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About NiktoBarada

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    Tongue Twister

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  1. About an hour later - after checking his shop to make sure everything was still there - Caveat returned home. Where Shady Dealer was writing equations on a chalkboard. A LOT of equations. Equations using math so advanced it didn't even use numbers anymore. "Uhm, honey ? What are you doing ?" he asked. "Trying to figure out how much trouble our daughter is in." she replied without even looking away from the board. "There are equations for that sort of thing ?" "There are equations for everything !" Shady replied, "You just need the right data." She then sighed heavily before stating "And I have more than enough." He noticed she had her wings held tight against her body and her tail was partly tucked under; she was distressed. He gave her a hug and kissed her just beneath her left ear. "So, how bad is it ?" Shady collected her thoughts for moment. "Well, in order to simplify the equations, I assumed there were only two kinds of actors - 'good' and 'evil'. Good groups are working for the good of themselves and Equestria, while evil groups are only out for themselves. Meaning that they will be sabotaging each other, while good groups usually don't harm other good groups. The upshot of all those interactions is that good groups are larger but fewer in number, with more resources and tend to last longer, while evil groups are far more numerous but volatile, in a constant state of depletion/replacement. The evil groups are in a constant state of 'all against all'. As long as all evil groups have roughly equal resources, there can never be a winner amongst them." Caveat thought for a moment. "So they'd each be looking for a Big Score. Something to give themselves an edge over everyone else." "Exactly !" Shady replied, "And once one group takes an interest in something, all other groups will follow suit. Either to get the Advantage for themselves, or level the field by denying the Advantage to others. Even the 'good' groups follow that logic." Caveat could follow her logic, and didn't like where it was going. "So, how bad are things going to get ?" "There is a ninety eight percent chance that AT LEAST TWO covert groups interested in her !" Shady exclaimed, "Seventy two percent chance it's two evil groups, twenty seven percent chance of one good/one evil, bit less of one percent chance of two good groups." "Hmmm. Those are winnable scenarios." Caveat stated, "She can either ally herself with a 'good' group, or just turn the two following her against each other." "THIS ISN'T SOME ABSTRACT GAME CAVEAT !" Shady yelled at him, "This is OUR DAUGHTER'S LIFE !" "You think I don't know that ?!" he replied, "She's not a helpless little filly ! She was never helpless. She inherited my stubborness, your silver tongue, and relentless drive and sneakiness from both of us ! I almost feel sorry for the fools plotting to use her. Heh ! Almost !" he finished with a big grin and a chuckle.
  2. "Well, it IS the treasure this vault was meant to protect !" Polar Vortex shouted back. Tongue Twister sighed as she dropped slightly and hovered over the pit. "No, it isn't. It's just a minor item meant to fool intruders into thinking they've found the valuables and not searching more thoroughly." The giant leeches sensed her body heat and headed straight for her. Having almost no intelligence, they activated the pit's triggers and fell right in. "So, you mean the REAL valuables are hidden somewhere else ?" "Of course. The level of lethality we've seen so far is way in excess of the material value of that ceremonial necklace. Which means there's a secret door somewhere in here we haven't found yet." "What about those two doors over there ?" Polar Vortex stated with a wing motion. Tongue Twister went over and looked at them each carefully. She pulled a feather out of her wing and used it to probe around the crack around the doors. "These aren't doors." she stated with a smirk, "They're just carvings on the wall meant to look like doors." "But they have handles and locks !" "Mere distractions." TT replied as she carefully stood beside the door and depressed the handle - and a pit opened in front of the door, where she would've been standing. "These locks don't actually do anything - they're just meant to waste a thief's time." she stated as she carefully used a feather like a lockpick - half a dozen spikes shot from the wall ! If she'd been standing where a thief would've been, two spikes would've gone through her head. Another pair through her neck. The last pair through her chest. A few seconds later, the pit opened up and the spikes retracted. "Hmm - a trap that cleans up after itself. Truly state of the art !" she stated before writing down her observations in her notebook, "And you'll note that they worked perfectly. So no more assuming the traps won't work !" "Now where to start looking for the secret door ?" she mused to herself before noticing a discoloration on the floor in front of the alcove where that necklace used to be. "See that ? It's water damage." TT explained to Polar Vortex, "The bane of all underground sites. No matter how well built or sealed, eventually water leaks in and ruins everything. There must be a passageway behind this 'wall'." She tried the usual technique of pushing on the walls and ledges to see if anything moved. But nothing did. Then she noticed the pegs that once held the necklace could move slightly. "Could you put that necklace back Polar Vortex ? I think it has to be in place for the triggers to work." He shrugged, but grudgingly put it back. Then a simple push on the shelf's back wall caused the wall to swivel open. TT peered into the darkness, and noted that the hallway curved to the left. They headed into the narrow hallway, splashing in the shallow water on the floor the whole time. "I hope the rest of this vault isn't flooded." she stated, "Otherwise we're going to have to bring in a team with the proper equipment to complete the job." After what she thought was a few loops, they came upon an actual door at the end of the hallway. She examined the door, and noted a single glyph inscribed upon it - a rounded off square with nothing inside. "So, does that mean there's nothing to worry about beyond this point ?" Polar Vortex asked. "Most certainly not !" stated TT, "Ancient Quetzalcoatlan used symbols to represent phonemes and syllables inside a square shape. There is usually a gap in the border to indicate where the next syllable is - they didn't write left to right as we do, but in a continuous line that could go back and forth, up and down, or even in spirals if the writer wanted to. The 'empty square' is o'hm' - it represents the unknowable. The mysterious. In other words - MAGIC. Whatever defenses are beyond this door are based on magic."
