts to climb the spiral back toward the command center, stopping a few steps up. He turns back toward the now-tied thugs and gives them an appraising look. “What do you think we should do with these guys, hmm? They might catch a pretty good bounty with one of the syndicates. Or we could leave ‘em for the Sky Marshals, although it might be less cruel to just chuck em over the balcony now if we’re gonna do that.” He shrugs and turns around, almost running right into Cinnamon Petal who is standing on the ramp directly behind him.
“Oh, are we done?” She appears to have completely forgotten all about being scared or excited. “I was kind of hoping to make my date for tonight, so if you wouldn’t mind hurrying it up just a bit, captain!”
Velvet rolls his eyes.
"As a simple passenger, i leave the choice to you, captain. Perhaps the bounties will help with the cost of the ship?"
“Very well then. I will be in contact with your share of the take. For today you are not a simple passenger, but an honorary crewmember of the Dragonfly!” He says the name proudly and disappears into his control deck. The ship rocks and jolts and begins to move again.
“Hey!” Cinnamon Petal exclaims, almost falling over again, only saved by a last-second grab at the railing.
Captain Velvet Scars was not lying when he implied that the last stretch of the journey was the prettiest. Say what you will for a canyon whose walls are all sparkling gems; after almost a full day of traveling through it, your eyes are ready to see anything else. Cinnamon and Jiándáo take in the view hungrily.
As the Dragonfly pulls around a tight corner, the canyon opens up wide. A very tall, very thick-looking wall of stone is built across a natural chokepoint in the topography. In the middle of the wall, a humongous portal yawns, through which can be seen a flurry of detail and activity. As the ship drifts close, it is revealed to be some sort of technological vestibule into which airships are admitted. Passing into the gate almost creates a sense of claustrophobia at the sudden cutting off of vast space. The ship moves through this foyer without incident, and passes again through a portal, into the crater known as Impact. You gain your first view of Horizon.
The crater is huge. The city itself rises right out of the center of it, tallest in the middle and surrounded by great crystalline structures, some of them looking like cathedrals or shining palaces or even huge gardens supported by what appear to be impossibly large trees. Surrounding this center area, the structures appear to be mostly skeletal scaffolds, growing in a fractal sort of pattern that curves around itself. The ground level of all these structures is obscured by a thick fog which rests in the crater like the last of the milk in an empty bowl of breakfast. The sky is dotted with a multitude of dirigibles and flying creatures of all types. In every direction around the city, impossibly tall crystal mountains form the edge of Impact, stretching all the way to the clouds and almost seeming to be inside an impossibly large cavern.
“Horizon,” Cinnamon says dreamily. “Home.” She sighs as the captain brings the craft down to land in a conveniently-close docking bay.
“We’re here,” Velvet’s voice unceremoniously announces across the whole ship. “This is a quick stop. Got places to be. Have fun, you two. Don’t forget anything on board my ship; I’ll sell it to the highest bidder along with those thugs.”
((forgot this part))
Valor pops out to show you to the exit. “Oh don’t mind the captain. He’s all business when he’s running late. Lovely to meet you, Jiándáo! Hope you find what you’re looking for! Oh, the Captain told me to give you this. He said to open it when you get to the visitor’s center. See ya!” He makes sure you are safely off the ship, then the Dragonfly shoots off into the sky.
Cinnamon turns to Jiándáo. “If you’d like, I can show you to the visitor’s center. A friend is meeting me near there, actually.”
Seeing the city stretch out before her, Jiandao takes the scene in, at peace with her new home, for now.
"Visitor center? I would be honored if you would take me there. Perhaps there will be some work to do.."
“Alright!” She seems pleased to not have to say goodbye yet. She takes your arm and leads you down a crystal ramp, which leads to a stone street in the sky bounded by railing. You can see that there is somewhat of a latticework of these streets, although not all of them are stone, or have railings, or even lead anywhere that looks particularly good to go. Around many of the structures there is a softly spiraling ramp which leads up to the top or down to below the layer of fog. She leads you across the long bridge to a gigantic megastructure. There are huge archways and welcoming crystal alcoves with benches for sitting and lounging. Along the way she points out interesting landmarks and tells bits of history.
“The visitor’s center isn’t actually just for visitors, actually. It started out as a guild for adventurers, but that got bought out when all the adventurers either died or started working for the syndicates, or the Royal Guard, or the Sky Marshals. Not much use for adventurers in a highly civilized place like Horizon,” she titters.
You arrive at a huge archway. “It’s in here!” she presents it proudly. Through the opening you can perceive a bustle of activity; ponies and creatures of all sizes move and languish together. There is a front desk with several attendees, above which “General Questions” is engraved in stone. There is a gigantic wall which appears to be some sort of community billboard; what must be thousands of pieces of paper are affixed to it. You remember the note you were given by Valor from Velvet.
“Well! Looks like you’ve arrived.” Cinnamon looks vaguely sad to say goodbye. She looks at Jiándáo fondly, then wraps her in a hug. “Best of luck to you, darling! I hope you love Horizon as much as I do!”
Moving to bow to the unicorn, she's interrupted by a hug instead. Not quite sure how to respond, she hugs the mare back.
"Yes, thank you again, Cinnamon. May our paths cross again." she adds, nodding to her after the hug.
After cinnamon heads out, Jiandao opens the note from Velvet, inspecting the contents.
The note is simple. It says merely “Ambit. Alicorn. Ask for at the Three Legged Dog.” It’s not signed or anything.
((Paused until session 1))
Falling Sand’s library is impressive. The high walls are all shelves packed with books on every subject. Most of them she has already read, but her parents are constantly acquiring new tomes, cycling out the ones she hasn’t touched in years, of which there are several to choose from. They are surprised to find that after reading one, she doesn’t seem to touch the same book again. Her father, Sealed Scroll, stays updated on which book has been read and which has not, keeping a master list of all the books that travel in and out in his own private alcove near the entrance for his own reference.
Sealed Scroll is currently poring over this reference list. Falling Sand sits silently at her favorite table, the only sound coming from her being the regular flipping of a page. The book she is currently reading is called “Ancient Arcana: Mythos, Superstition, Science (Vol4).” It is filled with referenced accounts of the power of lost secrets, most of which are recounted through a very skeptical lens by the scholar Shining Tome. This particular author has been a recent favorite of Falling; she has absorbed three of his dense manuscripts already and this is the second to last for her to finish.
A loud “POP” indicates the arrival of a letter. Sealed looks up, interestedly, and goes to the mailbox, where a scroll has arrived into existence in their presence, sealed with still-warm wax. He reads the outside aloud. “Looks like a missive addressed to one ‘Falling Sand.’ Any idea where she might be?” He cracks a smile at his daughter.
Falling Sand's eye sweep over the pages intently, the world around her as good as gone as her imagination runs wild with the secrets, spells, and stories she reads and what they'd look like to be seen firsthoof. Not even the pop breaks her concentration, that is until her ears perk up at hearing her name.
"She's out watching the vocal conjurations of classical Equestria, buuut I think she can make a quick stop in."
She says in a joking manner as she looks up from her book, looking up at her dad with a smile.
He reads the insignia on the scroll. “Diamond Blossom, eh? Is it a LOVE letter? Is my little girl entertaining courtiers these days?” This is not the first letter addressed to his precocious daughter, but they are few and far between. He is thankful that she is so studious, but lately he has begun to worry that Gleaming and himself have been keeping her inside too much. It’s not healthy for a young girl to not have any friends, and secretly he’s relieved that she’s seemingly made at least one.
“Do you want to read it yourself, or shall I unravel your secrets for the whole study to hear?” His words echo off only books in the empty room.
Falling puffs her cheeks at her father's teasing, her horn glowing as she lifts the letter out of his hooves in telekinesis.
"Not every letter is a love letter Dad."
She says, embarrassed at the assumption as she floats the letter to herself to read.
He chuckles as she takes the letter, watching her face as she reads.
“Dear Falling Sand,
I am starting a new project today in the Garden district, near the old fruit trees you helped with last time. You know that your presence and wisdom is always appreciated; however, I feel that in this particular instance, I simply cannot manage without your particular touch. If you have time, please meet me around lunchtime. I’ll be working, but I always have time for you!
Hope to see you soon,
Falling knows Diamond is employed as a gardener for the firm that owns much of the Garden District, a complex covering three megastructures right in the heart of New Downtown. Much of the food for Horizon is grown there and distributed freely to the citizens, and it is also a really nice place to go for a walk. It’s a pretty close zeppelin ride, or a medium-distance walk, from the house. Diamond has talked with her on many of her outings there, and recently begun to ask Falling for help with her job, which is to magically influence and enhance the growth of foliage.
Sealed Scroll watches her read the letter impatiently. “Well? What’s it say?”
Falling reads through the letter, eyes shimmering with anticipation as Diamond mentions a new project for her to help with.
"Diamond needs my help with a new job, and I'm already late!"
She says in an excited hurry, sticking the letter into her book where she left off to act for a bookmark, getting up to run out before she stops.
"Wait…" She looks over at the clock, making sure she's looking at the right time before she runs out too early, "Oh it doesn't matter. I'm going to go get ready!"
She says, heading off to her room to grab her bag, journal, and change into a nice sundress.
Sealed chuckles lightly, watching her excitement. “Well, have fun then.” He goes back to his alcove and sits heavily, ready to resume inventory work.
As Falling exits the library, she passes through the hallway to her spacious and comfortable bedroom. Her bag and journal are just where she left them, as she knew they would be, of course, tossed carelessly in the corner on top of yesterday’s clothing. She finds just the perfect sundress in her closet and tosses her jammies equally carelessly on the bed, slips on the dress and almost trips out the door in her excitement. She bounds down to the modest first floor of the house.
It has never occurred to her to wonder why the entire top floor is dedicated to her bedroom and library, while her parents sleep in a closet attached to the den. The largest room downstairs is the kitchen, in which her mother Gleaming Star is currently humming to herself and kneading a batch of dough. She looks up as Falling passes through to the foyer. “On your way out, dear? Take a snack with you? There are apple cookies, and I’m going to bake some really nice bread for dinner. Don’t be late!” She smiles fondly at her beloved daughter before turning back to her work.
Prepped and ready to go, Falling heads down the stairs, stopping in the kitchen as he mother calls out to her.
"Sounds delicious, thanks Mom!"
Falling says, grabbing a good amount of the apple cookies to put in her bag, and popping one into her mouth as she runs out the door and off to the Garden district.
The exterior of the house is a small pavilion with two or three other houses on the same level, separated from the rest of Horizon by a tall fence through which there are several archways leading conveniently to various paths. The one which leads to the upward spiral is the quickest route to take by foot, but the closest to the house is also the one which leads to the public one-pony zeppelins which are free to use for the neighborhood. It’s not quite lunchtime; Falling probably has time to walk if she would prefer, though the zeppelin would obviously be much faster.
Her neighbor, an older well-to-do pegasus by the name of River Wings, is doing some gardening of her own in the large yard they share. She waves at Falling as she passes by.
Falling steps outside, taking a deep breath of the fresh morning air. As she walks by River, she waves back.
"Morning Ms. River! Hope you have a good day!"
She says as both greeting and farewell as she trots over to the archways, looking between them as she brings her hoof to her chin in thought. A zeppelin would be quick, but she'll have plenty of time to walk and see the city. And so she heads up to the upward spiral for a nice stroll.
The archway leads up a slowly spiraling ramp that connects to several other nice neighborhoods along the way. At the center of this structure is a closed lift system which runs all the way from the ground, dizzyingly far below and infected by the polluted fog, to the heights a few stories above. Falling has heard that nobody really uses this to get around, although she’s not sure why. She doesn’t use it, however, because she never really wants to go anywhere she can’t just walk or fly.
She crosses the bridge which leads toward her destination, passing several friendly-looking ponies along the way, many of them with strollers or friendly pet lizards on leashes. She gets a smile from almost everyone she sees. The view from the bridge is very nice today, sunlight twinkling off crystal structures both near and distant. The city center rises up, always to her left as the bridge slowly spirals inward, or ‘hubward’ as it is called in Horizon.
As she is admiring the view, she becomes aware that a dirty, deranged-looking earth pony with crystalline growths all over his face is begging alongside the bridge. She has to walk past him. She sees him trying to engage every pony that meets eyes with him, pleading in a hoarse voice to any that will listen, though nobody stops to speak with him.
Falling walks through the city, greeting every smile with one of her own, and the occasional wave and 'hello'. As she passes the lift, she lingers on it, always wondering how safe it could truly be if it goes right into the fog. But she doesn't stay for long, or at least she assumes it's not long before getting back to her walk.
Falling trots along happily, stopping as she sees the poor looking earth pony begging at all who pass. She frowns, seeing him passed by by everypony else, and approaches him. She takes one of the cookies out of her bag, holding it out to offer to the earth pony.
She notices that the crystalline growths are not limited to his face, but grow all over his body. It looks uncomfortable, especially if these are not just surface deep.
He is screaming as she approaches. “Oh yes! I know! I know the lizard gods. And goddamnit if they don’t know me too.” He completely ignores the offer of food as if he didn’t even see it, although he latches on to her eye contact as if it were a lifeline. The corneas of his eyeballs are all multicolored like the crystal growths all over his body, like all the crystal growths which grow up from the fog, like the crystal mountains that birthed Horizon.
As she looks into his eyes, she catches a glimpse of the pony he used to be: strong, handsome, capable. Sane. She learns about his life in a moment which isn't a moment at all, but something different, a mere memory of time passing consumed in an instant.
He didn’t used to be crazy, but then gems all started growing all over his hoofs and face, spreading across his body like pox, and then he lost his job, and then he lost his family, and then he just walked into the fog one day and the pony he used to be never walked out. She sees all this in his eyes as he alternates screaming and pleading with her.
“They’re killing us down there, and, and changing us! Please, please please. The lizard people! They know I know, oh yes! Please listen, girl, won’t you please listen to me? GOD IS A LIZARD! And he HATES ME! And he hates YOU TOO!” His face contorts in a mask of conflicting emotions as he speaks, stabbing his grotesque gem-crusted hoof violently at Falling.
Falling backs up quickly as she sees how much of his body is covered in growths. Partially from fear of any contamination of the fog, but it'd be a lie to say she wasn't a bit disgusted by it too. But that's set aside as she tenses up, seeing the pony's past moments of clarity.
Her vision returns, blinking a few times as his shouts come to and he points his hoof at her violently. She takes a few more steps back, unsure if what she saw was accurate, or perhaps just a hope. She takes a few steps onto the bridge to get some distance, and then her horn glows in a bronze hue that then encompasses the earth pony. She doesn't know how long it's been, but maybe it'll set him back to a calmer state.>Mend [1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
The spell takes effect, and she can see several of the more nasty-looking huge gems shrinking, others disappearing completely. He looks at her with renewed clarity.
Lights begin to flash from a nearby zeppelin.. It lands on the bridge and two uniformed marshals step out. They have no expression as they adjust bits of gear on their uniform, sizing up the situation and muttering to one another as they approach the now-pacified earth pony. He begins to scream incoherently about lizards again as he sees them, although making no apparent effort to escape. The larger one of the two produces a rod from a sheath on his side and prods it into the unbalanced pony’s side. He crumples immediately, landing unceremoniously in a heap on the bridge.
The two marshals drag the malformed body back to their squad blimp and throw him roughly inside. The one who did the prodding approaches Falling Sand. “Sorry about that, miss. Are you alright?”
Falling's expression softens as the pony looks with clarity, feeling good that she did some help.
She raises a hoof to cover her eyes from the approaching zeppelin, taking a step back as the marshals come out and approach the pony. She winces as the prod him to helplessness and toss him in their blimp.
"Y-Yea, I'm fine. He just, yelled about stuff and pointed at me."
She says, just a little shaken from the sight so early in her morning.
The marshal barely looks at her as she responds. “Alright then. Take it easy. Be safe. Don’t try to talk to these gemcrusters. They’re all crazy, you know. Got crystals on the brain.” He laughs, although nothing seems particularly funny, and strolls back to his zeppelin. He climbs inside. It sits for a moment, the flashing lights turn off, then it lifts and flies away.
The bridge is now almost entirely empty, with only one or two walkers. They don’t seem nearly as friendly as they had been before; nopony wears a smile, and they walk briskly without greeting. Even the air seems cooler.
The Garden District is at the end of the gently curving walkway. The offered cookie lies discarded on the stone bridge.
Falling says somberly as the marshal heads off. She stands there, silent for a time. She's heard how bad the fog can mess with a pony, but that was something out of the worst kind of nightmares. Her horn lights, her journal floating out of her bags, flipping open to the first blank page and scribbles away what happened. She peers over her book at the lone cookie, using her magic to knock it overside the bridge to not leave it for any kid to pick up or animal to peck at.
She turns back in the direction she was heading, writing away as she continues her walk to the Garden District.
The cookie falls off the edge, disappearing into the fog far below. The air seems to clear as she continues on, although the walkway still seems strangely deserted for this time of day, which doesn't bother anypony who is trying to write legibly while also walking and trying to run into anybody.
As she approaches the next landing, the garden district comes into view. It is even more verdant and lush than the name suggests, being not one flat plane of growth as is common in the rest of the world, but countless. There are all kinds of plants, and even ecosystems: not just the fruit-bearing trees which feed the griffons or the rows of cabbages and corn that are tended by a small army of farmers, but also every other crop known to ponydom, flowers and ferns, meadows and marshes, whole mossy forests, all magically stacked on top of each other. A dense green living monolith.
All of this is kept in pristine condition and cared for by the employees of the corporation Griswold and Firth, Falling has read. The same corporation which owns several of the oldest megastructures in town and has strong ties with the royal family is also one of the largest charitable institutions, single-handedly funding and crafting many of the institutions which made Horizon what it is today.
Easy to lose track of where you're at when you're writing and recounting history in your head, Falling realizes she has almost walked right past where she needed to go. She accidentally bumps into somepony, the only one on the path.
Falling recounts the events, keeping from when she got her letter to keep a more accurate account of the timeline of the day. Occasionally she'll peak over her journal to make sure she doesn't walk into anypony, but as it looks deserted she checks less and less.
Nearly done with her scrawling, Falling remembers to check where she is, but a second too late to look up as she walks into somepony else, journal and quill slamming into her chest and leaving a deep dark scratch across the page.
She takes a few steps back in a daze.
"Oh, s-sorry! I get a little caught up in my writing, eheheh. Are you alright?"
She asks, looking up to who she bumped into.
The pony she bumped into is a tall golden alicorn with a black mane, impeccably dressed and unphased by the collision in the slightest. She bounces off him like a soft breeze. He smiles warmly down at her. “Well now! We’ve simply got to stop running into each other like this!” He has ever the slightest accent, exotic and unplaceable. He chuckles lightly at his own joke, but in a way that makes one feel included, to want to chuckle along. His eyes are a deep emerald. “Burning the candle at both ends a bit, aren’t we? Writing AND running? What a time to be alive!” He stretches his wings, sniffs the morning air. “Are you alright, then? Do you need any help at all?”
Falling can see the meeting place Diamond had indicated in the distance behind the tall, dark and handsome alicorn.
Falling tilts her head at the alicorn's greeting, the pony not looking familiar to her. She looks him up and down, taking in his appearance to also note for writing.
"Have we ran into each other before?"
She looks down at her journal, frowning at the dark streak left from the smushed quill, but chuckles from his comment, looking back up.
"Heheh, yea. Can't be satisfied just working on one thing."
She looks around her location.
"I was heading to the Garden District to meet a friend… Oh! Looks like I'm already here, and early… I think."
She says, lifting a hoof to continue but stopping with a gasp.
"Oh, I almost forgot. I didn't catch your name. I'm Falling Sands."
She says, holding up her hoof for a shake with a smile.
“That is very wise. You cannot work on one thing only. You breath, you blink, you think, you talk. Always we do so many things at once.”
“If you are early, why not tarry a bit? See the gardens. This is a wonderful place.”
His eyes gleam as she speaks. He has the shadow of a grin on his face when he takes her hoof, and instead of shaking it, kisses it. “I go by many names, but you may call me Border.”
His emerald eyes remain meeting hers. He does not let go of her hoof, instead beginning to walk with her.
"There are many beautiful things in this world, don't you agree?" He gestures all around him, at the gardens, at the city beyond.
"I do so much can hardly keep track of them."
Falling jokes, a simple saying to most ponies but deeper for her.
"Hmm… I guess that wouldn't hurt. Plenty of time still."
A blush rises to her face as Border kisses her hoof, turning her face away slightly with a stifled giggle.
"Now a pony like you I would've remembered."
As Border walks, Falling follows along.
"Absolutely. There's so many things happening, but so many more that have happened, and will happen."
Border listens to what she has to say thoughtfully, without comment. They walk a while in silence. He stops next to an apple tree, its dangling fruits not quite ripe. He gazes at one. “This used to be a flower, and one day will be food. Right now, it is neither.” He turns to look at Falling. “Many things are this way. Not anymore one thing, not yet another. And yet,” he plucks one from the tree with telekinesis, “even green apples have their uses.” He pockets the apple in his handsomely understated coat, smiles, and turns to Falling. “What has happened, and what will happen. These we can never touch.”
Falling sees Diamond Blossom in a nearby pavilion, bending over a small patch of indigo petunias, her bright orange horn glowing with magic.
ponies might never touch."
Falling says cryptically, looking up at the tree, then turning her head to Border.
"But at least for the past, we have books and pictures to get as close as we can."
Falling peers to the side as she spots Diamond Blossom, realizing it must be lunch time now.
"There's my friend! Oh hey, why don't you come over and say hi since you walked all the way out here?"
Falling says with a cheery tone, this time leading Border as she walks towards Diamond.
She shouts as she does.
Border cocks an eyebrow at her obscure comment. “Yes… books, and pictures, and sometimes even memories.”
Diamond stands up straight, admiring her work, gives it a satisfied nod. She looks up as she hears her name called to see Falling and Border approaching across the park. Jumping herself, she waves happily to her until they are close enough for conversation.
“Hi! Good to see you!! Love your sundress. Who’s your friend?”
“Ah, you must be Diamond Blossom. I am a big fan of your work. My name is Border.” Border reaches a hoof out in introduction. Diamond takes it and they shake politely. “I hear you are going to be starting a new project soon.”
Diamond blushes. “How did you know about that? Who are you?”
He laughs. “I am the one who approved the project. Your work in the forest area is amazing. You truly have talent.”
Diamond blushes even harder. She looks speechless. She looks to Falling for help.
"Thanks, I picked it up last week."
Falling says as Border introduces himself. But as he says he was the one who improved the project, even Falling goes speechless as her jaw drops.
"Y-You approved it? Wow, thank you so much!"
She stammers in gratitude, but then pauses in question.
"So who are you?"
Diamond echoes Falling. "YOU approved it? I uh, wow! Who are you?" She takes another look at the golden alicorn.
He is dressed nicely, but not extravagantly so, although a keen eye of fashion would immediately recognize the extremely high quality of his clothing. He holds himself in a way that is almost regal. Everything about his appearance seems crafted to exude a sense of calm, quiet control. He smiles at her. "I work for a firm that had a hoof in creating the Garden District, among other small improvements around Horizon."
Diamonds's eyes widen.
"Although I have little to do with the day-to-day affairs of this particular area of the city, I have a passion for beautiful things." He smiles modestly.
"This is really quite a coincidence. I was just out on a walk here when your friend came right up and introduced herself to me, and I did not realize it would lead me to one of my favorite artists."
Diamond seems to have regained some of her composure. "Well, pleased to meet you, Mr. Border…"
"Please, just Border. And the pleasure is all mine."
"Border then." She does a smirk and miniature curtsy. A smurksy. "I guess you already know all about it. But Falling!" She jumps and turns back to her friend, alight with excitement. "They asked me to design and build a new pavilion on the sun level! It's gonna be right over there," points a few landings over, connected to the walkway with an arched crystal bridge, "and they want it to be all one big tree. Other than that I get free artistic reign!" Her enthusiasm is contagious and it's hard not to jump with joy along with her, although Border seems to content himself with watching with a mildly amused expression.
"Wow! So you helped make this all happen?"
Falling says with amazement as Border mentions his job. Looking over his uniform, she thinks he must be an executive or something.
She turns as Diamond hops over to her and shares the big news abut the project, eyes sparkling at hearing the new building and the free reign her friend gets.
"A whole pavilion of your own design?! That's incredible!"
Falling shouts with excitement and a hop, looking over to the landing it'll be in, already imagining what it could look like.
"Do you have any ideas yet?"
The alicorn shrugs humbly. “I cannot take too much credit.”
“We-ell… I was kinda hoping you could help me out with that. Or Mr… er, Border, would you maybe have some suggestions?…” She trails off questioningly, looking back at the amused alicorn.
“All I can say is that I have utmost faith in your vision. Unfortunately, I have a great many affairs to attend to today, so I must sadly say goodbye. It was my absolute pleasure to meet you ladies.” He nods his head respectfully then turns to make his leave, but not before giving a sidelong glance to Falling. “Maybe we can run into each other again some time.” He walks away chuckling to himself.
Diamond blushes a bit again. “Alright, bye!.. Thank you, again! I won’t let you down! Thanks! Bye!” She watches as he continues his stroll away for a moment, then turns back to Falling. “That was… weird. He was cute! And looked rich! I think he liked me. Do you think he liked me?”
Diamond leads Falling to the unfinished quarter of the district as she prattles on about anything except her artistic vision, but mostly boy ponies. She seems to really like talking about boy ponies.
"Bye Border! Thanks for visiting!"
Falling says, waving farewell.
"Maybe we will when you come see the finish project!"
"He is quite the looker. And he's so well spoken!"
Falling turns to Diamond, smiling.
he did! He called you his favorite artist! And you should have heard him going on about the gardens here when we were walking."
Falling goes on with the little chatter about Border, puling out her journal again to note down the encounter as they walk over towards the where the project will be made.
"I can't believe we ran into the pony who approved this. What are the odds?"
They stop right in the center of a large, flat, circular grassy area. The area is marked with short wooden stakes with bright orange ribbons tied to them so they are easier to see.
Diamond points out some of them. “Alright, so I was thinking I could make a structure right here, starting with those six corners and grow them upward to meet at the top to make a ring, you know? And maybe, like, twist them all together, and then grow them all outward again to offer shade for this nice little area. And I might grow one of those benches I did in the lower forest area…" She trails off, looks over at Falling Sand appreciatively.
"There are so many more possibilities when you're around, Falling! With my magic, and your magic, we can make this thing amazing!"
Falling circles around the marked area, picturing in her mind the finished pavilion as Diamond describes her idea.
"I love it! This'll be the best pavilion anypony has ever seen!"
She cheers in agreement.
Diamond and Falling happily get to work, Diamond Blossom growing and shaping tall plants, Falling rewinding them as needed, both combining their visions and creating what, in the end, is not what either of them had really pictured, but that both are extremely happy with. Finally, all the apple cookies are gone, shadows are getting long. The sun is starting to dip behind the Western expanse. It is time to go home.
Diamond Blossom gives Falling Sand a big hug. "Thanks so much for your help. This is awesome! There's a lot more to do for the surrounding area, but I think I can take it from here tomorrow. Not that you can't come back," she adds hurriedly. There's a pause.
"Well." She kicks at the grass. "Guess I'd best be heading home. Gotta hit the hay, if you know what I mean. My tummy's EMPTY!" She trots off into the distance, waving behind her. "Byyye!"
Falling looks up at their finished work, feeling beat but proud at how well it came together.
"What did I say, the best pavilion ever!"
She says as Diamond gives her a hug, and hugging her back.
"Oh I will. I wanna see how you keep it going."
Falling stands up as Diamond heads off.
"Bye Diamond! See ya later!"
She say, waving as her friend leaves and turning to head back home. She takes out her journal, scribbling away before remember what her mom said.
"I hope that bread is still warm!"
Falling's walk turns int oa gallop as she heads back to home as she remembers the fresh dinner that's being baked.
Falling makes the familiar journey home without incident. There are many tired smiles from happy parents and pet-owners leaving the parks. She bursts into the house to find the smell of fresh-baked bread filling the air. Her father is setting the table, her mother pulling dinner from the oven. They both look up as she enters at high speed, and both laugh.
Gleaming Star takes a moment to put her hooves on her hips. "Classic Falling Sand, always running late and yet somehow always just in time to not have to set the table. Go wash up, sugar."
Dinner is delicious. Conversation with her parents is pleasant. The rest of the evening is uneventful.
That night, Falling dreams of ancient lost magic, and crystals growing inside of her, and lizard gods.
Being held by the Filly always filled Celestia's chest with a warm feeling, but now they felt a bit remiss being unable to see past Mini's grip. It was minor, and Celestia overall felt content to allow Mini to transport them along the vast area.
Mini gives Celestia a squeeze while talking to Cloche. “Are we gonna see the animals?”
“No sweetheart, we’ve been over this. That was the zoo. This is the circus.”
“Oh.” A pause.
“There’s lots of OTHER stuff to see. Look over there! It’s a clown! Isn’t he funny?”
Mini looks. It’s a painted pony on a small, short stage along the walkway, dressed in a very colorful puffy costume and making exaggerated faces at the crowd. It scares Mini. She begins to cry.
Cloche bends down to Mini. “It’s okay honey! He’s not scary, he’s funny! Come here.” She lifts up the filly. “Oof, you’re getting too big to ride on Mommy.” She puts the filly on her back, who is still crying. Mini drops Celestia, who falls to the ground on his side, and wraps her little legs around Cloche, still crying.
Now that the creature can fully expand within his plushy body, he becomes more aware of his surroundings. There are bright colors and lots of other ponies. Sounds and smells that are intrusive and intense and not altogether unpleasant. The smell of popcorn is in the air. Celestia knows popcorn. It is delicious and fun. Nobody has apparently noticed that he has fallen, and Mini and Parents start walking away.
Celestia takes to stand up on their plush hooves and non-functional wings on his sides. He catches the scent of popcorn from inside the plush. Having experienced tasting popcorn before and seeing Mini's distress. He decides to grab some before returning to Mini. Thus the search is on through the terrifying land of unfunny clown ponies.
Celestia stands, begins to walk, getting a couple strange looks from passerbys. Nobody tries to stop him, though, as he makes his way through the crowd, homing in on the smell of popcorn.
It appears to be coming from the direction of a small tent, with bags of the stuff stacked high and some sort of large box in which it is still making the popcorn noise.
The pony behind the counter seems distracted by another pony who sounds angry. He is trying to hand the popcorn over but the other pony is fighting him.
Celestia's plush mouth opens as a tentacle comes out and reaches to grab one of the popcorn bags, curling around the salty goodness. Bringing it all inside of the plush stored right next to him.
The vendor does a double-take as he watches a walking stuffed toy reach out with its impossibly long green tongue and steal one of his bags of popcorn. The angry customer does not notice, and continues his tirade. The vendor pony tries to decide what he should do, giving an incredulous glare at the thief as it sucks the entire bag of popcorn inside its mouth, growing a little in size as it does so.
The angry pony starts to shout, shoves the vendor. This makes up the vendor's mind as he backs into the kiosk and presses something under the counter. A red light begins flashing atop the tent. The angry pony continues shouting.
Celestia decides to take their leave getting a sense of trepidation from the flashing lights. He decides to take off to the direction he believes Mini had gone. Slipping into the crowd.
NonCombat Talent:[Monster in the closet]: passive; Celestia Hides inside a life-sized that makes others believe Celestia is only the cavalier minion as long as he is inside giving a +2 to any stealth related rolls.
[1d10+2]Roll #1 6 + 2 = 8
Celestia deftly slips unnoticed into the mass of bodies just as two big earth ponies in dark uniforms covered in ominous-looking devices approach the angry customer in front of the popcorn stand.
There is a line of tents along the walkway, each with its own unique set of brightly colored toys and treats, each tended by its own vendor. Many of these kiosks have lines of giggling and happy-looking ponies waiting in front, and the few that don’t sound out with beckoning bellows from the ponies inside. Celestia does not recognize many of these, but one in particular catches his attention: There are plush dolls much like the one he has chosen to reside in. Most of them are smaller, but there is one that is the size of a full-grown pony on display on the roof of the tent.
Celestia approaches the pony-sized plush from a distance, storing the information for later about it to ask mini about it later if he can. He stuffs a popcorn kernel into his mouth and searches for mini in the expansive circus.
[1d10] searchRoll #1 5 = 5
The plush looks nice. It is very big and looks cute and soft.
He begins to search for Mini. Unfortunately, he is not very tall, so cannot see very far while inside the crowd. A lot of legs and hooves and butts, none of them apparently belonging to Mini or even Parents. He finds himself jostled forward with the crowd.
An unfamiliar young colt catches sight of Celestia and shouts in excitement. "COOL!" He runs over to the walking plush and stops just short, staring in awe. "Awh, waow! This one can walk!" He turns to a disinterested looking mare. "Mom! Mom! Look! Mom!"
"Mmm-hmm, honey." She sounds tired.
"Moooom, you're not looking!" He attempts to grab Celestia.
Grapple [1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
Celestia just does a little sprint away from the child grabbing at him. Disappearing from the child by entering the crowd. Celestia continues their search for Mini within the seemingly neverending circus.
[1d10] SearchRoll #1 5 = 5
Try as he might, Celestia cannot see very far through the forest of legs, and again the search turns up no trace of Mini, although this is almost certainly the direction they went. The path has not branched from where he lost Mini.
He gets the occasional strange look, but nopony further molests him as he weaves amongst the crowd.
There appears to be some sort of entrance to a very large room ahead. All the ponies not distracted by the many vendors along the sides of the path seem to be funneling into this area. Inside there is a cacaphony of voices, and Celestia can see moving lights mounted on a catwalk high above.
Celestia, curious about what is going on. Walks inside. while looking around for Mini once in there. Celestia eats another kernel of popcorn from the bag going in.
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
The ponies that are funneling into the entrance to the large room pack tight around Celestia as he doesn’t so much enter as is pushed inside. He feels more and more compressed for a minute, and then as soon as he gets through the portal, the crowd starts to thin and he can maneuver freely again.
Inside, he can see that the room is arranged in a half-circle, with the vast majority of the ponies gathered in rows and seats around the outside of the room, while only a few ponies are in the center of the room. The ponies in the center are doing interesting things Celestia has never heard of. One of them is balancing spinning objects on a long stick, while simultaneously balancing on a large ball. Another appears to be flipping their body over and over, and then jumping incredibly high in the air and landing gracefully with hoofs up to display how well they are balanced. Lights shine and travel around the center of the room in a dazzling display. Loud music is playing, only partially drowned out by the hundreds of voices.
Celestia again tries to find Mini or Parents. Although he can finally actually see something other than the lower halves, he still cannot see them. Luckily, it appears that he will be able to move among the milieu easier, as most ponies are taking seats and getting out of his way as he wanders around looking.
The popcorn really is delicious. It tastes different than at home.
Enjoying the salty goodness and his now restored free movement allowed him inside. Given more room to wander around, Celestia does that. Wander around that is. Continuing their unending goal of searching for Mini in the unending Circus, ad enjoy the sights along the way of course.
[1d10] SearchRoll #1 9 = 9
Celestia is wandering around, trying to look at every pony, when all of a sudden he hears a familiar laugh. It’s Mini! She is two rows over and down a short flight of steps, sitting with Cloche. Hard is nowhere to be seen.
The strange ponies in the middle all bow at the same time and the lights dim to black. A cacophony of hooves clapping together starts, swells and becomes the only sound Celestia can hear. He no longer can see Mini in the dark, but knows where she is.
Overjoyed, Celestia ambles down the steps to Mini, going to Mini and hugging their hoof closely to themselves while offering some popcorn to the filly. Finally, Celestia had Mini back once again.
Mini looks down as Celestia touches her, smiling and picking the doll up by the head with one hand. “Celly!” she exclaims, hugging the doll tight. Cloche does not appear to hear her, nor observe their reunion. As a tentacle snakes its way out of the dolls mouth with an offer of popcorn, Mini takes it without question and begins a process of half-eating, half-throwing it everywhere on the ground around her.
The lights have come back on for only the center of the room, and the loud clapping dies down. Strange that only a few ponies get light and the rest of them have to sit in the dark. A single proud unicorn with a tall black hat and a red cape walks to the center of the stage and begins to shout at all the ponies in the room. The sound of his voice rings out, reverberating around the large room. He stops shouting periodically. Sometimes after he is done shouting, all of the other ponies in the room react. Mostly they laugh, sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly. There doesn’t seem to be much of a pattern to when this happens. He always continues shouting afterwards as if nothing the crowd says can satisfy him. Finally the crowd claps loud enough to make him walk away, and the lights go down again. Truly this is a bizarre spectacle.
As the lights are off, Hard Hat squeezes his way through the ponies packed closely around Mini, Cloche and Celestia. Loud music begins as he awkwardly pushes into his seat, offers a big sigh and whispers loudly to Cloche, “The prices here are exorbitant! They have NO more popcorn. Apparently, some weirdo came around causing trouble at the popcorn booth and they had to shut the whole thing down. And! To make things worse, the lost and found booth said that they had several Lunas, a Twilight and even some changeling queen (can you imagine??) plushy come in tonight, but no Celestia.”
