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.