  3. "Well, THAT was a horrid little adventure ! " Shady Dealer exclaimed as she and her husband Caveat Emptor entered their home in Canterlot, "But that stopover in the Crystal Empire was sort of fun ! Those rooms in the hotel were sweEEEet ! I've never seen a tub that big made of pure crystal before. At least not in a room we could afford." "Well, it IS the Crystal Empire dearest." Caveat replied with a chuckle, "Pretty much everything there is made of crystal. Even the Royal Gardens. And sometimes the ponies." "Yeah. We really need to spend a week or two there." Shady replied before getting a sweet smile, "Our thirty fifth anniversary is coming up in a few months ..." Caveat smiled. "I'll start making the arrangements." he stated before planting a gentle kiss behind her left ear. Their tender moment was interrupted by a knock on the door. "Now who could that be ?" Caveat asked Shady as he headed to the door and opened it. Two stallions in grey suits were standing there - an Earth pony and a unicorn. "Greetings Caveat Emptor. Shady Dealer." the unicorn stated with a nod to each, "My associate and I are from the Royal Equestrian Artifact Fraud and Recovery Agency. It is our understanding that you two have recently returned from an impromptu expedition to Tenochtitlan." "Yes. We have. How did you know about that ?" Shady inquired while subtly twitching her right ear forward twice - a signal to her husband : 'they are trying to scam us'. He merely grinned in reply. "It is our job to know everything." the earth pony agent stated, "Especially when the safety of Equestria is involved. Now what, if anything, did you find there ?" "Nothing but a whole lot of trouble." Caveat replied with a sigh, "It was some sort of ancient vault full of death traps. Old, decrepit death traps, but death traps nonetheless. We didn't get very far in before our luck ran out and we got caught in a pit trap." "Yeah. And if we didn't know a way to call our daughter for help, we could've died there !" Shady stated, "Wait - WE COULD HAVE DIED THERE ?!?!" she squeaked then grabbed Caveat with her wings, "If you hadn't used that Remote Presence spell, no one would have known where we were ! No one would realize we were missing for weeks, if not months ! We couldn't die quickly from the spikes, but we would have starved to death in a pit in a vault in the middle of nowhere !" "Now calm down dearest !" Caveat replied while giving her a hug, "Focusing on horrible things that COULD have happened will only make you miserable." "So, you didn't find anything ? Or bring anything back ?" the unicorn agent asked. Caveat glared at him. "No. We didn't find anything to bring back. We didn't even see anything remotely valuable." "I see. Now, your daughter. Why did you call her ? Is she a professional adventurer ?" Shady's rage flared up, but she quickly hid it. She didn't want her only child involved in any more trouble. "No. She's a linguist. She studies languages. The only examples of the older ones are in ancient tombs and vaults, so she has experience dealing with their hazards." "Could she have retrieved something from the vault then ?" the earth pony agent asked. "We have no idea !" Shady replied, "She was still back in that horrible place when we left !" "Now, how could we get in contact with her ?" the unicorn agent asked, "We just need to ask her some questions. Make sure there are no loose ends, or pending threats." Shady and Caveat looked to each other. "We're not really sure how you'd contact her via regular means." Caveat stated as he scratched his ear, "She used to work for the Manehattan Museum of Natural History, but they downsized her." "She was looking into jobs elsewhere - Baltimare, Fillydelphia, the Crystal Empire - but hasn't told us where she relocated to yet." Shady continued, "We've been waiting for weeks to hear something definite from her." "She rescued you two from an ancient vault." the unicorn agent stated, "So you've had contact with her recently ! She didn't tell you where she was working ?" "It didn't come up at the time !" Shady snarled at him, "She was too busy rescuing us to make small talk ! And I didn't think of asking where she was working ! It didn't seem too important ! I'm sure we'll get a letter from her explaining everything in a few days." The two agents mulled it over. "Thank you for your time. We will be in touch if we require anything further of you." the unicorn agent stated as they headed for the door and left. After a few minutes to make sure they were really gone, Shady asked her husband "Do you think they bought it ?" "Probably not." he replied, "But it will take them a day or two to check their sources to figure that out." "Oh great ! Even though we bought her some time, we sent some organization with dubious motives after OUR ONLY FOAL !!" Shady stammered. Caveat mused for a moment. "She is not without resources or wit, dearest. She said she was in a 'Scenario 12 B'. Since she is part of an organization trying to remain hidden, they will deal with anyone asking questions about their agents or employees." "But what if that gets her in more trouble ?" "Then we will give her whatever help we can !" he replied, "Perhaps you should give your relatives and old 'business acquaintances' back in Las Pegasus a head's up to look for trouble. I'll see if I can call in some favors in case they're needed." Road on the way out of Canterlot "You do know they were lying to us, right ?" the earth pony, Agent Smash, asked his accomplice. "Of course." Agent Grab replied, "They were both very good at it. Probably from being married for so long. But we do know they didn't get anything from the vault." "Which means their daughter might. Where do we start tracking her down ?" Agent Grab thought for a moment. "They claimed she used to work for the Manehattan Museum. Perhaps some inquiries there may pay off - they'd need to know where to send any last paychecks or paperwork. Or she spoke with other workers." Smash smiled. "So we're not wasting time looking in Baltimare, Fillydellphia or the Crystal Empire then ?" Grab scoffed. "Of course not ! They were just tossing out cities at random as diversions to waste our time."