After his rant, he turns to face his family. He does a double take as he sees Celestia sitting in his happy daughter’s lap, munching popcorn. Cloche turns to face him, having been totally enraptured in the activities of the show.
“Hmm? Dear were you saying something?”
Celestia lounges on top of Mini hats trying to discern what is so humorous for all the other ponies. Though Celestia doubted they could be heard over all the noise so they didn't ask, and rested on a stomach full of popcorn.
Hard Hat’s eyes are bulging out of his skull a little bit as he stares at Mini and Celestia eating popcorn. Slowly, slowly, he blinks, rubs his eyes and opens them again. He looks for a minute at his daughter, then to Cloche, then back to Celestia. He looks like he is about to say something, then just collapses back into his seat and stares wide-eyed at the show.
Cloche reaches over and grabs a piece of popcorn from the bag Mini has squished between her and Celestia. She pops it into her mouth, apparently completely unconcerned with Hard’s ongoing existential crisis.
The show goes on. This act is set to loud music and involves 5 ponies on strange wheeled contraptions rolling around on stage, seemingly dangerously like they might collide. They do not. Eventually, they all stop rolling around, raise their hooves, the music concludes and the crowd begins their clapping ritual as the lights go down.
Hard Hat sits wide-eyed the entire show, staring at the center of the room, barely blinking. He must be really into it, because veins are popping out on his face. Every so often, Celestia feels like he might be looking at them, but each time she turns to check he was just stretching, or just so happened to be turning around to look at something at that exact moment. It did happen a few times, though.
Mini falls asleep holding Celestia under one foreleg and popcorn everywhere. The show is over before Celestia knows it. So’s the bag of popcorn. All of a sudden, people are standing up, lights are coming on, and Hard grabs Celestia by the mane, gently plucking him from Mini’s grasp. He lifts her up, saying “C’mon honey, we want to get out of here before the crowds. You take Mini.”
Grapple [1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Celestia lays limp in hard hats grasp. They found no issue in being carried like Mini. Though their eyes linger on Mini, being unable to join them or laying together.
Cloche gently puts the foal over her shoulder without complaint. The trash from their popcorn, along with several kernel casualties, fall to the floor of the aisle as they push their way into the flowing river of bodies. Clothe, being on the edge of the aisle, is able to get into the crowd a good ways ahead of Hard, who waits for the perfect spot to walk into the line.
Celestia is carried unceremoniously back along the same walkway he had traversed by himself only a couple hours before. He glimpses the tents full of trinkets and snacks he passed on the way in. Oddly enough, Hard Hat, giving a crafty look, stops at the one with the large Celestia doll on top.
“Excuse me, sir? Do you have a doll like this one here?”
“Which one where? Oh that one there? Nah, looks like we’re fresh out, buster. We got lotsa Twilight, though.”
He points a hairy hoof over his shoulder at a purple stack shoulder high in the corner of the tent.
“How about that one on top?”
“The one up there. The big one.”
“Oh, that one. Y’know, normally I wouldn’t sell it, but tonights the last night of the season, so… Why the hell not. Six hundred bits.”
“SIX HUN… ahem.” Hard looks around him before responding in a whisper. “It’s for my daughter. It’s her birthday. She’s got fog cancer. Come on, man. Do a good deed. Come on.”
The vendor does not change his stony expression the entire time Hard is talking. “Five hundred bits.”
Hard curses and pulls out his wallet.
After handing over the bits, Hard asks the guy, “Can you get it down for me?”
The shopkeeper shrugs. “For about… 100 bits.” He shows off the teeth he has left.
Hard blinks, veins beginning to pop out all over. “Well do you have a ladder?”
“You know what, I don’t. But if I did have one, you’d still be shit out of luck.”
Hard might explode. To his credit, Celestia notes he is still holding his anger better than the popcorn man earlier. Hard curses the guy out and walks away. His grip is quite tight on the skin of the plushy. That’s probably not good for it.
He storms down to the Lost and Found booth, some 20 feet away. Speaking through gritted teeth, he almost spits, “I’d like to report a found item.” He hands Celestia over to the attendee, who tosses him carelessly into a pile of plushy pony princesses. Hard Hat begins to walk away, back to the plushy kiosk.
Celestia peeks their plush head from the rest a bit baffled from the turnabout of the sudden events of being replaced with the large and anger evoking plush. Celestia decides to follow hardhat home, sneakily.
NonCombat Talent:[Monster in the closet]:passive; Celestia Hides inside a life sized that makes others believe Celestia is only the cavalier minion as long as he is inside giving a +2 to any stealth related rolls.
Roll #1 7 + 2 = 9
The lazy attendant at the lost and found counter is totally oblivious to Celestia exiting the bin and slipping under the cloth of the tent. The animated doll simply walks behind the tents, on the other side of the walkway, and arrives unseen behind the tent selling plushies. He finds the perfect hiding spot between a thin layer of cloth and Hard Hat, who is currently trying to reach the large plushy on the top of the tent by jumping, and coming far from succeeding.
Celestia can see Cloche Hat in the distance, holding Mini who is still asleep.
Hard Hat has managed to engineer his way to the top of the tent using a table, and has acquired the large celestia plush.
“Honey? What are you doing?” Cloche’s voice carries across the quiet din of the crowd. Mini wakes up. She starts screaming for Celly.
Hard brings the plush over to the girls, wearing a smug grin. “I got an even bigger and better toy for Mini!”
Mini: “I WANT MY CELLY!!”
Cloche blinks incredulously at him. “Okay. That’s great. Where is HER toy?”
Hard Hat turns to Mini and shows her the giant, supercute new Celestia. “Heeey! Celly’s right here!” The doll’s oversized head bobbles grotesquely just as Mini looks. There is a moment of silence as the most horrified look dawns on her tiny pony face.
The air is split with a piercing shriek.
Celestia hearing the call Mini starts picking up his pace. Getting close, but not too close for the adults to see him. They might just throw him back. So he goes on the path ahead to the house to wait for Mini to see him.
[1d10]perRoll #1 6 = 6
/ Roll #2 5 = 5
Celestia manages to slip out unnoticed as Cloche tries to comfort Mini. Hard is trailing behind, still carrying the humongous plushy.
Celestia has a decent memory of what the balloon they came in looks like, but doesn’t see it immediately. However, he has a fond memory of being squished comfortably inside his plushy body. He can almost relive the route they took, it was so comfy. With a bit of thought, he follows it backwards from the entrance until he recognizes one blimp that seems familiar.
The cute children's doll stalks towards the family's vehicle in the darkness, knowing he does not have long until they arrive.
After fiddling with the door of the vehicle and unable to open it no matter how many times the knob is jiggled. Celestia decides to wait for Mini outside the vehicle. Standing Idly keeping an eye out for them.
Celestia decides to lean right in front of the back door, which is the one he’s accustomed to entering through and therefore seems the most likely place for him to be noticed by Mini. He can hear her in the distance, still upset.
Someone else is coming. It’s Hard Hat. He’s walking pretty far ahead of Cloche, still carrying Celestia 2.0 and still fuming. He’s muttering something under his breath. It doesn’t sound kind. He walks up to the zeppelin, muttering and digging through his coat for his keys. Suddenly, his eyes alight on Celestia. He pauses for a moment, both his jaw and his grip on the huge plushy going slack, then in a flurry of action rushes over and grabs ahold of the inanimate object.
Grapple [1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Hard Hat holds Celestia up in the air, alone in the night. His eyes are gleaming, his breath is quick and shallow, veins stand out on his face. Celestia has never seen such a perfect example of intense emotion. Neat.
The furious unicorn has his teeth clenched so hard his ears are almost inside out. “I don’t know what you are… I don’t know where you came from…” He seems almost to angry to say any more. He makes ready to throw the doll as far as he is able.
“Oh, you found Mini’s Celly!!”
Cloche’s voice rings out like a bell.
She comes around the corner, holding a mostly pacified Mini Hats. Hard Hat is menacingly holding the doll in the air. He quickly transforms this into triumphantly holding the doll in the air. Mini could not be more pleased when she lays sleepy eyes on Celestia. “Celly!” She holds her hooves out, shaking them demandingly.
Hard Hat may be a hot head, but even he’s not hard-hearted enough to deny his own daughter the very thing she desires most. He hands Celestia over, although his grip holds tight to the plush for a moment longer than necessary. His eyes are still bulging as he turns wordlessly around and gets into the driver’s seat of their sedan airship.
Mini Hats is soon fast asleep, gripping Celestia's plushy body tightly in a way that would be painful for a creature with standard anatomy. A silence hangs in the air as neither of the parents are willing to speak to the other, for their own various reasons. The grotesquely huge, grotesquely expensive Celestia 2.0 plush lies forgotten on the floor of the parking dock as the family heads home.
The city of Horizon was built inside an immense crater. This bowl-shaped scar in the Crystal Mountains, known as Impact, is located inside a naturally occuring canyon, with narrow entrances on both east and west ends. The natural throughways this creates have been closed off by tall, thick walls made of stone; heavily guarded passages exist to allow traffic on both air and ground levels. Just on the Impact side of either wall, small villages have cropped up, their economy purely dependent on the comings and goings of Horizon-bound ponies. These villages serve as a haven for ground-travelling parties and escapers of the fog alike. Often, an eclectic mix of creatures can be found there: intrepid travellers on their way to Horizon, hopeless refugees trying to escape a life in the poisonous fog, and the entrepreneurial who seek to profit off of them.
A path made of crystal gravel leads from the western entrance of Impact, through the Western Village, over the lip of the great bowl, into the fog, to what is known as Old Town, about a mile west from the tallest Toren megastructures. The not-so-ancient edifices there have been rent and twisted from the natural forces which created Horizon’s skeletal structure. Namely, several buildings have been punctured by the bases of megastructures, thicker and taller than any redwood. Even within the vision-obscuring fog, one cannot help but marvel at the scale, both of massive construction and loss.
The ruins of Old Town lie mostly forgotten, except to the denizens who, against all warnings to evacuate, linger, like ghosts of memories. These few, forgotten and ignored by those who have trampled them, have not forgotten, have not forgiven. Many seek a better like; many others seek only revenge.
It is on this crystal path to Old Town that one changeling named Metachrosis finds herself. The fog blankets the world around her, but she begins to make out the familiar shadows of broken homes and institutions rising up from the looming darkness in front of her. It is not a far walk now to the rendezvous.
Em's eyes shifted from side to side as she walked along the crystal path, scanning for any potential danger. At the same time, she tried to seem cool and casual, something both her obvious outward paranoia and quiet, reflexive giggles took great lengths to undermine.
She wore the grey and slightly darker grey guise of Bubbling Flask, Unicorn chemist and historian. Surely nobody would ask questions if a unicorn
cast a simple spell or two. Or perhaps accidentally grew a pair of dragon wings once or twice. She giggled again, this time a little louder and punctuated with a snort.
She trembled in anticipation. The rendezvous point was right there. She could taste it. One step closer. A step at a time, and you'll eventually reach your goal.
She wanted to nervously play with her amulet to calm herself. To reassure herself that no matter what kind of trouble she found herself in, daddy was there. But if she just pulled it out of her shirt anyone watching would definitely be suspicious, right?
Forcing her eyes forward, she continued toward her destination.
She can see a massive, curving shadow rising through the fog in the distance. The ruined chapel, along with a full city block of Oldtown and growing, has been half-demolished, half-devoured by the gigantic crystalline leg of the Toren structure. Bits of stone that have broken off in the slowly growing crystal leg litter the surface, much higher than the buildings themselves, pulled upward with the magical growth and eventually swallowed up inside. The effect is that of a slow-motion explosion, contained within a glossy rainbow-colored pillar curving upward into the fog. It is toward this that she heads.
The shimmering path is swallowed by ruined buildings before her. She can either cut through the cemetery or continue along the crystal gravel path.
Em's lips split into a grin. Bingo. Shortcut. Nobody said anything about a shortcut. She made a beeline for the cemetery, attempting to distil some life on her way. Can never be too prepared!
[1d10]Distil lifeRoll #1 10 = 10
She turns off the shimmering path a short distance before it is swallowed by the shadows of ruined buildings, cutting through the cemetery on the edge of town. There are many shadowy hiding spaces in the graveyard. Still, it’s not really a scary place, when you get to know it. All crime is committed in places that are populated by living ponies. There are no bogeyponies; only those with nothing to lose. This place is as safe as the grave.
As she approaches, Em notes the location of the steeple, which is quite a bit higher than the original architect intended, and slanted almost completely sideways.
The main entrance is gone, lost somewhere within the crystal. The side entrance is the most obvious approach. Behind the building there somehow remains a humongous window, complete with stained sectional artwork depicting some mythological scene.
Em let out an uneasy chuckle. No attacks. What had she expected? Graverobbers? Zombies? Zombie graverobbers? None of that. Just a bunch of dead ponies, peacefully locked up. She pockets the three potions and walks toward the side entrance.
The side of the chapel looks like it was not meant for the public, perhaps originally intended only for clergy, or janitors. There’s a steep staircase leading to a small landing, without any railing, barely large enough for one pony to stand on. The closed door looks much newer than the frame. Before she has a chance to announce herself, a slot in the door opens, revealing a suspicious set of bloodshot eyes. “Password,” a voice says.
Em giggles and clops a hoof against the ground. She knew this one. Probably. She did
have a tendency to misremember details, but she was completely sure she probably had this right. She puffed her chest out and said, "Moldy Herring." Or was it something Daring? Marring? Oh well. Close enough, probably.
The latch shuts. The muttering of conversation can be heard on the other side. There is a long pause. A heavy latch clicks from somewhere behind the door, and it swings inward without even so much as a welcoming creak.
A silver male donkey stands on the other side. “That’s not the password,” he states, matter of factly. This is the same slow, croaking voice you heard earlier.
Another male voice behind the door pipes up. “Oh, come off it Benjamin. She’s obviously supposed to be here. Ain’t nobody here ain’t supposed to be here.”
“That’s the, hic, blessed truth,” hiccups a feminine voice, a little bit distant.
The silver donkey stares you down. “I was told that wasn’t the password, and I ain’t gonna letcha through without it.”
A big diamond dog comes around the door, pushing it further open, and good-naturedly makes room for Em to enter. “You gotta be the one Ambit was goin on about. Don’t mind old Benjamin here. He’s a stickler for rules.” He mock-whispers in her direction, “His brain’s turning to crystals.” He cackles as though he’s said something immensely clever and entertaining.
Benjamin continues to glare at you as though he hasn’t heard the dog speak.
The diamond dog is completely unphased by the donkey’s lack of reaction. “Oh, where ARE my manners? My name’s Buster. Pleased to meetcha.”
Em cackles right along with him. "Crystals," she repeats. "Pleased to meet you too, mister Buster. I'm Flask. Bubbling Flask." She smiles at Benjamin. "It's okay, Benji. I'm supposed to be here. I'm that one Ambit was going on about." She turns back to Buster and tilts her head. "So, uh, I guess I sorta forgot the password a little. Sorry."
Benjamin continues to glare at Em as though she had not spoken. He sits right in the entryway, blocking the entrance. Buster gives him a sour look, then coils his body and throws himself against the donkey in an aggressive attempt to move him bodily. The attempt is a total failure. Benjamin, completely unmoved, obstinately blocking the entryway. After struggling noisily for several seconds, Buster appears to give up, sliding to the floor against the immovable ass. He lies there panting for breath for a moment.
The wavering feminine voice from earlier sounds out from the distance behind this spectacle. “The password is ‘Morning Herald,’ y’all know.” Both Buster and Benjamin snap their heads back toward the source. “Oh whatever, y’all were gonna let her in anyways.” She cackles.
Buster looks back to Em first of the two. He smiles apologetically, shrugs. “Well. Now you can tell him the password, I guess.”
Benjamin does not look like he is going to let you in without it.
Morning Herald. She basically had it right. Most of the letters were there. She gives a resolute nod and turns to Benjamin. "Morning Herald."
The silver donkey sighs. “Enter,” he says, and begins the process of standing up. It is somewhat lengthy. Finally, he shambles out of the way, standing on wobbly legs as he waits impatiently for Em to pass through the door.
Buster cackles again. “See? What’d I tell ya? Crystals on the brain! Well, what’re ya waitin for, get on in here! C’mon and meet the gang!” He ushers you in with a welcoming paw.
The interior of the chapel is just as unkempt and dusty as the outside. The air smells of roasting meat, although there is a slightly sour tinge to the smell. What used to be a generously-sized nave, arched and pillared, is now half the size. The space is bordered by three of the original walls, ornately carved and decorated in the fashion of the Celestian Cult. The fourth wall is the gently curved surface of the megastructure.
There are a few bodies gathered around a makeshift firepit at the former altar. A large whole lizard, impaled on a spit, slowly revolves over the flame.
Em nods and steps inside. "Thank you, mister Benji," she says. Her eyes scan the room, briefly falling on the cooking lizard before continuing on. Seeing nothing else of interest, and the pit was where everyone else was, she joined them, first trying to pick Ambit out of them to join.
Benjamin makes a noise combining a grunt and a sigh as she passes. He begins to make his way back to his post. Don’t wait up, it might take a while.
The group around the fire is far from unaware of a newcomer in their midst. It’s not quite “piano player at the saloon stops playing” levels of obvious unwelcome, but there is a general hush as she approaches.
Her eyes are met with only unfamiliar faces. There are two more diamond dogs, so similar in color and appearance that they could be brothers. Sitting in a corner is what appears to be a small earth pony. She is covered in large, gem-like growths all over her face and body, especially her back. Two small mountains of dark, shiny-looking piles of crystalline structures anchor her in a sitting position, and indeed it looks as though she might not have moved from her spot in quite some time. Her eyes look unfocused and a bit of drool drips from her maw. Another smaller earth-pony sits at her side. She is also older, but not deformed or even unattractive at all. She does, however, look very drunk. It is this one who speaks first.
“Don’t let Benjamin scare you. He ain’t done much but sit in the dog-gammed way ever since he grew them crystals in his brain.”
The whole group is watching to see the newcomer’s reaction.
Em looks from the mutated mare, to the group, to Benjamin, back to the group. "Ooooh, so he actually
has crystals in his brain. Didn't realize. It's okay, he's just doing his job. I mean-" She giggles. "What if I wasn't supposed to be here? But it's okay, because I was invited. So, what's on the itinerary today? I was told I'd fit in here."
As Em talks about Benjamin just doing his job, the entire group erupts into laughter, and all the tension is broken. The two diamond dogs are slapping each other on the back. The drunk earth pony who let slip the password has a hiccuping fit. The one in the corner, with the growths, sits expressionlessly, another drop of drool joining the puddle around her wilted back legs. You even hear Buster’s characteristic guffaw from behind you.
Laughter subsides as she asks what is on the itinerary. A silence widens the gulf between her and this ragtag group of misfits. “You sure don’t belong here, sweetie,” the drunk one states. “You’ve still got a future. Even a drunk old bitch like me can see that.”
“Hey! Don’t say that about yourself,” pipes up one of the diamond dogs.
“You’re giving bitches everywhere a bad name,” says the other. A considerably smaller chuckle passes around the circle.
“She’s here to see Ambit,” Buster calls over to the group.
The first diamond dog hops up. “Ooooh, why didn’t you say so??”
The second one also jumps to his feet. “That really should have been your opening statement.”
The first one nods. “Very misleading. We thought you just wanted to hang out.”
“Hay! Quit poking at the fish, and do your jobs!” Buster sounds less amused than before.
“Fiiiine,” the duo rolls their four eyes in unison. They turn their backs to the fire.
“No, follow him!”
They both scamper off in the same direction, toward the rear of the sanctuary.
Em shifts and laughs along, not entitely sure what the joke is. Laughing feels good, though. Comforting. Did she really have much left to lose? She wasn't sure that was true, but she was sure of one thing. These guys seem like fun.
Walking past the others, she follows the two dogs. "I might actually be back to hang!" she assures the group. "Just have some stuff I gotta do first!"
The tipsy mare stands as you start to follow the dogs. She grins a lopsided smile. “You’re all right, kid. Come back and try some dragon flambè.” She gives the rotisserie lizard a half turn. While she moves, a small stub can be seen on her left side where a pegasus’s wing might be.
The dynamic duo of diamond dogs lead you through a dark archway into the rear sanctuary, where there is a stairway leading down. They descend. It is very dark down there, and the stairway seems to go a very long way. The diamond dogs seem perfectly fine without any light, however.
Em beamed with pride. She was alright, wasn't she? She followed the doggy duo descended the dark, dingy stairwell, squinting to try and make out the shape of the steps well enough to not slip and tumble.
[1d10]perceptionRoll #1 2 = 2
/ Roll #2 6 = 6
The stairs are steep and narrow. It’s almost impossible for a pony to traverse them without slipping a hoof or rolling an ankle. Thankfully, Em quickly sees that there are conveniently placed indents in the wall which make for more steady climbing. She makes it down without major incident.
As she nears the bottom of the long stone stairwell, she starts to smell fresh air. Grass growing, flowers even. There is light coming up from below, growing brighter every step. It is so bright she is almost blinded by the time she arrives at the landing at the bottom. As her eyes become accustomed to the light, she realizes she is standing at one end of a high stone hallway. There are multicolored windows on either side, lit by what appears to be daylight filtering through the other side. At the end of the hallway, there is a large archway leading to what appears to be sunlight.
The two diamond dogs are nowhere to be seen.
Em squints and covers her eyes with a foreleg. "Uh, guys? Doggies? Where'd ya go?" she asks. Weren't they just right in front of her a second ago? Spooky. And it seemed like they went pretty deep for the sun to be shining down even brighter than it was outside. Even spookier.
Supposing the best direction to move was forward, she continued on toward the archway.
As Em walks through the archway, she discovers that what appeared to be sunlight was just an illusion; a sunglobe is scattering light across the ceiling in what is admittedly a pretty convincing practical effect. But an effect nonetheless. The floor appears to be covered in real grass, which doesn’t even grow naturally in Impact. It is short and soft and feels nice on the hooves.
There is a gold and black alicorn, dressed in a dark dress suit, standing near the edge of the circular chamber. He is watching something with a peculiar intensity. A fat-looking spined reptilian creature bounds across the field and up to him. It is not like the rotisserie lizard; this one is larger, looks completely different, and is also alive.
In fact, it is very much alive. It is bubbling over with energy, and appears to be very eager to do something with the alicorn. It tilts its wide head back, makes a strange sucking moan, and spits out what appears to be an almost-ripe apple.
The alicorn appears to not be aware of your presence.
Em gapes for a long moment. An- an alicorn? Did he say he was an alicorn? She didn't remember him saying he was an alicorn. Maybe she forgot?
For now he didn't seem to notice her. In hopes of getting his attention, she took a step forward onto the soft glass and cleared her throat. "Um. Excuse me?"
The alicorn looks up as she clears her throat. He smiles and nods his head, but holds up a hoof as he looks back down to the round scaly beast. He uses his green-glowing telekinesis to pick up the apple and examine it, turning it all over with a careful eye. When he appears to be satisfied, he chucks it again. The thing chases after it with gusto, making a phlegmy wheezing sound as it goes.
He turns to Em. “Ah. Bubbling Flask. Thank you for coming. I hope you found the place alright?” His emerald eyes gleam in the artificial sunlight.
Em politely smiles and nods. "Yes. It wasn't too hard if you know how to get here. I imagine it's pretty hidden otherwise." She clears her throat. "So, uh… you wanted me to do something? Something you said might interest me?"
“Ah. Straight to the point. I like that about you,” he cocks his head, his eyes piercing. “So honest. So open.” He smiles, and turns as his creature comes back to him. As he is talking, he is continuing this strange game of fetch.
“Horizon is… not just a place. It is alive.” He throws the apple, looks up as if to realize what he said. He chuckles a bit. “You’d think I was speaking metaphorically. The city. It’s not ours. We belong to it. We are its food.” He throws the apple. “I want you to help me stop it.”
Em's eyes follow the apple and lizard, and she slowly loses focus on the alicorn. Her eyes snap back to him when he says Horizon is- she cocked her eyebrow. "Alive? As in you, me, or-" She points to the lizard. "That guy alive? That's a pretty big creature."
He responds simply, “Yes.” He sighs. “I have revealed my hand. You can dispense with your silly disguise.” He picks up the apple again, and looks it over. It is noticeably more ripe. He throws it again.
Em lets out an uneasy chuckle. "Disguise? I'm not- I don't know what you-" Her eyes fall on his face and her whole body seems to slump. "Okay." A vibrant, magical green flame washes over her, stripping off her grey fur and mane and replacing it with her dark, deep metallic green carapace. She huffs and looks away, pouting. "Just gonna have to change again when I leave, though." Her attention shifts back to the apple. Was it getting older every time he threw it or something? Oooh, so many questions, and she'd only just gotten there. "So," she says, not looking away from the apple. "Horizons. We're its food. We need to stop it. How?"
For a moment, his completely confident exterior is broken. He blinks at her true form, then regains composure almost immediately. “This is the problem. I am not sure. I know what happened and when, but I am not sure how. We have time, but I do not know how much. I can tell you of the history of the event, or the nature of the beast as we know it, or what we think is going to happen if we don’t stop it soon.”
He throws the now very-ripe apple again.
"Or I can tell you that we need to track down a few others that were hand-picked, along with yourself, for this quest."
Her eyes follow the apple again, this time tuning him out completely. Something about nature? She jumps and forces her focus back on him. "Right! A team! And… uh… history of the- something. I'm sorry, that apple is really distracting. Is it magic? It looks like it's about to start rotting."
The handsome alicorn smiles as the creature coughs it back up. It is indeed quite over-ripe now. "Rotting? No. Rot is a process of life. Observe." He throws the apple. The creature spits it out. He does it again. The apple is not molding, or darkening. It appears to be growing tiny gleaming spots all over its surface.
Not going to rot? But it looks like it's getting a little too ripe. "Ooooo, neat. What's happening to it? Is that guy doing something? Does it change how it tastes? Or is it a special apple?"
Without response, he throws the apple again. When spat out this time, there are little gems all over the surface, jagged and multicolored.
He holds it up for her to inspect.
Holding it a bit distant from the two of them, he fires a magic bolt which splits the apple in two. He brings it closer for inspection.
The interior of the apple is mostly a crystalline structure. The exterior crystal growths are connected to a deep structure which is helical in shape.
The alicorn gazes at you. "Life feeds on life. What we have found is not life as we know it."
Crystals? A chill crept through Em's entire body as she took that fact in. "I-" She paused and took a deep breath. "I'm listening. You think you might know whats going on?"
“I am aware of many things. What I have learned is that the process known as the Toren effect is one of the final stages of summoning an otherworldly being. What I do not know is how to stop it. “ He looks down at the reptilian creature. “This poor beast is not part of that process.”
He bends down to stroke its spiky fin with a wing. It seems to enjoy this, as it starts gurgling in earnest. “This little guy snacks on time. Whatever he puts in his little gullet, loses time at a greater pace. That apple was already going to crystallize. It was contaminated by an unfortunately fog-touched individual who wandered into the sun deck of the garden district. He was already in bad shape, crystals forming all over the surface of his skin and everything. I shudder to think of it.” He does not appear to be shuddering.
So the lizard eats time and sped up the apple's crystallization. The Toren effect. "Yeah. I've seen ponies afflicted with the crystal cancer. Just upstairs, actually. It's creepy and sad. So, these others. You know where I'm supposed to meet 'em, or do I gotta find 'em myself?"
The alicorn stands up straight. "I love the forwardness! No curiosity. Alright, so I leave it up to you how to find them, but there is a list upstairs. My good friend Lunar Dream compiled it. I would say to ask her, but possibly you should just ask your new friend Smooth Step." He smirks.
Em tilts her head. "Smooth? Oh! And if I want to know more can I just come back and ask? If you tell me now I'll probably forget, and when you meet new ponies they ask a lot of questions, and they seem like they shut up a lot faster if you say "I didn't ask" instead of "I don't remember" but these are probably questions I should have the answers to so I think I should find them before I learn about the nature crystal Horizon beast." She gasped for air as she finally finished laying out the entire train of thought all at once. After stopping to take a couple of breaths, she continued. "So Smooth is the one I need to talk to for the list. Got it."
The alicorn listens to all this, his jaw slowly growing more and more slack. Finally as she gasps for air he finds his smile. “I cannot guarantee to always be here. I can say that Smooth always has a way to reach me should you need.”
"Well. Oh well. I'm sure I'll learn or figure out everything I need to know. I usually do!" She spins around and waves. "Thank you! I'll do what I can!" She walks back toward the steps.
[1d10] if she passes she remembers to put her disguise back onRoll #1 6 = 6
The alicorn waves farewell as she disappears down the hall. He watches her go, and places his face in his hoof. “I sure hope Lunar knows what she’s doing.”
Climbing up stairs is a lot easier than climbing down them, although quite a bit more taxing. Feel the burn. She finds her way back to the chapel fire social just fine. The diamond dogs are there, along with the deformed pony and the drunken mare. Even Buster and Benjamin are sitting close by. The remains of lizard bones are lying everywhere. Every so often one of them will offer a belch.
Upon seeing Em (er, Bubbling Flask), the drunken mare hops up. “Hey you. Ambit said to give you this.” She digs around in a pocket, pulling out several bits of trash along the way. These fall to the ground unnoticed. She produces a balled up wad of parchment and hands it proudly to Em.
Em picks takes the balled up piece of paper, crouches down, pick up the bits of trash, and pockets them. She wasn't really sure what Ambit wanted her to do with those, but she was sure it was important at some point. He seemed like a smart guy.
Standing straight again, she uncrumples the parchment in hopes it'll give her some indication of where to start.
Smooth Step gives Em a confused and pitying look as she picks up the bits of trash from her pocket, shrugs, and goes and sits down next to the gem-crusted withered pony in the corner. She begins to sing a song.
High above the fog level, there are unoccupied sections of the Toren structures. Several of them have been repurposed as living quarters and gathering spots for various ponies who either cannot afford a better situation or eschew the lavish lifestyle of the ponies who live near the pinnacle. In one of these makeshift homes, a small group of ponies have found a home and a family. They get by on temporary jobs, handouts and occasional larceny.
Citrine Fleece sits on a pile of junk, tinkering with her latest project. Her trusty mechanical sidekick KC is nearby, as always. She has been alone in the hideout since morning, and it is now just after sunset.
"Almost…" KC watches curiously as Cit fiddles with an odd device: a small square metallic apparatus with a sort of grappling claw on each corner and a large circular blue light in the center. It resembles a four legged spider. The idea is that it latches on to a surface and emits a remote controlled electric discharge, wreaking havoc on things. Poking her tongue out a little in concentration, she tests it out by tweaking some screws and applying pressure to a plate on the device's underside.
[1d10] TinkerRoll #1 5 = 5
The small machine seems to be starting up. It stands, takes a couple small steps. A loud pop and a flash of light, a trickle of smoke, and it collapses to the ground. It looks somehow sad.
Just then, Cit hears the fluttering of wings approaching. She sees three pegasi approaching the lack of a wall which functions as an entrance. Their wings flare out and they flutter to a stop. The last bit of their conversation is audible.
“I really don’t think it’s worth it, Zeph. You don’t even know whats in there,” the large royal blue pegasus, Tempest Breeze, drawls slowly.
The small cobalt pegasus, Zephyr Breeze, replies. “Bro I’m telling you. You can’t even imagine the kinds of shit these rich assholes have, just stashed away, not even using it.
The third, a white pegasus with a bright yellow mane, Golden Flash, does not weigh in. He instead walks to Cit and KC, greeting them with a hoof wave. “How goes it?” He sees the small mechanical heap with a wisp of smoke still rising from it near her. “Doesn’t look good from here. Is it supposed to do that?”
She clicks her tongue in annoyance. "Dammit… Knew I shouldn't have used those bootleg crystals." She gives the device a half hearted kick of frustration.
As Flash approaches, KC greets him, clockwork mechanisms ticking away as he deliberately raises his arm in a stiff little wave. Cit's mood is improved a little by his arrival. "Heya! Let's, uh, say it is. Heh." She rubs the back of her head. "I think the crystals were faulty, and… Ah well. Next time."
She shoots a glance over to the other two, then back to Flash. "You guys, uh, planning something? Something I'd be interested in?" She cocks her head to the side, clearly eager to know more. KC mimics her.
Flash unstraps a large pack and drops it to the floor with a grunt and a thud. He looks tired, but smiles at Cit. “Yeah. Those things are always a crapshoot.” He unclasps the bag and pulls out a ripe red apple, tossing it to her. He produces another and starts to munch, eyeing the brothers as they continue to bicker.
Tempest’s slow, deliberate baritone. “A warehouse full of valuables is not going to be left unguarded.”
Zephyr’s high, fast chirping voice. “Maybe the entrances! Maybe the windows, the air ducts, all the obvious places! Were you even listening to what I told you? Telling you bro, in and out, five minutes tops, everything we can carry. Think of the take!”
“Think of the risk.”
“What risk? You really think some stupid rich jerk even cares whether some of his stuff disappears? They buy a new toilet every time they shit!”
“That just means they can afford to pay for top-notch security.”
The two suddenly become aware of Cit and KC. They sheepishly smile and wave. “Hey Cit,” they say one after the other.
"Oh, thanks love!" She catches the apple with telekinesis and monches on it thoughtfully.
She eavesdrops idly on the Breeze brothers, waving to them as they greet her, too polite to say hello due to having a mouth full of apple. She finishes her bite and speaks up. "He's not wrong you know. They say those fancy bastard shit gold. You won't be able to get in with their systems though. Not unless you have a way to disable their power source…" Her horn sparks with lightning a little, and she gives them a knowing smile. To drive the point home,KC gestures to them, then at KC and himself, then upwards with both thumbs. She takes another bite and looks at them expectantly.
[1d10] Persuade if neededRoll #1 9 = 9
Then at Cit and himself*
Zephyr punches Tempest in the shoulder. “There you go. Added protection. I told you she’d be in!”
Tempest shakes his big blue head. “I really don’t know about this.”
Zephyr hops a step closer to Cit. “You’re in, right? Tell me you’re in! With you and KC, we’ll definitely be able to pull off this heist!”
“Why don’t you tell them what you’re talking about. Start at the beginning.” Golden’s patient voice intercedes for the first time. He gestures at Cit and KC, as if pointing out the obvious fact that they have no idea what Zeph is babbling on about.
The smaller brother turns to him excitedly. “That’s the best part! It’s super lowkey. I didn’t even know about it for sure until today.” He turns to Cit and KC.
“So we were scrounging up some nosh in one of the lower levels,” he begins. Cit knows he refers to the Garden District, a towering multilevel terrarium which is the de facto source of food for most of Horizon’s denizens who are unable to afford to feed themselves, including very often their own humble household. “I had been there a couple times before, because there’s this super good grass there. I mean, like, it’s fantastic. I was gonna bring some back but I had it already. It was too good not to. You’d understand if you tried it.”
While he’s speaking, Tempest is slowly growing more and more visibly agitated. “Shut up about the grass,” he finally interrupts.
“Sorry,” Zephyr rubs the back of his head. “It was really good though.”
She nods. "I mean he's not wrong. We found some beautiful weeds down there the other day. The real prime stuff, imported from Everfree…" KC nods knowingly and makes an OK sign.
"Anyway. The heist. You were saying?" She shuffles a bit closer, eager for details.
The smaller pony continues. “So anyways, there I was, picking the grass, having a little bit of it here and there, you know you gotta QC that shit…”
Tempest sends him a warning look.
“Alright, alright! I was just saying. There I was. When all of a sudden, I notice this, like, this crack, near one of the pillars. Like, right through my favorite little patch of green goodness. I went to check it out, and it went, like, through the metal floor, deeper than me. It looked kinda newish… all the metal was still shiny on the inside and stuff. But it’s too small to really see anything down there.”
“And that’s basically it,” finishes Tempest. “Nothing more to go on. Nothing but a crack in your grass.”
Golden laughs. Zephyr does not. He looks a bit frustrated. “Nopony takes me seriously.”
"I mean, it's better than nothing. Could be a way in. Might as well go check it out. KC, what do you think?" KC gives an overly dramatic shrug. "Yeah, that's what I thought. Sure, we're in. Long as we all get equal shares of course." She finishes off the core of her apple.
Zephyr glares at everypony. “You guys didn’t even let me finish.”
“So finish then,” drawls Tempest.
Zephyr, his dignity injured, straightens his back and clears his throat a little. “So I keep going back there, right? The crack is getting a little bigger every day, and today I was able to kinda…” he offers a wary glance toward his brother, “climb in there and stick my head down close to the bottom. Through the hole, actually.”
“You are either suicidal or an idiot,” remarks Tempest.
“You risked your life for a peek at the unknown,” nods Golden.
Zephyr sends him an appreciative look.
“It was still pretty dumb,” Golden adds.
Zephyr scowls and shifts his focus back to Cit and KC as he explains further.
“The room I saw was… incredible. Huge.” He tries to illustrate the scale with his forelegs and wings but obviously feels he is not conveying it properly because he gives up shortly. “Very large. I could see the closest wall easily, but it stretched in a wide, wide circle. It had to be the size of the entire GD, and all of that just packed with, like a million shelves of boxes, all different size boxes, full of… of… well, I don’t exactly know what, actually,” he finishes lamely. “But that’s where you come in! I’m sure there’s something of value we can snag from there.”
She frowns a little. "And you're sure it's valuable? I mean, I'm still on board with having a look-see, but what if it's like, a drug stash or something? I don't want trouble with any gangs, you know. A thug or two I can handle, but a price on my head, no thanks." KC folds his arms defensively.
Tempest snorts in agreement with Cit. Zephyr glares at them.
Golden looks thoughtful. “Those metal foundations are old, way old. They’re super thick and built to last. What the hell could make a crack all the way through that?”
Zephyr sounds defensive. “I don’t know! It was kind of around the edge of one of the middle crystal pillars, branching toward the center. It looked like… peeling an orange apart, but with the metal.”
Just then a fluttering of wings announces a new arrival. A pegasus wearing a black fog-proof helmet and suit tries to fly in, a little too quick; tries to slow and nearly tumbles. She regains balance but kareens into Cit’s tinker area, tripping over the most recent failure and into a large pile of past ones. She lies there a moment, then extends a hoof up in the air. “I’m okay!”
The new pony sits up and removes the fog helmet, revealing a feminine frame with dark make-up, bright pink manehawk, a few facial piercings and a few neck tattoos. This is Starfish. She crashes here sometimes.
She has two large packs strapped on her sides. She looks sheepishly up from her impromptu landing spot, half-buried in Cit’s pile of junk parts.
“What’s up guys?”
“Could be some sort of magical corruption,” she postulates as KC does a big thonk. “ Fairly sure that can happen. Either way, I reckon we sneak in, see what’s in there, and if it’s dangerous, we- Whoa!”
She scampers out of the way defensively as Starfish makes her entrance. “Oi! Hooves off the merchandise!” she says in mock annoyance as the mare disturbs her precious loot. She moves to help her up and eyeballs the bags intently. “Find anything cool out there?”
“Classic Starfish entrance,” remarks Tempest.
Zephyr is doubled over laughing.
Golden trots over to Starfish’s side as she skids to a halt. He doesn’t look ALL that concerned, but enough to make sure she really is alright before chuckling a bit.
Still sitting in the junk, she unloads the packs. They roll off her to the ground. She takes Cit’s assistance gratefully, offering a flourish and a wink after she has her hooves properly under her. She grabs one of the bags, zips it all the way open, and pulls out a wingful of crystal power tubes, dropping them slowly back into the bag. They make a tinkling sound as they land. She points the opening of the bag at Cit. There is a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Each one bears a different brand name, however; Cit’s trained eye recognizes a mix of Bronzetop, Innergeezer, and other common brands. Moreover, she can tell by the sound they make as they land that almost all of them are completely empty.
She pulls up Starfish with a soft grunt and looks her over. "You alright?" she says with a bit of concern. "Was a bit of a nasty landing." KC looms over her, sharing her
As she opens the bag, Cit leans in. "Huh. Not a bad stash at all, for a Fog Run. Good work? Planning on selling 'em, yeah?" She gives Starfish an encouraging smile.
"By the way, Star. Me and the boys were just talking about a potential job over in the gardens. Not sure what the reward is yet, but we reckon it's worth checking out. Apparently the stash is HUGE." KC spreads his arms for emphasis, succeeding where Zephyr failed. "You up for something like that?"
Starfish dusts herself off, checks to make sure everything still works alright. “Yup. Green lights go.”
“These pretties? I thought I might let you have the first go at them, figure out which ones we can use or sell.”
“A job huh? You know me, I’m always down! Down like a clown!”
“Oh, but that’s not all I wanted to show you. Check this out!” She unzips the other bag. It’s full of greasy machine parts: gears, sprockets, springs, connectors, actuators, valves, filters, nuts, bolts, and other various tinkering necessities. She rummages through the metal bits in the bag. “That’s not the cool part,” she explains. It takes her seemingly forever to produce a small metal box. She presents it to Cit. “Ta-da!” she sings.
“Go on, open it,” she urges, her bright blue eyes sparkling.
"Oh really? Well… thanks. I'll sort through 'em in a bit."
"Sweet." She shoots her a big grin and looks over to the rest of the gang. "When do you guys want to do this, then? Tonight?"
She gravitates towards the bits and bobs, her curiosity piqued heavily. She takes the box eagerly, almost like a kitten handed a toy mouse, and fiddles with it before keenly prying it open. KC stands over her shoulder, eyes telescoping out a little to get a better look.
“Yeah, whenever you’re free,
As Cit mentions doing the job, Zephyr’s face transforms from sulky into excited and happy. “Yes!! I knew you’d be in! Cit’s always down for a good old bit of mischief!”
Tempest gives her a look to show he is obviously not impressed. Golden nods approvingly at her. “I’m pretty curious too. Tonight, then, if nopony has any objections.
Tempest says, “I have some objections. I don’t want to have to find new roommates when you guys die..”
The box is very nice. Ornate, even. It hardly looks like salvage. Starfish watches expectantly. After sliding the latch, the box swings open with a tiny squeak. Within it, there is a strange modern device. Cit does not recognize the use of this machine.
Starfish stares at her. “It’s a battery recharger!” As if that were perfectly obvious. But… it might be useful?
"Hey, I like mischief as much as the next pony, but I don't reckon we should settle on stealing anything just yet." She puts up her hooves defensively. "Like I said, I don't want any trouble with the mob. We should go in, take a peek, then get out. Ten minute adventure." She gives them a meaningful look, while KC shifts to face the Breeze brothers with his hands on his hips.
"Who said anything about dying?" she says with a smirk. "Anything goes down, KC will bail us out. Right, KC?" She looks to the hulking robot expectantly, who puts his fist in his palm like some sort of kung fu master.
She looks the box over with abject curiosity, examining the odd device. "A battery recharger?" she muses. "How does it work?" She takes one of the empty batteries Starfish is carrying and fiddles with the recharger in an attempt to restore the empty case.
[1d10] TinkerRoll #1 4 = 4
Zephyr seems slightly disappointed, but seems to accept the terms of not stealing anything. Tempest still seems dubious, but he is also mollified. Golden watches KC, looking highly amused.
While the power cell snaps into place with a satisfying click, the odd-looking contraption does nothing further.
Starfish shrugs. "You're the techy one here. I think it needs a source of juice, though."
Cit blinks, feeling like a complete idiot. "Of course it does. Just never really seen anything like this before. Sorry." She rummages around the battery cases Starfish got, looking for any that might still be of use.
"Whereabouts in the Fog did you find this thing anyway?" she asks. "It's pretty fancy compared to the usual fare, innit."Roll #1 8 = 8
Cit rummages through the bag and finds one that has more than half charge. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be another slot for it; there's only space for one battery at a time. She notices that there is a coiled wire tucked in the box leading to a connector she has never seen before. It has two parallel flat prongs and a third semicircular small rod, all pointing the same direction. This is a new one for her.
Starfish has a mischievous gleam in her eye. "If I told you that, you wouldn't need me anymore." She pushes the bags closer to Cit's pile of junk to get them out of the walkway, then wanders over to where Golden stands. He embraces her warmly. As they part, she plants a kiss on his cheek, then grabs an apple from his pack and goes to town on it. Her mouth half full, she turns to the Breeze bros. "So. We heading to the GD tonight then?"
"Let's do it!" Zephyr chirps.
Tempest sighs. "Fine. I'm not going to sit here all night wondering if you all got arrested or worse."
Golden nods. "My curiosity is piqued. I'm in."
"Alright then," Starfish sprays apple pieces as she talks with her mouth full, finishing the fruit in one big bite. She chews a couple times, swallows, and assumes a cocky pose. "No time like the present. We're burning moonlight!"
She huffs a bit in frustration, putting the recharger aside for now. New tech always makes her head spin.
"Suit yourself. But um, thanks for the batteries. Really. There's a few here that should be of use."
"Sounds like a good time," she nods as everyone agrees. "No alcohol required. Just lemme give the big guy a boost…" She moves behind KC and cranks the key on his back several times. The clockwork automaton straightens up and flexes like some sort of bodybuilder. She hands KC her trusty toolkit, and grabs her makeshift flail. She looks to the rest of the gang and sets her jaw. "Let's get a wriggle on then."
Golden picks up his pack, dumps it into a communal trough. A variety of fresh produce pours out, along with one or two big bags of grains. He then disappears into the nook which serves as his bedroom, reappearing momentarily later holding a large, beat-up shield, which he straps to himself. Tempest picks up a long rifle, slinging it onto his back. Zephyr arms himself with two handguns, conveniently holstered on the upper part of his back legs. Starfish watches the rest of them arm themselves, shrugs. She grabs Golden’s empty pack. “Ready to roll?”
It looks like the gang is ready to roll.
The flight to the Garden District is not a particularly long one. The hideout is on the edge of the Toren structures, and therefore not very tall compared to many of them. They stick close to the Fog, barely 50 feet above the highest wisps, skirting the structures. Most are unlit, but there’s a dull glow coming from beneath them; lights shimmer from the occupied sections of the mostly empty outer city. They pass several empty structures, then the Griffon homes, then the Garden District itself looms overhead, an unbelievably tall pillar of green. The Sunlamps are off by this time on most of the levels (there are a few habitats that benefit from longer days, so they turn off at different times. Cit sees one shut off, high above them.) but there are access lights near the outside, and there are small strobing lights on corners of each of the Toren structures to help limit darkness collisions.
Zephyr leads the way. He weaves between and sometimes through obstacles, seemingly completely sure of his route. He leads them through and under structures at full speed, confident the group can keep up with him, and it almost seems like he is challenging them to keep up. Tempest is also a strong flier and has no issues; Starfish seems to have a bit of trouble keeping up. Golden trails behind to stay closer to her.
Finally they arrive at one of the lower levels of the Garden District. Wings flaring, they land one by one on a dimly-lit pathway which leads into the darkness within the green monolith. The smell is damp; the flora is exotic and lush. There appears to be a large artificial pond, covered in scum.
For long distance hikes, Cit rides on KC's shoulder. He lopes through the Garden District like a gorilla, bringing up the rear on their little band of misfits. As the pegasi fly down to the path below, Cit blinks down with her teleporting magic, while KC clambers down surprisingly daintily. She takes in the sight, though she is not impressed, having been here many times before. Wordlessly, she keeps following the group, keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 4 = 4
[1d10] KC PerceptionRoll #1 8 = 8
Cit’s eyes are not well suited to the darkness. Dim lights illuminate the crystal gravel path she stands on, curving off into the distance, but do not shed much light on anything beyond its edge. She can pick out a few dark shapes, but nothing useful. Looks like just plants.
KC, with his mechanical eyes, is able to fare slightly better. He can see that the path winds through the center of the swampy terrain, providing the only light in the gloom. There isn’t much to see, however. Just plants, mostly.
Zephyr stands on the path, “It’s along this path. Did you guys see below?” There’s a big gap between the floor of the level the gang is standing and the ceiling of the next forest level below, which is the first one above the fog. “There’s a secret level in there. Secret. That means there’s gotta be good shit in there, right?”
“Wrong,” says Tempest. “It just means they don’t want someone like YOU to know about it. It’s probably full of soap.”
Golden says, “I thought it was just because of the fog, like maybe there is some sort of protection against it rising or something?”
Tempest shakes his head. “The fog doesn’t rise. Everyone knows that.”
“Not yet anyway,” Starfish adds ominously. “They say it used to be lower. Maybe it’s just real a real slow rise.”
They begin to walk the path. The lights are quite dim.
“It’s dark,” complains Golden.
“Let’s see if I brought a light,” says Starfish. She reaches a hoof into the empty bag and fishes around in there.
Hat Magic [1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
She pulls out a single matchstick, shows it off to the group. "Looks like we're doing the damn thing in the dark, boyos." Throws the useless match into the darkness.
Luckily, the dim lighting along the path is enough to see by, at least to keep anypony from tripping or bashing into one another.
"If it's hidden away, it's more than likely something very illegal," she suggests. "More reason not to mess around with it." Both she and KC look at Starfish with trepidation. "You think the Fog is going to consume the whole city or something?"
She peers down through the gap. "Wait, so nobody brought a flashlight at all?" she says in dismay. "Ah well." She turns to KC. "Hey big guy, looks like we're gonna have to split up for a bit. We're meant to be sneaking, after all. Just keep an eye out and make a ruckus if anything bad happens while we're gone, okay? If I call you, it's because shit went south." She gives the robot a brief hug, and he gives her the thumbs up. She takes the toolbox and her flail before following the rest of the group into the dark.
“VERY illegal,” Zephyr sounds excited. “All more the reasons TO mess with it.”
The rest of the group don’t seem to share his enthusiasm. Cit’s cautious warnings are apparently contagious.
They walk on in silence for a while, leaving KC behind near the edge of the structure. The path winds around the outside of the perimeter for a ways, then curves inward toward the center of the district.
It is hard to see the others. Cit’s eyes slowly adjust to the dim light as she walks with the group.
“The fog has already swallowed the city once,” Starfish comments. “You should see some of the ruins I’ve seen. There was a whole civilization down there, before they all migrated upwards.”
Golden chimes in. “Not everybody migrated. The ones who didn’t, died.”
Tempest says, “True. Mostly. There’s the dogs, of course. They migrated downward.” It is widely known that diamond dogs aren’t plagued by a cancerous growth of gems, which is the main symptom of fog affliction.
Starfish: “Not just dogs, actually. I’ve met a few lost souls down there, mostly gemcrusters, but there’s a few ponies that are immune.”
“Immune to the fog?” Zephyr asks, his voice incredulous.
Starfish sounds a bit impatient with him. “Yes, immune to the fog.”
Golden: “From what I heard, they aren’t immune. Just affected differently. I’ve even heard that some of them draw magical powers from exposure.”
A pungent, verdant smell fills the air. Zephyr stops next to a patch of tall grass and begins to much the tips of the blades. It is hard to see but Tempest’s body language seems to suggest disapproval.
Nix that, KC is still with the group>>718364
"Huh. I mean I knew the fog carried disease, but I didn't know there were some down there that are immune. That's pretty crazy."
She raises her head a bit at the scent, and can't help but join Zephyr in partaking in grass. "'S not bad at all," she nods, pouting in approval. "Sure you guys don't want some?" she asks Golden and Starfish.
Starfish is already ear-deep into a deep patch of the thick grass. She pulls her head up as Cit says her name. “Don’t mind if I do,” she chuckles around a mouthful before diving back in.
Tempest shakes his head wordlessly.
Golden shifts the weight of the big shield on his back with a shrug. “Maybe later,” he suggests. “Zephyr, we headed the right way, or…?”
Zephyr, still chewing, looks and nods at the group. He turns and walks carefully into the darkness between a couple trees, which stretch all the way to the high ceiling above you. As the group leaves the the dim lighting of the path behind them, their eyes become slowly adjusted to the gloom. There is a slight luminescence to the grass beneath them, and the moss on the trunks of the many trees around them; it is not enough to light the way, but they can see where they step, and the shadows of each other, and the trees around them. Zephyr leads the way, walking slowly. The group is silent now except for KC’s machine sounds.
Zephyr stops, beckons everyone closer. As they approach they see a light between the trees. There is a glowing red light shining up from below in the distance. “This is it,” whispers Zephyr.
She takes a deep breath. "This is it," she echoes, and turns to KC.
>second paragraph in >>718357 applies here
Leaving KC behind, the group tip-hoofs through the darkness, avoiding dimly-glowing trees. The red light slowly grows, illuminating the canopy and ceiling above them; though it is quite dim, their sight is adjusted to the total darkness of the forest and are able to see well enough to navigate. Starfish in particular seems confident in her step, and she quickly assumes the lead as she leads the way.
A soft hum begins to be audible, vibrating their ears. Soon the source of the sound and light becomes clear. There is a trench in the floor of the forest. It appears to be shining red light onto the canopy from below and emanating a low, even sound.
Zephyr seems nervous. “This was much less creepy in the daylight,” he confesses under his breath.
Starfish approaches the edge and leans over into the trench. Her face is illuminated with the red glow. She gazes for a moment, then turns and beckons to the rest of the group. She points wordlessly into the breach.
As they silently creep near the edge, they can see that the soil is only about 4 feet deep. It is just as Zephyr said. There’s a rupture in the metal floor.
“I’ll be damned,” Golden whispers softly.
Through the rupture, a room can be seen. It is not as spaciously high-ceilinged as the forest floor they are currently on. In fact, the textured metal floor appears to be quite close indeed. It would be a simple matter to hop down, and not too difficult to come back up.
Without KC to watch her back, she feels a lot less confident, and clutches her flail like a lifeline as she huddles close to her companions. "I bet it wasn't. This is like where a serial killer would hang out or something. Sheesh."
She pauses as she looks down into the rupture. "Well. That's not creepy at all. …Who wants to go first?"
She touches her nose.
Golden, Zephyr and Tempest all touch their noses almost immediately. Starfish had been staring into the hole, fascinated. She looks up as Cit finishes talking, sees Golden first with his hoof to his nose; immediately she reacts but realizes halfway through she’s way too late.
“Ah, fuck!” she says out loud.
Her voice seems very loud in the silence. The group freezes. A long, slow moment passes intensely as they all silently play statue, hardly daring to breathe for a long minute. Golden nods almost imperceptibly, and the group backs away slowly from the edge of the pit.
“You almost blew it,” hisses Tempest.
“Sorry,” mutters Starfish.
She bites her lip as Starfish breaks the silence, half expecting some horrible monster to jump them. She looks at the group expectantly; then, seeing everyone is as trepidatious as she is, decides to man up. "Fine, I'll do it myself," she says quietly. "But if I die, I'm never talking to you again." With that, she steadily lowers herself into the room, gingerly landing and squinting to look around.
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
The incline is treacherous. All that soil gives way, cascading in a mini avalanche to the bottom level of the sub-deck room. Cit lands ungracefully on a pile of soil that has fallen from above. She slides down it a bit as she lands, her momentum carrying her.
She is in the middle of a long aisleway. The ceiling is quite low, and there is a strange shelf-like structure on either side of her, leading perpindicular to the crack in the ceiling for what seems like a very long distance. It’s hard to see; the lighting is dark red.
There are indeed boxes, although they are not of every shape and size. They are all uniform, and uniformly placed, one to every five or so shelves. The boxes are all about the size of a pony’s head.
Cit hears a noise. Starfish is sliding in behind her, slightly more gracefully.
“Geez, kinda claustrophobic in here, isn’t it?” she whispers.
Above, Cit can see three shadows peering in, illuminated by the red lighting. They all give a silent wave.
She gestures wordlessly for the other three cowards to come on down. "A little bit, yeah," she whispers back. "I just hope we didn't trip a silent alarm or anything." She starts exploring the immediate area, her curiosity piqued by the boxes, but deciding to first get a lay of the land.
[1d10] NavigationRoll #1 8 = 8
One by one, Zephyr, Tempest and Golden join the mares below, the last taking a cautious look around before descending. Starfish is already off down one direction. There is really no choice but to follow her.
The row of shelves of uniform boxes placed uniformly seems unending. Each box is connected to a wire. These all combine together along an artery which happens to lead down the very aisleway Cit currently stands in, toward what in her best estimate is the center of the trio of megastructures which make up the GD. She can almost picture the whole complex in her mind; the three Toren structures almost make up a venn diagram-shaped figure.
It becomes apparent that the shelves are not parallel but radial in shape. They are travelling toward the center, so the shelves are becoming narrower. This aisle, like every aisle, leads straight to the center.
The cables appear to lead to a wall in the middle of the enormous chamber. Starfish leads, followed by Cit, followed by Zephyr, Tempest and Golden.
She observes the cables and the general electric setup. "Hm… Would be a shame if a surge blew out the power in here, wouldn't it," she comments with a mischievous grin. She keeps looking around, watching the party's back.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 9 = 9
Cit notes the thick cable leading into the convex wall in front of her. It separates into several smaller cables which snake around the room through the shelves, but the main cable seems to connect to every small box on every shelf. In fact, these boxes appear to be attached pretty solidly to the shelves which contain it. Upon inspection, these are not shelves at all, but support structures connecting the metal floor to the metal ceiling, themselves made of the same metallic alloy. The boxes are obviously some sort of electronic device, spaced evenly around the entire base of the structure, and all of them are connected to a central point on the other end of this wall. Cit surmises there is some sort of central, circular control room which houses all sorts of interesting bits and bobs.
Starfire’s eyes wide, she says simply, “Don’t.”
"Fine, fine. I was joking anyway. …Kind of."
She voices her thoughts. "Hm. They're connected to something. Maybe there's like a control room somewhere? Might be worth checking out. What is
this place anyway? Some sort of secret government facility? Maybe they're keeping some weird illegal monsters down here or something."
((Starfish* we are not playing teen titans femto… YET))
The humming seems to be emanating from behind the textured metal wall, which is the same material and style as the floor and ceiling" smooth, gently curving metal with no corners.
The sound coming from the end of the aisle is loud enough to force the ponies to huddle together for conversation, some 10 paces from the center wall. All their faces appear strangely ghastly under the harsh red light.
"Control room," Golden wonders aloud. "I wonder what it's controlling?"
Zephyr moans in fright as you Cit mentions monsters. "Oh no."
“Monsters?” Starfish laughs. “No monsters exist that are worse than ponies.”
Tempest nods in agreement.
Zephyr seems less sure. “What if, though? I mean, what if there was really a monster, locked up behind that wall?? We should probably get out of here.” He is looking side to side nervously.
Golden chimes in. “Either way, we should probably leave. This feels ..wrong. We shouldn’t be here.”
Starfish cocks her head at him disbelievingly.
He stammers to explain himself. “I mean, there’s not even anything we stand to gain. Where even are we? What are we going to do here? There’s no take. There’s no gang. There’s not some rich asshole’s stash. This is just some shit that keeps the Garden District running, or something.”
Starfish raises an accusatory eyebrow. "What happened to 'risking a peek at the unknown'?" she asks playfully.
He looks serious. "I think we've peeked. Let's get out of here before it peeks back."
Suddenly there is a sound near the hole in the ceiling the group entered by. Something heavy seems to be coming from down the aisle, just on the other side of the dirt pile which broke their fall and ensured their easy exit. The pile of dirt is brushed aside by some sort of machine, which appears to be headed toward them at a gallop pace.
The dirt piles sprays apart into a cloud.
"Oh," says Zephyr. "Oh shit."
Golden pulls the shield off his side and points it in the direction of the commotion. "Looks like we can't go backwards. Any ideas about that wall?"
"For all we know they're keeping mutants down here or something. Or like, an army of killer robots." She keeps talking to try and hide her nerves. "Not the worst way to go if so. Right? Hahaha… Oh, I dunno. Maybe we should run? Or… or KC! Should I call KC? But that might attract attention…" She shifts from hoof to hoof, unsure of what to do, starting to lose her nerve.
As the machine menaces them, she unhooks her flail with shaking hooves as her horn sparks with lightning, ready to throw down.
"It's a machine…" she muses. "M-maybe we should kite it? Get out of its way, and if it keeps charging us, try and get it to crash into the wall. Either it breaks or the wall does." As she pre emptively charges up a lightning blast, she tries to get a better look at the automaton menacing them, peering through the dust and darkness.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 2 = 2
A whirring metal sound accompanies the approach of the bulky thing. Cit can't really make out the shape of the machine, but it appears to have multiple appendages which it uses to propel itself along by the shelf-like scaffolding. It is still a good distance away but closing fast.
Golden has braced himself behind the big shield with a grimace. Tempest pulls out his long rifle and takes aim at the contraption.
Starfish is looking over the wall, running her hooves over it. "Looks like we won't be getting out this way."
Zephyr is trying to fit between the shelves, but cannot. He is the smallest of the group. He has not drawn his pistols and instead appears to be panicking. "Oh shit. Oh good goddamn it. What the hell is that thing??"
Starfish turns at him angrily. "Get it together. We've been through worse." She reaches her hoof into the empty pack. "Something that can get us out of this jam please," she prays.
Hat Magic [1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
She thinks on her toes, and as the machine continues to approach, she rummages about in her toolbox before pulling out one of the four legged contraptions from earlier. "Hm… Perhaps…" Once it's in range, she activates the latching automaton, gives it a little jolt of lightning and lobs it at the machine.
[1d10] SabotageRoll #1 7 = 7
The four-legged contraption latches on to one of the boxes, in line with the approach of the metallic beast. It looks like the large approaching machine will make contact with Cit’s device quite soon.
Tempest fires his carefully aimed rifle over Golden’s shoulder at the machine.
Marksman Shot [1d10]
Starfish pulls her hoof out of her empty bag of goodies, producing a pair of wirecutters. She stares at them in disbelief. “What the hell am I supposed to do with…” She looks around her, seeing all the wires, then back to the wirecutter. Her wide eyes look to Cit, questioning. “This might either be really smart or really stupid.” She places them around the nearest wire, which leads to a box right next to the machine. She bites her lip and looks to Cit. She only has a second to decide what to do.
She squeezes the handles together. Immediately, caustic black smoke starts pouring out of the box it was attached to.Roll #1 5 = 5
"Do what you have to. If you have any last second ideas, this is the last last second!" As the hostile machine keeps hurtling towards them, she gives her own machine a good zap in order to activate it as soon as it lines up with her trap. "Hey biggun, stop me if you've heard this one before…!"
[1d10] Activate Sabotage
She then looks to the entrance, puts her hoof up to her mouth and whistles loudly. "KC! We've got a situation here!" In the distance is heard the clanking and trundling of metal as KC begins his approach.Roll #1 2 = 2
Tempest, despite having a bit of pride for being a good shot, does not have great night vision. His rifle makes a strange pinging sound, a burst of light emits from the end and ricochets off one of the machine's legs harmlessly. He curses under his breath, recocks the rifle, takes aim again.
Cit's machine lets off a small zap of electricity as the metal beast passes by. The arc appears to be too small and too weak to have any real physical effect; however, the machine stops, not ten feet away from Golden's shield, turns to the source of the spark, and begins to probe Cit's contraption with two of its forelegs. It picks it up and turns it over a few times.
The smoke quickly fills the air, making breathing and seeing hard. Starfish curses. "Oh shit, I thought that would explode."
"And I thought it was gonna get zapped into submission, but we can't all get what we want." She thinks fast and, seeing Tempest lining up another shot, decides to give his rifle a bit more oomph. "This might tickle a bit, buddy, but trust me. It'll work."
[1d10] Fulminate>Fulminate: passive/spell, recharge 3 after effect ends; Cit has an affinity for lightning magic. All her basic attacks have Lightning damage, and she can grant this to an ally as well for 3 turns.
KC hops down from the rupture with a heavy thud, pounding the ground with his fist on landing like a superhero. He charges the endemic monstrosity without thinking twice, running at it on all fours before pummeling it with a downward smash.
[1d10] Slam, crits on 9+Roll #1 8 = 8
/ Roll #2 1 = 1
KC misses the contraption entirely, trips over some wires and bashes himself against the shelf/structure wall of the aisle. If he were made of meat, it would have been quite painful. As it is, it doesn’t look comfortable.
KC takes 5 hits.
The thick black smoke pouring out of the box Starfish cut the wire to appears to be having an effect on the adversary. There is a high pitched whine, the whole being starts to shake gently, then bends over, dropping Cit's device. In a moment a small pop is heard from within, and all power fades.
Cit's contraption suffers a similar fate as the beast. She watches as its powercell shines bright green for a moment, emitting a high-pitched shriek, then shatters, splashing luminescent green goo all around it. The goo sticks to whatever it touches. A drop gets on Golden's shield. It immediately begins to sparkle with a magical glow.
The thick black smoke reaches Golden and Tempest. The rifle in Tempest's hands begins to make the same high-pitched sound. He throws it away with a fearful noise. Something in the handle glows, then pops and the whole thing splashes a green goo everywhere. More lands on Golden's shield, but also on Tempest's arm, which is outstretched to shield his face from the small explosion. He looks at the spot in disbelief.
The smoke continues to fill the air around them. "Let's get the fuck out of here," Starfish suggests. "Before this shit can explode all of our goodies." She gives a meaningful eye to Cit's bag.
She hisses and bites her lip as she sees shit generally go south. "Yeah, let's. She gives KC a once over to check if he's really alright - which he is - and without missing a beat, the two exit the rupture, Cit teleporting out while KC clambers through with ease.
Nopony has any objections to Starfish’s suggestion. They all cover their faces as best they can as the smoke begins to close around them and doubletime toward the exit.
Zephyr lets out a cry of dismay as he passes through the smoke. He has not removed his pistols from their holsters, and they are now emitting the same high-pitched squeal as the others. He scrambles to remove them, but is a bit too late. The batteries within explode, coating his forelegs, chest and face with the glowing green goo. He screams loudly and begins to sob. Tempest grabs his brother, picks him up and carries him out of the rupture, just behind Golden and Starfish.
In the darkness of the forest, Starfish leads them back to the glowing path, and they wordlessly travel back the way they came. The group is mostly silent, except Zephyr’s soft crying.
They make their way back to the hideout without further incident.
((paused, end session 0))
Today Mini and Cloche are out. Cloche mentioned that they were doing something called “shopping,” and Celestia was not invited. She sits in Mini’s room, waiting patiently.
Voices can be heard downstairs. They belong to Hard Hat and two unknown male ponies. Three sets of footsteps approach, climbing up the stairs deliberately.
Three ponies come into view. Two of them are unfamiliar robed figures. The third is Hard Hat, who stops just outside the door and points his hoof inside. The robed figures start to enter Mini's bedroom while Hard stares at the floor outside.>>718454
Em uncrumples the sweaty pocket parchment. A simple note is written on it in looped cursive.
“Touch the crystals on Lunar’s back.”
That is all. How cryptic.
The cheery group still chats contentedly around the fire.>>718455
It has been a few days since the GD escapade. Hardly anyone has spoken of it since. Starfish has been mostly absent, only returning to sleep. Zephyr has been holed up in his room since then, only allowing Tempest to come and go. Golden has been busy with food runs, as he is now the only one feeding the gang.
His shield sits in the entryway. A small bright green crystal has sprouted where the battery goo contacted it.
Jiandao rereads the note.
““Ambit. Alicorn. Ask for at the Three Legged Dog.”
The welcome center bustles around you. The "General Questions" desk has a small line, and
the "Jobs" billboard has some half dozen creatures perusing.>>718459
Falling Sand is in her library, reading as usual, when the familiar pop of mail arrives. Nopony else is around to announce it or tease her about it; the scroll simply falls to the arrival box with a slight rustle.
Em squints at the paper, brings it closer to her face, then further away. Tilting her head to the side, she turns it upside down, then flips it over. No? That's really it? Weird.
She lifts the paper in the air and waves it around. "Who's Lunar and why do I gotta touch her rocks?"
Celestia stares at the intruding ponies, but not seeing any reason to move within the presence of the Hard Hat, the parent. Celestia remains burrowed within Mini's things.
Falling looks up from her book, a riveting pirate adventure, as the pop goes off. She looks around, neither of her parents around to go check it. She hops up from her seat, levitating her book by her side as she goes to the box and checks the new scroll.
With little to go off of besides the note. Jiandao makes note of the name, refolds the note, places it into her bag and trots over to the Job listing, keeping an eye out for an 'Ambit' among the papers but searching through the listings in general.
Cit is lying on the bedraggled mattress she calls a bed, bouncing a ball on the ceiling and catching it. Her stomach is still tied into knots from the incident, especially considering what happened to her friend, too hung up on it to really talk to anyone. Still, she can't help but ruminate on how strange the whole incident was, and eventually, her curiosity gets the best of her. She looks over at the shield with curiosity, and gives it a tentative jolt of lightning to see what'll happen, making sure to keep a distance.
[1d10] Zap!>Zap!: spell; Cit can channel her lightning abilities into machinery to give it an extra boost, making it more powerful. Critfailing can have disastrous consequences. She can also conjure and manipulate lightning to a lesser extent, as per Kirin's Burning Passion.Roll #1 10 = 10
The dogs and ponies all look at her a moment. The tipsy mare known as Smooth Step looks to the drooling, shrunken, crystal-covered pony in the corner, then back to Em. "She is Lunar. She's sort of the brains of the operation."
Em can see the giant crystal growths on her back shimmering with some sort of light from inside. They grow right out of the skin, which looks inflamed and painful.>>718462
The robed figures move to the center of the room. One produces some sort of shiny metal device, waves it around a bit while staring at it, slowly homes in on the toybox which Parents like to store Celestia in.
"Readings are off the chart," he says to the other, who merely nods. He picks up a toy, waves the object in his hoof in front of it, throws it away. He picks up the next toy. It is Celestia. >>718463
The scroll is from Diamond Blossom. No surprise; the overwhelming majority of the letters Falling receives these days are from Diamond. The letter reads,
Thank you again for your help last week. The new gazebo is a huge hit. My boss personally congratulated me and said that there was likely to be similar work in the future. Yay!!! Your assistance is obviously non-negotiable.
Do you remember Border, the alicorn we met that day? Well, we've seen each other once or twice since then and he was asking about you. He suggested we all meet with an eye to future projects. Are you free this afternoon? Please respond when you receive this.
There are many papers on the job board. They cover all manner of employment opportunities: skilled and unskilled, temporary and permanent, gigs, heists, capers, rackets, pleas for protection. Jiandao does not see any that list the name Ambit. >>718465
Nopony else is around. Time for a little experiment.
Cit accidentally puts a little more mustard on it than she meant to. The arc is bright and loud, and leaves a temporary blind streak in her vision. Around it, she can make out the crystal, seemingly completely unaffected. After a moment though, it appears to grow slowly. Whereas previously it was around the size of a pinhead, it is now about the size of a raisin.
Celestia lets out a quiet squeak from being suddenly being pulled out by a pony that wasn't Mini and being homed on so quickly out of all the other toys inside the box.
Em's nose curled a little. She'd seen mutations and cancers, but never anything so severe. "Right. Should have guessed." She walks over to Lunar, reaches out, and rests her hoof on her back."
Curious about the nature of the letter, she take sone last look at the board before getting into the line at the Questions desk.
She nudges KC, who doesn't move. She frowns and goes to wind him up again, on which he springs to life and starts looking around curiously. "Hey KC, check this out." She shows the enlarged crystal to the robot, who looks at it with bewilderment. "Yeah, I dunno what it means either." She figures someone ought to know about it, though. She steels herself and goes over to Zephyr's room, knocking on the door.
Falling smiles brightly as she reads the letter and the great news from Diamond. Then she giggles at hearing how she met up with Border a few more times, after their little gossip chitchat as they worked on that project. At the request of a meeting this afternoon, Falling trots off to grab a scroll of her own.Dear Diamond,
I'm totally free this afternoon! I'd love to meet up to talk about more projects, where do you want to meet up? I'm so excited I can't wait to work on even ore things!
Falling levitates the scroll over to the box, dropping it in and sitting eagerly by it, almost unable to wait for a response.
The robed pony who currently clutches Celestia's soft frame looks to his companion, nods, places the silver metal device back into his robes. The companion reaches within his own robes and retrieves a black prod about half a meter long. He holds it at the ready as they exit the room together with Celestia. They do not speak to Hard as they pass him in the hall. He still stands, head hanging low, not looking at anything but his own hooves.>>718468
As Em touches the abhorrent mass of gem-like growths, her vision swims for a moment, then fades into a swimming mass of shifting bright colors of every hue. A soothing feminine voice speaks from somewhere very close.
"Greetings, hidden one. I have been waiting for you.
"Don't worry, you can speak freely. Nopony can overhear us. You are still within the grave of a church, at least physically, but your words will not escape your mouth.">>718469
The line moves quickly. Before long Jiandao is beckoned to approach. The pony behind the counter is a silver-haired old unicorn with a kind smile and piercingly bright blue eyes. After a moment wherein he looks her up and down, he speaks. "Welcome to Horizon, traveler. How may I assist you?">>718470
There is a minute where Cit isn't sure if her knock will be heeded. Zephyr has been incommunicado since the incident. However, finally, the door creaks open a few centimeters and Tempest's face appears. The room is dark behind him. His face is quite gaunt, looking even more serious than his normal demeanor.
"Hello, Cit." He sounds tired. "How are you?">>718471
Some time passes, slowly. That's always the way when one can't wait. Eventually, another letter pops into existence before her very eyes. Falling reads the response immediately.
"Dear Falling,Great! Border says to meet at a place called the Three Legged Dog. It's midlevel in the Central Spire. I haven't been there, but apparently many of the bigwigs of Horizon rub elbows there. I'll be heading there shortly, so whenever you want to meet is great!!See you soon,Diamond Blossom
The Central Spire is the tallest, oldest structure in Horizon. Atop it is the cathedral, and below are many of the most important places in Horizon. Falling has never heard of the Three Legged Dog, but it should be pretty easily located using the main directory.