  4. After a few more turns of the corridor (which mirrored the ones on the way in - Tongue Twister checked !), they came to another room like the first : a long triangle with the points rounded, representing a snake's head. "Wait. They gave the snake TWO heads ?" Polar Vortex inquired. "Yes. Makes it twice as dangerous." TT replied, "Attack one head, the other bites you; attack the body, and BOTH heads bite you !" "These primitive ponies were disturbed and outright weird." Tongue Twister gave him a glare that would freeze a forest fire solid. "No. They valued different things than you do, and expressed their ideas differently. That does NOT make them 'disturbed' or 'outright weird' !" "Well, if they were so great, how come they aren't around any more ?" Polar Vortex asked with a smug grin, rendering her stunned by his sheer ignorance. "Funny how these so-called smart ponies always go silent when confronted with True Logic !!!!!!" Polar Vortex mused to himself when she still hadn't recovered after three seconds. She finally managed to focus through her rage to reply. "The hypothesis with the greatest consensus is that they were done in by climate change. They created artificial islands and farmed them heavily, getting seven harvests a year. Then the rivers dried up. Less food led to more stress led to civil wars. What caused the drought is still under investigation. No amount of magical or tech greatness can help when there isn't enough food and everyone is fighting for scraps. Do you 'think' Equestria would hold together for long if food production dropped to ten percent ?" "We'd last longer than these ponies did, that's for sure !" he replied as he started down the exit, "We'd probably solve the problem quickly and easily, because we're better !" Rather than get into an argument with a blockhead, TT looked for signs that her parents came this way. And soon found one - two sets of hoofprints in the dust leading up to a door. The door opened into a large room, longer than it was wide, and very high. The walls were covered with circles of various sizes, all with a line through them, turned at random angles. On the far wall was an alcove with what looked like a gold necklace resting on a shelf, and a closed door to each side of it. The middle third of the floor was taken up by a massive eight by eight grid of tiles with Quetzalcoatlan numbers on them. TT did a quick check, and there was no discernable pattern to them. Equal numbers of odd and even numbers, ranging from one to nineteen with many repeats, but no repeats within a given row. "Sweet Celestia ! A MATH puzzle !" Polar stated with more than a hint of terror in his voice, "And there are no hints painted on the walls this time ! Just lots and lots of circles with lines through the middle of them !" "Then it's a good thing we're not here to solve the puzzle, isn't it ?" she replied as she took to the air for a better look. Her parent's hoofprints stayed in the left wall border, but only went halfway across the tiled area, then simply disappeared. They'd never reached the other side of the room. "MOM ! DAD ! YOU IN HERE ?" she shouted. "TT ? Is that you ?" "We're down here !" came her parent's muffled voices from under the floor. Remaining in the air, she depressed one of the tiles at random, triggering the pit trap. As expected, the whole tiled area opened like a pair of doors hinged at the front and back. Tongue Twister flapped extra hard and fast to keep from being pulled down into the pit by the vacuum the swinging doors had generated. Moments later, a dark grey blur streaked out of the pit and hovered near the ceiling. It was an older pegasus mare, with a dark stormcloud grey coat and a mane of straight black hair, woven into braids with strands of palest gray (usually kept immaculate, but currently frazzled). Her red vest and skirt were smeared with millennia old dust. Tongue Twister's mother, Shady Dealer, obviously did NOT have a good day ! "FREE AT LAST !" Shady cried out in sheer joy as she zoomed around the room, refusing to touch down. So TT flew up to intercept her with an embrace. "This place is HORRIBLE !" Shady exclaimed, "I want to go home !" "Yes. I know. That's probably best for everyone mom." TT replied. "Uhm, I'm still down here." a voice from the pit stated. Shady and TT looked at each other, then dived as one into the pit to retrieve TT's father, a heavy set tan unicorn with white socks, and a light brown mane and tail - Caveat Emptor. Once they put him safely on the floor (well away from the trap door), he cleaned his glasses, put them back on and asked "So, you got any snacks ? Some fresh water ? It was rather unhealthy down there !" Tongue Twister merely smiled at him and started hoofing over the many bags of dried fruits and bottles of water she'd brought for just this occassion. Then, with an echoing groan and a screech, the trapdoors slowly closed. "Daddy, where did you get all these dirt prints all over you ?" she asked after she noted them and tried using her wings to dust them off - they were shaped sort of like long, serrated triangles the color of rust. When she took a closer look at some of the dust on her wings, she noted that it WAS rust. "Probably down in that pit. There were hundreds of piles of dust down there !" he replied. TT mused for a bit, then carefully went to the edge of the trap, and carefully depressed one of the triggers. The trap opened again, and she peered inside. As her father had stated, there were many triangular piles of dust scattered all over the floor. And what looked three small tunnels on each wall. She jotted down a few notes. "Uhm, Daddy ? Those piles of rust used to be spikes !" she stated, "They were meant to impale and slash anyone that fell in the pit. The serrations worked like barbs on a fish hook, keeping the victim pinned to the floor. I suspect those tunnels lead to the outside, and allow small carnivores and scavengers to get into the pit to eat whatever was bleeding down there. This trap can dish out some well thought-out carnage ! That's - rather excessive for even a vault of this period. If they had used their standard bronze instead of iron, or even obsidian or flint for the spikes, you and mom would be dead !" When she turned back to them, Caveat had a blatantly fake smile on his face, and Shady looked horrified and twitchy. "Well, I think we've had enough adventure for the decade !" he finally stated as he hugged his wife, "I really think we should go home now ! Before our luck runs out !" "Oh, yes ! Of course ! Right this way ! Sorry !" TT replied as she trotted up to them, "Just go back the way you came in. All the traps are defunct. I'll be there to help you repack the mini-zep in just a few moments." Her parents looked at her with concern, but headed out. TT walked over to Polar Vortex, deep in thought. She really didn't want to be poking around in an ancient deathtrap, but given the level of security so far, whatever was in here might be dangerous. Better that she and STAR find it and deal with it now, before anypony else gets any funny ideas. "It should take just a few minutes for me to escort them back to the min-zep and get them safely on their way home, and return. Until then - DON'T. TOUCH. ANYTHING !" she punctuated with an accusing hoof and leaned in virtually nose to nose, "So far, all of the traps we've found have been defunct. But that doesn't mean all of them will be. And there may even be more traps in this room we haven't activated yet. If that pit trap is any hint as to what level of peril we're facing in here, I'd suggest being really, REALLY careful about collecting things and poking around !" With that, she turned on her heels and started out. Polar Vortex glared at her. He was HER superior officer ! He does NOT take orders from subordinates ! Scene : a few minutes later, out by the mini-zep. "Okay dear, we've been understanding so far, but WHAT IS GOING ON ?!" Shady Dealer asked, "Why did you move to Las Pegasus ? Why haven't you sent us any letters ? And who was the jarhead back there ?" "I - kind of have a new job now." TT answered quietly, looking everywhere but at her mom. "It's not something dangerous again, is it ?" Caveat pressed. "I'm in a Scenario Twelve B !" TT stammered as she flapped her wings as a nervous gesture. Caveat facehoofed while Shady looked confused. "Are you going to be needing any help to get out ?" Caveat asked as he gave her a quick hug. "No. I can handle it." TT replied, "One good thing about being a 'mere civilian' is that I'm easy to overlook." Caveat sighed. "Well, be sure to let us know if you need anything. Anything at all." "I know." Tongue Twister replied. "Sooooo - any idea of the easiest way to go home ?" Shady asked as she finished up loading a few things into the mini-zep, "We took the most direct route." "Yeah. From here, just head fifteen degrees south of true east. Keep the ice fields of the Frozen North miles but in sight to your left. After about an hour or two you'll see the Crystal Spires - gateway to the Crystal Empire. You can take a train back home. You should get there a bit after lunch." TT replied. After a few more good byes, Caveat stepped into the mini zeppelin and took off as Shady flew alongside. Tongue Twister watched them for a few moments before heading back into the Quetzalcoatlan vault. "What by Celestia's blessed pinions is a 'Scenario Twelve B' ?!" Shady Dealer asked her husband. "From the sourcebook of Ogres and Oubliettes." he replied, "They have an assortment of starting scenes for the game when running moderate to high level characters. They're modular and random, so the GMs can generate many different scenarios - one from column A, then one from column B, and so on. In a Scenario Twelve B, the characters join a vast and powerful but mysterious organization with unknown motives. They have to find out what is going on, and deal with the situation." "That's why she hasn't told us anything." Shady glumly deduced, "The less we know, the better off everypony will be." When Tongue Twister got back into the vault, Polar Vortex was staying near the ceiling, avoiding the now very wet floor, and doing his best to evade half a dozen giant leeches (each the length and thickness of the average pony's leg !) TT noticed an empty spot on the shelf where a gold necklace used to be. "You just HAD to grab the jewelry, didn't you ?" she yelled up at him after rolling her eyes.