Distressed and annoyed by the ponies, a tentacle creeps from the plush's mouth. Slowly and surely it comes out and launches out at the pony holding the silver metal device.
Suppress: recharge 1 after letting go, weapon; Renders target helpless. After success can keep taking automatic actions to keep the target pinned. If this action is not taken, the target gets up.
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
Em shrieks in surprise and lets out a nervous laugh. "Oh. That spooked me good. I thought they were joking when they said Ms.Catatonic was the brains. So, I guess you're gonna give me the names of some ponies I gotta hunt down? Are we in each other's head? Are you reading my thoughts? What number am I thinking of?"
Falling quickly snatches the letter out almost as quick as it pops into existence. She reads over the letter, then quickly drops it aside as she trots to her room.
"Three Legged Dog. That's a funny name for a place."
She says with a laugh along the way. She goes through her dresser for a nice skirt and blouse, grabbing her bag and journal as usual, before heading out. Then, remembering, she doubles back into the library to stick a bookmark into her book. With that taken care of, she heads off towards the Central Spire to meet with Diamond and Border.
"I'm… fine," she answers, sounding rather harrowed herself. "Um… I wanted to talk to Zephyr. Is… er… How's he holding up?" She tries to take a look over his shoulder into the dark room.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 5 = 5
"Greetings." she begins, bowing slightly.
"I am searching for a particular pony, an Alicorn by the name of Ambit. Do you know where he may be, or where i may begin my search?"
The robed pony with the prod is ready for the strike, appearing to anticipate it before it even happens. He jabs with the prod at the exposed tentacle before it has a chance to connect.
(will do second post with results of roll)>>718474
A soft laugh fills Em's mind.
"Yes. No. No. Yes. No. And… I don't know, 7?
"I can't tell you exactly who you need to find. The Gift doesn't work that way.
I am able to see bits of possibilities, hints at what may come. Observe."
Em's vision is flooded with an overwhelming number of moving images, all curling around each other in a dizzying sort of spiral. It almost induces motion sickness at the sheer vastness of it.
"Oh, I'm sorry. That was a bit much. Let's zoom in a little bit."
The visions all drop away, and Em is left with a single scene in mind. It is night. She is picturing a ragtag group of about half a dozen pony-sized creatures, silhouetted by a strange flickering light filtering through tall, jagged crystals beneath them. Above, a great winged shadow sweeps across the sky. There is a strong sense of nostalgia associated with it. The vision is gone as quickly as it appears.>>718475
The Central Spire is not a far walk away. In addition, all of the sky-level walkways eventually spiral in towards it. Falling can see the gothic-looking cathedral rising above Horizon like a beacon leading her toward Diamond and Border.
Upon entering the lobby level, she quickly locates the central directory. It does not take long to discover that the Three Legged Dog is an upscale tavern some three levels below. There's a magic lift system in the center of the room, or the main stairway, a iconic favorite of visitors, is ornate and welcoming. Alternatively, there is an access stairwell which is less gaudy and populated, definitely the lesser known of the stairways in the Central Spire. Falling only knows of its existence because Sealed Scroll often has business in the CS, and, having a particular disdain for tourists and touristy things, always takes the access route.>>718476
Behind the larger Breeze brother, the room is too dark to really make anything out. Cit can see a hunched shadow against the dim light of the twilit city through Zephyr's open window. A soft breeze blows through. If Zephyr is inside, he is silent and motionless.
"He… doesn't want to see anypony right now." Tempest opens the door wide enough for him to step out, then shuts it carefully behind him. Cit notices his foreleg is wrapped in a white bandage.
He speaks quietly so as not to be heard by Zephyr on the other side of the door.
"He's… doing better than I would have thought, actually. Emotionally, I mean.">>718477
He nods. "Ambit, huh? An alicorn, you say? Well, I don't know the name, but let's see what the books have for us." He rummages behind the desk for a moment, pulls a heavy reference tome from it, plops it on the counter and opens it, beginning to flip rapidly through the pages. He stops on one, skims it, and rests his hoof on the page as he looks up. "Looks like he doesn't have much of a trail. No record of birth, no living relatives, no address or contact info. Almost seems like an assumed name, from what I can tell. Do you have anything other than a name to go by?"Roll #1 8 = 8
As the prod makes contact with Celestia's true body, intense pain passes through him. It is unbearably cold and hot at the same time for a moment before fading thankfully to unconsciousness. His last thought is that this is a particularly unpleasant way to begin a nap.
He awakens later, in a dark place. He remains within his plushy shell. There is a window with two layers of fine mesh separating him from the outside world, which filters in a grating and dim orange light. There is only one other feature to the smooth stone-carved room, a very heavy-looking door. It is closed.
Celestia stands up inside of his plush and shakes themselves a bit. They move around to check upon the door. Reaching with a tentacle from their plush mouth. They attempt to open it.
Em's jaw drops as Lunar gueses seven. "Ooooh, you're good. What about-" The zooming images cut her off and cause her stomach to reel. She felt like she was about to fall over, and probably would have if she wasn't floating in nothingness. Whatever Lunar was saying didn't register at first as the many, many moving images held her attention.
She blinks as the single image plays in front of her, but she's not entirely sure what to make of it. For a moment she just floats there, slack-jawed. Finally, she says, "Uuuuh… what?"
She unfolds the note again, rereading the message.
"Yes. There is another name here, a place called 'the three legged dog'. Is there such a place nearby?"
Falling walks along her way to the spire. She looks up at the large cathedral rising overhead, a magnificent sight. She continues on, smiling to each pony she passes by. As she reaches the lobby, without skipping a beat she heads towards the access stairwell, used to that more than the normal way from her father's word.
She nods grimly. "That's good. He's a tough one. He'll pull through. It's all going to be alright. If… if there's anything I can do to help, lemme know."
"Oh, also. I, uh, got curious. About that crystal stuff on Golden's shield. And I zapped it, and, uh… it grew a little bit. Nothing serious, mind you. I'm thinking, this crystal goo stuff… It's dangerous, but it might also be worth quite a bit. You know? Could try asking around, see where the market would be for it." She shrugs. "I dunno. I just… I feel like this is kind of on me. You know? And I wanna do something to set things right. What do you reckon?"
The door is locked, of course. >>718481
The soft laugh again. "You see the problem. Only snippets present themselves, the crossing points of fate intertwining. Or something. I was gifted with vision, not necessarily understanding.
"What I can tell you is that a great many important things are happening in Horizon; this confluence of forces spreads ripples of probability forward into the future. Infinite timelines contain infinite possible worlds.
Basically I have no idea what is actually going to happen."
Another vision appears. Bubbling Flask walks the crystal gravel path into the fog, through the gloom, into the ruined chapel. Em sees this all from a third party perspective.
A rocky transition leaves a bit of motion sickness in its wake. Now the vision is that of another unknown pony, a plain-looking female earth pony in a guard's uniform walking through a dark-looking hallway. The mare stops at a door, number 112, pulls out a ring of keys, puts one in the door and turns the lock. The door swings open to a dark room.
The vision ends.>>718482
"Ah, now that I can help you with. The Three Legged Dog is a bar located in the Central Spire. What you're going to do is head out that door," the nice unicorn points out which one he means, "and grab an aircab. Just tell him you're headed to the CS lobby, can't go wrong."
He smiles at Jiandao. "Anything else?">>718483
The access stairwell is not marked by any signs, but Falling finds her way to it easily. She slips inside and descends several flights to the appropriate level. As she is about to enter the floor, the door opens in front of her. A surprised-looking blue pegasus, about the same age as her, bursts through, stopping to meet eyes with her only momentarily before rushing inside and flying up the stairs without a word, leaving the door hanging open and a bewildered Falling.
A few seconds later, two darkly-uniformed earth ponies follow him at a gallop, rushing up the stairs behind him.>>718484
Tempest stares blankly at her as she says a lot of things. There's an awkward silence as he doesn't reply. It almost seems like he will just stand there staring forever, when he breaks the silence with a sigh.
"It's not your fault. It's mine. And I don't think this is a thing that can be set right." He slowly unwraps his bandaged foreleg. A great bright jagged emerald is imbedded in the skin. He stares at it a moment, then looks at her. "It won't come out. It's deeper than it looks."
His eyes well up with tears and he looks away, embarrassed.
"I don't think he's… I don't think things are going to be set right this time."
Not having any luck with the door, Celestia abandons it for now. He goes to look around for anything around the room. Such as a neglected hole or anything that would lead out of the room.
[1d10] searchRoll #1 5 = 5
Falling steps down the stairwell, hoofs clacking on each step as she goes. She quickly takes a step back as the door swings out and nearly hits her, looking equally surprised at the pegasus that bursts out. She looks back as he flies up the stairs, going to head forward again until the two earth ponies charge by past her, looking back at them as well. She smiles at the sight, puling out her journal as she starts to write down what happened and what it could possibly be over as she heads through the doorway and onwards towards the Three Legged Dog.
"That will be all, thank you."
with another nod, Jiandao turns to leave from said door, heading towards the assembled aircabs.
"Alright, soooo… one of them was arrested. Or is it the guard lady? Actually that wasn't a cell." Em rubs her suddenly aching head and groans. "Man, this is harder than I thought it would be. Alicorn guy told me you'd have a list. Actually he told me Softy would have a list, but her paper only told me to touch you. Anyway. Guard pony. Room 112. Got it."
Her face turns to stone as she sees the damage done, and she grimly nods. "…I'm sorry," she says again. "If there's anything I can ever do…" She can't even finish the sentence, just giving him a solemn nod and turning away, heading back to her room with a long, heavy sight.
Celestia checks the door. It is solidly connected to the frame, without so much as a crack. The window is behind what at first looked like mesh, but turns out to be finely latticed reinforced crystal; while not ideal for viewing through, it is unfortunately completely impenetrable. The room appears to have been carved from solid stone, and there are no cracks in the walls, drains in the floors, or slots in the door. Looks like there's nothing to do but wait. Bummer.
After a long time, there's a loud click at the door. It swings open suddenly and the small room is filled quickly with several uniformed guards, all armed with the long black prods that proved to be so uncomfortable recently. Accompanying them is a bespectacled aged unicorn in a long white clinical-looking coat. He holds a clipboard with his telekinesis and is reading it intently as he enters, surrounded by his entourage. He stays like that for a long minute before finally looking up over his glasses at Celestia. His eyes are invisible behind his glasses.
"Good morning," he says politely.>>718487
The Three Legged Dog is a fancy venue. Gold spiral pillars, big archways, spacious tables (all with a good view of the stage, of course), high-class service, expensive cocktails, extremely well-dressed clientele. Falling is glad she chose a nice outfit; she barely stands out at all among the hifalutin crowd here. She sees Diamond sitting at the bar, nursing a martini glass full of something colorful. >>718488
"Thank you! Enjoy your stay in Horizon! Next please!"
The aircabs are all in a line outside the indicated exit, on an elevated dock obviously meant for this purpose. Not seeing a real difference between any of the cabs, the nearest one seems just fine to hop into. The pilot is a polite but slightly smelly young donkey with a straw-colored mane. He starts up the engine, which idles while he scratches himself with a crusty hoof.
Her voice sounds amused. "Alicorn guy says many things. Not everything is what it appears to be. Yes, guard pony room 112. Godspeed."
Em feels herself kicked out of the dreamlike state she was in, and back into the room. Her hoof is no longer touching the catatonic Lunar, who stares into middle distance as vacant-looking as ever.
She still clutches the crumpled parchment.
Smooth is looking at her, amused. She takes a swig from a bottle of clear fluid and offers it to Em. "Here. I find it always helps to get kinda twisted after talking to Lunar.">>718490
Tempest continues to stand there in shame, not looking at her, not looking at his leg, just staring at the ground as she walks away.
Cit's room is filled with all sorts of fun projects that are halfway to completion, as well as bits and pieces that she assembles to form toys and gadgets. She has a small box of completed simplistic googahs that she has been building up to sell to a market vendor she knows.
She hears somepony land in the entrance.
Celestia scoots away from the guards and the surgical looking unicorn by curling into the corner attempting to hide in any way.
NonCombat Talent:[Monster in the closet]: passive; Celestia Hides inside a life-sized that makes others believe Celestia is only the cavalier minion as long as he is inside giving a +2 to any stealth related rolls.
[1d10+2]Roll #1 2 + 2 = 4
"The 'CS lobby', please. I was told to make my way to the three legged dog, and this would be the closest stop." replies the kirin.
Em stumbles as she's thrown back into the real world, and lets out a quiet, unprompted laugh. "Guard pony room 112. Guard pony room 112," she repeats to herself. Loking up at Soft, she holds her hoof out to take the clear liquid. "Thank you. You're so nice! Yeah. That was really- really something. Guard pony 112."
Falling enters the establishment, the class of it so lavish and also seemingly homey, likely from how her parents raised her. As she spots Diamond, she finishes her journal entry and trots over, perhaps a little too quickly as she forgets about poise in her excitement.
"Hey Diamond! Isn't this place great?"
She says as if she's a regular.
"Gods. I knew this whole mission was a bad idea. I could feel it in my gut." She complains aloud to KC, who just stares blankly. "We really screwed up this time. Th…" She perks up as someone lands outside. "Star? That you?" she calls, heading out to see who's there.
The pony in the labcoat tuts and shakes his head at Celestia's pathetic attempt to hide. "There is no need for that. We know what you are. We know… I know… that you understand me. You can come out of that silly children's toy if you like."
"You are in a research facility. The way I see it, you have two options. You could choose to communicate and cooperate with us, or we could dissect you." He tilts his head a bit to the side as he explains the second option. >>718493
"CS lobby. Got it." The ass flips a switch and an analog timer begins to count the fare as the craft lifts into the sky. It is a matter of only a few minutes before it settles to the ground again, but the view is fantastic. Jiandao gets a birds-eye view of the city. Its dizzying heights stretch out below her. There are dozens of Toren structures, spreading outward in a spiral like the inside of a flower; several of them have been developed into highly-populated urban centers, others are huge layered stacks of wilderness. Jiandao sees a large section far below which appears to be loosely compiled of junk, a section which appears to be crafted from living wood, and several completely unoccupied portions where the naked Toren megastructures stand jagged in the distance.
The craft approaches the highest, most centrally located skyscraper, slowly lowering down onto an exterior landing dock higher than any other buildings but still some 3 levels below the apex, which appears to be some sort of ornate cathedral.
The cabby stops the timer, reads it, turns to face Jiandao and blasts her with a foul-smelling breath of hot, wet donkey air. "That'll be 8 bits." >>718494
Smooth hands the bottle to Em, takes it back when she's done. Takes another swig. "Aaah."
The other creatures are all involved in conversations among each other and there doesn't seem to be an opening. Only Benjamin sits by himself at the door. He has a grumpy look on his face as he watches the others around the flame.>>718495
Diamond spots Falling, hops up to give a hug. "Heeeey!" She kisses her cheek fondly. "This place is the tits!" She sips her drink, looks Falling up and down. "Key-ooot!" She takes her seat, pats the stool next to her. "Get a drink! It's on me. I got a raise today!" She waves the bartender over.>>718496
It is Star. She's got her fogsuit on. She removes the helmet, shakes out her hair, sees Cit and offers a half-smile. Full smiles have been on short supply lately, unfortunately.
She's got a half-full bag which she drops on the floor of the entrance, walking wordlessly to one of the ugly-but-comfy seats that serve as the communal chillspot and plopping down.
"So. I got a couple things for market if you're still wanting to head that way later," she comments. "Thought if we could maybe scrounge up enough cash…" She lets her thought trail off, though it seems to hang heavy in the air.
She offers her a small smile in return, looking equally as bummed about the current state of affairs.
She nods. "Sure, I'll come. I, er, might have stumbled on a way to make some extra cash, by the way." She points out the shield with the slightly larger crystal. "I figure someone might be interested in… whatever this is. Lightning seems to make it grow, so, you know. Might help. Maybe." She gives her a sidelong glance.
Em takes a swig and a tremor runs through her entire body. Her whole face scrunches as she hands the bottle back. "T-thanks," she says. "It's delicious. I gotta go now, but I'll be back!" She leaves, waving to Mr.Benji on the way out.
Celestia begins to exit their toy, first with their tentacles before pushing themselves completely out, with their large eye staring at the group.
" I want my pony back
" Celestia whines.
Leaning back slightly as he mentions the cost, The kirin searches her bag for some bits. Upon finding none, she turns to the donkey.
"This is most shameful, but i ask for a moment more to wait, as the one i am meeting will be able to assist with the charge." she asks the driver, bowing her head in regret for her ignorance.
"I am new to this land, and have yet to learn it's customs."
[1d3] BonusRoll #1 1 = 1
/ Roll #2 2 = 2
Falling returns the hug, hopping up on the stool beside Diamond.
"Thanks! I picked out something extra nice for this."
As Diamond waves over the bartender, Diamond nods her head.
"I'll just take a ginger-ale. I have some magic lessons later and Dad doesn't like it too much if I don't pay attention."
And with business setting, Falling puts her hooves on the counter, looking at Diamond attentively.
"You met Border a few more times, eh? Tell me everything!"
She says, eager to hear.
"Really?" Starfish seems interested, perhaps hungry for anything that will distract her. "What do you think it could be useful for?" She hops up to examine the gem on Golden's shield. >>718499
"Alright honey! Bye now! Don't be a stranger," she cackles.
Buster looks up from where he has been chatting up the diamond dogs. "Oh hey, see ya! Y'all come back now, hear?"
Benjamin does not wave back. As she passes, Em can hear him harrumph and mutter something about "moldy herring" to himself.
Exiting the ruined chapel through the side entrance, Em can see the old town around her in the gloom. The structure rises above her, its center not far from the center of the old town.>>718502
Several of the guards take a half step back. All of them look horrified. Only the glasses pony appears unfazed. "Fascinating," he breathes. He begins to take notes on the clipboard, not taking his eyes off Celestia.
"Do you know where you came from? Or where you are? Or even what you are?">>718503
The dirty donkey narrows his eyes at her. "What are you tryna pull? What kinda place you from, they don't got money there or somethin'?">>718504
The well-dressed bartender nods to her, supplies the ginger-ale without flourish, and makes himself scarce.
"You missed all the action. There was a crazy pegasus who just knocked over like three tables and flew out of here." She points over to the other side of the room, where the aftermath of the attack is apparent. Staff members are righting the tables, security guards in the same uniform as the two she had already seen are speaking with a small group of scared-looking ponies.
Falling looks delighted to talk about Border. She obviously really likes the guy. But before she really gets the chance, she looks over Falling's shoulder. "Speak of the devil!" and with that she hops back up, waving frantically across the room.
The handsome alicorn enters from a side-door, accompanied on either side by what appear to be businessponies vying for his attention. He completely ignores them as he makes a beeline for the two ladies at the bar.
Well. First thing's first. The guard house! Em was sure if she described the guy, room 112, the guy and room 112, or the guy in room 112 that someone would recognize one, the other, or both. She made her way toward the town.
Last time on Horizon:>>718498
Citrine Fleece has discovered an unnerving effect of contact with the exploded power cells in weapons. She learns that her magic can grow the crystals which appeared on Golden's shield, and presumably also on the Breeze brother's bodies. Starfish is gazing interestedly at the shield.
"This little thing here?" She prods a hoof at the raisin-sized emerald. It pops loose and falls to the ground with a small rattle. "Oops!">>718499
Em experienced a vision in the ruined chapel, a mysterious seer having given her a specific task in a specific location when what Em really expected was a list. She has exited the ruined chapel in the old town.
There is a noise, a machine whirring sound, coming from the cemetery behind the chapel. A large shadow is shifting, slowly moving over the graves, stopping at each one for a few moments.>>718502
Celestia has been captured and is currently being interrogated by a science-y looking old unicorn (with an entourage of armed guards) in a sealed prison chamber.
"Your… pony," says the Unicorn. "I see. So you've imprinted. Is this pony your mother? Your father?" His glasses are reflective and hide his eyes.>>718503
Jiandao has taken a taxi to close to her destination, but is discovering that this service is not free and that she has no currency to pay the driver with.
"Well?" The previously pretty polite donkey has shown another side of himself. He leers suspiciously at her. "How ya gonna pay yer fare, traveler? Maybe one of them fancy swords would cover it. Or maybe…" He eyes her up and down suggestively. "We could make a little trade. Service for service, you might say. You're a strange one, but I've had worse." He shows off his nasty teeth.>>718504
Falling Sand is lounging in an upscale bar with Diamond Blossom. The alicorn known as Border has entered, surrounded by important-looking businessponies all vying for his attention.
Border seems to be ignoring them. He stops, turns to them with as gracious a smile as he can muster given his obvious frustration, and says something to the whole group. It is not quite audible to Falling, but its effects are that the group of well-dressed stallions break away, looking disappointed and muttering to each other.
Border approaches the bar, wearing his signature hard-to-read smile.
"Ah, ladies! Welcome. I did not expect you to be quite so… prompt." His eyes trail over the group of shaken-looking ponies in the middle of the floor still chatting about the incident with the pegasus earlier. "It looks as though you witnessed some excitement?"
"I was taken away from my home, I want Mini back.
" Celestia answers the spectacled pony. His eye squinting and darting around the room as a show of nervousness from the situation.
Before leaving for town, whatever the shadow is catches her eye. She pauses, thinks for a moment, and decides to sneak a little closer and take a peek.
[1d10] perceptionRoll #1 3 = 3
"That would not be needed." states the kirin.
"Again, if you will allow me to speak with my contact inside, i am sure they will be able to gather your payment."
[1d3] bonusRoll #1 4 = 4
/ Roll #2 2 = 2
"Careful," she warns Starfish. "I don't know what it is yet, but it might be explosive. I really don't want to give it another jolt. Last thing we need is a giant crystal destroying the whole place. Right?"
"I figure next time I'm in town proper, I'll ask around. I'm sure there's some scholars who'd be interested in whatever this is."
KC moves towards it with curiosity, holding the crystal between thumb and forefinger. Both he and Cit look at it more closely for a minute, then KC puts it in one of the many compartments built into him, surprisingly daintily for such a huge construct. Cit looks over to Starfish again. "Er, I guess I'm down to head off to market when you are. There's nothing much to do around here. Tempest and Zeph are…" She can't bring herself to finish the sentence, giving Starfish a meaningful look.
"Your… home," the unicorn repeats thoughtfully. He jots something on his clipboard. "What do you remember of your home? Is it where you came from? How did you come to be in our realm?">>718819
The shadow appears to be some large spider-legged contraption, manned by two ponies in fogsuits. They lead it to stand directly over the top of an old grave; a light on its body blinks red and it makes a low tone before they lead it to another grave to repeat the strange process. The machine operators have not seen Em through the gloom, so focused are they. They appear to be having some sort of debate.
Their muffled voices do not rise above the whir of the machine while it works, but when it slows, she can hear small snippets of what sounds like an argument. >>718820
The donkey takes another long look at her. He appears to have become invested in his own suggestion, but thinks twice as he eyes her swords. He doesn't look like he's won a fight in his life.
Sighing, he leans back in his seat and crosses his forelegs. "Fine. I'll be waiting out here. But if you run off, I'll make sure you never catch a ride in Horizon again."
The taxi is parked on an exterior dock. There is a large public entryway with the insignia "Central Spire Dock 22" over it. Many airships are loading and unloading, and there is a steady flow of ponies both into and out of the door.>>718821
Starfish's eyes go wide as Cit intimates that the crystal might be dangerous, and backs away slightly. "Right."
"There might be somepony with more info about it at the market," she suggests. "There's that shifty zebra, whassername, Zariah, and Doc Brown is always worth a shot."
Starfish returns the meaningful look, nodding slightly. "Yeah," she says. "Heavy stuff." There's a moment of silence, then she picks up her fogsuit helmet and heads off toward Golden's room. "Well we can sit around dwelling on it, or we can get something done today. Let me get changed really quick and we can go."
Starfish takes forever to get changed. She does look rather dapper as she emerges, however, in a bright blue dress which complements her bright pink manehawk and shows off some of her more tastefully-located tattoos.
Falling watches as Border gets swarmed, then dismissing all of them so easily. He really does have a way with words.
"When I hear big news I'm always on time, mostly."
Falling says. She looks back at the shaken ponies, nodding.
"I missed the excitement, but the pony who did it ran past me on the way here. And a lot of guards too."
" My home is with Mini and parents. You took me away from there.
" Celestia's voice trembles as if he is about to cry.
In spite of something in the back of her mind telling her to just turn around and not get distracted, Em let out an entirely out-of-place giggle and walked across the cemetery. This could be a horrible, reckless idea, but more importantly, it could be fun and interesting. She stopped only a few feet away from the mechanical thing and waved. "Hi! Why are you two fighting? Fighting on the job just makes things harder."
Diamond is making googly eyes at the alicorn. Border appears not to notice. "Interesting," his eyes sparkle at Falling. "Did you happen to see what he looked like? Was he carrying anything?"
"Ah, you know, it's no matter. I'm sure it was simply one of those that eschew an… alternative lifestyle." He nods to the bartender, who has placed a tumbler full of clear liquid and ice on the bar in front of Border. "Ah, ever the consummate professional. Thank you, Flash."
Raising the glass, he turns back to the ladies. "To new horizons," he chuckles, "and new companions."
"I am in your debt for this mercy." says Jiandao, bowing deeply. "I will return with your payment soon."
Finally stepping out of the taxi, the kirin makes her way through the dock's entrance, in a hurry to find the bar in question.
Starfish walks in on Cit giving KC a polish. The mighty robot looks uncomfortable as Cit scrubs him intensely with a tea towel. Cit, for her part, looks a little less grubby than usual, though not by much. "Out, damned spot!" she cries as she tries to remove a particularly stubborn stain on his shoulder piece, to no avail. As Starfish enters, she turns and looks her up and down. "Looking sharp," she says with a grin, giving up on cleaning KC and winding up his key to keep him going. "I'm ready to go when you are!"
"Uhhh, one sec."
Falling pulls out her journal, flipping to the most recent page.
"He was a blue pegasus. Didn't have anything from what I saw, but he was in quite a hurry and burst through a door so I wasn't really paying much attention."
Falling says, matching the toast and raising her glass.
The unicorn stops writing, takes off his glasses and begins to clean them. "Your home is not with anypony from this realm. You are not from here, and can never make a home here. We know that you are from some other place; we have tools that detect alien magic, and you, my tentacled friend, you are an alien to this realm." He places his glasses back on his face.
"So there's no use pretending. When did you arrive in our world? How did you get here?">>718825
The two in fogsuits stop arguing, turn and stare at the approach of an unprotected unicorn dressed in drab clothing. "What the.." One turns to the other, back to Em.
"You're no gemcruster. Not a speck on you, from the looks of it. What are you doing wandering around without a fogsuit?"
"Maybe she's one-a them, whatchacallits, the ones that are immune. I've heard of those."
"No, you idiot, that's just stories. Only dogs and bugs aren't affected by the fog. Unicorns get it bad. Starts at the horn. Real gnarly."
They turn back to Em. "We were having a little discussion. Let me ask you. Who's the best racer in the league right now? Marble Mark or Swift Bolt?"
The two stare at you in anticipation as the hulking metal spider continues its activity over the graves.>>718827
Through the entryway, the main foyer is bustling with activity. There appears to be a grand ornate spiral staircase winding around the whole perimeter of the central room leading up or down. There is a large, colorful stylized map of the central spire, with color-coded zones, ranging from the red Cathedral zone upstairs, to the blue Commerce zone (marked with a yellow dot saying "You are Here"), to several more color-coded areas below, concluding with the lower half of the Spire blacked off and labeled Residential.
A perusal of the map reveals the Three Legged Dog is located downward a few flights.>>718828
"Cool," Starfish says simply, and hops out the door, allowing herself to plummet for a few seconds in freefall before spreading her wings and gliding.
The Market is upper midlevel in the Central Spire. There are several dozen booths and tents all set up by vendors to buy and sell various goods. Starfish lands gracefully on a landing dock outside, waiting for Cit and KC to follow.>>718829
"Blue pegasus," Border taps his chin with his hoof. "Interesting." He leaves it at that.
Border and Diamond drink.
"So, I'm not certain how much Falling has had a chance to disclose," the alicorn begins, but is cut off by Diamond's frantic chatter. "Oh I haven't told her anything yet! Oh it's so exciting, Falling! They want me to build the main structure on a new skyscraper! They've bought one on the outskirts, still growing, and they think that there could be a chance that growing them together with a living tree would be easier than replacing the floor levels regularly to prevent splitting."
Border nods at everything she says, turns to Falling. "Your magic would be very helpful to this end. I would like to offer you a job, Falling. You'd be working for me, not for AlphaBravo, and just on private projects with Diamond."
They both look at Falling expectantly.
Em shifted uncomfortably. She probably should get a suit, just to throw ponies off. Didn't she used to have one? What could have happened to it, she wondered."I have one! I just took it off for a second." Oh, that's
what they were arguing about. Em gives a resolute nod. "Definitely Swift Bolt," she says. "He even has swift in his name, which means fast by the way."
Noting the location from the map, Jiandao weaves her way through the crowd towards the stairs, heading down to the bar's location.
Celestia starts getting frustrated with the spectacled pony. Flailing his tentacles around himself a bit. "It is my home, you don't understand!
" Celestia exclaims.
"YOU GET TO BUILD A WHOLE STRUCTURE?!"
Falling exclaims loudly in excitement at hearing the news, perhaps too loudly. She's about to speak again, that is until Border continues with the better news. Falling's mouth hangs open, her eyes so wide they might pop out. Her mouth turns up into a bright, beaming smile.
"Are you kidding?! I
get to help make a structure for Horizon?! I get to help make part of this city?! Me?!"
She says, voice getting higher and higher as she continues to question for reassurance, unable to believe it but still clearly accepting it.
Cit teleports from structure to structure, following Starfish as closely as she can, while KC hops and parkours his way through the city like an ape swinging from vines.
[1d10] Navigation if needed
They land on the platform. Cit gives KC a once over before walking up to Starfish. "Haven't been here in a minute," she comments. "Remind me would you, whereabouts are these guys again? Wanna go check out this doover before I go shopping proper."Roll #1 1 = 1
The one who posed the question turns to the other, landing a light punch on his shoulder. "Ha! Told ya so. Swift Bolt is still number one!" The other one grumbles a bit, starts to reply, when the machine behind them starts to emit a high-pitched sound. A green light is blinking on its body.
"Ah, we got one!" the first pony exclaims. He jumps up and pulls a toggle on the side of the mechanical spider, which begins to frantically dig into the dead soil, throwing it aside in large clumps.
"I told you we'd find some vis down here," gloats the first pony. "What'd I say? 'Oldtown is a goldmine,' I said."
"No you didn't," accuses the second pony. "You said this was a waste of time.">>718832
The entrance to the Three Legged Dog is right ahead. It is populated by ponies of all types, all of them well dressed. Jiandao's travelling clothes do not camouflage her among the crowd, and she receives many stares as she approaches.
There are booths with chatting clientele, and a bar with a few nice-looking ponies gathered around. An impeccably but not ostentatiously dressed golden alicorn with a black mane stands, chatting with two young mares. They seem excited.>>718833
The guards all take another step back as Celestia begins to become upset.
"Now now," the unicorn cautions. "We are just talking like civilized folk. No need to get upset. Where is this home you speak of? I hear you saying the name 'Mini,' is this the one who summoned you? Are you loyal to her in the manner of a magician's familiar?">>718834
"A WHOLE STRUCTURE!!" Diamond squeals, hopping up and down. "We both do!! We're a team, you know." She prods at Falling with a huge grin.
Border watches their glee with the same unreadable smile. "There is nopony I would rather have in my employ. Your gifts are… remarkable." He seems about to say more, but stops himself. "You do not have to decide now, of course.">>718835
Cit almost loses track of Starfish, but the pegasus notices the duo lagging behind and waits for them to catch up. When they arrive on the landing dock, Starfish confidently strides toward the market.
"So there's Doc Brown's tent," she points to a large stall covered in mechanical doodads. "He usually buys all our fun little trinkets, of course. He's also a good source of mechanical-type info. Dude's a walking encyclopedia of magitech knowledge, if a bit scattered." She points to a black-and-white striped tent sort of placed further away from the rest of the stalls. "That one's Zariah. She's kinda creepy, but if you had questions about the properties of magic crystals, she's probably the one to ask. Other than that, there's all sorts of stuff to check out around here." She points out a few booths which sell clothing, fog-delving supplies, airship parts, weapons, various magic potions, and pretty much everything else. It's a colorful menagerie of all the goods Horizon has to offer.
Em tilts her head to the side as she watched the digger dig. "If Vis is corpses then there are plenty. I swear, sometimes whenever I come down here for-" She giggles and clears her throat. "Er, research
I have a rougher time finding a place to step than finding a cadaver."
" Mini is my pony, I want her back. I need her back.
" Celestia demands of the group. Wrapping his tentacles around the doll holding it close as something from Mini.
She nods and listens. "Should probably come here more often, haha. Guess I'll go hit up Zariah, then. What about you? What are you gonna do? Just shopping?"
Regardless of her answer, she thanks Starfish and says bye for now, arranging to meet back up at the same spot, then trots off to talk to Zariah.
Falling giggles at the prodding reminder.
"Well duh, we're the best team."
She looks back at Border.
"Of course I accept! Who wouldn't?! This is the chance of a lifetime!"
She looks back at the both f them now.
"When do we start?"
Ignoring the stares from the bar's patrons, Jiandao approaches the bar counter, signaling the server over.
"Greetings." she begins, bowing slightly. "I was told to ask for an alicorn known as 'Ambit' here, and that they may have work for me. Have you heard of them?"
The spidery machine continues digging.
"If Vis is corpses," chuckles the first pony.
"Vis ain't quite that," explains the second one, "but sometimes you can find em together." He nods reassuringly at Em. "Check it out."
The machine hits something solid, pulls a pony-sized box from the ground and sets it next to the hole it has just created, and then just stands there, motionless. The second pony produces a crowbar from somewhere and begins to pry up the lid. It's slow, hard work, and the first pony doesn't help at all. He pulls out a small pack and fishes through it with his fogsuit covered hoof.>>718838
The guards all cower at the strange movements and grating, angered speech of Celestia. The unicorn makes note of this. "Perhaps I should try to find guards made of sterner stuff," states expressionlessly. The line shores up a bit around him. He turns back to Celestia with a critical eye. "I don't think we will be getting anything further out of the creature. Perhaps once it has a chance to calm down." He turns to exit the room. The guards open it for him, two of them brandishing the unpleasant sticks at Celestia behind him. Before he does, he half-turns his head so he is not quite looking back into the room. "Perhaps it would be in our best interest to …acquire… this 'Mini' you speak of. I will look into it.">>718839
Starfish's eyes sparkle. "Just shopping," she replies. She turns and walks among the booths, casting a critical eye at all the wares on display.
Zariah's tent is a caricature of alchemicalogical workplace. A bubbling cauldron emits powerful fumes which fill the air with a sickly sweet aroma that slightly burns the nose and eyes. There are multiple glass containers set up in an intricately interconnected series of tubes, colored liquid bubbling from one to the next. A large flat stone table with a nonagram carved into it, deep enough for liquid to flow and stained an ominous color, dominates one corner while a large shelf, overstuffed with thick tomes, occupies another. The booth is apparently unoccupied by either patrons or shopkeep.>>718840
"Yeee!!!" Diamond squeals as Falling says the words of acceptance.
Border nods graciously. "My gratitude is immeasurable. The technology is still being developed, you understand, and without your ability to rewind… Well, let's just say that you will be making the essentially impossible, possible." Genuine gratitude is in his eyes, which turns to confused concern as an armed blue kirin approaches the bar.
"Please excuse me a moment," as he makes eyes with Flash.>>718841
The bartender approaches and wordlessly listens to Jiandao's statement. His eyes travel to the alicorn standing nearby, who meets his gaze. They don't appear to communicate beyond the meaningful look, but the bartender disappears and the alicorn walks the short distance over.
"Greetings, friend. I am qualified to speak for Ambit at this juncture. Might I inquire as to the source of your tip?"
"What type of work are you looking for?" He eyes the twin swords sheathed at her side. "I'm afraid I have no need for an assassin. I prefer less… deadly methods, these days."
Celestia listens when the name is spoken. Happy about the thought of meeting Mini once more, but uncomfortable with the idea of the filly meeting the ponies that Celestia is with. Celestia decides to slink back inside of the plush for now.
Em takes a curious step forward to watch whatever it is the weirdos are doing, but theatrically keeps a bit of distance like she's actually worried about some kind of infection.
Falling blushes, waving her hoof dismissively.
"Oh stop, it's not that amazing
She says in faux-humbleness, clearly excited still at how important she is to this project.
She goes back to her ginger ale as Border excuses himself.
"This is so exciting! First a gazebo, and now a whole building!"
She says to Diamond, glancing back over as Border speaks with the kirin. Her eyes look on eagerly at the foreign pony.
She frowns as she looks around, feeling a bit ill at ease with the whole place. She waits patiently for a bit for Zariah to show up; then, assuming she doesn't, she calls out. "Helloooo! Miss Zariah? Anyone there?" She and KC look around to see if they can spot her.
[1d10] both PerceptionRoll #1 7 = 7
/ Roll #2 7 = 7
Bowing to the Alicorn, she presents the note from the captain. "Velvet Scar. He was the captain aboard the ship i had arrived in. Beyond this note, i am unaware if he has a connection to you."
Her ordinarily placid demeanor wavers at the mention of 'assassin', her brow furrowing slightly. "I am no simple killer for hire. I will do as my employer requires, if my weapons are not needed, i will stay them."
Without further ado, the group departs the room. The heavy door clicks into place with a solid thunk. Celestia is again alone in the cell.
There is a tapping at the window. >>718844
The crowbar pony finishes prying, the lid pops off the box and lands on the soil, half-in the hole. "Ha!" he grunts triumphantly.
Within the box there is the dilapidated mummified body of a pony, half-covered in pinkish crystals like the inside of a geode. The horn is one huge crystal, the face and what's left of the skin covered in smaller crystalline pattern. The crystals cover about half of the rotting corpse, inside and out.
The crowbar pony lets out a low whistle. "Ain't she a beaut?"
The pony with the pack finally finds what he was searching for, pulls out a nasty-looking set of large shears, and leans over the side of the box, getting his hooves in right away, cutting and stripping away rotting flesh from the edge of the crystals. He begins to throw the separated pinkish gems, many of them still dangling stringy viscera and skin, into a pile at the edge of the gravehole.
The crowbar pony gives a big grin at Em through his helmet. "Visae," he says helpfully. "Not a bad haul.">>718845
Diamond seems totally oblivious to Border's conversation with the foreign kirin, totally focused on gushing at Falling. "Yeah! My boss told me that the higher-ups are all talking about me! You know they meet in that gazebo for lunch now?? Ohmygosh, thank you so much! And yeah, a WHOLE BUILDING!! Eeeee!" She dances, spilling her drink a little bit.
The conversation between Border and the kirin seems more interesting. They are obviously sizing each other up, deciding whether to trust each other. First impressions are key, Falling knows. You don't get a second chance to make one.
Well, most ponies don't, anyway.>>718846
"Well hello dear," cackles a voice right behind Cit. Cit was sure nobody was there a moment ago. KC is just as surprised.
Turning to face the voice, an ancient wrinkled zebra with a flowing azure robe and a wide-brimmed well-worn black hat sits comfortably near the cauldron. She does not appear to have just sat down; her bones audibly creak as she eases herself into a standing position with a pained expression.
"Citrine Fleece, if my memory serves," she croaks, "and KC." Cit does not recall ever having introduced either of them to this old witch. "A purely social visit, I assume? Come to see how old Zariah is holding up? I assure you, I'm not about to kick the bucket just yet." From the looks of her, that is not quite certain. She looks like she has one foot in the grave already.>>718847
The alicorn bows back in the Kirin custom. "Ah. Velvet Scar. A reliable captain, and one that I call on for many of my odd jobs. He recommends you to me, eh?" Border appraises Jiandao again. "That old scallawag might have some… nonstandard methods, but he has proven unmatched for getting the job done. He also possesses a particular talent for estimating the worth of a pony."
He smiles. "My apologies. Where are my manners? My name is Border." He bows again, deeply respectful. "It is my absolute pleasure to make your acquaintance. It so happens I might have work for…" he eyes her swords again, "a protector."
Startled by the tapping, Celestia jumps up from within the plush doll. The plush head darts around before Celestia starts heading to the window to check what is doing so.
"Oh, those? Those are everywhere. You're telling me cancer is actually worth money
?" She stomped her hoof. "I threw so much of that stuff out during my research!"
She jumps a little as the zebra seems to materialize out of nowhere. "Oh. H-hello. I'm… er. never mind." She catches herself, realizing introductions are out of the way already. KC doesn't look impressed.
She fumbles about in her pockets before remembering KC has the crystal, opening up a few compartments before finding it. "I… I was hoping you could help me, actually. I was told you're good at identifying all sorts of magic… things." She presents the crystal to Zariah. "I stumbled across this in…" She realizes it might not be a good idea to be revealing her sources. "Er, anyway. I used some lightning magic on it, and it… grew. Somehow. I'm thinking it might be dangerous. What can you tell me about it?"
As Border returns the greeting, the kirin relaxes slightly. "And mine yours, Border. I am Jiandao." The kirin introduces, noting the change in opinion.
"If you will have me, i will fulfill the work given to the best of my ability. I only ask that i be compensated in kind."
"If you keep this up, you could be the head architect for the whole city!"
Falling continues off their praise, her mind running with ideas. She laughs as Diamond spills her drink in the rush.
"Make sure to make me second in command when you do."
Her attention is drawn back to the kirin. She's only seen them in books, so her curiosity is heightening as she watches the conversation unfold, though unable to hear what they're saying.
As the plush approaches the window, the source of the tapping appears to be a shadowy figure. It is hard to make out from behind the mostly-foggy crystal. It is vaguely pony-shaped. When it realizes it has the attention of the captive, it appears to pose in a heroic, reassuring stance for a few seconds. Its large head turns quickly to either side, then disappears for a moment. It returns with another large shadowy shape, this one vaguely spider-shaped but the size of about two ponies stacked together. The first shadowy figure touches the spider-shape, and one of the long skinny limbs reaches out to the crystal window. A blinding light appears, an awful high-pitched whirring sound is audible through the muffle of the crystal window. >>718850
The shears-pony continues his dark work, the pile of dirty pink gems growing.
"Sure as shit," says the crowbar pony. "It ain't much, but it's honest work. AlphaBravo corp pays by the pound for these treasures. Trouble is, you can't let em know where you got it." He cackles again. "Gotta tell em you got a windfall. Trust me, though, the guy we talk to? He don't care where you get it. One of the higher-ups maybe, but he runs a little side-gig where he turns this stuff into bits. Don't ask me how."
The spider machine stands ominously quiet. Shears-pony flips a lever, and it begins to gather the gems, opening a hidden compartment and placing them inside one at a time.>>718855
The old zebra stares as Cit fumbles, saying nothing until the end of her speech. "Lightning magic, eh?"
She takes the small crystal, turning it over in her hoof. "Hmm. This is an interesting color." She steps to a work area cluttered with papers and concoctions, pushes them all to the side impatiently. A vial of fluid clatters to the floor but does not break. Zariah pays no mind as she begins to pull various bottles of potions off the shelf. She eases the cork from one, drops a bit of fluid onto the crystal. "Hmm," she says as there is no reaction. She pulls another vial and repeats the process. The crystal expands, and a color change is evident. It grows quickly from a raisin-sized emerald crystal to a hoof-sized teal crystal. "Hmm."
Zariah turns back to Cit and KC. "This is a very concentrated vis. Did you pull this from a living pony, or a cadaver?" >>718856
Border smiles graciously. "Of course. Have you any experience with fog-delving? There are unsavory ponies, as well as… other creatures, below. They make their home down there. We will be intruders in their space, and I have need of a bodyguard with restraint." He glances at her yet again. "I sense within you courtesy, moderation, tact. And yet… the ability to act when action become unavoidable. This is a rare trait."
He nods approvingly. "I would like to hire you as a bodyguard, Jiandao. If you would have me. I will have you on retainer for the time being, but the time will come -and soon- when I will need your services."
"Welcome to Horizon. Is there anything you need? Do you have a place to stay, a means to purchase supplies, perhaps a cooked meal? The journey must have been long."
"Second in command?? Pish posh, my dear!" Diamond laughs gleefully. "You're my equal partner. We'll be the talk of the town! The power couple who create entire skyscrapers together!" She seems drunk on power, and possibly alcohol as well.
Border and the kirin seem to be reaching some sort of agreement. The bartender is watching from the sidelines warily. A few patrons also seem surprised at the alicorn's polite deference to the kirin's cultural politeness.
Celestia decides to inspect these shadowy figures as best as he can. Squinting at them from inside of his plush body.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 7 = 7
"The city will be ours to make however we see fit! We could make it look like any shape we want!"
Falling goes on. While she has drank, her imaginative mind is just as dangerous in going too far along Diamond's power trip.
Though, while she continues on, she also watches the conversation.
"I wonder if she'll be working with us…"
Falling mutters aloud as she sips on her drink.
"Huh. I'll have to keep that in mind for when I need a little extra cash. Sounds dubious, dangerous, and potentially dolorous. Anyway-" she turned and offered them a small wave. "Nice talking to you. Good luck with your cancer harvest!"
She watches curiously as the alchemist performs her experiments. She looks to KC for thoughts, only to be met with a shrug.
“Well, neither,” she answers truthfully. “It grew on an object, after it got splashed with… something. Some of my friends got… got infected too.” She looks away. “…I don’t suppose you know what this could mean, miss?”
At the mention of Fog-delving, she furrows her brow.
"'Fog-delving'? I do not. I am a stranger to this land; i was not aware there was danger lurking within the fog below. The hazards of this 'fog' will be new to me, though the action of protecting others will not. I would be honored to work alongside you, master Border."
"In my leaving of the temple grounds, i have failed to prepare for the journey. Beyond my blades and meager possessions i am alone in this new city."
The shadowy pony and the machine are hard to make out through the translucent crystal lattice. However, something in the cut of the fogsuit, the motions of the body, and the slimness of the shadow seem to suggest a decidedly feminine shape. The spidery shadow appears to be a machine. It continues to work on the window. A crack starts to appear as it grinds away at the outside. The feminine fogsuited shape appears to be playing lookout for this venture. >>718870
"Any shape we WANT!!! Hahaha!" Diamond is giddy with laughter. All of a sudden, she seems to sober. "Any shape… Oh man, how are we gonna pull this thing off? How do you grow something that grows with the Toren structure?" As quickly as her giddiness appeared, it drains away into anxiety. "Oh gosh! I have no idea how we even do this thing! Plants need soil, and water, and light, and oh man, to make a big one. Should we start at the bottom? The top? Somewhere in the middle?" She grabs Falling suddenly. "I have NO IDEA how to do this!!" she wails.
It's hard to read the mood of the conversation between Border and the kirin. Seems polite, but it's hard to follow any particular trains of thought between Diamond's hysterics. However, they seem to be wrapping up some sort of agreement as the alicorn hands a small sack to the kirin.>>718871
The trio continue their dark work. "Alright then. Good luck without a fog suit! If you find yourself growing anything interesting, come find us!" The crowbar pony chuckles darkly.
His compatriot strikes him again, not that gently. "Don't say that, idiot! He didn't mean that. Good luck out there, though."
"Yeah. Don't end up like this one." The crowbar pony holds up the demolished skull, already stripped clean of gems, in demonstration.
The foggy town rises around Em as she departs the gruesome twosome and their mechanical spider.>>718875
"An object?" The old zebra witch looks up sharply. "Are you sure?" She thinks for a moment. "Is it possible this object had some blood on it? Vis like this only grows from living matter." She examines the large, teal crystal with renewed intensity.
After a moment, she looks up, sighs tiredly. "I don't know what to tell you. Looks like the standard stuff, if a bit stronger. I would say you could sell it for scrap at the AB refinery, but other than that, it's pretty much useless. This here," she picks it up and drops it with a thud on her stone table, "is probably worth about 2 bits.">>718876
Border nods as she explains her situation. "I would be honored to have you in my employ, Jiandao. Your inexperience will not be as much an inconvenience as you might imagine, as many lifetime Horizon dwellers have never ventured into the depths of the city. I'm afraid that my work takes me there often." He chuckles humorlessly.
He reaches into a pocket of his suit, produces a small bag of coin. He sifts through the contents with a wing, then shrugs and hands the whole bag over to Jiandao. +150 bits
"Find yourself some accommodations. I will be in contact soon. My recommendation is the Flawless Inn, in the Gamma quadrant. It's adjacent to the Garden District, one of the more beautiful sections of Horizon and one I frequent regularly." He smiles a mysterious, unreadable smile.
Now properly undistracted, Em makes her way toward the town.
" Celestia tries to whisper to the mysterious dark figures unsure what to make of them. Debating in his mind whether they were any more dangerous than the ponies he had encountered in the room not that long ago.
Surprised by the weight of the bag, Jiandao sets the coin into her own bag, before bowing deeply to her new employer.
"I am humbled by your generosity, Master Border. My blade is yours, whenever you have need of me."
finishing her goodbyes, Jiandao exits the bar, retracing her steps back to the airbus, the driver's payment her goal.
"W-well, it might have," she shrugs. "Everything happened very fast. I didn't really get a look. But I don't think there was blood on it."
Her face falls a little as she values it at precisely dick. "Oh. Well, what if I made it grow some? Would it be worth more if it were bigger?" Her horn sparks a little.
Falling breaks from her gaze on Border's conversation to Diamond as she's grabbed. She grabs Diamond back, putting her hooves on her shoulders to help steady and calm her.
"But that's why I'm here Diamond! Anything that goes wrong I can fix, and if something needs to be adjusted I can help with that too!"
She say, remaining positive and upbeat with the energy from earlier.
The town is shrouded in the poisonous fog. No further interruptions bar her entry into the uninhabited, ghostly Old Town.
The crystal gravel crunches satisfyingly under each step of her hooves. >>718884
If the pony or machine outside the window can hear Celestia's quiet greeting, they make no response. The crack in the window grows, making a rough circle. The machine stops suddenly, as the most recent part of the crack connects to the first foray, and the spider-like machination steps back. The female fogsuit-clad figure kicks at the window, once, twice. It makes a solid sound but does not appear to budge. She stops, her body language communicating visible frustration. She kneels down by the window and tries to signal something to the captive Celestia. She appears to be smacking one hoof into another, then pointing at the window, then repeating the action, then watching to see if there's any response.>>718888
Border returns her bow graciously. "Welcome to Horizon, Jiandao."
The donkey's aircab is still idling where she left him. The ass himself appears to be daydreaming, a crusty hoof half-stroking his abdomen thoughtfully as she approaches. As he sees her, he snaps out of it. "Reconsidered my offer, eh?" He looks around the cab, throwing bits of garbage onto the floorboards. "It ain't a honeymoon suite, but it'll do for what I have in mind." He flashes his winning, half-rotten smile at her once more.>>718890
The old zebra looks up sharply. "You don't think I can make it grow? Look here, young 'un. The visae grow because of magic. If it's connected to a living being, it feeds off the magic of their being, grows naturally, spreads naturally. The most valuable vis grows in the most magical of ponies, and it's still worth fuck-all. Best you can do with this is make batteries out of it, and AB has that down to a science. Best to stick with those mechanical contraptions you slap together. Children's toys," she spits, "and useless gadgets." She gives a look to KC. "The best machines have already been constructed. You do a good job fixing those up. Other than that, I'd leave the crystals to the professionals."
She turns, obviously disinterested in Cit and KC now as she stirs the nasty cauldron of sickly sweet-spicy liquid, the one which burns the eyes.
"Better keep searching," she says over her shoulder. "If you can find a pony that has that kinda vis growing, might be able to sell their body after it takes em. Other than that, it's basically worthless."
Diamond seems to be comforted by Falling's physical contact. "Geez. Can we figure this thing out?" She meets eyes with Falling. "You're amazing. I can't do it without you. I don't know why they picked me for these projects, but I can't help but think it had something to do with you. You've been such a help, from the beginning. Remember my living furniture idea?" She laughs. "Down where nopony could ever use them, forest level in the GD? And how it was growing out of control? You made it work when it had grown up all crazy and wrong. And the pavilion. That wouldn't have been possible without you." Her eyes sparkle with tears. "Equal partners, my ass. You're the power behind this power couple. I can't even make a frickin chair without your help." A big tear works its way down her cheek. She obviously needs a little emotional support right now. Could be the drinks, could be the stress. Probably the drinks.
At this point, Border rejoins the two ladies. He is tactful enough to not engage them while Diamond is emotional, instead standing neutrally at the bar while Flash produces another drink for him. By the time he turns back to the duo, Diamond has cleaned herself up and is ready to talk. She is making googly eyes at the alicorn again. Border diplomatically does not notice.
"I apologize, ladies. Business is always pressing, in my line of work." He smiles. Diamond almost swoons.
First thing is first. Obviously she was looking for a guard pony. The place to check would be the guard house, so that's exactly what she looks for.
[1d10]Navigation if neededRoll #1 2 = 2
Celestia tilts their head a bit watching the action. Celestia guesses that they want him to help in breaking through the glass. So he takes one of his tentacles from his plush mouth to do so.
[1d10] Break GlassRoll #1 2 = 2
Last time on Horizon:>>718883
Em found a couple of fog-delving grave robbers, exhuming corpses and eviscerating them of crystal growths with the help of a large, spider-shaped automaton. She has left them and ventured into the foggy Old Town.>>718884
Celestia remains captured, but hope might be around the corner. Through the only cloudy window there appears to be a fogsuit-clad mare and her helpful robot companion. She is trying to enter through the window but appears to be having some trouble.>>718888
Jiandao has been hired by the alicorn Border for protection, and given some payment up front as a token of goodwill. She has returned to the cab in which she arrived, and has been met with the driver's lewd proposition to accept "services" for payment.>>718890
Cit and KC went to market, where they spoke with creepy zebra witchdoctor Zariah to appraise their crystal. They learned it is called a "vis" and not worth a lot, primarily scrapped to a large powercell manufacturer. Apparently the primary source of these visae are cancerous growths on magical ponies.>>718891
Falling is hanging out at the bar of the 3 Legged Dog drinking nonalcoholic ginger ale, having been quite recently offered an employment position with Diamond by Border. He has tasked Falling and Diamond with the creation of a living building in Diamond's style, on one of the newer Toren structures on the outskirts of Horizon. Border concluded some business with a mysterious kirin in ragged-seeming clothes (in comparison with every other pony's elegance, at least) while Diamond showed her vulnerable side.
"But this thing comes from an inanimate object," she insists, not wanting to believe she built up these expectations for nothing. "You said so yourself, that's not normal. Surely it's worthwhile to someone. Right?" She sounds a little desperate. "Isn't there a scientist or something who'd be more interested in rare visae?" Even as she says so, she's already resolving to pay Brown a visit instead. Zariah doesn't seem to have much to offer her besides disappointment.
"You know why they picked you? Cause you have a great eye and head for these projects!"
Falling says to help support Diamond.
thought of making living furniture, all I did was just make it so you could try it again and again. I have no where the kind of creativity you have!"
She continues, levitating up a napkin to help dab away the rolling tear.
equal partners Diamond. You have hte know how, and I take away any failures. That's why we're both great."
As Diamond calms down, Falling finishes off her drink, just in time as Border returns and they're all good and settled.
"Oh no need to apologize. It must've been some pretty big business if it was a Kirin all the way out her."
Falling says in a prying matter.
"That will not be necessary." explains the kirin, floating the 8 bits needed from her coin pouch with her magic. "A promise made, a promise kept. Your payment, as requested."
Em wanders aimlessly among the ruins of old standard-looking buildings and the huge support trunks of the giants above. The city is dark, and she cannot see further than a block or two. Wandering through the gloom, lifeless light filtering from large buzzing lamps affixed to the legs of the megastructures some 10 meters overhead, it is almost impossible to find your way around without knowledge of the area, or a map of some kind.
The gentle slope of the floor gives an estimation in which direction is the center of Horizon: downhill. Other than that, there is not much to orient by. All these destroyed buildings look unoccupied, and all is quiet, save the constant buzzing of the lights overhead, the crunch of her hooves on gravel, and an occasional machine whir or clank off in the distance.>>719064
Celestia's tentacle impacts the solid crystal window with a solid thunk. It doesn't budge in the slightest. The fogsuit pony on the other side watches, shakes her head, then makes the same fist-smacking and pointing at the window gestures. She looks around nervously, then rolls her hoof in a circle and nods emphatically as if to encourage haste.>>719066
Zariah continues to stir her brew, doesn't reply. "Might be worth it to someone as a memento of their lost limb, or loved one. I know a couple pegasi who kept their wings." She turns around and there is a glint in her eyes. "Had to amputate. Some of em still don't make it. Make for nice decorations later though." She points to an item hanging from the canvas tent ceiling disinterestedly before looking back at her cauldron.
The object is a single crimson wing, completely crystallized. This artifact is not jagged like all the growths Cit has seen, instead seeming to almost be a perfect carving from the crystal rock which surrounds Horizon. >>719067
Diamond seems to take Falling's comforting words to heart as she swallows and brings herself to offer a teary grin.
"You're great, you know that?"
Border's expression is unreadable, as always. "You might be surprised. The distance between Horizon and the Kirin homelands is constantly shrinking. I find their culture to be fascinating; as polite as they are distant, as kind as they are ruthless, as generous as they are shrewd." He smiles. "I expect that individual to accompany us on our next foray, in fact. Speaking of which. Are you available on the morrow?">>719068
The donkey narrows his eyes at Jiandao. He points to the dial, which is still clicking away. "I left the meter running, sweetheart. I can't be waiting around for free. Now the total's 20 bits."
"I know, I just said that."
Falling jokes with a big grin and a giggle.
"I know! I've seen them in some of my books and there's just so much about them, I couldn't believe I got to see on for real!"
Falling pauses at the proposal.
"Wait, we're going t be working with her? Of course I'm available!"
Em's ear twitched as she heard a clank in the distance. Guard pony room 112, she reminded herself. Whrrrrrr
. Guard pont room 112. Clank.
Her ear twitched again and she glanced in the direction of the closest noise. If there were machines then someone was probably near them, right? Maybe they'd know where to go.
[1d10]Navigation as she continues to wanderRoll #1 4 = 4
/ Roll #2 6 = 6
KC's eyes narrow, while Cit looks a little disturbed by the severed wing. "I… see. Well, thank you for your time, Miss Zariah. A shame it's not worth much, but what can you do." She forces a smile and politely bids the zebra farewell.
"Goddammit," she grumbles to KC when she's out of earshot. "I thought we had something good on our hooves. 2 bits, my ass."
Refusing to give up just yet, she recalls Starfish's instructions and heads to Doc Brown's stall.
[1d10] Navigation if neededRoll #1 6 = 6
Eying the meter, Jiandao bows once again, floating the new total over to the driver.
"Forgive me, i was not aware my conversation had taken so much time. I will revise the payment for the time here as well."
Celestia looks once more to the cracks and places tentacles from his plush mouth into the circle of cracks around the glass. Pushing their tentacles against while doing a twisting motion with it. Lefty Loosey they thought.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Falling laughs, looks pretty cheered up. She also seems to be trying to catch Border's attention with butterfly kisses, unsuccessfully.
Border nods. "Fascinating creatures to be sure. Loyal companions and reliable workers. I think she will be just perfect for our company. Now, if you ladies would kindly excuse my imminent departure, I am afraid I am needed elsewhere." He glances at an exquisite gold watch around his gold ((front ankle? horseleg wrist?)) cannon with a serious look on his face, then smiles back to the ladies. "So glad to have you on board." >>719071
She can't see dick in the dark. Building after building start to blend together in the night as she wanders downhill, toward the center of town.
The destruction of the city is especially apparent closer here, as the megastruts become larger and closer together. The ruins of the ground-level structures are spread along the otherwise completely smooth surface of these multicolored gently curving trunks.
Hearing another of the strangely out of place noises, Em is able to determine the general direction it came from. It seems to originate from above, where as she passes underneath a toren structure she can see a ceiling, lower than the others. It appears to be poorly maintained. In fact, there appears to be a large hole ripped right into one, where a little red light is leaking through.>>719072
Doc Brown's stall is a contrast to Zariah's, the main similarity being the sheer quantity of stuff crammed into a tiny place. However, whereas Zariah's magic shop seemed to have some hidden organization and in fact seemed quite homey despite the presence of arcane
and opaque artifacts, Doc Brown's situation is a mess. More than half of his allotted space is taken up with a large, overflowing bin of what appears to be junk. Most of it is machine bits and broken trinkets. Cit can see more than one thing she's sold to the good doctor, lying discarded in the magitek milieu.
The Doc himself appears to be doing business with an older earth pony mare. He is showing off some windup trinket. Cit actually recognizes the model; she uses the parts from these old clockwork models (which were designed before the invention of power cells) for fixing up KC sometimes.>>719073
The ass gives her a dirty look. As soon as the money is in his hoof, he wordlessly shifts the cab into gear and lifts off.>>719074>>719075
The crystal window is quite cold against his tentacles. At first, this approach seems to be doing nothing; however, as Celestia starts to put more oomph into it, he realizes that it is starting to budge, even if just a little.
The figure outside seems to nod emphatically. She takes another nervous glance around her, then freezes, staring off into the distance.
Celestia starts putting more oomph into the task. As he starts pushing his plush body against the glass along with using the previous methods in undoing the glass. Hoping to get through quicker. Slowly, but hopefully faster getting through.
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
Em looked up through the hole. Well, at least there was light. She could
fly back up there if she turned back to her true form, but what if someone saw? Or, even if nobody saw her actually change, what if she met someone that attacked her on sight? Giving a cursory glance left and right to check for onlookers, she let her disguise go up in deep green flames and fluttered up toward the hole.
"I can't wait! See you tomorrow Border!"
Falling says as Border departs.
"I don't think I'll be able to focus on anything else today! This is so exciting!"
She says to Diamond, already eager to start.
She smiles as she navigates her way through the organized chaos of Doc Brown's stall, waiting patiently for him to finish his business. She gives him a polite little wave once he's done, which KC apes. "Hi Doc, how's things?" she says cordially, exchanging pleasantries with the stallion.
Once the small talk is out of the way, she shows off the crystal. "Was hoping you could tell me a bit about this. Apparently it's just a normal vis, but I found it growing on a shield. Never heard of 'em doing that before."
Watching the cab lift off for a moment more, Jiandao turns back towards the gateway, looking for a directions board to find the Gamma quadrant and the Inn in question.
The section of cut window turns a bit more. It doesn't seem to want to quite open up, but Celestia notices that it is definitely loosening.
The mare outside, still frozen and staring off into the distance, suddenly turns, slaps the machine in a specific place, and begins to flee. The machine throws itself into action as well, hurrying behind her as she disappears from view. Seconds later, lights appear from one side of the window; they appear to be heading in the same direction as Celestia's mysterious benefactor.>>719078
Bubbling Flask is gone, Metachrosis stands in her place.
As she approaches the rent metal ceiling, she can see that it is apparently being slowly peeled apart in radial sections, like an orange. The crack with light shining through is the only actual opening so far, but she can see that there have been several additions, repairs and replacements of sections which have obviously split open before.
Through the crack, she can see a low ceiling, and some sort of shelf.>>719079
Border places his still mostly-full drink on the counter, turning to leave. However, Diamond does not appear to quite be ready for him to go; she blurts out right as he is turning away: "Mr. Border! I mean, Border! Wait a second! Do you ever have any… free time?"
As he looks back, she blinks in what she obviously means to be an enticing manner. Border offers his own blink in what is obviously a surprised manner.
"Unfortunately not, my dear. My work is very …involved, and it consumes almost all of my time. Now if you'll excuse me, I cannot be late for this engagement." He departs before she can stop him again.
Diamond watches him go, then looks at Falling with frustration. "Phooey!">>719080
Doctor Chestnut Brown is an older white unicorn with a wildly disheveled mane and greasy coveralls. He appears to be haggling with his customer. Finally, he gives in and, grumbling, accepts a smaller amount of bits for the trinket. They shake hooves, the older mare smiles warmly, and leads her small daughter away from the stall with the toy in hoof.
He turns to Cit when he is finished. "You again, eh?" His tone is unwelcoming, but his eyes betray the joke. "You know. Things are things." He kicks the bin of junk lightly. "If only they'd stay fixed when I fix em." He strolls over to KC, gives an appraising look, then pulls down his glasses, complete with a magnifying eyepiece over one eye, looking the robot all over intently. "Looking better than ever. Nice work." Without asking, he begins to fiddle and adjust KC's joints with the confident touch of a master mechanic.
As Cit brings up the crystal, he shakes his head. "Vis ain't my game. I don't trust anything that eats ponies."
"Growing on a shield, eh? That IS a little off. I'd ask Zariah about it if you haven't already."
He finishes fiddling with KC to his satisfaction, stands up and starts to pick around in his junk bin. "Didja bring me anything today?" He's not even looking at her.>>719081
There is a walkway with an overhead billboard. Reading it, Jiandao learns that the Gamma District is about a 30 minute walk, just past the Garden District. It is just as Border said, then. There are also lots of other aircabs parked, waiting for patrons.
Celestia staring for a second decides to keep at it with pushing the piece of the window out despite the minimal progress. With a huff and puff. The doll will push the glass window down!
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
KC dutifully spreads his arms out and turns around when prompted, allowing the good doctor to give him a good look over. "Thanks," says Cit with a smile. "Trying to keep him shipshape with what I have." KC stands at attention and salutes.
"I did. She… wasn't much help. Don't suppose you know anyone else that would know about this? If it helps I found it down in the Garden District. There was this… really weird place down there. Seemed like they didn't want anyone to know about it. There was a machine that came at us, and some of the others got splashed, and…" She gestures at the crystal and shrugs, looking a bit morose all of a sudden. "…But yeah. If you know who I could talk to about this about from her…" She trails off.
"I did, actually." She holds up the battery recharger Starfish found. "A friend of mine found this out in the Fog. Not too sure how to get it working. Figured you would."
Em tilts her head and flutters to the shelf, huffing and puffing as she lands. Man, flying never really gets any easier. After resting for a second, she takes a quick look around for whatever the noise was.
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
Falling watches as Border dismisses himself to Diamond's frustration, telling what's obviously going on. She tugs at Diamond's hoof to get her up and walk with her.
"Come on! If you're working on such a big project like this, you'll need to spend a lot more time together, right?"
She says with a wink, gesturing to follow along as she chases after the alicorn.
She shouts, hoping to catch him before he gets too far.>Chase [1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
Noting the directions to the Gamma district, Jiandao begins the trek through the city towards the Inn, taking the time to examine the bustling city around her.
[1d10] NavigationRoll #1 8 = 8
The circular cutout section of crystal creaks and pops out cleanly. Immediately the room begins to fill with thick fog. Through the hole, Celestia can see some sort of mostly flat, gemcrusted yard, surrounded by a tall metal link fence. His anonymous benefactor and her machine are already gone. In the direction they fled, there is another of the same type of contraption on thin spidery legs, striding across the grounds quickly with a light on the front illuminating the ground. It is far enough away to not recognize the security breach.>>719084
Brown continues fishing around in the mountain of junk as she speaks. When she mentions the secret level in the Garden District, he turns suddenly to her. "Splashed? Splashed with what?"
"Hmm." He taps his hoof to his chin. "I guess you could try the AB booth." Points in a direction. There is a professional-looking tent with an efficient-looking employee manning a decently sized queue of ponies with various technological baubles in hoof. "They're the ones that love all those powercell thingies. Me, I'm a big fan of the old stuff." He casts an admiring look to KC.
He takes the battery charger from her, turns it over in his hooves, hands it back. "Looks like AB tech, alright, though maybe an older model. You try giving it a jolt?">>719085
Em flutters through the breach in the metal. There is just enough room to stand without brushing her fins or horn against the ceiling. Shelves run from floor to ceiling in aisles along a radial pattern roughly parallel to the entrance, with small boxes placed about two meters apart on each shelf. These are all connected to wires which run along the ceiling to a central meeting point, growing in thickness as they approach the source.
The machine noise seems to be coming from a few aisles over. Peering between the metal, Em can make out part of what appears to be a spider-like machine, not dissimilar to the grave robber's contraption from earlier. It is using its forelimbs to fiddle with one of the boxes.
The alicorn is already to the door by the time Falling gives chase. A patron chooses this unfortunate moment to stand directly in her way. If Border hears her call, he ignores it as he exits the 3 Legged Dog at almost a trot.
The annoying patron in the way awkwardly fumbles back and forth, delaying Falling enough that she is not able to catch the alicorn.
Diamond is exasperated. "Can't you look where you're going??" she exclaims to the well-dressed but situationally oblivious pegasus who blocked them.>>719087
The walk is a pleasant one. It is afternoon, and the sun is shining from above. The walkways up here offer a fantastic view, although the height might not be for the faint of heart. Looking over the edge, one can see all the way down to the fog, seemingly hundreds of feet below, with a wide variety of building styles along the way.
She passes the Garden District, weaving her way through a large park. There are so many types of pleasant-smelling flowers and fruit trees. Dozens of denizens languish on the grass, enjoying the perfect day. Jiandao sees a gazebo which appears to be constructed of living wood, with a small group of businessponies gathered under its shade.
Moving along, the Gamma district appears to be next Toren structure antihubward of the Central Spire. There are more directions over the walkway as she passes on the bridge between buildings. She sees one that says "Flawless Inn –→" and follows it to a stairway leading downwards in a spiral around the building. Eventually she arrives at a stately-looking facade with the same decor as the 3 Legged Dog: ornate pillars, arched windows, immaculate horticulture and a large brass double-door. Above it is a large sign proclaiming FLAWLESS
. It appears Jiandao has arrived.
Oh, hey, she recognized that thing! She took a deep breath and walked towards the machine. "Hey!" she shouted. "I'm lost! Can you help me?"
[1d10]Disguise. If fail she forgets.Roll #1 1 = 1
Celestia decides to take to the initiative to venture into the fog around the bot. Taking a bit of a long detour past it. All for Mini, and Mini for him. Celestia has left the building.
NonCombat Talent:[Monster in the closet]: passive; Celestia Hides inside a life-sized that makes others believe Celestia is only the cavalier minion as long as he is inside giving a +2 to any stealth related rolls.
[1d10+2]Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6
"Out of the way we're in a hurry!"
Falling says to the pegasus as she pushes him aside, forgoing politeness to help her friend and rushes out the door to catch up to Border.>Continue Chase [1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
Finally finding the Inn, Jiandao heads through the door towards the reception area.
"I'm not sure. I think it was powering some of the machinery. It exploded, and crystals formed where it touched. It was really… weird," she concludes, for lack of a better word.
"AB," she parrots, nodding in understanding. "I'll check them out. Thanks doc!"
KC puts his hands on his hips and puffs his chest out, the big grindstone wheel housed in his torso spinning dramatically. "Yeah. Same. It's just what I know best. All this magitech stuff is a bit beyond me. I prefer to be able to see what makes things tick. You know?"
"Was gonna, but I didn't really get around to it, no. To be honest with everything that happened after the expedition, I kind of forgot I had it till before. Mind if I try it now?"
Assuming he allows her to do so, Cit will try and jumpstart the strange device with a spark of lightning from her horn.
[1d10] Zap!Roll #1 3 = 3
The machine abruptly stops what it is doing, turns toward Em. A bright white light lights on the front end of it and illuminates her through the shelving. It immediately emits a loud whirring sound as it takes off down the aisles toward the center, where Em can see a central circular area connects all the aisles between the shelving. It is coming.>>719091
The plush doll exits the room through the window. His cell was sunken slightly into the ground, so it is no problem at all to just stroll right out.
After the loud and bright spider-machine leaves, chasing the mystery fogsuit pony, the plush is left in the dim quiet of the exterior of a flat, featureless building. There are countless other foggy windows just like the one he has escaped from. The exterior wall appears to have been built around the outside of a Toren structure, as it stretches unimaginably high.
The yard itself is featureless save for the tall metal-linked fence outside it, some 10 meters from the building.>>719092
Falling shoves the patron aside and skips past him. "Well I never!" he exclaims, sounding extremely hurt and entitled.
Diamond looks slightly shocked, but keeps pace. "Sorry!" she offers to the older stallion as they pass.
Rushing out the door, Falling doesn't immediately spot the alicorn. It is Diamond who, after a moment of them both scanning the crowd, says "There!" and points out a quickly receding shape on the bridge leading to the Alpha section of the city. It is unmistakeably their alicorn.
"Hurry!" Diamond seems fully committed to the chase now, and skips after him, a playful yet determined look in her eye.>>719093
The Flawless Inn almost appears to live up to its name. The reception area has a large marble counter, red velvet furniture, spotless amber carpeting (which feels really nice on the hooves) and only the most well-dressed clientele. Jiandao does not blend in any better here than the 3 Legged Dog, but the employee behind the counter gives her a welcoming smile as if he had been waiting all day for her specifically to arrive. "Good afternoon!" he greets her pleasantly. "May I help you?">>719094
Doc Brown blinks as she describes what happened, then shakes his head. "Bit above my paygrade, to be honest. Crystals form anywhere else besides just on the shield that you see? Seems like if they grow on inanimate objects that got splashed, they'd be growing everywhere around the area." He shakes his head.
"Some of your friends got splashed too, you said? Sorry to hear that. Never heard of crystals growing up that
way, though. It's usually just a natural reaction to the fog."
He cracks a grin as she describes her passion. "Same, kiddo. Same."
Cit, trying not to overdo it, sends a small bolt of electricity into the end of the wire with the prongs. The empty InnerGeezer battery she had stuffed in there a week ago begins to glow, ever so faintly. Whereas before it was totally empty, it definitely has a small amount of juice in there.