  5. Scene : Caveat Emptor's shop in Canterlot, two hours after they left. A cobalt blue glow surrounds the door knob and the keyhole. A few moments later, the lock was picked. Two stallions slip inside - an Earth pony Agent Smash, and the unicorn Agent Grab. "Why are we searching this curio merchant's shop ?" Smash asked. "He recently purchased an old trunk from that old codger's granddaughter. He may have hidden a clue in there amongst the junk." "Who ? The curio merchant ?" Grab sighed. "No you dolt ! The old codger ! He found something about fifty years ago, and we really need to know what it was. It could be a valuable asset." "Well, good luck finding anything in here !" Smash replied as he wandered into the store, "Curio merchants rarely organize their shelves. They've noticed that the more effort a pony puts into finding something, the more likely they are to buy it. Looks like this one took that idea to an extreme." Grab noticed a pile of books on the bench. Every one of them a linguistics text. A good sign. "Hey Grab ! I found something ya should look at !" The unicorn walked into the backroom. One desk was covered with notes, and the blackboard on the wall had a list of page numbers and a list of many simple phrases in many different languages. "So, does this mean they found something ?" Grab smiled. "Most definitely ! Found his notes, AND deciphered them !" "That would explain why they left using a mini-zep instead of the train." Smash noted, "They needed to get someplace the trains don't run." Grab noticed there was an open atlas on the table, with a red circle marked on a spot on the northern edge of Tenochtitlan. "Well Agent Smash, this is our lucky day ! We know where they went, and I can probably determine the route they took there - so we know where to intercept them when they come back !" "So we follow standard protocol then ?" Smash inquired, "Let them retrieve the dingus, then steal it from them at the last minute ?" "Of course. But first, we update the Director with what we've found. We might have to keep an eye on the daughter as well." "Who ? The merchant's filly ? Whatever for ?" "They may have clued her in. She is their foal after all. Makes her a potential loose end." He then looked around furtively, then continued in hushed tones "And I suspect she could be Agent Kilroy." Smash quirked at eyebrow at his fellow agent. "Agent Kilroy ? The nigh mythological bogey* that has hobbled every agency's artifact acquisition missions for years ? The spook* rumored to know more about ancient magics than the Alicorn Quartet ? THAT Agent Kilroy ?" "Yes. Who better to conceal artifacts than somepony who deals with them for a living ?" "If she worked for any known organization, we'd know about it." Smash replied with a sigh. "True - but what if she works for an UNKNOWN organization ? Or a newly formed one we haven't had a chance to infiltrate or take over yet ?" "If she's been keeping dangerous artifacts from everypony for years, she couldn't be part of a NEWLY formed organization, now could she ?" Smash stated as he headed for the door, "And do ya seriously believe that any organization could hide their existence for long ? We do have agents everywhere ya know." * bogey : an unidentified agent or organization * spook : slang for an intelligence operative
  6. Six hours into her flight, Tongue Twister took a quick snack break atop a cloud drifting in the right direction. Coupled with a few minutes rest, some dried fruit and a bottle of water can work wonders for one's morale (and energy reserves). "You keep vermin in your saddlebags ?" Polar Vortex asked. Tongue Twister turned her head to glare at him, the cloud she was sitting on darkening and starting to grumble with thunder. "Ace and Deuces are PETS ! Not VERMIN !" "They're rats. So by definition they are vermin." "They're DOMESTICATED rats ! They're centuries - hundreds of generations - removed from their feral ancestors !" the cloud now giving flashes of light from lightning. "They're still rats." he replied, "Why would anyone want them as pets ?" "Because they're smarter than dogs, but far more portable !" TT replied while shouting over the thunder from the cloud she was resting on, "Why am I wasting my time with you ? I don't have to explain myself to anyone !" She launched herself into the air with a kick to the cloud, releasing a lightning bolt towards Polar Vortex. "Some mares are just too sensitive !" he noted to himself as he effortless evaded TT's bolt. Four hours later, swinging around the end of the Webwing mountain range. "So what, exactly, are you looking for ?" Polar Vortex asked. "An archaeological site, like a temple, or some other stone constructions." TT stated over her shoulder while scanning the ground below, "Or a deflated mini-zeppelin." "You mean like that one over there ?" She looked to her left, and there on the ground was large wicker box stuffed full of what looked like silver grey silk. She landed to take a closer look. "Well, this is dad's old mini-zep alright !" she stated to Polar Vortex as he landed, "He hasn't used this thing since I was a filly !" "Weren't those recalled a few years ago because they weren't safe to be in ?" "They were only dangerous because they cut corners to mass produce them !" TT replied, "Just replace the skeletal rods and a few other parts, and they're just as good as the high end models ! At a fraction of the price .... which is why daddy bought the thing in the first place." "So he and your mother must be around here somewhere." Polar noted as he looked around, "But I don't see any ancient ruins. Or modern ruins. Or anything that even looks out of place." "Well, maybe we just need a higher vantage point !" TT stated as she flapped straight upward into the sky, slowly circling as she caught the morning thermals. Then she noted what looked like a very deep well, partially covered with a large circular capstone, a few dozen yards from the mini-zep. She smiled, figuring that her mom probably did what she was doing now. She signalled to Polar Vortex, hovering straight over the site until he came over. "Are those hieroglyphics on that stone cover ?" he asked. "Yes. Very badly eroded ones." TT answered, "They look early Quetzalcoatlan, but I can't be sure. These are in really bad shape !" "Rather odd entrance to a temple." Polar noted as he looked down the shaft into the darkness, "I would've thought it would be a big, showy structure above ground." "Well not all ancient structures are like those mentioned in Daring Do books !" TT growled before heading down the shaft, carefully using the deep hoofholds the original builders carved into the sides of the shaft. She noted that they were dusty and slightly crumbly from age, but there were two other series of cleared holds on the way down - most likely the ones her parents used earlier. "A virtually untouched early Quetzalcoatlan site ?! These things are rarer than eleven leaved clovers !" she thought to herself, trying hard NOT to squeal in delight. Polar Vortex headed down, then noticed there was light coming from the bottom of the entry shaft. "A light crystal with a long wire wrapped around it, stuck into a headband ?" he inquired about the odd headgear T-Twister was wearing. "We need light, and this keeps all hooves free !" she answered, looking at the bare walls of the room they were in as she scribbled down some notes. The room was shaped like a long triangle with the points rounded, and a single opening in the center of the smallest wall. There were two sets of hoofprints leading through it. There was a short corridor forward, which turned to the right for a few yards. Which then turned into a much longer corridor going left. Then into an even longer corridor going right again ! "This isn't much of a maze." Polar Vortex noted as he looked down the corridor - it was so long he could barely see the wall at the far end. "This isn't a maze. The builders crafted this corridor into the shape of a serpent." TT replied gleefully, "In their mythology, snakes had the power to go back and forth between the worlds of the living and the afterlife. The early Quetzal masons would never think of building any kind of underground structure without honoring the Serpent King in some way." "Interesting." Polar deadpanned, "Oh look - a mural of some snarling old stallion surrounded by weapons on the wall, and a tile floor. With various animal symbols on the tiles. Just like in Daring Do !" TT was scribbling notes as fast as she could, making note of the artwork, the shape of the corridors, barely noting that Polar Vortex had trotted forward. "Wait a minute ! That temple Daring was in for her book was dedicated to the Spirit of Peace. The glyph of the first syllable of his name was a rat. Thus the safe way through was the 'Path of Peace'. The rat tiles. But this mural is of the Spirit of War ! The glyph for the first syllable of his name is a jaguar !" "POLAR VORTEX ! WAIT !!" But TT's warning was just too late - he stepped on a rat tile, and poisoned darts shot from the walls to the left, right AND from behind them ! Or at least that's what was supposed to happen - the darts fell out of the walls and clattered harmlessly to the floor. Polar blinked a few times. "Well. That was ... convenient." "This vault must be MUCH older than I thought." TT stated, "Nopony's been in here to keep the traps properly maintained for centuries !" "Vault ? I thought this was a temple or a tomb." "Nope. If this were a temple, it would be above ground so everypony could get in. The walls would be covered with illustrations of their religion's stories. The traps would be meant to scare or contain, not harm. If this were a tomb, it would be the final resting place of somepony important. The walls would be covered with illustrations of all the great things they did, and a few prayers to the gods for good measure. The traps would start to become more harmful. THIS is a vault." TT finished as she waved her hoof at the walls, "Nopony is supposed to be down here. Which is why most of the walls are bare. And the traps are probably lethal." A smile slowly formed on Polar Vortex's muzzle. "Then there must be something valuable down here !" TT sighed. "WHY does it always have to be about money ?!" "Yes, there might be something valuable down here. That, or something very dangerous." A few yards down the corridor they passed another mural - this one of the Spirit of Peace. Polar Vortex carefully stepped on the rat tiles - and no darts fired. Tongue Twister merely hovered a few inches in the air, avoiding the pressure plates altogether. But she did notice piles of darts near the walls, meaning her parents must have come this way. Another few yards along they found another mural, of a mare with her eyes closed and a serene smile on her face, and floating in a bubble at an angle. "The Guardian of Dreams." TT stated, "Her symbol is the moth." Polar Vortex noted some tiles had moth symbols carved into them, then stepped back startled when he noticed there was a different mural on the opposite wall. This one looked like a shifting mass of shadows, eyes and teeth ! "That would be the Guardian of Dreams when somepony dared to offend the gods. No one escapes She Of The Countless Eyes." "Yeah. I much prefer Princess Luna as the guardian of dreams."
  7. She does know a lot of forms - Roc, Ursa Minor, ophidiotaurus, cragadile, slinky sloth (to cross the rope) … Nice to see her actually CHANGE forms like the queen she is. The limits might be based on power and time. Chryssi obviously still has power (given how much bigger Tirek got from borrowing it), but only changed into something truly big for a few seconds (a Roc, and an Ursa Minor ?!). Pharynx did something similar by turning into that gigantic spider-thing when he and Thorax were little - that critter was huge (relative to a Changeling nymph), but he only held that form for around six seconds. So maybe they can maintain a different form roughly their natural size indefinitely, but bigger forms can only be held for a short time, with how much bigger dependent on pure power. Chrysalis, being a millennium old queen, has a lot of power, and can change into truly monstrous forms; drones might max out at something smaller. I'd guess that merely looking like a rock (with eyes - ala Ocellus and Pharynx), or an ice stalagmite (ala Thorax) isn't the same as being a rock or ice stalagmite (ie, they're not altering their chemical compositions) . If you can reshape the matter of your body to look like other critters, why not be able to look like objects ?