A small slotted vent opens in the side of the ornate box. A bit of what appears to be multicolored steam appears from it, but instead of rising, it falls to the ground like it's heavy with something. Brown watches it dissipate for a moment, then looks to Cit with raised eyebrows.
Oh, hey. They're coming to her! How nice. All she had to do was wait. She took a step back. They were- they were coming kinda quick, though, weren't they? Em's wings fluttered in anticipation, causing her to glance over. At her wings. That were still there. Shoot.
Em yelped and attempted to change into something that could help guard herself.
[1d111]AdaptabilityRoll #1 63 = 63
Pale brown fur sprouted on her carapace and she glanced down. Great. That wasn't going to help.
Celestia not seeing much else but fog just decides to walk as far away from the building as possible as a starting point, at least until they reach a point outside of the fog.
With one plush hoof in front of another. The journey begins.
[1d10] perceptionRoll #1 5 = 5
Having approached the counter, Jiandao greets the clerk with a bow.
"Greetings. I have recently arrived in this city and i was recommended this Inn by my employer. How much would a room for one be?"
Falling scans the crowd, finding no luck until Diamond point out the retreating Border.
"Quick, we can still catch him!"
Falling says with equal determination. She runs out towards the alicorn, pushing her way through any pony that might get in their way. Though with his distance, it seems to be a more arduous task than she thought. Determined to get him to stop, Falling's horn lights, a swirl of bronze as she focuses a little farther ahead in time, attempting to just to where she would be in some time to pop up next to Border to give him a pause.>Winkmaster [1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
"Just on the shield and on… on my friends, they… Yeah." She looks downcast thinking about the afflicted brothers. "I think my friend's gun exploded from it. It all happened so fast, I couldn't really take it all in…"
"You think the AB guys would know a bit more about it?" she asks. "I mean, normally I wouldn't care too much, but, you know. I feel like I have to do this."
KC's optics widen as the battery is charged a little. Cit is speechless as she considers the implications of having essentially a limitless supply of power, marred only by her own abilities. "…Whoa," is all she can say.
She frowns and KC's eyes telescope out a bit as the semi-solid steam plops out. She pokes at it heavily with her hoof, then shakes the machine a bit to see if any more comes out. "That's… weird." She's not very eloquent when faced with something new.
pokes at it lightly*
The spider machine has made it to the center focal point of the room, and is crawling along the center wall sideways using its multiple legs to clamber along. It is quite fast. Em can see it starting to turn down her aisle, its headlight bearing down on her even as she transforms uselessly.>>719098
Celestia gets as far as the fence. It is quite high, and the twisted metal chain gives no purchase for hoofholds. He walks along it, not finding any obvious holes or climbing locations. It gently curves in a large circular radius. There must be a gate of some sort, but the fence is long, and he cannot see it either in front of or behind him.
Somewhere in the fog-filled gloom, Celestia can hear a siren begin to wail. Shortly, red lights begin blinking along the facade of her recent prison.>>719099
The receptionist smiles indulgently as Jiandao bows, but does not return the gesture. "Ah yes. A room for just one? How long will you be staying, ma'am?" >>719100
Diamond falls behind as Falling winks through the crowd, running at full tilt and gaining on the alicorn, teleporting through and around the ponies in the way. She almost accidentally bumps into several of them, but at the last second winks to the other side, causing a bit of a commotion behind her. Lots of shouting. No time to look back, though.
Border is still quite a bit ahead. They are in the Alpha quadrant proper now, all the gentrified parks, businesses and homes giving way to purely functional facades of the manufacturing center of Horizon.
Border, still far in front of Falling, stops in front of some sort of external lift, his horn glows for a moment and he enters the device. The door closes before he has a chance to turn and see Falling, and the opaque metal box begins to descend with the clanking of machinery and the whirring of quickly speeding cables.
Falling has just barely missed him. Out of breath, she watches the box start to drop. It occurs to her that she could continue to follow him if she hopped on top of it. Diamond is nowhere to be seen, doubtlessly lost in the crowd Falling so effortlessly dodged through.>>719101
Brown silently lays a hoof on her shoulder as she talks about her friends.
"AB would certainly know about it, though they might not tell you much. Honestly, I don't trust those guys very much either. They play their cards close to their chest, and their only motivation is to profit. They wouldn't think twice to screw you over."
Brown's eyebrows don't lower. "Looks like it worked, eh? Hmm. That there might be kinda valuable, after all. Can't imagine AB would want you having that, considering their whole business model is selling fucking batteries. What's that smoke, by the way? Is that supposed to happen?" He cranes his neck to get a better look at the vent-side of the box without really getting close to it.
Em lifted off and floated back down through the hole, hovering a bit away in hopes of staying far enough to not be attacked. "I was only trying to ask for directions!" She shouted. A quiet giggle escaped her lips, and she nervously brushed her hoof against her amulet.
The figurative gears in her head turn, and the literal ones in KC's do as well. "Hm. These AB guys… You think that secret place we found might be theirs? Might be they're looking to experiment with the visae. …Might be best not to confront them about it after all."
As Brown advises her against showing the charger off to AB, she nods and tucks it in one of KC's compartments. "Then they can sod off far as I'm concerned. Not paying them a visit, I reckon."
"No clue," she shrugs. "Never seen this thing work till now." She gives it another little jolt to see if the same thing happens.
[1d10] Zap!Roll #1 2 = 2
"I will be in this city for an extended amount of time, how long may i hold a room for? I will be able to pay for the room while i work here, as needed."
Falling stops as she reaches the edge, pausing a moment.
("Did I got too far forward?")
She wonders for a fraction of a second, before noticing it is Border who is inside the lift, she peers over the edge, stomping he hoof in frustration. Diamond isn't there, and who knows how far the lift will go or how long it could take to get back after it. But then, her eyes light up. This is just like something out of her adventure novels. The hero chasing after a pony no matter the cost and doing all kinds of daring tricks. She looks back over the edge with a big grin, and without hesitation hops on top of the lift.
Not trusting his luck to not run into trouble, Celestia decides to climb the long fence in front of him. Using his tentacles from his plush mouth. He sticks them to the wall to drag the plush up with him. Thus he shall climb.
Grappler: passive; Trained in melee and close quarters combat, you overpower foes easily in such situations. You have +1 to all rolls when making non-combat actions to grapple, subdue, restrain, or in any way preventing a target from moving with your own body. You can apply this bonus in combat to remove an enemy from combat without killing them, but only when they’re the only enemy in their zone and helpless, or on very low health.
Roll #1 5 + 1 = 6
The machine rounds the corner effortlessly and is halfway down the aisle toward Em by the time she peaces out. Hopping back through the rend, she flutters a distance away from it in case the spider machine can reach through.
It does not appear to even notice the hole until too late. One leg, and then another, missteps and tries to walk where there is no longer floor, and the metal beast stumbles halfway into the hole. It does not appear to be equipped for this sort of on-the-fly adjustment, and after scrambling its legs futilely for a moment, it tumbles out of the opening. The contraption's lights are all flashing different colors and its legs are all flailing in a robotic caricature of panic, before crashing to the ground below in a heap.
Now that it's fallen, Em can see that there are several parts of these metallic spidery creatures scattered about. This is obviously not the first time this has happened. >>719105
Brown throws up his hands. "Like I said, above my paygrade. All I know is I try to stay away from those guys. They give me the creeps."
The same thing does not happen. There is no glow, there is no smoke. Nothing at all happens this time, in fact. The InnerGeezer seems to stay at the same level it had been before.
((paused for rust only))>>719106
The clerk smiles genially. "Of course. The single-occupancy," he eyes her attire, "efficiency rooms are 15 bits per night, and we require an upfront fee of at least 3 nights for extended stays." His smile is friendly enough, but doesn't really extend to his eyes as he takes in the drab look of her traveling clothes and her multiple weapons.>>719107
Falling hops aboard the lift as it begins to drop.
The view is fantastic. Slightly terrifying though as the speedy lift makes her feel almost weightless as it accelerates. Horizon's buildings, bridges, homes and infrastructure shoot up all around her as the chains and cables work their pulley magic. They slow to a stop, Falling feeling increasingly heavy, as the box halts about a floor above the fog level, at an entrance to the building. There is no entrance atop the elevator, of course, but she can hear a ding
from within and a sliding sound as the metal door opens within. The box she's on moves slightly as weight shifts beneath her. She can see through a window in front of her the dark interior, and a shadowy figure exiting the elevator and striding into the building.>>719108
Celestia's tentacles make easy work of the fence where hooves and mouths would be useless. He is even able to scale the sharp barbed wire top with no difficulty, taking care not to harm his lovely plushy armor. Climbing down the other side, Celestia begins to catch a sense of where he is. The structure he has escaped from is a humongous pillar, stretching into the sky. Around him there are several other high buildings, but none of them have a ground level structure; they are all supported by huge, shiny, softly curving pillars of what look sort of like glass. The ground is crunchy and made of crushed up crystals. Away from the building, the ground softly curves downward.
Em winces as the thing tumbles through the hole, watches through cracked eyelids as it freefals toward the ground, and jumps when it crashes. Welp. So much for that. Maybe now she was actually lost. She flies down to inspect the wreckage.
Celestia stretches a bit, before hopping along the way away from the huge building. The soft plush body protecting where he could step. With that problem solved of escaping the facility. Another one embraces Celestia as he has no idea where he is. So he walks along forward. As thats what the plush feet were made to do.
[1d10] perception.Roll #1 8 = 8
Falling's heart pounds in her chest as she rides the lift down. Fear and adrenaline pump through her veins as the buildings and scenery of Horizon zoom past her, and soon the fear becomes pure, unbridled excitement as she even begins to shout woo-hoos as if she were on a roller coaster as it goes down, her mane blowing in the rush of wind around her.
Once it finally stops, she can feel her entire body pulsing, her legs heavy to move as her instincts adjust to the loss of momentum and refusal to leave this platform. But as the figure steps out of the elevator, she quickly hops off behind them to follow.
"Border, wait! H-Hold up!"
She shouts at the figure, wobbling a bit as she touches stationary solid ground before following after them.
"Very well, such a deal is amicable, thank you."
reaching into her bag with her magic, Jiandao produces the bits needed to place the down payment, setting them onto the counter.
>- 45 bits
The machine appears to be broken. A few lights are still on and one leg is twitching, but the fight has gone out of it. A more technologically adept pony might be able to surmise more information, but to Em it just looks like a dead mechanical spider, surrounded by bodies of its friends.>>719111
The sirens behind him continue to blare as he wanders off into the eternal foggy night. Other buildings stretch up around her. None of them have anything like the fence and ground level structure he just escaped.
Walking downhill, Celestia realizes that these enormous structures all seem to have lights fixated on them, as if to illuminate the ground level. Strange, as it appears to be completely deserted. Not a pony in sight.
There are a few strange sounds coming from somewhere underneath. They are almost too deep and low to hear, a slow rumble that Celestia almost feels more than hears. >>719112
Apparently the window is soundproof, as Border does not appear to hear her. Falling sees no obvious way to follow him inside, as the exterior elevator has connected directly to the only entrance on this level. Looking around, she can see a sort of balcony that might be climbable, leading around the side of the building. Fortunately, it does appear that is the direction Border is going. But he is quickly disappearing and she must act soon; the lift beneath her makes a ding and starts to move a little.>>719113
The clerk continues to smile at her as he accepts her money. Something's a little off about him. He doesn't seem to blink enough. He reaches under the counter to deposit the bits, and also produces a key, setting it on the counter. He pulls out a sheet of paper and scribbles a bit of information on it, then slides it across the counter, setting the key on top of it. "Your Jane Hoofcock right there, please, and room 17's all yours." He makes intense eye contact, all with that customer-service smile.
Last time on Horizon:>>719110
Em discovered a strange opening in the base of one of the Toren structures. Venturing in, she immediately gathered some unwanted attention. A spider-shaped automaton began chasing her, but tumbled through the rend in the floor through which Em escaped, and was rendered broken by its subsequent impact with the ground. It appears to not have been the first machine to fall in this way.>>719111
Celestia has been broken out of his cell by a mysterious mare clad in a fog-suit and accompanied by a machine companion. They, unfortunately, fled from apparent security before Celestia had a chance to meet them, without explaining who they are or the reasons behind their actions. The creature/plushy now wanders through the fog, lost somewhere on the ground level of Horizon.>>719112
Falling and Diamond gave chase to the alicorn Border as he quickly set to his next order of business which did not include them. During the chase, Falling lost Diamond, but was able to continue the chase by stowing away on top of an external lift in the industrial Alpha sector, which brought her to nearly the fog level of the city. She is unable to follow Border directly inside or gain his attention from this position, but luckily is able to continue to follow him from the exterior while watching.>>719113
Jiandao paid the unpleasant cab driver, wandered through the city to the Gamma sector, found an inn named Flawless, and has booked a cheap room for at least 3 days.>>719105
Cit, having been frustrated by her meeting with creepy Zariah, visited Doc Brown in the hopes of gleaning more information. She has learned that the battery charger Starfish plundered–er, salvaged for Cit is of AB design, and although dated, still works to charge batteries. There seem to be some side effects to using it, however.
Celestia Places their plush head against the ground in hope to discern what the rumbling is. Is it something in the ground or something on the ground causing the earth beneath his tentacles to shake. Who knows. Might just be some wabbits the silly hunter is always looking for.
Em looked the spider robot thing over and hummed to herself. Well, that could've gone better. Clearly it wouldn't be as easy as heading to town and finding room 121. 112? 211? She scratched the back of her head in frustration and flew back up through the hole to see if she missed anything.
[1d10]to get a better look around now that she's not under attack.Roll #1 10 = 10
"Yeah. They seem like bad news. Seems like their tech isn't half bad though." She gives the charger one last try, screwing up her face in concentration.
[1d10] ZapRoll #1 2 = 2
Confused momentarily at the phrase, The kirin takes the quill in her magic, signing her name in orderly Chineighs script, the boxy shapes taking less than a third of the line to make.
"Thank you for your assistance." Jiandao states, bowing once more before taking the key, looking down the hall for her room.
The rumbling appears to be coming from underground. Celestia cannot see any nearby caves, holes, or other portals to the underworld; however, it IS very dark and gloomy, and his vision does not extend further than the nearest megastruts surrounding him. The rumbling continues for a moment, then seems to decline in intensity until being imperceptible. >>719501
Em flies back in through the narrow crack. Every surface is a shade of red in the eerie light, and it's hard to make out shapes. However, she can make out that the huge room is one big circle, with what she had previously taken for metal shelves like spokes. They seem to be some sort of reinforced scaffolding, made of the same dull material as the walls, floor and ceiling. The boxes evenly spaced around them all seem connected by wire to the central wall, which is a smaller circle in the center of the wheel of the room.
There are apparently more of the spider machines; although Em cannot see them, the same machine noise the first one had made before spotting her can be heard in the distance. >>719502
Brown watches on in interest as Cit experiments with another jolt of magic electricity. Again, the machine seems unresponsive. Something rattles from within, but there is no repeat performance. The battery stays uncharged.
Doc Brown edges a bit closer to Cit, seemingly quite interested. "The first time, it puffed out some steam or something. Ya don't think it's busted, d'ya? Maybe you should open 'er up and take a look-see, might just be a loose connection or something.">>719503
The clerk raises an eyebrow at Jiandao's markings. "That's… quite a signature." He smiles at her in his unblinking fashion.
"No no. Thank YOU for your patronage, miss…" he stares at the script for a second. "Miss." He looks up smiling cordially, although again he seems to not know quite how to emote with his eyes. "Would you like to leave your name with us, so that somepony might be able to reach you?"
There are fancy signs pointing out the locations of all the rooms. It looks like Rooms 1-13
are <- way and Rooms 14-25
are -> way.
Shrugging, Celestia marches forward with his lil plush hooves. Determined to find their home, and more importantly. Their pony Mini. With wide open plush eyes, they keep their attention on the goal and the imaginary yellow brick road.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 7 = 7
"Might be," she muses, equally as engrossed with the odd tool. KC looms over her shoulder, watching wide eyed as Cit fiddles with it with her telekinesis, prying open any panels on its surface and tweaking screws - just generally messing with the recharger until something clicks.
[1d10] TinkerRoll #1 10 = 10
"Yes. Should my employer, Border, arrive, Tell him Jiandao is staying in room 17."
With that, the kirin heads to the right, towards her new room.
Em groaned and kicked her hoof against the ground. More machine spider guys weren't useful. They'd just attack her again. She fluttered back into the air and back down to the ground. Maybe she'd just try to head back to town. She couldn't find anyone the first time through, but therr had to be someone around somewhere, right? As she touched down the fur receded and her dark, metallic carapace was once again smooth. Cutting her losses, she decides to follow the path back. Worst case she could just head back to the meeting point at the chapel and ask for directions. In hindsight she probably should have done that before leaving.
The plushy pony plods on through the gloom. At first not much is apparent, but as he continues his downhill stroll, he starts to notice that there are shapes in the gloom other than the tall legs of giants. First he comes across what appears to be a normal-sized edifice, half-absorbed by one of the struts. Continuing on, there are more of these ruined buildings, apparently constructed and abandoned quite a long time ago.
Celestia finds that there is a road, neither yellow nor brick, but supposedly leading somewhere ponies might like to go.>>719506
The side with the vent pops open. Within, there is some sort of cylindrical metal receptacle. It pops open in her hoof and a hoof-sized, clear crystal pops out with a small amount of force, surprising her and falling to the ground. It shatters upon impact and the pieces seem to melt away. The receptacle sits empty, now.
Doc Brown blinks twice, and whistles. "Curiouser and curiouser. You think maybe..?" His bespectacled eyes travel from Cit's to the bag she stowed the gem from earlier inside.>>719507
"Very well," the clerk nods politely, then moves to assist another guest who has queued up behind her.
The door to Room 17
is tall, arched and pure stainless white. The key slides in and turns easily, and the door opens without a sound. The room within is beautiful, but cozy. There is a small bed, a window which is currently blocked by a heavy curtain, an antique wardrobe, a writing desk and a small but efficient bathroom.
The door swings shut and latches behind her comfortingly. She is safely alone.>>719508
Landing among the debris of destroyed machines, Em quickly finds the path she came from and starts to wander back toward the road which leads through Old Town, toward the chapel.
Along the way she does not hear any further sounds, or anything that would suggest life of any sort. The buildings close in around her in an almost claustrophobic manner.
While the spooky and most likely haunted ruined buildings made him want to walk in and gawk at objects. He resolved to follow the pony road, because where ponies are. There will be more ponies. The more ponies along with the fact that Mini is a pony equals Mini is most likely to be down Pony Road. Quick maths.
Em grumbles as she finds herself back in town. Her grumble shifts into an uncomfortable giggle as the buildings suddenly feel closer than before. She picks up her walking speed as she makes her way back along the road and toward the chapel. Suddenly, she feels incredibly exposed.
[1d10] disguise, Bubbling FlaskRoll #1 1 = 1
KC's photoreceptors widen at the sight, and it seems they, Cit and Doc Brown are all on the same wavelength. Cit nods to the doctor, and doesn't hesitate to fit the vis into the slot, giving it a little jolt for good measure.
[1d10] Zap!Roll #1 10 = 10
Falling huffs as Border is unable to hear her, so close to flagging him down but still no progress made in getting his attention. She looks up through the window he walks past towards the balcony, her horn glowing as she tries to cut him off, teleporting inside.>Winkmaster [1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
Walking down Pony Road, Celestia passes several empty, destroyed buildings and Toren struts uneventfully. Some are homes, some appear to be businesses, one even appears to be a church that is being eaten by one of the struts.
A little ways down the road, he catches sight of something in the distance. It appears to be alive, and walking the other way on the road, toward him. It is green and vaguely pony-shaped.
Suddenly the figure flashes once with a green light; when it fades, something different stands there. Something weird, although Celestia is hardly one to judge.>>719511
A green flash of light surrounds Em as she attempts to summon her go-to pony camouflage. Bubbling Flask, however, does not appear. Somehow, Em loses concentration halfway through her transformation and becomes a strange chimera which would not serve as any disguise, except perhaps in a freak show.
Her head is that of a griffon, her torso split into two like a minotaur with the upper half belonging to some fluffy-maned pony-type, the lower half almost serpentine with scales; her front legs have bird claws and her hind legs end in some sort of paw-like appendage. This obviously will not do.
Suddenly, in the distance, Em becomes aware of another pony. Maybe? It seems a bit small to be a pony, though the shape is right. It appears to be ambling toward her with a sort of playful gait.>>719512
The vis fits perfectly inside the slot, the vent snaps shut, and Cit's magic bolt lands strong and true. Immediately the InnerGeezer fills completely, glowing momentarily as it's charging and then acquiring the metallic sheen of a shiny new powercell. The vent coughs out a considerably larger cloud of strangely multicolored smog than before, which also sinks to the floor of the market and dissipates.
Doc Brown almost jumps for joy. "Remarkable! I can't believe that worked, to be honest." He shoots an admiring look at Cit. "You might have the touch after all, girl. No wonder KC is looking so good these days." >>719513
Falling does not manage to teleport inside. Unfortunately, she also does not manage to teleport to anywhere with something beneath her feet.
A split-second assessment reveals that she has accidentally winked in the wrong direction, and it being such a narrow space to walk already, has missed it entirely.
She finds herself earning her name as nothing but thin air is between her hooves and the fog some 20 feet below.
Em looks down at her body and sighs. Great. Maybe she just should have stayed in bed and started her fight against the establishment tomorrow. She did, however, briefly wonder if the disguise would be better or worse than ponies recognizing her as a changeling.
She froze when she saw the figure, laughed under her breath, and took a couple of steps backward. Quickly she attempts to shed her 'disguise'.
Celestia decides to go see this green and very weird pony he is not going to judge, thinking about it again. Celestia will judge, but only internally. Where presumably this weird pony won't hear. So onward to that weird green pony!
Falling opens her eyes after the teleportaton, wondering where she is until she feels herself floating. She looks down, seeing herself in mid air and no where near her intended location. Her stomach drops, panic taking her heart as every terrible though goes through her head and her life flashes before her eyes. Luckily, it all seems to flow simultaneously as she gets some semblance of reality back, horn glowing brightly as she reaches out with her telekinesis for something, anything to pull and grab onto so she doesn't plummet to her death.>Telekinesis [1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
"It's alive! It's alive!" she cheers, forgetting herself in the excitement. Her mind reels with the implications of the fully functional recharger. The excitement wears off after a moment, and she glances at the bag full of empty battery cases. "You thinking what I'm thinking?" she asks KC, who nods vigorously. A mischievous grin comes over her face and she turns to Doc Brown. "Hey, thanks for the help, doc. We're gonna be rich! Long as we, uh, stay away from those goons."
"Well, the future awaits. Thanks again! See ya!" Her mind racing with the possibilities, she and KC bid the good doctor farewell and return to the main market, trying to track down Starfish, eager to tell her the good news.
[1d10] Navigation, if neededRoll #1 3 = 3
With her room secured, Jiandao takes the time to secure some paper and a quill, setting to work on the writing desk to detail a letter back home, in that same Chineighs script:https://pastebin.com/DxJeJCwh
Slipping the letter into her bag, she exits and locks her room, stepping out of the hotel onto the street once again.
The 'disguise,' unfortunately, seems to be sticking around, despite her best effort to dispel it. Shucks. Ah well, time heals all wounds, right?
The small pony-shaped figure seems to have noticed her, and to be now trotting toward Em at a fair clip. It is within shouting range. As it gets closer, it does in fact seem to be a small alicorn, although something in its movements seems a bit… off.>>719516
The previously green pony has somehow been replaced with a strange bird-headed beast, still roughly pony-shaped but no longer green, or even recognizable as any one race Celestia has ever seen. He could probably shout, although it seems as though the other has already seen him. It has stopped moving and in fact takes a cautious step backward as Celestia bears down.>>719517
Falling quickly grabs the side of the elevator's mechanism, momentarily slowing her fall. Unfortunately, the elevator has already started to rise, and the movement makes it difficult to hold. Falling feels her telepathic grip slipping as she looks desperately for something else to slow her fall. There is a balcony slightly above her, and nothing much below her except the fog and presumably a long drop to her demise.
She loses her hold completely and once more starts to drop toward the haze, which is churning like a river eddy beneath her.>>719518
The Doc reaches out to shake a hoof with Cit. "Cheers. If you need parts, or if you want to hawk some, you know where to find me." His eyes sparkle behind his curious glasses. "Don't forget to spend some of those riches here too."
The market is bustling with ponies still, and it would be nigh impossible to locate any particular pony in the crowd, except for Starfish's distinct look. Cit sees her signature pink manehawk poking above the milieu in front of a booth that apparently specializes in fog apparel. >>719519
The hotel clerk smiles and nods without blinking as Jiandao passes through the lobby.
The exterior of the grand hotel is just as she left it: almost ostentatiously decorated, very lightly populated with well-dressed ponies. There is a grand-looking spiral ramp leading around the whole of the structure, leading up clockwise and down counterclockwise.
Em swallowed and took another step back. "Uh, hey?" She said. Was she being kind of weird? A faint green glow appeared along her carapace.
[1d111] AdaptabilityRoll #1 96 = 96
Outside of the hotel, Jiandao takes the time to search for a directory of some kind, intent on finding a post office.
Seeing the strange creature no longer be a pony and become something that is… Not a pony. Redoing the quick maths in his head, he determines that once the not pony is a pony again. They can lead him to more ponies and possibly Mini. So Celestia starts o fast walk towards this strange creature. Something that is quite possibly very dangerous or incredibly pettable. Balances out quite well.
She shakes Doc's hoof. "Of course! I owe you for the help after all. You'll be hearing from me again soon. Ish."
She 'excuse me' and 'sorry's her way through the crowd towards Starfish, taking a brief moment to look over the fog gear on sale before tapping her on the shoulder. "Heya. Planning another fog run?" she asks, moving up to her with a spring in her step.
Falling holds on for dear life to the elevator, straining her head as it starts to sway from moving back up. Her mind is running at a mile a minute, pleading to be saved from this fate she jumped foolishly into. As her magic begins to weaken, she looks out to the balcony. The area she failed to jump to before. But now it's not just a spot to try and stop Border, it's her last line for life. Pouring all the magic she can into this spell on such short notice, she tries again to teleport over to it, hoping her aim is true.>Winkmaster [1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Em feels filled with confidence and raw charismatic ability. Maybe this disguise might work out, after all.
She is now close enough to speak with the small alicorn, which she is now aware is some type of animated toy doll. It must be a mechanical toy; no threat at all, then.
(You may interact with Celestia)>>719522
The directory in front of the spiral ramp has many directions upon it. It does appear to point her in the direction she needs with the insignia: 'Post Master →' It points upward on the ramp.
Following the signs, Jiandao climbs many stories, almost to the top of the megastructure known as Gamma, before arriving at an antique-looking structure, seemingly slightly ramshackle for its age. There is a rickety-looking wooden door with a tarnished plaque assuring her with the words "Post Master" that she has found the right place.>>719523
The plush pony approaches the strange creature, which suddenly seems to have an almost otherworldly charm about it. While its appearance may be odd, something in the way it holds itself exudes confident capability. Celestia trots up close enough for conversation.
(You may interact with Em)>>719524
Starfish sees Cit and KC approach, but seems to be in the middle of a transaction.
"You know that helmet isn't worth 100 bits. Look, it's got scratches all over it! How do I know it's really going to protect me down there?"
The shopkeep, a pegasus with a tattoo and piercing collection to match even Starfish's, rolls his eyes. "Star, you always play this game with me, and you always lose. You've already talked me down to 100. With the trades, you're only paying 30 out of pocket. Now take it or leave it."
"This is an outrage! Highway robbery! Hey!" Starfish addresses the other customers in the near vicinity. "Don't let this guy take advantage of you! This whole business is a total ripoff!" Most of the other customers don't seem to be deterred, but one or two cast a questioning eye at the wares they have in hand.
The pegasus behind the counter rolls his eyes. "FINE! Give me fifteen, we'll call it even."
Starfish smiles sweetly, takes the nice-looking helmet (it has spikes and stars and looks altogether much fancier than her normal one) and blows a kiss at the shopkeep. "Nice doin' business with ya, as always."
He grumbles, "Just get outta here."
Starfish fits the helmet over her head and turns to Cit and KC. "Well?" her voice comes out all muffled. "Find anything good?">>719525
Falling winks out of existence for a moment and back into it comfortably over the balcony. She lands deftly on all fours. It's nice to have something under her again.
Through the windows, she notices that Border is no longer in view. The room within seems dark, and there is no sign of life. What she can see, however, are several technological-looking tubes sticking out of the ground with little lights blinking all around them.
The balcony appears to run along the wall, on the interior of some sort of courtyard which extends far into the Toren structure. Ahead she can see there is a service entrance, and windows all along the way leading to it.
Tentacle proceeds to escape from Celestia's plush mouth, it proceeds to poke the weird creature to make sure he has its attention. "Take me to the ponies, please.
" Celestia asks the confident creature.
Em relaxed and giggled. "Oh, hey, it's just a toy." She crouched down on her strange, gangly legs. "Hey there little guy," she says. "What're you doing all the way out here?"
Em jumped back as the thing talked to her. "Oh, neat. It can talk." She scratched the back of her head. "I would totally do that thing you just asked me to do, but I'm a little lost. I'm looking for a guard pony and a room, but I'm not sure where, so I gotta head back and ask. You can come with me, though."
Noting the state of the building, Jiandao peeks through the door before entering fully, taking a look inside.
Celestia holds out his front hooves in front of him toward the weird creature in front of him. "Hold me.
" Celestia asks of the creature for the travel.
Em looks over her shoulder to the right, to the left, then back to Celestia. She cocks an eyebrow, tilts her head, and points to herself. With a shrug, she crouches down, scoops the toy up, and continues down the path toward the chapel.
Falling stays frozen after her teleport, not even realizing she's on solid ground again yet. After some time passes, feeling like an eternity, her eyes slowly open, seeing that she hasn't passed on to the other side yet. Her heart still pounds loudly in her chest. She looks up, the room in front of her dark. But right now she doesn't care about that. Looking to the service entrance, Falling slowly and methodically walks over, enters, and then collapses against the wall inside.
She watches with amusement as Starfish finagles her way into a sweet deal. "Classic," she snorts. "Nice helmet. Real heroic look to it."
She pulls Starfish aside when she has a moment, talking quietly so as not to draw attention. "Got good news Starry. I managed to get the recharger working. Look!" She shows off the charged battery subtly. "We could make a fortune from these! I'm wondering, you think there might be more worth gathering where you found these in the Fog? Might be worth going on another trip, see what we can grab." She waggles her eyebrows.
Celestia is quite grateful to be held once more, while not in a fluffy pony's hooves. He is being held nonetheless. Then Celestia realizes he has not introduced himself. So he decides to do just that, feeling a little embarassed. "I am princess Celestia.
" He announces to the weird yet to be named creature.
"Hello Celestia," Em says. "I'm Metachrosis. Probably easier to call me Em for short." She pauses, twitches, and giggles. "But, uh, not in front of other ponies. Call me Flask if there are other ponies around, 'kay? So what are you? Posessed doll? Eldrich demon from another dimension come to wreak havoc and suffering among the unenlightened, self-absorbed masses? A robot set to get revenge on its creator after being thoughtlessly tossed aside?" She paused again. "A hallucination?"
Inside, there are multiple dust-covered stacks of papers piled high on desks.
As Jiandao enters, a small bell jingles. A voice calls from the back.
"Just a moment!"
It is considerably longer than a few moments before somepony rises from a doorway in the back of the large musty room, apparently having climbed up out of a basement of sorts. An old unicorn with a blue tattered uniform and a hat skewered upon his horn approaches. He takes a look at Jiandao and frowns.
"Another kirin, eh? Well, what can your humble postmaster do for you?">>719532>>719533
Em, carrying Celestia, heads back toward the chapel. It is not far.
Em notes that the graverobbers are nowhere to be seen in the cemetery as they pass.
They quickly arrive in front of the megastrut which is, very slowly, tearing it apart. The same narrow steps, the same janitorial side entrance, the same everything. >>719534
The service entrance is not locked. The reason why becomes apparent as Falling pulls the door open; somepony has slipped a card in the latching mechanism, presumably to keep it unlocked for their own purposes. It falls to the ground.
Inside, the large room is mostly dark. She is on a catwalk above the technology-ridden canisters and blinking lights. She can see, at the end of the long room, a lit doorway, in the direction Border had walked.
There is a ladder to the catwalks at both elevator and doorway ends of the room.>>719535
Starfish walks with Cit and KC to the edge of the market, where they can find a quiet solitary corner to duck into while they converse. She pulls off her shiny new helmet.
"You finally got it working, huh? Fantastic! I was wondering if you still had it, to be honest, but with everything else going on, you know, I didn't really want to ask. I knew if anybody could, it'd be you!"
At mention of acquiring another one, Starfish shakes her head. "Huh-uh. That's pretty much one-of-a-kind… swiped it out of a collection that, to be honest, I don't think I'll be revisiting any time soon. Things got, uh, a little hairy when I was there last time." She gives a meaningful look at Cit. "Be honest, I shouldn'a gone there to begin with, but you know how I am with my risk-reward ratio." She smiles and winks.
Em closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. "Alright," she says. "Just go in and ask for directions. It's not embarassing. It's a mistake anyone could make."
[1d10] to try and replace the messed up disguise with Bubbling FlaskRoll #1 2 = 2
Celestia just tilts their plush head at the question, confused and feeling unable to answer it. So they just stick their little tentacle out a bit. Mlem.>>719538
Celestia not doing much, just how they like it. Decides to look around them to see if anything catches their big eye behind their plush face.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 5 = 5
"Hallucination it is." She sighed. "At least this one is nice."
Celestia decides to not be offended by being called a hallucination. Probably decided by their lack of definition for such. So they lean their plush head against Flask/Em.
Falling falls onto the catwalk, her legs giving out once she's inside and away from the ledge over the fog outside. Her body shakes, thoughts running through her head what her parents would've done if she fell then. How it would have affected Diamond after running off from her. How it would've affected their business with Border. She clenches her eyes tight, not wanting to do anything right now, preferring to just curl up and lie there for who knows how long.
But, she can't. She doesn't know where she is, or how to get back outside, as she does not want to risk teleporting again. She stands up, sniffling a bit, and walks down the catwalk towards the lone lit door. Right now, her goal is just to find somepony.
Making her way to the desk, she bows to the postpony.
"Greetings. I am here to send a letter and package back to family in shang-hay. What is your shipping rate outside of Horizon?"
Her face falls a little. "Shame. Still, I haven't been to the Fog in a minute. If not there, then I was thinking just go and hunt for empty batteries. Juice 'em up at home, sell 'em here. We'd make a killing. Doesn't mean we have to be dumb and go sticking our noses where they don't belong. Just the usual scavenging. What do you think of that?" She fidgets with the recharger idly.
Em walks up to the door, does a complicated, multi step knock, and then says, "Mo-" She pauses. "Uh… Morning Harold."
The chimera disguise melts away, revealing the shiny green bug-like ponyform of Metachrosis. >>719540
Celestia sees the chapel. It probably used to be very nice, but it is unfortunately located right where this particular Toren strut decided it should be instead. Bits of the exterior of the building jut from the side of the glassy giant leg. As Em ascends the stairs, Celestia sees a new-looking door which doesn't fit the decor of the rest of the church.>>719543
The doorway leads to another room, smaller than the first and empty of the large science-y cans. Instead, multiple high-tech monitors and workstations sit, empty of workers but obviously meant for around a dozen ponies. Words and numbers which mean nothing to Falling scroll across the screen. One large monitor has a sort of diagram of some strange kind of lizard.
The entire back wall, tall as it is, appears to be made of a giant orb, with a large window glowing slightly from within. It is this glow which illuminates the room in a soft blue light. Backlit against it is the unmistakeable shape of Border, who is gazing rapt into the window. He appears to not notice Falling entering the room.>>719544
"Hmmph. Mighta guessed. It ain't cheap and it takes a long time," the unicorn sneers, then cocks his head. "Actually, you're in luck. Usually you gotta wait at least a week for the mail boat to go out, but it just so happens my shipment from Shang-hay came in earlier today. The captain will be settin' out later tonight… he's a restless sort, don't like to stick in any one place too long," says the wizened postmaster with a shake of his head. "Likes to say his home is in the sky."
Just then, the door Jiandao entered through swings open, the bell tinkles, and who walks through but Captain Velvet Scar himself! He takes one look at Jiandao and roars a welcome.
"Will you just LOOK who it is!!" He strides the short distance to her and offers her his hoof and a beaming smile. "Writing home already, huh?" He looks to the postmaster, who has a sour look on his face. "Don't you go overcharging this poor girl. She saved my ass out there today. You know what, I'll deliver it personally. Free of charge. You've earned that much."