  8. Most ponies will tell you that the shortest route between two points is a straight line; however, the shortest route is not always the safest. As it was in Tongue Twister's case. A direct line from Las Pegasus to Archaeological Site Tenot 11-25-9 (closest to where her parents are trapped) would have her flying over the Great Forest of Leota (and disturbingly close to the Gates of Tartarus) and over several high mountain ranges. Since she had to SURVIVE the trip to be of any help to any pony, she took a slightly roundabout route. All she had to do was follow the Trensal River northward until twenty miles out of Saraneighvo, then turn ninety degrees left over some smaller mountains. Keep the Forest of Leota in sight (and a few miles) to the left. Hook around the northern end of the Webwing mountains. Look around for either an archaeological site or dad's Mini-Zep. It would be around ten monotonous hours of continuous flying, but that was no problem for a pegasus mare with years of adventuring experience in remote locations she had to fly into. It should've been a long, but simple and uneventful journey. Unfortunately, Tongue Twister is not that lucky .... "YO ! Polar Vortex !" she yelled at the off-white pegasus stallion trying (unsuccessfully) to conceal himself within a cloud, " You've been tailing me for over twenty miles ! Are you going to help me or arrest me or what ?!" "Just following to see who you're going to contact to sell stolen information to." "Uh, what stolen information ?" TT asked, fearing where this conversation was going, continuing to wing her way northward. "Secret projects are most vulnerable to discovery and sabotage while they're being built." he replied, "That's why I was on patrol and noticed you flying over the base ! What other reason could you possibly have for doing that so late at night - other than espionage ?" "Hm. 'Espionage'. That's a mighty big word for a muscle bound psychopath like you." she replied, "Are you sure Tempest would approve of you having enough brain cells to know words that big ? Especially when those brain cells 'should' be focused on how to inflict maximum pain ?" Polar Vortex growled at her in response. "Okay, stop with the dominance displays already !" TT replied with a wave of her hoof, "My parents got trapped in a temple out in Tenochtitlan, and I need to rescue them !" Polar Vortex raised an eyebrow. "Am I supposed to buy that story ? HOW did you find out they were in trouble ? Did they send you a letter a day before they 'got trapped' ?" "No. Daddy used a Remote Presence spell targetting one of my pet rats so he could tell me directly ... Wow ! That does sound rather suspicious and unbelievable when you say it out loud, doesn't it ?" Polar Vortex zipped ahead of her to block the way, using his imposing size and wingspan to greatest effect. "And how would your father be able to use any kind of spell, hmmm ?" "Daddy's a unicorn." TT simply replied as she clapped her wings together over her back, causing her to suddenly drop into a steep dive, shooting under Polar Vortex. "Where did you learn evasive maneuvers ?" he called to her once he got turned around. "I spend months at a time in jungles, where there are MANY creatures that would like to eat me !" she replied, "Apparently, ponies are a tasty part of a nutritious breakfast, lunch, or dinner ! So, are you going to help me or stop me or what ?" Polar Vortex thought for a moment. "Why should I stop you, when your inevitable failure advances my career ? I can tell Ice Storm I went to help you rescue your parents, thus getting in her good graces. And I can tell Tempest I retrieved a deserter, getting in her good graces as well !" TT was quiet for a few moments as she continued to wing her way through the night air. "And what if I succeed ?" she eventually asked in a bored tone, recognizing a blowhard when she sees one. "Oh, you won't. You're a civilian. You don't have what it takes." he replied snarkily, "I know because I've seen your files. And how well you do in training." "And that sort of attitude is WHY I took off instead of verbally jousting with jarheads." TT replied, "I'll have as much time as I need to explain myself AFTER the job is done. Just not before ! Thus the old adage : 'it is easier to get forgiveness than permission'." "Forgiveness for TREASON ? Good luck with that !" he chuckled mirthlessly, "There is nowhere in Equestria you can hide !" He was rather distressed when he noticed that Tongue Twister was smiling. Then she replied : "Three things : One : as I have not attacked the Royal Sisters, or in any way acted to overthrow the government, I am only guilty of insubordination and desertion at most. Two : Tempest turned three of the four princesses INTO STONE ! She helped a tyrant take over Equestria. Yet she was forgiven; I suspect because she is useful and thus above the relevant punishments we lesser beings must endure. But if she can be forgiven for her crimes against Equestria, why can't I ? Three : I have no intention of running away. After my rescue mission is done, I am returning to base to turn myself in." Polar Vortex nearly fell from the sky from surprise. "What ?! That makes no sense at all !" "It does to those that respect law." "BUT YOU ARE BREAKING THE LAW !" "Only because it is, for the moment, in the way of serving a greater good. By turning myself in afterwards, I am respecting those who wrote the law, no matter how limited or misguided their current work. Law states 'if you do X, you get punishment Y.' Respecting the law means accepting the consequences of your actions." Polar Vortex twitched a bit as his mind twisted itself into knots, trying to figure out what TT was up to. "YOU'RE INSANE !" "So what if I am ?" she replied with a shrug, "Being sane was not listed as a requirement in the recruitment letter for this 'organization' ." She used his momentary boggling to gain some distance. "Some ponies are just so easy to mess with !"
  9. After a few laps, Tongue Twister had managed to cut her best time through the course by nearly two seconds. It was progress - slow, but actual progress. She went home to her apartment, prepared a simple meal, took a bath and played with Ace and Deuces (being older male rats, they're rather lazy, and enjoyed belly rubs.) She was just about ready to put them back in their cage for the night when Deuces spoke up and said (in her father's voice) "You have a minute dear ?" TT looked at the rat, then became very angry. "DADDY ! I asked you to please NEVER USE THAT SPELL ! Forcing your presence through his mind like that really distresses him ! Now he's going to be a nervous wreck for a few days !" "I know honey, but this is really important !" Caveat/Deuces replied with a placating gesture, "Me and your mother are stuck in a pit trap in an underground temple in Tenochtitlan !" TT blinked a few times. "How in Celestia's name did you two manage to do that ?!" "Well, you remember that book Double Dealer asked me to find ?" he began, "Turns out that some shadowy agency may have suggested she ask for it. Your mom's guess : they were looking for one particular copy, so they wanted all copies they could find. We found one. There were notes written in the margins. Ten different languages. We used some of your old text books to figure out what the languages were. Turned out that if you put the page numbers they were on in alphabetic order by language on them, they were vectors to someplace near the Badlands." "So mom dearly wanted to take a look. And you went with her." TT stated. "Yep." "Are either of you hurt ?" "No. We're fine. For now. But we'd rather NOT be here ! So if you could come to help us get home as soon as you can, we'd greatly appreciate it !" "I'll be there as soon as I can Daddy !" Tongue Twister replied with a determined tone, "Where, exactly, are you ?" "You got a quill and some paper ?" he asked. She nodded, and he told her the vectors he and his wife had used. "Hope to see you soon honey !" he stated once he verified TT had written down the numbers correctly - before breaking contact and letting Deuces faint. She consulted the more accurate maps she used for her linguistics research in the region. "It's going to take me a day, maybe a day and a half to get there. I hope you and mom can hold out that long !" She packed her saddle bags with as trail rations and bottles of water that would fit in one. Then brought half a dozen more. In the other she packed a few minor artifacts, some light crystals, and Ace and Deuces (she wasn't leaving them home alone, for bored rats are destructive rats, and she doubted she could find a sitter on such short notice). She wrote a letter explaining what she was doing and where she was going (and a map showing the exact location), and put them in an envelope to be delivered to STAR tomorrow morning. She was NOT going to risk some officious twit telling her 'sometimes, sacrifices must be made for the greater good. And the secrecy of this organization is the greatest good that is, was, and EVER shall be ! Request denied !!' That and the fact that, since she'd only been with STAR for such a short time, she probably didn't have many vacation/personal days to use. Once on the roof, she got her bearing and put on her flight goggles. "Luna, may your stars guide me to where I need to be !" she chanted as she got a running start and launched herself into the night ...
  10. It took a bit of effort, but Caveat Emptor and Shady Dealer managed to figure out what the various languages were (thanks to having their daughter's coursebooks on hoof - Polyglot's Compendium of the Ponish Languages was very useful. Turned out the notes were simple phrases that could be found in any tourist's phrasebook - 'where is the restroom ?', 'how much for a cup of coffee ?' and 'where do you keep the chocolate ?' being the most common. It made sense, since the first letter of the languages the notes were written in were the clues that mattered; WHAT the notes said was irrelevant. "So we have ten different languages, no two starting with the same letter." Shady noted, "And ten different numbers. So, if we arrange the letters in numerical order, they spell out …" "BLEARGHXDNM." Caveat stated. "I - seriously doubt that is a word in any language dear. But the other option is what ? Ten numbers in one particular order ? How does that help ? What could they mean ?" "It's a vector !" Shady replied, "Sixteen and seventy nine hundredths miles, at two hundred twenty five degrees, fifteen minutes from true east, starting from whatever longitude and latitude those last six numbers are !" "Ohhhkay. But why not just use the longitude and latitude directly ?" he had to ask. "Maybe it wasn't safe to get those coordinates." Shady replied, "Or there wasn't enough time. Or there weren't enough unique landmarks to determine position. Or to reduce the odds of just guessing right - with six numbers, you'd have a one in seven hundred and twenty chance of just guessing right; with ten numbers, you'd have a one in three million, six hundred twenty eight thousand eight hundred chance !" Caveat looked at her side eyed. "What ? I memorized all factorials up to twenty !" his wife replied, "My cutie mark IS for probability and math ! It even has P(i)=n!/r! (n-r)!, remember ?" Meanwhile, Caveat had wandered into the aisles of his shop, and came back with an atlas, protractor and compass. "Let's see - that longitude and latitude. Go that direction for that distance puts us …. Uhm, honey ? Are you SURE you got those numbers in the right order ? They put us in the Badlands ! Just east of the Sea of Ruin, on the northernmost edge of Tenochtitlan !" "Well, there ARE many ruins and old temples yet to be discovered out there." she replied. "And how are we supposed to investigate them ?" Caveat asked, "I'm a curio merchant, and you're a card sharp/shipping agent ! Neither of us is a dashing archaeologist !" "We can go and take a look. See what's there." Shady replied, "If it's too dangerous for us, we can just join up with some 'dashing adventurers' that are always swaggering through the jungles. Or pass the info onto TT. She'll know how to handle it." Caveat thought for a moment, weighing the pros and cons of this little jaunt. But since his wife was all for it, he decided to go along with it. "That's a very long journey." he began, "The trains don't go out there, and what trails MIGHT be present would be long, constant battle against the jungle. The fastest and easiest way to get there would be by air. I think I have just the thing in the warehouse !" They went around back, to the warehouse where Caveat kept curios that were too large to fit in his shop. He opened the door and went in, while Shady stayed outside (and well away from the rose bushes on each side of the door. WHY Caveat's distant relatives sent him a vampire rose she didn't know, nor cared to.) He returned momentarily, carting a large basket stuffed with steel rods and what looked like yards of grey silk. "A mini zeppelin ?" she asked. "Yep. Should get us there in style !" replied, starting to put the rods together. "Weren't those recalled a few years ago because of severe safety concerns ?" "Yep. That's why I was able to buy this for a steal !" he replied, still fitting parts together. Shady tried to say something, but nothing came out for a minute. "WHY would you buy a flying deathtrap ?!" "The original models were perfectly safe !" her husband replied, "They had to cut some corners to mass produce them. But it takes very little money to upgrade a mass-produced model to a safe one ! With a little work, you can get a safe mini-Zep for a quarter the price of a stock one !" "It is times like this that I am glad I'm a Pegasus !" Shady thought to herself.
  11. "Well, if there is nothing else, I'd like to get back to training." T Twister stated as she trotted into the gym and began placing a few posts into a random arrangement - a small metal forest. She walked to the opposite side, hunkered down and ran around the track, slowing down a bit to weave through the posts. She wasn't above average speed by any stretch of the imagination, but that was why she was trying to improve her best times.
  12. "That's not a giant flying kitten !" Shady stammered, "THAT is a sphinx ! Just one of those terrorized an entire kingdom before it was outwitted and driven off by the best Pillar of Equestria - Somnambula !" "True enough." Caveat replied, "So, what do you think will happen here ? Standard Scenario BM-1 ?" Shady thought for a moment. "BM-1. Big Monster Attack. The BM swaggers in, does some damage, attracting the attention of the Mane Six and other Important Ponies. Who beat it down. Meaning there really isn't anything for me or Caveat or anypony else to do." "Yes, I suppose so." she sighed, "That means we can get back to that mysterious book we were discussing !" "Don't see how that's possible now. Those 'government agents' bought it from Double Dealer. It's gone now." "Oh. Right." Shady replied glumly, "Nothing to do now but go back home and wait for things to go pear-shaped here. Then back to normal." Caveat gave her a supporting hug before they took the train back to Manehattan. Scene : Caveat's Discount Emporium. A young unicorn couple have brought in an old trunk to sell. "This is a very well made trunk !" Caveat stated as he knocked on it here and there to test its solidity, "Where did you get it ?" "It used to be my grandfather's." the mare stated, "I inherited it a few years ago. Been dragging it all over Manehattan. I wanted to see if I can at least get a few bits for it." "Well, I can give you fifty bits for just the trunk." he stated, "Can you come back in a few days ? I'll need time to appraise whatever's inside. You wouldn't happen to have the combination to the lock ?" She glumly shook her head, before stating she and her husband can come back in three days. Later that day, he and Shady were checking out the contents of the trunk (Caveat knows a few spells for 'dealing with' stubborn locks) "I'd say her grandfather was Prench." Shady stated from behind a small pile of books and magazines, "Everything in here is Prench !" "Yes. It's genuine Prench junk." Caveat replied, "None of this stuff is worth much. They'd get more bits from recycling it than selling it ! The trunk this stuff was in is more valuable than all the stuff inside it !" Shady began laughing before holding up a tattered, moth-eaten book. "Hey dearest ! Does this book look familiar ?" Caveat took the book in his gold telekinetic grasp. Then sighed heavily. "It's the Hitchhiker's Guide to Equestria. First Edition. In Prench. In worse than Poor condition though; three bits would be a generous offer !" Shady was grinning, and gleefully bouncing in place. Caveat noticed, then returned the book to her. "Okay, you can see if there are any mysterious codes in it." She took the book and carefully paged through it (occasionally replacing pages that fell out). "There's a lot of writing in this book." "That's because books like that weren't meant to be collected; they were meant to be used." Caveat replied over his shoulder, "The last five pages of each chapter were left blank, so the owner could jot their own notes in." "I saw that. But there are notes in other languages in the margins on some of these pages." Shady stated, "This page has a note in Germaneic, another has Itailian, and I'm not sure what languages some of these are ! It's all in the same mouth writing. Why would somepony use different languages in their own book ? Unless - IT'S COME KIND OF CODE !!" she squealed gleefully as her husband rolled his eyes.