The old unicorn looks like he might spit, but thinks better of it.>>719545
Starfish blinks in surprise. "You mean I didn't fetch you enough useless powercells last week? You really are insatiable, you know that?" She laughs. "So we're starting a business then? I can dig it. Not sure how we'd fare with AB right around the corner, though. Word is those guys have deep pockets, and they wouldn't appreciate us cutting into their profit margin. No, for the BLACK market kinda stuff, we need a better plan." She begins to pace, rubbing her chin thoughtfully. "If we could find somepony who used a ton of batteries, and didn't have any particular loyalty to AB, we might just have a source of income on our hands."
At the mention of delving into the fog, she fingers her new helmet. "You know I'm always down for a bit of scavenging."
The panel in the door slides back, revealing Benjamin's none-too-friendly eyes. They become even less friendly when they see a changeling holding a stuffed toy on the other side. The panel slides shut, there is the sound of muffled conversing on the other side, and after a minute, it swings open, revealing the donkey at his post and Buster peering curiously over his shoulder.
"Alright, bug," starts Benjamin with a snarl. "Who are you, what do you want, and how'd you find out the password?" Buster remains silent, just watching with a carefully neutral expression on his face.
Behind them, it appears the regular gang has dispersed for the night. Only Lunar Dream and Smooth Step remain, and they are cuddled up together. Smooth appears to be asleep. It's hard to tell what Lunar is doing at the her most expressive, but it would be a fair guess that she is sleeping as well.
Last time on Horizon…>>719546
The changeling Em has found some sort of animated doll of an alicorn which walks and speaks, in a manner. Em and Celestia are now travelling together.
She has decided to revisit the ruined chapel for directions, but is currently in her true form, and has not received the warmest welcome.>>719540
Celestia has made a strange green pony-shaped friend, who is now carrying him inside his plushy cavalier. This is certainly an improvement to wandering around in the fog, alone and aimless.>>719543
Falling Sand narrowly avoided a disastrous fall due to a miscalculated transportation during her chase of the alicorn Border. Exhausted and shaking, she has stumbled into some sort of sub-level technological facility through a service entrance left unlocked for unknown reasons. Exploring further, she has located Border within the facility, gazing in through the window of a sealed spherical chamber, his back to her.>>719544
Jiandao, having established her residence in Horizon at the Flawless Inn, has written a letter to her family in Shang-hay and walked to the postmaster's office, located not far away, in order to mail it. Unexpectedly, the carrier pony for messages between Horizon and the kirin homelands appears to be none other than Captain Velvet Scar himself. >>719545
Citrine Fleece has discovered that the battery charger requires a source of crystal "vis," and that as long as she has this, she is able to charge used powercells. She confided in Starfish her plans for creating profit from this idea, but Starfish begs caution in competing with the largest supplier of magical batteries, AB corp.
Em tilted her head. "Changeling? What do you-" She looked down at her body and blanched. Shoot. She really needed to make a memo or something. She let out an uncomfortable laugh. "I, uh… I'm just gonna go?" If nobody stopped her, she galloped around the chapel and attempted to transform again.
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
Celestia stares with his big ol plush eyes at the donkey, unfamiliar with it and its purpose. Less why the weird creature holding him is here. So they internally shrugged and rolled with it by staying inanimate.
Falling takes a few steps into the room.
"B-Border?" She says, voice shaky after her event, "I-I'm sorry for intruding, but I followed after you to ask something, b-but I don't know how to get back."
She continues timidly, not taking much else in of the rest of the room.
"I was just thinking of selling 'em bootleg. Nothing fancy or loud. Real under the radar stuff." She shrugs. "It's risky, but hey, think of the money we could make. Long as we keep an eye on those AB goons and don't advertise too much, I think we should be fine."
"So. When do you want to hit up the Fog? Tonight? Tomorrow?" She's itching at the possibilities with this new device.
Benjamin calls out "Hey!" and starts to rise, but that is an activity which might take all night, and Em doesn't stick around to find out. She dashes around the back of the chapel, the side that doesn't have a giant crystal leg growing out of it, and in a flash of green light disappears momentarily. As the light subsides, standing in her place is Bubbling Flask, unicorn chemist and historian. >>719581
The door opens. There is a donkey, who speaks angrily for a moment, and a diamond dog behind him who does not speak at all.
The green shiny pony carrying Celestia's inanimate body turns, suddenly and roughly, back down the stairs and around a corner. A bright flash of green light. The pony holding him is now a pony again. Nopony else is in sight.>>719582
Border's ears twist backwards at the mention of his name, but the rest of him remains motionless as Falling speaks. He does not say anything for a minute. A long minute. Finally he breaks the silence.
If he is upset at being followed covertly, his voice does not betray any hint of it. He is enigmatically cordial, as always.
"You may depart through the main entrance to the sun-level. The elevator will respond to you. This place is not a prison; you are always free to leave."
While he is obviously speaking to her, he does not turn away from the window to that glowing blue place.
"But you wished to ask me something?"
Finally he turns halfway toward her. His profile is backlit by the wan blue glow radiating from the opening in the wall at the back of the room.>>719583
"Bootleg. There's something I can get behind," Starfish grins. "And believe me, I'm already thinking of the money." She rubs her hooves together. "But I'm also thinking that money, OUR money, is the same money that AB will be missing out on. Trust me, these guys are slick. That doesn't mean it's a no-go. We just have to be slicker."
At another mention of fog-delving, Starfish narrows her eyes at Cit. "Hey, what gives? You never want to go on fog-hunts with me. Why, all of a sudden, are you itching to get your respirator dirty? Do you even have any fog-gear? Don't answer that; I know you don't, unless Doc Brown or Zariah got real cool, real quick. You know how long it took me to acquire my gear?.." A sheepish grin passes along her face. "Well, not long, because I stole it. Tee-hee. But still." She looks suddenly serious. "You going stir-crazy or something?" Despite the apparent harshness of her words, there is genuine concern in Starfish's eyes.
"Is this about Tempest?" she asks.
Em casually walked back around the chapel and walked up to the door. If Benjamin had closed it, she knocked. Either way, she innocently glanced toward the direction she'd ran to transform and said, "Moldy Herald. Did you see that? There was a changeling
that just ran through here. Do you guys actually associate with those-" Her nose theatrically crinkled. "Things?"
[1d10] big bluffRoll #1 2 = 2
"[Cr]Is that what you really look like strange pony?" Celestia ask the multinamed changeling before him. Oblivious to the changelings ability.
Em rolled her eyes. "Obviously. I always look like this, weird doll."
Celestia nods their head and resumes being an "ordinary" plush for the moment. Just to listen in on what will entail from the weird transforming pony.
There is no response at the door.
She cleared her throat. "Uh… shoot. That wasn't right, was it?" She took a deep breath. When she spoke, her voice boomed with overbearing confidence. "Morning Herald. It's Bubbling Flask. I came back because I forgot to ask for directions."
[Show them you Rock]
"Hey. Slick is my middle name," she grins. KC shakes his head, and she looks annoyed. "Well you know what I mean!"
She thinks, growing more serious. "…Yeah. I'm.. I'm hoping I can do something right, for once. You know? Plus, these AB guys mean business, but it's worth the risk, I think. To try and help Tempest, and Zeph. What happened back there… I feel like that was on me. I don't even know if I'll find anything worthwhile in the Fog, to be honest, but I have to do this. Whatever it takes." She gives Starfish a meaningful look. "Will you help me scrounge something? Anything?"
There is the sound of muttered conversation behind the door. Benjamin's baritone drawl, then Buster's unmistakeable tenor, back and forth twice, then the door opens, although instead of swinging wide, it is ajar only enough for a slender pony to squeeze through.
"Flask! Come on!" Buster's voice hisses from the other side. >>719584>>719583
((correction: starfish was asking whether this was about ZEPHYR BREEZE not TEMPEST BREEZE.))>>719591
Starfish seems to agree with KC as he shakes his head. "I guess we have different ideas on what the word 'slick' means."
She cuts Cit off at 'I feel like that was on me' and doesn't let her finish the rest of her statement. "Hey hey hey hey hey.
"None of that was your fault. You had nothing to do with it. You were along for the ride, on another one of our stupid shenanigans. We all knew things could go wrong. Tempest even warned us…"
She chokes up for a second. Tears well up, but she swallows them, holding up a hoof to indicate she isn't done talking, and then resumes as soon as she is able.
"I cut that wire. I caused that… whatever it was, machine, control box or whatever, to malfunction and blow that smoke… whatever caused the batteries to…" She looks down, and her willpower loses to emotion this time, and tears run down her cheeks. She looks back up after a moment, her eyes fierce.
"You want to make money? Sure. We can scratch that itch if you want. But Zephyr is a goner. And it's not your fault. It's mine."
Falling takes half a step back as Border says her full name, slightly intimidated by him now in this setting as he does not move to address her. She looks back the way she came to consider heading back, but faces forward as Border questions what it was she came to say. As he turns, the blue glow doesn't help set her at ease. It makes the situation ever more dire in her mind, flashing through many books she's read.
"W-Well, I, uh… I was wondering if there was anything I could help you with, so you can have some free time to talk with Diamond, o-or just hang out with her…"
If one were to look inside the Celestia plush held by Em/Flask. They would find the eldritch being Celestia trying to find his nose, because being idle and seeing other creatures have them. They started wondering where theirs was while having a sense of smell.
Em looked around herself to make sure the coast was clear, and slipped through. Obviously they were worried about something, so she was extra cautious and took another look around before shutting the door behind her.
She turned, leaned against the door, and let out a bated breath. "Alright," she said. "I think we're in the clear." From what she wasn't entirely
sure, but nothing besides the weird maybe-not-real doll and her actually msde it inside. "I got lost. I gotta go touch Lunar and get directions."
"Don't say that
," she answers forcefully, stamping her hoof. "Don't… There has to be something we can do. Some kind of cure. Anything. He's not dead. He's not dead
," she repeats, trembling a little. "We can save him. Both of them. I don't care what it takes. We're going to find a way to save them. There's always a way to solve this, we just need to… to…"
She trails off, lost for words, kicking the dirt. "We'll… we'll get some money together and put it towards saving them. There's no way it can't be undone."
Border's shadowed face is motionless.
"This is a loaded statement you have offered me. You are offering to help with anything I need, but your help is contingent upon bending my motives? I do not accept assistance when the assistance comes with strings attached, Falling.
Besides, I have already arranged for you, Diamond and myself to spend time together. I do not have (what you refer to as) 'free' time. I am of the opinion that nopony does.">>719594
Celestia finds that he can smell. The fog has an acrid smell that slightly burns his eye, now that he notices it. There is a faintly earthy, dusty smell emanating from the being (now a unicorn, but previously a strange chimera and a green shiny pony). No big smells other than that.
Things are happening! The holder passes through the open doorway and into a large dark chamber. Some conversation ensues. None of these beings are Mini or Parents.
The inside of this place smells like a fire is slowly dying, with a faint tinge of sour, burnt meat.>>719595
Benjamin is on the other side of the door. He is giving her the dirtiest look imaginable, but he does not speak.
Buster pulls her in by the shoulder with a big paw, casting a glance outward before swinging the door shut behind them.
The chapel is much as she left it moments before: Steady and Lunar asleep in each others arms by the smoldering firepit, otherwise abandoned. It looks even creepier in the dark.
"You got lost?" Buster's whisper cuts through the silence of the church like a knife. He wheezes a laugh out. "So you came here." He is obviously trying to contain his laughter. "That's funnier than you know." Shaking his head, he pulls himself together. He spies Celestia, cradled as he is in Em–er, Bubbling's clasp, gives an eyebrow and a questioning look. "Picking up trash now, are we?" He looks to judge her reaction, about to burst out laughing again.>>719596
Starfish barks a harsh laugh at Cit's naivety. "Sure, we can earn tons and tons of bits and give them to somepony who promises they can save him. They'll keep taking and taking right up until the moment he's gone, then they'll send in a collection crew for his body." She spits on the ground.
"Fog-touch, crystal cancer, Vis, whatever the hell you want to call it, it's final. There's no getting out of it. All kinds of ponies go gem-cruster from the fog. None of em make it."
"You ever wonder why it's so empty at the bottom of the fog? Here's a hint: Not everypony moved upstairs, only the rich ones and the ones who clawed their way up, like me. Like us. The rest of em," she shakes her head and draws a hoof across her neck.
"Crystallized, harvested, turned into batteries. Same thing happened to every one of em. And Zephyr?" She shakes her head again, but is obviously done crying. For now. "His is the worst case I've ever seen." She lets out a big, shuddery sigh, then the fierceness returns.
"We can find out what happened, though. We can find the ponies responsible, and make 'em pay." She has a strange look on her face. The thought of revenge seems to fuel some hunger within her.
The smell of burnt meat brings a new issue for Celestia, adding to his existing ones. He was hungry. He could really go for some waffles, the superior to the lowly pancake. They never agreed with Mini on which was better. His stomach let out a subtle growl.
Em looked at Celestia and did a double take. "Oh, so you can
see it too. I was starting to wonder about that. I found her in the street. She asked if she could come with me, so I said yes." She casually walked over to Lunar. "Yeah, I guess it is pretty funny. You wouldn't believe the day I had. I was attacked! By this big robotic spider thing. It almost killed me, and would have if I couldn't fl-" She glances toward Buster, clears her throat, and back to Lunar. "Fleece. I think the doll is made out of fleece." If nobody stops her she rests her hoof on Lunar's back. "Alright," she says. "Where's the guard pony?"
"I-I wasn't trying to give you strings!"
Falling quickly says apologetically.
"I-I just wanted to help my friend. A-And you, kinda. I just… she'd really enjoy some time with you, not about work. Are… Are you really that busy?"
She rambles on, sounding on the edge of a breakdown as the shadowy Border speaks to her in a way she sees as accusatory.
She backs away a bit as Starfish goes on her tirade, looking mournful. "…As long as he's alive there's hope," she says quietly, but it's plain to see that her heart isn't in it.
As Starfish mentions wanting revenge, she looks at her with an odd expression. "What'll that fix?" she asks softly. "Death just begets more death. It won't solve anything, will it." KC in the background starts charging some of the batteries.
The meat-smell is faint, but unmistakable. Celestia cannot see the source of the food-smell, though that does not stop him from imagining the flavour.
The holder walks down a short stairs, to roughly the center of the ruined chamber, up a few more stairs, and over to two sleeping ponies. One of them is sitting up strangely straight, perhaps attached to a small mountain of crystal behind her; the other is resting her head in the first one's lap.>>719599
Buster starts to laugh, then stops and gives a curious look as Em tells how she met Celestia. She walks away too quickly for him to collect his thoughts enough to speak.
Lunar has not moved from her position. She appears as comatose and unresponsive as ever as Em prattles on. As she looks toward Buster, she notices he is on the urge of another giggling fit watching her.
As Em puts her hand on the crystalline structure attached to Lunar, she expects the world to start swimming, for the disembodied voice to offer her confusing directions and baffling imagery, for some answers to the questions in her mind, which seem quite simple and straightforward.
None of this is forthcoming. Bubbling's hoof makes a slight click as it contacts the crystal growths behind Lunar's ruined back.
Steady Step is snoring.
Buster begins to cackle.
Benjamin is still staring daggers at Em and Celestia.>>719601
Starfish rolls her eyes. "Maaaybe. In my opinion, hope is best spent on likely scenarios, and let's just say he's a long shot."
"Death begets death, sure. I'm not proposing death. See, the only thing that changes anything is money." Her eyes gleam. "When I say 'make them pay,' I mean literally. We can't take down the whole thing ourselves, of course. But taking money out of their pockets is a good first step."
She sighs, rubs her eyes with her hooves, and it is unclear whether she is trying to convince Cit or herself.
KC is completely unable to work the battery charger. It doesn't appear to have any buttons, toggles, switches, dials, knobs or otherwise i/o devices, and in fact its main feature is the dongle through which it accepts Cit's jolts of electricity.
Em knits her brow and pokes the crystals a few more times to make sure. "Why isn't it working?"
No answer is forthcoming.
Buster calls out, "Didn't you get a list or something from Steady?"
These two are weird. Celestia thinks judgingly before even knowing them. Likely due to the crystal on the pony. Almost something like a crystal pony, a pony made of crystal? Nah, that is too silly! He thinks.
"Uh…" Em pulled out the bits of trash and piece of paper and looked them over. "I don't think so. I think it just said to talk to Lunar. Maybe it was one of the ones she accidentally dropped."
As she gets the idea of what Starfish is getting at, she nods. "Set up a bit of competition for those AB wankers through the bootlegs. That I can get behind." She looks around to make sure the coast is clear. "So. How are we gonna do this then? I mean we only have so many battery cases. How do we spread the word about us without getting caught?"
Border nods. He lets her speak until finished.
"I understand, Falling. You care for your friend. You want her to succeed, to be happy. I understand that she has taken a particular liking to me. I am not blind."
He sighs and turns back toward the window again. "I truly am that busy, unfortunately. There is nothing I would like more than to have some… free time… to spend with one that I love."
Falling calms a bit as Border speaks more understandingly. She takes a step forward.
"…Is there anything I could do to help? I don't have much to offer, but if I could help give you some free time, I want to try. …Just as long as it doesn't involve heights."
She adds the last part quickly after.
Imagine that. A pony made of crystals. Or are the ponies all just crystals, made of pony?>>719606
To Em's surprise, the crumpled parchment no longer says what it used to say, at least to Em's recollection. It reads, central spire, floor b25
There are also two small, peculiar markings at the bottom of the page. One is in the shape of a beetle, the other a squid.
The trash is still trash. Buster wheezes a quiet giggle to himself as she looks it over carefully.>>719607
As Cit mentions "competition" and "AB wankers" back to back, Starfish audibly shushes her and looks around warily. Nopony appears to be within earshot; besides, the wind is kind of intense out here near the edge. She grins at Cit. "You have to be realistic about these things. Look. There's gonna be speedbumps, roadblocks, red lights, dead ends. You gotta just crash through all that. Know what I mean?" She throws her head back and cackles.
"Alright," she sniffs. "Couple ideas here. There's this… place I go to sometimes, I can ask around there. Tough crowd there, don't know if you wanna tag along or not. Might help to have some muscle with me." She eyes KC.
"Or, we could talk to the other kids around here, y'know, our neighbors." She laughs. Most of them are griffons, Cit knows. The griffons that live in the slums are basically luddites; their level of technology is primitive and their ways are strange to outsiders.
"I guess if we're going into the fog anyway, we could try talking to the dogs, I think some of them are using AB tech nowadays." She shrugs. "If you got any other ideas, I'm all ears.">>719609
Border remains looking at the window.
"Nothing is free. Everything has its cost, especially time. You possess a unique ability. Falling Sand. And yet, the destiny of sand always remains in the bottom of the glass, no? Time marches on, inexorable."
"So your query is this: can you help me? That is, incidentally, exactly what I am trying to determine in my present course of action. We shall find out together, I suppose." He turns, still backlit and shadowed, offering a beckoning hoof to Falling, inviting her to step closer and view through the window to the glowing chamber within.
Em's face contorts like she just tasted something sour. "Huh. Alright. I guess I read it wrong. I could have sword it said something else last time I looked at it." She replaced the trash and paper in her pocket. She scratched the back of her head. "Huh. I guess I remembered wrong. Central Spire, floor 11-" She pulled the paper back out and looked at it again. "Er, B25. Got it. And I know where the Central Spire is." She bites her bottom lip. "I think."
This way of thinking has given Celestia a headache so he has decided to stop it.. for now. On to the next distraction! He looks over to the parchment Em/Flask is holding and finds the writing wants. Safe to say that Mini could write better. Also, it is worrying that the creature keeps making weird noises, should he ask if he will be okay? Ehh, sure. "Are you okay?
" Celestia ask.
"He's fine," Em says. "He just sorta gets like that. I can't help but randomly laugh too sometimes."
Celestia just nods and goes back to being still, while inside playing with their own tentacles as if they were sock puppets fighting for the glory of being the tentacle that did daily task for outside the plush.
She nods. "Whatever it takes," she repeats. The way Starfish talks about AB is planting seeds of doubt in her mind, but she tries not to show it.
As Starfish eyeballs KC, he flashes a peace sign. "Sounds like we're gonna be dealing with rough types anyway," Cit shrugs. "I think those guys might be our best bet. Though, the Dogs would be able to help us out too, I reckon. 'Specially if they know where AB keep their stashes." She crosses her foreleg. "Guess I'll spend what I've got saved up on fog running gear. Could you, uh, give me some tips on what the good stuff is?" She does a quick count of her coin. "…Guessing 150 won't buy anything spectacular though."
Falling tilts her head, a little confused at Border's philosophical speech.
"But, aren't there ways to put that off? I mean, you can't look at where a destiny ends, there's the whole journey before it."
She says, trying to use the same bits of wording he does.
As he offers his hoof out to Falling, she cautiously steps forward, taking it and stepping forward to the window.
Buster finally stops laughing enough to comment. "Ya sure about that? Need a map or anything?"
Benjamin is still giving the same angry stare.>>719613
Buster isn't laughing at all now. "It's just that the world is so funny." Deadpan delivery. He looks over at Benjamin. "Ain't that right, Ben."
"Yup." Benjamin comments.
Buster looks back at Em. "Yup.">>719612>>719614
Celestia addresses Buster. He doesn't hear. He does, however, notice the strange bulging wiggliness of the plush. "What kind of toy is that, anyway?" He squints to take a closer look.
"Hmm." Starfish makes her thinking face. "I feel like I probably burned my bridge for today at Darley's place when you rolled up." She gives a sideways grin. "You know, I think I might have something you could borrow for, oh, say, the low-low one-time price of 150 bits!" She jabs at Cit's ribs with her hooves repeatedly.
"What about you, KC? You need a suit too?" A wink. "I got something you could wear, sugar."
"Alright then, hey, if you guys are all done here, I'm done here, let's go, yeah?" She tilts her head at Cit and KC, then slaps her spiky helmet over her spiky hair.>>719616
Through the window, Falling can see the interior of a roughly spherical room, with several dark, thick cables running to the center to connect in various places with a shape that's hard to place at first. When it resolves, it's shocking in its clarity.
There is a black alabaster alicorn with its wings spread wide, its legs frozen in motion, its mane wild. Its head is covered in a clear dome and within it, the face, the features inside are identical to Border's own: dark mane, golden coat, strong lines; except the face in the tank seems shrunken, withered.
The chamber itself is completely fitted with all sorts of science-y looking things. It's a bit above Falling's understanding of machinery, but it all looks very stunningly complex.
"That is Ambit," Border explains, explaining absolutely nothing.Roll #1 3 = 3
Em rubbed the back of her head and glanced away. "Actually, yeah. I probably should get a map. Just in case."
Celestia lightly tilts their head up, having their plush eyes stare at buster, wondering if he was addressing him or Em/Flask. Inside the plush, they use their tentacle to scratch their nonexistant chin in being unsure.
Falling looks into the room, peering through the glass to try and see what's inside. When the comes clear, her jaw drops at seeing the second alicorn, locked in place and looking as if it's been starved and trapped for weeks. She's shaken by the image, looking up at Border in confusion with a desire to have some answers given.
"W-Who is that?"
Her had slowly looks back down at the alicorn, looking almost the same to Border.
"Is… Are you two related?"
She frowns. "Really?" she says incredulously. Figures she'd try to squeeze every possible coin out of even her friend and new business partner. She weighs her options. "Ugh, fine." She hands over the Bag O' Bits™ reluctantly, her pocket feeling painfully empty.
"Let's get a wriggle on then. I was gonna shop around at the market, but so much for that." She gathers her equipment, and KC pretends to crack his neck. "Ready when you are."
Buster raises an eyebrow at her. "Ya serious? A map? I was just kidding…"
Benjamin chimes in, unexpectedly, still staring at Em. "I know where there's a map."
Buster looks over. "No ya don't, you crazy ass. You're just gettin' old."
"Sure I do," drawls Benjamin. "Least, used to be there. I ain't done much other'n sittin' around here, ever since I got them crystals in my brain."
Buster looks at him incredulously, then bursts out laughing full-on.
"Eyup, there's a map alright," Benjamin insists. "It's not a paper map, you can't take it with you, but Ambit showed me once. Long time ago. It's in the basement under the old City Hall."
Buster rolls his eyes. "Oh here we go again.">>719619
There is conversation. The noise-making dog seems to be making the noise again. Strange creatures, these.>>719621
Border watches Falling's face as she takes in the contents of the gruesome diorama.
"Ambit," Border reiterates. "My… brother, I suppose you would call him. He is… sick. He has a very advanced form of what is known as the fog disease, though of course his case is special for many reasons. Not least of which is the care he has received." He gestures at the huge chamber. "This is bleeding-edge technology, updated as often as our top minds can come up with possible solutions. We have been able to prolong his life for…" he pauses a moment. "Longer than expected. But still we cannot turn the clock back, rewind the process that overtakes him, maybe slowly, but certainly surely. We are losing the battle."
He sighs again. "And that is not even the greatest of my worries. Ambit was… is… an ambitious soul. He created many responsibilities for himself. And myself, of course." There is just a trace of bitterness in Border's voice, uncharacteristically sharing his inner world for a moment.
He continues to gaze at Ambit, mostly black crystal and hooked up to countless life support devices, for a long moment. Then Border shakes his head as if to clear it, assumes his unreadable smile. "Forgive me, I ramble on so. I have so few ponies left to talk to." He looks down at Falling. "You really shouldn't have come here, you know.">>719622
Starfish laughs and tosses the bag-o-bits back at Cit's face. "I'm kidding! You nerd!" Muffled through her helmet, she continues laughing, walking backward, until she steps off the edge. "Whu-AAAH!" She tumbles off the edge comically, and for a moment all is lost, until KC catches sight of her gliding away a few stories below them, homeward bound and probably still laughing her ass off.
"Well, if it's good enough for Ambit it's good enough for me!" Em rubbed her chin. "Under the old city hall, you say? Alright. I'll go look for it!" She looks from Buster, to Benjamin, back to Buster. "Do you, uh… do you have directions to the old City Hall?"
She fumbles to catch it, while KC steps in and grabs it effortlessly in his big metal mitt, passing it to Cit delicately with a bit of a head tilt. Cit looks a bit confused; she never really gets Starfish's humor. With a shrug, she starts teleporting from safe spot to safe spot, doing her best to keep up with Starfish while KC leaps across the skyline like an ape.
[1d10] Cit Navigation
[1d10] KC NavigationRoll #1 7 = 7
/ Roll #2 9 = 9
To speak or not to speak? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The listening to the unending talks of strange creatures,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of boredom,
And by opposing end the boredom: to stay, to sleep
No more; and by talk, to say we end
The boredom, and the thousand yawns
That I do…
Falling thinks back to the crystallized pony she saw the day before as Border mentions the fog disease. With his brother looking normal enough as is, she's amazed at the technology they have to keep him as such, but still deeply sorrowful that he has such an affliction. She turns her head away from the window, eyes misty and unable to face it.
"I'm so sorry."
Is all she can think of to say, now seeing why he was so cold when she first offered help. She looks up as Border's barrier breaks a bit, not being as aloof as normal, but says nothing, seeing this as a touching moment for the alicorn.
"I know," She says with guilt, looking to the floor, "I shouldn't have chased you, or intruded. I… had a really bad moment outside too. I just want to go home."
She says, admitting to what's she done (but omitting her near plummet, not wanting to add any more stressors to the alicorn) and her tone somber.
"But, I can't just walk away from you. Diamond was having a bad moment, and I wanted to cheer her up by going after you. And you're the reason Diamond has this amazing job now, and that's helped me too. I know I can't help here, but if there's anything else I can help with, anywhere else, I want to."
She says. While her body isn't looking too well, her tone still has a determined confidence to her pledge, as if she's making a promise to a dear close friend.
Steady Step, still cradled in Lunar's lap with the back of her head facing outwards, shouts "It's goddamn two blocks down! Go be about it already!"
Buster smiles and shrugs apologetically. "There's really nothing there, but you can take a look. It's clockwise."
He seems to sense some confusion. "So. Orient yourself downhill." He points himself with his back to the entrance. "That's hubward. So: Hubward, antihubward," he points forward then jabs his pawthumb backward, "clockwise (which is left if you're looking down) or anticlockwise, which is right. It's really very simple once you get used to it."
Benjamin looks unamused. He points in a direction, it happens to be to the right when you walk out the door. "That way. Big building. Not torn to shit like the rest of the town. Haunted, though."
Steady rolls over to face them, still laying down but looking right up at Em. "Yup. Super haunted." She reaches up and pats Celestia's fluffy carapace.>>719625
The city flows around the duo as they swing, sprint, jump, teleport and generally make a mockery of pedestrian safety laws in Horizon. Despite neither one of them being able to keep up with Starfish, they race against each other on the familiar trek back home. They are nose and nose for a while, but KC kicks it into high gear at the last minute and passes through the hideout entrance first.
Starfish must be in her room, as she is nowhere in sight as Cit and KC enter.>>719626
To sleep; perchance, to dream.
Hey, there's a rub! It appears the pony sleeping on the other sleeping pony has taken a liking to Celestia's plushy outside self and has given it a pat. How delightful! Soft you now, fair Celestia!>>719627
Border's emerald eyes are piercing as she confesses to almost everything. "No. You should not have chased me. I'm sorry that you had a bad moment outside. I'm glad that you are safe." He shakes his head and does not respond through her talk of Diamond.
"Listen, Falling. I am sorry you chose to follow me today. I am sorry I allowed it to happen. There are many ponies who would give a great deal to discover the information I have just given you freely. In fact, there are many ponies who, if they knew that you have been here, that you have seen what you just saw, would try to find you, to force you to tell them everything. I am not telling you this to scare you, but to inform you of the risk you have brought on yourself. This is a secret you must keep with your life, because it would mean exactly that." He looks into Falling's eyes. "Diamond has her part in the grand design, as do you, but you mustn't tell her that you have been here. I would not suggest lying, but it would endanger her to know this truth."
Em, having arrived back at the ruined chapel, discovers that the parchment she's been carrying has a different set of directions than that which she remembers. She has also received directions to an alleged map hidden under the old City Hall in Old Town, under the oppressive fog. >>719626
Celestia is along for the ride, clutched by the unicorn known as Bubbling Flask. He has discovered he can smell, and it's quite invigorating to test the air for aromas. He has not located Mini or Parents yet.
Celestia decides to tap against the pony Em/Flask with his plush hoof, trying to get her attention. "What are we doing?
" He asks with a tone of child's boredom, similar to a child asking his mother while they are shopping.
"Well," Em says. "Sounds like we're checking out the haunted City Hall." She walks to the door and waves. "Thanks guys! I appreciate the help! I'll be back soon!" She steps outside, orients herself downhill, and starts walking without closing the door behind her.
Celestia nods his plush head along. Ready to face any ectoplasmic beast they may come along. After all. He aint scared of no ghost.
Jiandao, having established her residence in Horizon at the Flawless Inn, has written a letter to her family in Shang-hay and walked to the postmaster's office, located not far away, in order to mail it. Unexpectedly, the carrier pony for messages between Horizon and the kirin homelands appears to be none other than Captain Velvet Scar himself.
Rather than the usual bow, Jiandao mimics the captain's motion, resulting in a hoofshake of acceptable quality.
"Captain Velvet, i am honored to see you again, your note proved most helpful. It is thanks to you that i have work here, and i am in your debt."
fishing the bit-filled letter from her bag, she holds the envelope out with her magic, offering a slight bow.
"The Shang-hay mailyard along the docks will be enough; My family travels there often, and they will receive it without issue."
Smooth rolls back over, offers an arm up as she cradles Lunar's lap. Buster waves, smiling warmly as she passes. "See you when you find yourself lost again," he chuckles. Benjamin, his glare softened, nods at Bubbling as she passes through the door, moving to shut it behind her.
Following Benjamin and Buster's directions, she turns right out the door and finds the road leading that direction. The buildings over here are in various states of disrepair, although since they are between the curved pillars of the toren megastructures, at least they are not being torn apart slowly.
A building that is unmistakably City Hall rises out of the fog, surprisingly well kept after all these years. It has a white marble facade, all archways and pillars, and a stone garden in front, decorated with fountains, columns and statues, although not crowded enough to get lost within. The place must have been beautiful when it was populated by citizens; now, the atmosphere is silent and tragic. The fountains are empty; the statues and columns are discolored by time, and many are vandalized. >>719894
The unicorn holding Celestia ventures back into the foggy exterior, with its acrid smell. They walk a short distance along the road, and then pause in front of a sort of yard filled with various stone shapes. Some shapes are like a pony; others seem to just be shapes. There is no sound other than that made by the holder.
Mini and Parents are nowhere to be seen.>>719898
Captain Velvet gives a knowing tug at his whiskers with one wing as he appraises Jiandao's envelope, and her bag-o-bits. He looks up at her with a good degree of respect in his eyes. "Already got a job, and already got paid too, I see. I knew you'd land on your feet in Horizon!" He laughs again, more happiness than humor. "I know the Shang-hay docks, alright; let me talk to my friend and make sure your family gets this. I know how things can be over there." He nods, looking at her for a moment. He seems to remember the wizened unicorn in the blue outfit suddenly, who is watching this whole interaction looking displeased.
"Well, business is business," Velvet apologizes. "Congratulations on finding a job. Hope everything works out well!" The postmaster and him start to walk off toward the back, murmuring to each other in a jargon that might as well be another language.
"Pretty spooky place right here. By the way have you seen my pony Mini?
" He asks Flask/Em suddenly. Before they go into the most likely haunted spooky building before them.>>719893
Em excitedly bounces on her her hooves. "Hey, look! I found it! That's gotta be it, right?" She lets out a relieved sigh. "I'll tell you the truth, Ms.Doll. For a minute I thought I'd get turned around again. C'mon. Let's go check it out."
Em makes her way toward the building's front door and checks to see if it's locked.
Em glances over her shoulder. "H'm? No, sorry. Was she your owner?" She hums. "Or he. Can't judge a little colt for liking cute things."
Em makes her way past statues of ponies. It is eerily quiet. She makes it to the front door. It does not respond her pushing or pulling, apparently locked.
Upon inspection of the building's facade, there appear to be several ground-story windows; one of them, about halfway to the rear of the building, has been smashed in, broken bits of glass surrounding it.
Mini shakes their little head. "She is my pony, and she is wonderful.
" Celestia briefly makes a silent demented happy sigh thinking about Mini.
Em rubs her chin and thouroughly examines the door. After a moment, she lifts her hoof and knocks.
Em knocks on the solid door. It barely makes a sound, but as quiet as the air is, it rings out into the eternal night of the ground level.
There is no response. Nothing seems to move, or even seems alive.
"Darn. Could have sworn that would work." She walks around the building and finds the broken window. Bracing herself, she rears up on her back legs and rests her hooves on the outside of it. Using all of what upper body strength she actually has, she tries to climb through without cutting herself too bad.
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
Em, still holding Celestia, manages to clamber in through the window without incident. Inside, it is very dark. From the light from the opening, she can see she is in a small office. There is an open doorway leading into the almost complete darkness within the building.
There is an unknown, yet somehow familiar scent. It hangs in the air, yet whenever Em tries to place it, it seems to fade into the background.
As the pair are busy, Jiandao lingers long enough to see them leave, before leaving the post office herself.
With her primary task complete, Jiandao begins the trek back to the Inn.
[1d10] NavigationRoll #1 7 = 7
Em sniffs at the air a couple of times but gives up when the smell fades away. Oh well. Probably wasn't important anyway. She squints through the darkness, trying to make out whatever she can.
[1d111]AdaptabilityRoll #1 65 = 65
"So what are we looking for?" Celestia asks poking at Em/Flask again. Curious why they are in the spooky house in the first place that is obviously haunted.
Her fur grows coarser and darker, and her pony hooves split into cloven deer hooves. [Forest Agility]
Em huffs and takes out a flask. She pulls out her amulet, taps her hoof against it, concentrates, and attempts to create a flask of glowing Alchemist's Fire.
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
"A map. So we don't get lost again."
The trek back to the Inn is nice. Twilight is upon the city, and stars begin to twinkle in the darkness of the eastern sky. Lights turn on all the way down the outsides of the megastructures, and on the bridge to the spiral ramp Jiandao can see thousands of artificial lights stretching down beneath and around her. It really is breathtaking.
The Inn is just as she left it, albeit with less clientele. In fact the place is almost abandoned; Jiandao doesn't see anypony else on her way in. Upon entering, the front desk clerk greets her with his peculiarly emotionless smile. "Welcome back!">>719912
The fire lights within the empty flask, illuminating the room, but putters out after a few moments. In that time, she is able to see that the room is empty save the broken glass on the floor, and that through the doorway there is a hall going left or right.
"Can't we buy a map?
" Celestia asks the pony with a tilt of his head. Despite that he tries to look for the map as well, as best as his eldritch eye can follow.
[1d10] perceptionRoll #1 6 = 6
Celestia does not see a map, or anything like a map, nearby. It is quite dark, though.
Em huffs again and lets out a quiet giggle. "Can't see anything in this dang place." She glances back at Celestia as she heads to the one door she found. "Can you?"