  13. Outdoor café in Canterlot. Table with the unicorn mare Double Dealer, and Tongue Twister's parents Shady Dealer and Caveat Emptor. "I'm sorry for any trouble I put you and your family through !" Double Dealer said to Shady, "I honestly don't know what got into me !" "It's okay Double Dealer." Caveat replied, "It wasn't your fault. Once some of those artifacts take hold, they're hard to fight off. I should've thought to look earlier, but artifacts like the Shining Star are pretty rare. The one you had was only the second one I've ever seen. Where did you get that item anyway ?" Double Dealer thought for a moment. "You know, I - don't remember ! That whole miserable episode is kind of blurry now." "Don't worry about it. Fuzzy memories are a common side effect of spells that alter the mind. Oh, what are you planning to do with the book ? I know a few ponies that might bid on it." "Oh, I don't have it anymore." Double Dealer replied, "Some stallions from the Bureau of Artifact Verification and Fraud Compensation showed up a few days ago, and bought it for fifty bits. Good thing it was a fake, all things considered." Shady glared at her. "The book Caveat sold to you was NOT a fake !" "Oh." Double Dealer stated, "So, I lost two hundred bits buying a book I really didn't want because my mind was warped by an artifact, and then got cheated by a government organization. I'm down one hundred and fifty bits !" Shady nudged her husband. "I can give you a, refund, if you'd like." he said, barely managing to force out the hated word 'refund'. Double Dealer thought for a bit, before sighing. "No. Keep it. Consider it recompense for the trouble and aggravation I put your family through for no good reason. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some afterschool programs to set up for tomorrow. We have a few pegasi foals in the program. You wouldn't mind stopping by and helping with some flying around the city Shady ?" "I'd be more than happy to help some little fliers !" Shady replied, "Same time they usually start ?" "Yes. See you then." she said after she picked up the check and left. Shady and Caveat returned to their home, Shady flying two feet off the ground, and Caveat staying a few feet away (having learned from decades of marriage to her just how much room she needs for proper flaps). He noticed she seemed deep in thought. "What's with that look, dear ?" he asked. "I don't know what you're talking about." she groused, not changing her expression. "We've been married thirty years. I know when there is something stirring around in your head. What is it this time ?" "That was an oddly specific thing she asked for." Shady stated, "Why that, and not something else impossible to get ?" "It was just a random idea that popped into her addled head." Caveat answered, fearing what rabbit hole this conversation may be headed into. "If it was a random idea, it would be an idea already IN her head !" Shady answered tersely, "How many ponies have ever heard of that book ? Or knew there was more than one edition ? Or that it came in Prench ? And I know there is no 'Bureau of Artifact Verification and Fraud Compensation ! There isn't enough of that sort of fraud to have a whole agency for it." Caveat sighed. His wife was an expert at probability mathematics, which for some reason led her to see connections where none actually existed. But she may have a point about that non-existent bureau. "What are you suggesting dear ? That someone gave Double Dealer that Shining Star, then suggested she ask for one particular rare book ? Whatever for ?" Shady thought for a moment. "Maybe somepony with a Prench first edition used it to go somewhere he shouldn't have, and found or hid some treasure, and he made notes in the margin ! And now somepony is trying to find it ! Which means examining every single Prench first edition that can be found !" "That's - highly unlikely dear !" he replied. "But this is EQUESTRIA !" she stated as she took to the air for a dramatic gesture, "Less likely things happen with disturbing … regularity …. here ?" she continued with a very confused look on her face, looking at something behind her husband. Caveat turned to see what she was looking at. "Huh. A fancy unicorn riding a sphinx. Point taken dearest !"
  14. "Do any of those creatures have their own significant language as well? I never really thought about that, or are they all just dialects of Ponish? I wouldn't entirely be comfortable with calling it Ponish in that case." Loose Cannon asked. "I've traveled quite a bit, doing field research." T Twister replied, "Ponies have no trouble understanding griffins, dragons, diamond dogs, and hippogrifs. The languages they speak are essentially ours. Possibly a side effect of us having an immortal ruler. The only ones that sound different are the yaks, but they use the same words with a different grammar. Probably because they were isolated for so long. Ponish from a thousand years ago seems to been the same as now - the ponies of the Crystal Empire sound no different than anyone else. Creatures from more isolated realms - like the Zebras, and the isles of Neighpon and the Fillypines - still have their own. It's like my instructors said : 'if there are many different languages, they will all eventually become one. If there is one language, it will eventually split into many.'" She noted what Ice Storm said. "So you learned what your special talent was the hard way ? That - could be rough. Your special talent could've been fire control, and having to find out by being caught in a forest fire or something."
  15. "Everypony has to start somewhere." T Twister replied with a shrug, "One of the things you need to be a teacher is to know the subject better than your students. But I do believe the title 'Sensei' takes a few decades to earn." "Ah. CYR - 'Cover Your Rump.' A very common - and rather annoying - practice." T Twister mused to herself, "You might be able to do a job very well, but if hiring you means spending a few extra bits, they won't !" "Yes. I'm a linguist." T Twister replied, "I work with artifacts because they're the steadiest source of novel languages to study - just about every creature in modern Equestria speaks Ponish, or a variant of it. I've been dealing with artifacts most of my life - dad sometimes imports a few trinkets with 'peculiar' traits. And considering how dangerous some artifacts can be, keeping them out of circulation seems a very good idea !" About then Commander Ice Storm came in. T Twister gave her a quick wing salute. "Ah yeah. Those sandstorms ! Been caught in them a few times too many." T Twister stated, as she recalled a few excursions she and her cousins faced when they were foals.
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