"This map is supposed to be special or something I think? But yeah. I didn't even think about that. Also-" She awkwardly rubs the back of her neck. "I'm kind of completely broke."
"How are you broke, you still look like you are in one piece? How is it special? Can we get a light in here? Why can't you buy a map if you are broke?
" Celestia barrages the poor changeling with questions hearing about this new concept of not being able to get something that someone wants.
"Because I don't have any money. And I think the map is supposed to lead me straight to these ponies I'm looking for. This guy has me searching for them to fight the world, because the world is a monster that eats ponies. Pretty simple."
"Good evening." she replies, approaching the counter. "Do you know of any places nearby one may find something to eat? I am not familiar with this city and would appreciate your assistance."
Celestia nods, but still doesn't quite get everything. So they decide to ask just one more question. "Which ponies are we looking for?
" He asks. Wondering how important they could be if they are looking for them by venturing into a haunted house.
"He didn't say. I think there are supposed to be four. One was a guard pony, but I guess I'm not supposed to find him anymore? Now the note says something different, but I wanna find the map before I worry about that."
As the deericorn Em walks through the doorway, the scent from earlier becomes stronger. It seems to burrow into her memory and dredge up some sort of imagery. Even though it is pitch black inside, Em is filled with a certainty that she could follow this scent, as it is obviously meant to lead.
She recognizes this as a changeling scent trail. >>719919
Celestia does not smell anything out of the ordinary. >>719921
The clerk nods. "There are several restaurants nearby, but there is also a complementary snack bar for all our guests." He nods in the general direction behind Jiandao, where there is an assortment of produce and grains laid out in an organized set of tables and troughs, all of which look fantastically edible. "I apologize for the lack of variety," says the clerk. "Our normal shipment didn't come in this week."
"That is worrying.
" Celestia adds. A bit concerned with the unclear goals of the pony that he is with. Guess we gotta roll with it, he mentally shrugs.
Em closes her eyes. Oooh, that's what that was. A pheromone trail. She tries to light the flask again, but whether she manages or not, she tries to follow the trail.
[1d10]Not tripping over anything if AF fails.Roll #1 1 = 1
/ Roll #2 4 = 4
There is a bright flash as Em tries to summon the alchemist's fire. The flask shatters, sending bits of flame everywhere, including all over Em and Celestia.
(Em takes one hit of damage.)>>719925
The pony holding Celestia attempts something, fails, and there is a burst of light and fire. Celestia realizes his outer plush is burning.
(Celestia's plush takes 1 hit of damage)
It continues to burn. If Celestia doesn't find a way to put it out soon, his plush might face further damage.
In a panic Celestia drops down to the floor rolling in the plush trying to put out the fire desecrating. Followed along with a bit of demented screaming.
[1d10] Put out fireRoll #1 1 = 1
"It is nothing to worry about, the food here will be more than enough, thank you."
With a new target in sight, Jiandao approaches the snack bar, gathering a hooffull of fruit with her magic, apples and the like, before slipping into her room to eat in peace.
Em shrieks and hops away from where the flask fell, quickly bringing her burned hoof to her mouth to kiss. "Owie."
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
In his distress, Celestia falls to the ground, landing poorly and failing to put out the flames.
(Celestia is helpless.)
His otherworldly screams echo down the hallways.>>719930
Em manages to stumble over her own feet backing away from Celestia's flaming, writhing figure in the dark. She falls through the doorway, against a wall, and ungracefully on her face.
(Em is helpless.)
The burning form of the children's toy emits a terrible shriek like nothing ever heard before. >>719929
The clerk watches her gather a meal and slink off.
Her room is as she left it, with the bed made, the desk clean, the window covered by a curtain.
Celestia screams keep going as they keep rolling on the floor. "Damn Pony!
" They scream making their anger clear.
[1d10] Put out fire
[1d10] Recover from helplessRoll #1 4 = 4
/ Roll #2 8 = 8
The fur recedes into her body and her hooves crack and pop as they fuse back into pony hooves again. She scrunches her snoot and grumbles, but her face contorts and she covers her ears as the doll shrieks. "Jeeze," she says. "That was just a little tumble and tiny burn. Calm down." She grunts as she tries to pull herself to her hooves.
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
Celestia rolls to his feet after a bit of squirming. His coat is still smoldering a bit, but it looks like it's starting to go out on its own.
(Celestia takes 1 hit.)>>719934
Em sounds confident from the ground, but fails to get up. She manages to drop an empty flask on the ground, and then rolls in the glass trying to escape it.
(Em takes 1 wound; remains helpless.)
It's Em's turn to shriek as the glass stabs into her. "Eeek, it's the ghosts!" she howls. "The ghosts are attacking us!" Her heart races as she tries to weakly stumble back to her hooves so she can make a break for the hall.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
Celestia grumbles patting himself a bit off from the embers. He decides to head for the changeling with the intention of bopping her on the head, and possibly doing more for burning their only precious plush, a gift by Mini!
Setting her fruit down and retrieving the tea kit from her bag, Jiandao begins the process of measuring out leaves, filling her pot and preparing the leafy beverage for her meal.
Stumbling to her feet, glass still sticking out of her back, the unicorn sets off into the darkness. She trots down the hall in complete darkness several strides before slowing. She senses walls on either side of her.
The pheromone trail seems to point her slightly forward and to the right. She cannot see anything in front of her. Behind her, the slight glow of the open doorway illuminates a small shadow chasing her down.>>719937
The fire is completely out. Luckily, the plush is not overly flammable.
Celestia watches the unicorn clumsily gain footing and race off down the hallway. Following, Celestia realizes he is being left behind, and may not have the chance to bop the head after all.>>719938
The hotel has a kettle, and water on tap. Jiandao prepares the tea, the ritual of it easing her mind and familiarizing her with her new surroundings. The room is small, but not oppressively so.
The meal itself is delicious and filling. Jiandao recognizes a few, but not all, of the varieties of grains and vegetables. Horizon is clearly a land of abundance.
Em's chest heaves as she leans against the wall for support. Placing her hoof to her amulet, she casts one of the spells to try and heal up her wounds. Her heart races, and she tries to squint through the darkness to catch a better glimpse of the shadow.
[1d10] MendRoll #1 9 = 9
/ Roll #2 10 = 10
"Get back here so I can punish you!
" Celestia screams down the hall, deciding to run off after the changeling, thinking that she ran away from him to escape the before mentioned punishment.They can run, but they can never hide. The bed covers always was a bad hiding spot Mini.
The shadow bearing down on her is none other than the plushy alicorn toy who introduced itself as princess Celestia. It screams a threat in its otherworldly voice.
A shimmering light sparkles around Bubbling Hoof's body. The glass extrudes itself from her flesh and drops to the ground with a faint tinkling sound, as her numerous lacerations all close. Em feels an intense tickling sensation.
The plushy pony is almost upon her.>>719941
Celestia chases after the unicorn, watching as she is lit temporarily by a glowing phenomenon. Celestia picks up speed and is about to collide with her.
Celestia aims to make sure the changeling can no longer run away from him. So with a jump they aim to cling to him and not let go. Obviously to bop the pony to not do something like set him on fire ever again.
Grappler: passive; Trained in melee and close quarters combat, you overpower foes easily in such situations. You have +1 to all rolls when making non-combat actions to grapple, subdue, restrain, or in any way preventing a target from moving with your own body. You can apply this bonus in combat to remove an enemy from combat without killing them, but only when they’re the only enemy in their zone and helpless, or on very low health.
[1d10] clingRoll #1 10 = 10
Em lets out a relieved breath as she feels her wounds close up. Her heart slows as she sees it's just the weird doll running at her, and she doesn't even pay attention as it tries to grab her, instead using the second to fill her open slot.
[1d22]Roll #1 16 = 16
Celestia makes a flying leap at Em, clinging to her face. It's lucky she couldn't see before, because being blinded is no longer any particular hindrance. She can breath still, and while it is annoying to have a toy grapple your whole head, it does not strike Em as particularly dangerous to her.
Now that Em has caught her breath and fixed herself, she looks up, rocking the thing clinging to her face back a little. "Hey, you okay?" She asks. "Here," she says, pulling out a small round bottle filled with very faintly glowing red energy. "Drink this."
[Pass Distil Life potion to Celestia]
Celestia grabs the potion out of the changeling pony's hooves and pours it over his plush body in order to repair it. Unsure if it would even work, but is willing to try. Time to get W E T.
Celestia uncorks the flask and pours it over the burned plush. At first nothing seems to happen, except the liquid, with bits of something floating around in there, flows down his artificial pelt. Celestia stands there a moment feeling wet. The liquid begins to feel very warm, and begins to glow slightly. Celestia cannot feel it, but the parts of the plush he can see appear to be unburnt. Were they burnt to begin with? Celestia cannot recall. They were certainly not coated in viscous fluid before.
(Celestia is now wet.)
Now back together, and the demonic screaming from earlier done. Celestia looks down at the changeling in his grasp. He gives him a light bop on the head, and gets off satisfied.
Em flinches and scrunches at the bop on her head. "I guess I deserved that. I'll try not to set us on fire again. Let's go. I think I can follow the smell without a light."
Celestia nods, deciding to not let Em hold him this time, and be at a distance from behind her. So to not suffer from further potential accidents that can happen in the future. Celestia fears. Fool me once, shame on you. FOOL me twice, call me timmy.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Celestia cannot see anything in the dark, walking behind the unicorn. He can, however, hear her, and now that everything is silent and dark around them, he realizes he can sense her presence with another sense that is not sight, smell, or hearing. >>719953
Em is able to use the scent trail and her careful movements feeling around in the darkness to lead her through the passageways, down the hall, to a wide open room. There are weaker scents leading outward and a strong scent where they combine, leading somewhere in front of her. She follows it to a stairway leading downward.
Citrine Fleece and KC, having concluded their business at the market, head back to the hideout, following Starfish and racing against each other. As they arrive, Starfish is nowhere to be seen, although they know she was headed back here. Perhaps she is in the room she shares with Golden Flash.>>719627
Falling Sand, having covertly followed Border, has seen his 'brother' Ambit, who resides within a technological quarantine, his body almost completely turned to crystal. Only his head remains uncrystallized. Border cautions her against sharing too much of this information with anypony else, as it may be dangerous.>>719938
Jiandao has managed to mail her family half of the bits she received upfront from Border. Returning to the Flawless Inn, she avails herself of the complimentary buffet, fixes herself a cup of tea, and settles in for the night.>>719952>>719951
Celestia and Em have decided to explore the 'haunted' old city hall. Having snuck in through a broken window, they proceed to bumble about and injure themselves in the complete darkness. Having healed up, Em now follows a changeling pheromone trail in the darkness, and Celestia follows Em.
Em gazes down the black stairwell and huffs. "What's with places and dark staircases anyway? This is my second today. Don't they know it's a safety hazzard?" She pulls another flask out, similar to the one she'd used earlier. She moves to concentrate on it, but pauses. "Uh… you might wanna stand back. This won't last that long, but I'm sure it'll last at least until the bottom of the stairs."
[1d111]Adaptability. Hornlight plsRoll #1 5 = 5
/ Roll #2 41 = 41
Gnarled ram horns spiral out of the sides of her head and her sclera shift to a deep, jaundice yellow. She looks up at her new horns and rolls her eyes.
[Eye of Grogar]
"That is new.
" Celestia says with a tilt of their head looking upon the horns of the strange pony. Ponies grew horns in many different places and as many as they want. He wonders where else they may be able to grow their horns, and how long they may get.
The flask does not explode, thankfully. However, the flame Em manages to summon within it is small and dim. It is only marginally better than darkness, but it does stay lit, at least.>>720166
This line of thinking begins to border on the obscene. Celestia probably shouldn't dwell further on questionably positioned growths, nor their sizes.
Celestia takes care to have a body length away from the pony holding the flame. Suffering from flashbacks to his suit burning, bringing in a cold sweat. Well, not really. It was really annoying and scary though!
Em nods, satisfied enough with her tiny flame. She holds it out and descends thebstairs.
Em carefully descends, using her pitiful light to pick her way. It is not difficult; these stairs are well-designed for traverse by ponies, and not so old as to be falling apart. They have a nice feel to them. As she reaches the landing, she realizes there are two directions to continue down the stairs: one gently curving left, the other right. The pheromone trail seems to lead to the left. The right seems to be identical in every other fashion. They both lead into the darkness out of the range of her dinky light.>>720168
Travelling behind the dangerous goat-pony has its disadvantages. Her summoned light is very dim and offers almost no visibility for poor Celestia, save the dim shadow. He plays follow the leader best he can down the dark stairways, which truth be told, are kind of hard for him to descend. They were obviously built for a larger body.
They come to a landing. Both ways look identical in the darkness. The air smells dusty and old, and of the ever-present fog.
Celestia just grumbles to himself seeing the ease of which these tasks that were hard for him, are completed easily by her. He would ask to be carried, but he doesn't trust her anymore. Where is Mini when you need her. She was quite much more respectful. Sharing her tea and spaghetti. As messy as it can be at times.
Falling stammers in shock as Border mentions the danger she's in now.
"Wh-Who would want to know this, to come after me for this?! M-My family, are they going to be safe?!"
Her voice starts to break, unable to take in this information that her simple decision to follow could have endangered everypony she cares about.
Cit and KC arrive at the hideout, the latter standing tall with his hands on his hips smugly as Cit falls in behind him. "Yeah, yeah, don't you get all smug on me," Cit grumbles in mock annoyance. She looks around, frowning a little as there's no sign of Starfish. "Star?" she calls, taking a quick look around, heading to her and Golden's room and knocking.
Tea and spaghetti. At the thought, Celestia's stomach gives off a small gurgle. It has been a while since he has consumed. It might be nice to do so again soon.>>720172
Border nods gravely in the dim blue light. "Your family will be safe. I have already made certain of that. Nothing has changed for them. However, I would again caution against sharing openly that you have seen Ambit with anypony." Border takes a deep breath, gazes through the window at the black crystal alicorn frozen in flight. "I am afraid that my …brother… has incurred the wrath of some powerful individuals, and although he is well hidden, as you have discovered he is not unfindable."
He pauses a moment. "Of course he will be moved very soon; he was already scheduled for relocation, but now that this position has been compromised… Anyway, any information you have will soon be utterly useless, but that will not stop more… devoted forces to seek it out nonetheless." He looks back to Falling. "I would not tell you this unless I believed it would be worth it, Falling. I trust you. More than I should, perhaps. On your young shoulders the future of Horizon may yet rest. But you must keep this secret for now.">>720173
"Yeah yeah, keep your panties on," her voice calls out from behind the door. "I'm trying to find a helmet that will fit over your fat head." A few moments later and Starfish emerges, holding a beat-up looking black helmet and a only-slightly-outdated fogsuit. "Doesn't have a horn-hole," she apologizes as she reaches into her empty pack.
Hat Magic [1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
Em taps her hoof to her chin and, without thinking toonhard about it, heads down the left path.
Starfish pulls out a small saw-like tool. "Ah, yes!" She flips a switch with her wing, but nothing happens. She flips it several more times to no avail. She pops a hatch on the bottom open and peers inside, then looks to Cit, cocking a sideways grin. "Spare me a battery?"
Continuing with the thought. Celestia decides to bug the bug. "Do you know where I can find some tea and spaghetti?
" He asks of the changeling. While heading down the same path as her. The question is accompanied by a small rumble of his belly.
"H'm?" Em glances briefly over her shoulder. "Oh. Probably in the kitchen. Those are usually on the first floor, though. Should we turn around?"
She flashes her eyebrows at Starfish in silent greeting, digging around and passing her the charged battery for earlier. "Plenty more where that came from. Leastways there will be."
Celestia gives a disdainful look toward the stairs behind them. "I don't want to walk back down here, so I guess we will go.
" He gives little grumble and rubs his plush belly. He could wait. Mini told him he was a strong boy!
Em begins trekking down the left path. The pheromone scent grows in intensity, until it seems to almost be boring into her brain. She almost has no choice but to follow it, now.
It leads down the stairs, down a hallway, and to another short stairway.
There is a sound in the air that gives Em pause; a low voice appears to be singing a monotone sort of song, with words that are not quite comprehensible. She can see candlelight flickering from the bottom of the stairway, where the voice is coming from. She is not able to see into the chamber, except that it has a natural crystal floor, probably carved out from the foundation itself.>>720181
The thought of Mini gives Celestia strength. Her little pony face, her big adorable laugh, the way she squeezed him almost uncomfortably tight. He pushes thoughts of hunger aside and clambers on behind the strange goat-pony who burned him. This has to be the quickest way to find the ponies, right? Right.>>720180
Starfish takes the powercell and jams it into the small saw, flips the latch closed and turns the thing on. It makes a satisfying little buzz as a cutting edge begins to glow and vibrate slightly. Satisfied, Starfish turns it off, then moves in close to Cit, before seeming to realize that this level of physical closeness might be uncomfortable.
"May I?" She doesn't wait for an answer as she leans it close to examine Cit's horn, then glares at the helmet for a few seconds, then back and forth a couple times. If Cit tries to speak, she shushes her.
Starfish's expression is intensely serious as she brings the tool to bear on the helmet, cutting a perfectly round circle out of the front. Taking another look at Cit's horn, she makes a face, then cuts an edge of the hole so it's no longer perfectly round but instead slightly oblong. The cutting tool works like a charm, and before long, the helmet is successfully modified. "Ta-da!" Starfish holds it out triumphantly to Cit. "Try it on!"
If she does so, Cit finds that the hole is perfectly matched to her horn so that the helmet sits comfortably tight around it.
Em's nose twitched as the pheromone trail grew stronger. "We'll get something to eat when we get done with this," she says. "But right now we finally found someone. Let's go ask if they've seen a map!"
She puts her flask away and speeds up, heading toward the voice.
[1d10]Keeping her footing the last stretch of stairsRoll #1 4 = 4
Celestia prods at the changeling like the toddler he is and asks the age old question of traveling groups with children. "Where is the pony room?
" He asks Em as they move on.
Falling is slightly eased at hearing Border say he's taken measure to keep her family safe, but she's still very much shaken. But still keeping some sense f lightheartedness, she raises a hoof and draws it across her muzzle.
"M-My lips are sealed. I won't tell anypony about what I saw here."
She assures, taking a moment to collect herself.
"S-So, which way did you say was to get back?"
Em cocks an eyebrow, not entirely understanding the question. "Wouldn't that be all the rooms?"
She watches with curiosity as Starfish customizes the helmet, eagerly trying it on, fitting the freshly cut hole snugly around her horn. She fiddles with the straps until it's comfortable. "How do I look?" she asks Starfish and KC. The latter does a "so-so" gesture, to which she responds with an unhappy frown.
Celestia shakes their head. Trying to think of a way to describe it. "It is more private, only one pony goes in a time. It has a water bowl and a mirror. Sometimes with some other stuff. They are in all the houses and buildings!
" Celestia exclaims. Trying to describe what a bathroom is. Sucess rate in doing so is undetermined.
Em continues forward without looking ahead, now completely focused on the conundrum the doll has presented to her. "Is this a riddle?" She asks. "I'm not very good at riddles. A bowl of water and a mirror, and they go in alone… sounds like some place spooky to me, like some place to summon bad things from relfections! Was Mini an evil wizard? It would make sense if she brought a doll to life."
Celestia shakes his head. "Mini isn't a wizard, much less an evil one! I came to her!
" He exclaims quite loudly to the changeling. Mini, evil? He scoffs internally. He learned that one from father.
Em is a little too excited, and misses one of the last steps as she trots down. It doesn't help that there is an abrupt shift in one style of steps to another, as the stone design gives way to rough carved crystal. She zigs where she should have zagged, gets her legs somehow crossed, and tumbles hoof over head into the opening of a large chamber, lit with dozens, maybe hundreds of candles. A lone baritone voice fills the air with his strange song.
Em manages to land in a sitting position, looking backwards at the stairs, where a bemused-looking plush pony is watching her.>>720186>>720190>>720192
Celestia's conversation is cut short as the goat-pony leading the way suddenly speeds up, rushing down a flight of stairs. Celestia has to hurry to keep up. At the bottom, however, his friend loses her balance and rolls into the room, landing facing backward through the door, looking at Celestia.>>720187
Border smiles comfortingly. "I know you won't. You are a very smart, very mature young mare. I would not have trusted you if I did not know you could be trusted."
He looks somewhere behind her, gives an almost imperceptible nod. Behind her, a pony that was not there before, dressed in a strange dark armor with a dark helmet, steps close. He is carrying some sort of rifle, but it is held against his chest and not pointed at either of them.
"My friend Walker here will escort you," Border says, as casual as you please. "I trust our plans for tomorrow still stand? Let's meet in Diamond's pavilion, a couple hours after dawn. Say, 08:00?"
The armored pony, apparently named Walker, stands nearby, his face invisible behind the visor of his dark helmet. He does not acknowledge Falling but stands at the ready to lead her to the elevator.>>720189
As the helmet goes over her head, Cit can hear Starfish cackling. "Looks great! Hey, I'm pretty good at this! Looks like we have two
business ideas now!"
She examines the fog-suit in her hooves. "I think this will fit you. You'll have to tie off the wings, of course, but we're going for form over fashion here." She makes a few adjustments and hands it over. "Alright, see if this works for ya. If not, we'll figure something out."
(please roll to see if it'll be fogtight)
"You shouldn't be running inside, Mom always told Mini she would trip and fall. Now look at you.
" Celestia scolds the changeling from above. As he slowly descends down to join him past the door.
"I'd cross my fingers if I had any." She tries to pull the fogsuit on, squirming into it and fidgeting to try and make it fit.
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
Em grumbles and straightens herself. "Let's just find the guy with thr deep voice." She cups a hoof over her mouth. "Heeeey! Have you seen a map?!"
Falling nearly jumps in surprise as an armored, gun-toting pony steps out from nowhere. With how casual Border is, and the gun being held back, she eases back down.
"Hello Walker. Nice to meet you."
She says, being polite, but the tone is still on edge. She looks back to Border and nods.
"Right. I wouldn't miss it."
She says, finally having a small smile again as things seem to get slightly back to normal topics. She looks to Walker, ready to be escorted out.
As Celestia enters the cavernous chamber, he realizes that it is not like the rest of the building. Whereas the basement and sub-basement levels had a uniform, if unique, type of structure, with decorated tile floors, ornate wooden doorways and straight right angles, this chamber feels different. It is carved out from the crystal. It has rough floors, round corners, countless small alcoves which contain candles (the source of the flickering light in the room; there must be hundreds). At the fore of the room appears to be a raised platform, in front of which a robed pony with his back to Celestia and Em is droning out a series of what are probably words. It's almost musical, except it is lacking in rhythm and melody.
Celestia's friend yells something. Two figures approach, one on either side. They appear to be armed.>>720197
The chamber Em has stumbled into appears to have been carved out from the underside of the town, and appears to extend beyond even the edges of the outside of the building itself. It is huge, and lit with hundreds of candles set into holes in all of the surrounding walls, but especially at the rear of the chamber, which appears to be some sort of stage, or perhaps an apse; in the center of this, a solid-looking table with a strange shape sits, looking ominous and heavy.
The chanting pony does not pause as Em's voice rings out. However, two shapes begin to move from their previously incognito positions. One is a bright orange changeling wielding a nasty-looking large knife; the other, a dark maroon changeling holding a contraption that looks a bit like a club. He is certainly holding it like one as he bears down on Em.>>720198
Walker nods slightly as she mentions his name. It is hard to tell if he is even looking at her.
Border has already turned back to the window to gaze at Ambit. "Neither would I."
Walker nods again as she moves to follow, and leads her back out the door she entered by. They pass through the room of technological cylinders. Falling gets a closer look at some of these as they pass; each one seems to have a window, similar to Ambit's humongous tank. Through these she spots a few faces; most look peacefully asleep, a few are covered in the gem-like growths of advanced fog affliction, and one face in particular has a hauntingly tortured expression.
They arrive at the elevator door by which Border arrived. It opens automatically as they approach. Walker stops, holding his rifle at the ready, nods her on to the open cubic chamber of the elevator while standing a respectful distance back.
Starfish gives a sour look at the results. "Hmm. There's promise here, but it's not… quite… there." She fiddles with the suit on Cit as she talks.
Fiddling with the suit [1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
Em yips as she sees the changelings come out of seemingly nowhere and, assuming they're ghosts, casts a spell. Her catylist glows and a holy light bathes the room as she targets the one with the knife.
[1d10]Return to EarthRoll #1 2 = 2
"There!" Starfish takes a step back after securing the wings together. The effect is that it is a little tighter in an uncomfortable way, but at least she seems satisfied. "That oughtta keep you gem-free. Now, for the finishing touch." She rustles around in her bag, producing a small sponge-like disk. "This one is brand new. Should last you a while; they're good for like 2 weeks exposure. Less if you're doing a lot of heavy breathing." She grins lasciviously. "Don't go gettin' any ideas, kid. Gems can grow where the sun don't shine, too." She lets out another husky cackle.
Celestia decides to head to the robed pony, to ask a few questions on his mind. Mostly about why the heck(pardon my prench) the place is made of crystal and why he is being noisy. Along with an assortment of other questions that came to his mind as he walks to the other pony.
NonCombat Talent:[Monster in the closet]: passive; Celestia Hides inside a life-sized that makes others believe Celestia is only the cavalier minion as long as he is inside giving a +2 to any stealth related rolls.
[1d10+2] Being ignored approachRoll #1 9 + 2 = 11
She doesn't seem very amused by Starfish joking about crystal infection, giving a forced smile. She takes the filter and tries to fit it into her helmet.
[1d10] Tinkering if needed
"Hey, uh. Thanks," she says to Starfish. "For the gear, I mean. It's perfect. Really." She keeps moving to get comfortable with the new suit. "So. When are we doing this? Tonight?"Roll #1 9 = 9
Falling follows behind Walker, walking silently through the building. As they pass the cylinders, she glances into one. Seeing the gem encrusted pony, she immediately looks back forward, not wanting to learn anything more about this place.
When they reach the elevator, Falling looks to Walker.
"Thank you Walker. I don't think I would've been able to find my way out of there myself."
She says in thanks, stepping into the elevator. She presses the button to go up, and waves goodbye to Walker as she ascends.
Em attempts to cast a banishing spell. Either it fails or these changelings are already in their natural state; either way, the effect is such that nothing is altered. They completely ignore the spell as if it didn't occur, although they had to have seen the catalyst glowing. Although they come quite close, they do not make any moves to attack.
"Please be quiet," the maroon changeling says in a quiet, strangely pleading voice. "Queen is sleeping, and we mustn't awaken her."
"Not yet," says the bright orange changeling, his scary large knife at his side. "We mustn't yet," he repeats, a strange look in his eye.
"Come with us," says the maroon changeling.
"With us," echoes the orange one.
It becomes apparent that this is not a request as they grip Em by either foreleg and begin to walk her along the back wall of the room, off toward one of many side tunnels which lead from the main chamber into the darkness.
Em can sense a strong pheromone trail leading down the tunnel they are heading toward.
Celestia is nowhere to be seen.>>720203
Celestia has managed to completely fly under the radar; as the two armed bug-ponies accost his troublesome cohort, the plushy toy pony waltzes up a sort of aisleway toward the singing robed pony with his back to the room. He does not stop singing as Celestia approaches, and as the toy gets closer, he is surprised to see that what he had assumed was a pony, or at least a pony-shaped being, is, underneath its threadbare robe, some sort of reptilian creature. It has scaly metallic skin, colored a deep crimson with gold around its eyes and atop its head under the robe. Its eyes are closed and it continues to sing its monotone song, unresponsive. >>720205
The spongey filter fits right into a slot meant for it, which snaps shut afterwards with a satisfying click.
Starfish shrugs as Cit squirms around in her old suit. "Tonight's fine. Depends what you wanna do first. So," she starts, reiterating the choices from earlier. "We could hit the Six Arms tonight. That's the joint I was telling you about," she explains. "With the rough crowd. Tonight's gonna be a banger there. Alternatively, the dogs are around pretty much any time. It's kind of a secret entrance I found, down near the west village. Either way, we should probably get ready for some action. Wish Golden was around. Think he's working his bar job tonight." She taps her hoof against her chin thoughtfully.>>720206
Walker does not respond as she fares him well. When she turns around to face him, he is nowhere to be seen. Vanished.
The elevator ride up is not nearly as exciting as the ride down. She cannot see any of the city as she ascends, and after a boring minute, something dings and the door opens, leading to the walkway through the Alpha sector she came there by. The crowd from earlier has mostly dispersed. Diamond is nowhere to be seen.
It is about a half hour walk to home, which leads her by the Central Spire through the Gamma sector. It is late afternoon, and Falling knows that Sealed Scroll is waiting for her; magic lessons are today. Better hurry home!
"Hm." She weighs the options. "Think the Six Arms would be a good bet. Who are these Dog fellows? I don't think I've met them before."
Falling considers writing in her journal as she rides the elevator to spend the time, but doing so would leave evidence of what she saw. Her head hangs low, the day's events hanging over her like a dark cloud, no matter how hings improve it'll always be there hinting at bad news to come.
She walks home in a slow trot, the lessons far from her head. She collects herself enough in that time to put on a happy face when she walks inside, but her focus is shot for the day.>Good to timeskip
Feeling annoyed by being ignored. Celestia wishes for a marker to be in his grasp. For some reason, it isn't there when he looks. Strange. Plan B! He decides to give his patented grade A surprise hugs! Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.
Grappler: passive; Trained in melee and close quarters combat, you overpower foes easily in such situations. You have +1 to all rolls when making non-combat actions to grapple, subdue, restrain, or in any way preventing a target from moving with your own body. You can apply this bonus in combat to remove an enemy from combat without killing them, but only when they’re the only enemy in their zone and helpless, or on very low health.
Suppress: recharge 1 after letting go, weapon; Renders target helpless. After success, can keep taking automatic actions to keep the target pinned. If this action is not taken, the target gets up.
[1d10+1]Roll #1 2 + 1 = 3
Oh. They're not attacking. Maybe they're not bad ghosts. "Uh, okay? Sure. You guys haven't happened to have seen a map, have you?"
Starfish raises an eyebrow. "Diamond dogs? Immune to the fog? Live underground?" She waves a hoof at Cit. "Nevermind, you'll see."
"Eyup, Six Arms might be a good place to start. 'Specially tonight. There's a race on." She grins widely. "Gonna be a banger alright." She looks at KC, then back. "Y'know, I don't know if I asked you yet. You watch the races?"
She refers to the airship racing circles, a favorite of both the rich and poor of Horizon. The official games take place in safe, off-limits arenas with a safe margin of error, little danger to the pilots and the official rules strictly enforced.
Starfish is not referring to the official games.
Illegal street racing is even more wildly popular, with the stakes greatly raised due to the innate danger of the sport. Despite multiple attempts by the police to shut them down, the races continue, and are only gaining in popularity. >>720209
Sealed Scroll definitely notices her lack of concentration; although he doesn't mention it, he cuts off the lesson early. Dinner is delicious, as always, but Falling barely tastes it as her mind is elsewhere.
When she returns to bed, there is a letter from Diamond. It reads:
"Dear Falling, Sorry I lost track of you today! I looked all around, but you had completely disappeared. I waited at the Three Legged Dog, but you didn't come back. Sad! Anyway, I'm home now, I guess I'll see you in the morning. Border sent me a letter saying to meet him at the pavilion at 8, so I guess I'll see you there, too. Love, Diamond
Falling sleeps without dreaming and awakens as light starts to trickle through the window to her bedroom. It is dawn.>>720210
Celestia attempts to tackle/hug the singing robed lizard. The robe is very misleading, however, and what Celestia assumed would be the bulk of the creature was mostly empty air. He kind of fumbles into the lizard and bounces off, landing sideways on the ground unhugging and unhugged. How sad!
The lizard continues its singing unabated, although one bright yellow eye opens and peers at Celestia.>>720211
The pair continue to drag Em through a darkened portal. She hears the changeling to one side of her say, "A map? What's that?"
"What's that? A map?" says the other one.
They pull her through the darkened tunnel, through another large chamber, much less brightly lit than the one with the chanting robed figure and the altar.
This room appears to have a large, obese changeling female sitting behind a large writing desk stacked high with books, loose scrolls, parchment scraps and empty bottles of ink. She appears to be scribbling furiously as they enter, and does not look up.>>719938
Jiandao has a restful night in the flawless bed and awakens at dawn, refreshed. The window still has its curtain drawn to block the outside world.
She realizes that there is a letter waiting on the floor near the doorway.
Waking from her night's sleep, Jiandao Busies herself with preparing the morning tea, brushing and securing her mane and finally moving the curtains open before opening the letter, sipping her leaf broth as she reads.
Celestia decides to get up after his failure of a hug introduction and decides to use mouth words instead. "Hello, my name is Celestia. May I give you a hug?
" He asks the unhugged creature before him.
"Oh, you mean the… Right. I thought there was like a gang called the Dogs I hadn't met or something. Heh."
"Sometimes, yeah. You know me though, that's not really my crowd. Guess I'll have to start hanging with them though. Hm." KC has a look of concern, but doesn't voice his reservations about the Six Arms. Mostly because he can't.
"I reckon I'll get started on juicing up these batteries," she says, starting to take off the fog suit and proceeding to do just that, giving the charger a bit of a jolt of lightning as she slots in the first empty battery. "That way we'll have some goods to show 'em. Right?"
[1d10] ZapRoll #1 4 = 4
"Oh, it's a thing that tells you where you are or where other things are." She looks up at the fat queen and her nose crinkles a little. "Uh, guys? What are we doing?"
She channels energy into her catylist.
[1d22]Roll #1 22 = 22
Falling opens the letter as she enters her bedroom. She frowns, upset that she ended up abandoning Diamond, especially when she was trying to cheer her up. She tosses her bag aside, changing into some pajamas, and hopping onto the bed. She looks over at her bag, levitating her journal to her. She know there are some bits she can' write, but she scribbles away at some events to recall for the day.
Falling wakes up, feeling no less tired or refreshed from last night. A blank sleep, more like she blinked at it suddenly went from night to dawn.[Did that really happen yesterday? Was it yesterday even?
She thinks, and for once not opening her journal to double check.
However, she does remember she was to meet Diamond and Border at the pavilion. She hops out of bed, and goes through her morning routine of showering, brushing her mane, and then putting on a nice dress before grabbing some breakfast and heading out.
The curtain pulls back to reveal a breathtaking view of Horizon's central spire and garden district, although it is no big deal to Jiandao who has already seen the same view from even more breathtaking vantage points. Still, it really is quite pretty.
The letter is from her supposed employer. It reads,
"Jiandao,Thank you again for your services. Please meet me when you receive this in the Garden District. There is a living tree formed into a small gazebo along the main walk on the sun level; you cannot miss it. I will be waiting there. Regards, Border
The lizard opens both eyes to look at Celestia. His arms, which have been clasped before him, separate momentarily, revealing a five fingered appendage at the end. With one of these he offers a quick signal to Celestia, its meaning unknown. He does appear to be aware of her presence and acknowledging her asking for attention, however, which is probably a good sign.
He continues singing for a while.>>720215
Starfish gives her a look. "Heh."
"Well, the races aren't really the important part here. The Six Arms, though, it's owned by one of the bigger families in the underground. Lots of betting on the races happens there. Lots of money for …other things… rolls through there, too." Her vagueness doesn't seem too encouraging, her tone less so. "I mean, so we'll probably be totally fine. We're just gonna go talk some business with some ponies, propose some kinda deal. They can say yeah, they can say no. These guys are professionals. We won't be in any danger." She looks KC over thoughtfully. "Though it can't hurt to bring some muscle to the the table." She cracks her award-winning grin. "Whatever it takes, right?"
The first battery charges right up to max. A good amount of teal fog floats out of the vent, landing on the floor and lingering for a bit before slowly dissipating into the air.
Starfish watches the process. "The hell's that?" she demands, pointing at the blue/green fog coming from the side of the machine. "It supposed to do that?">>720217
"Why would you need to know that? You are here."
"You are here," the other repeats. They come to a stop in front of the desk.
"Hello, B," they say in unison. The female changeling sighs, stops writing, looks up and rolls her eyes. Her voice is nasal and throaty, with an almost melodic tone to her speech.
The maroon changeling pushes Em a little forward. "This one's from outside." He sniffs at her. "She's Kind, but not from here."
"She's Kind, not of the Hive," say the orange one.
The large female changeling eyes Bubbling Flask's visage. "Is that true? Are you of the Kind?" She harrumphs a little, puts her quill away, scoots away from her large desk and rubs her large black eyes. "Where do you come from, child? Why do you come here, come to us?">>720218
"Off already? Have a great day!" Her parents feed her and send her off, grateful that she's spending more time outside and blissfully ignorant of the danger that Falling has blundered into.
The young mare prepares for the day and departs along the familiar path to the Garden District. The morning sun shines bright against the reflective crystal surfaces of the cityscape of Horizon. Soon she arrives at the area of the park where she and Diamond designed and crafted the attractive and popular pavilion. She does not see Border or Diamond nearby. That's okay; she knows she is a bit early still.