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  1. March 8th, Town Hall Meeting. Turning his head towards the voice that had called out a question, Strong Copper couldn't help but blink for just a moment as he caught sight of the fiery unicorn mare... and quietly gulped a little to himself but tried to keep up appearances. Ever since coming to Ponyville, there was just beautiful mares everywhere. It was uncanny. Clearing his throat, he tried to play off his pause as him considering her question. "That... is a good question Miss. Also a somewhat difficult one, since 'toughness' is subjective. While there are plenty of animals out there that are dangerous because of brute force and an ability to withstand punishment like you wouldn't believe many possess either their own innate magics, exotic tricks and tactics that they employ... or in many cases just have means of defending themselves or hunting that are dangerous and deadly to those on the wrong side of them. But to answer your question about the toughest creature I've been up against in my career... two come to mind for different reasons." Taking a moment to get a deep breath, he started with "The first was a Nuckelavee. Don't feel bad if you're not familiar with the name, it is a largely oceanic creature that tends to make its home in colder, harsher areas of the ocean that can come ashore to unleash havoc when it desires. It's hard to describe but... it's like a mixture of a giant pony and an ape like creature, but not of a species that has been discovered. It has some degree of control over weather in that it likes to create droughts and its breath is toxic, able to wilt plants and cause sickness in those unfortunate enough to be breathed on. While it hasn't been completely confirmed, there are a number of stories of Nuckelavee who caused full on epidemics... and there is enough evidence to support these stories having some degree of truth to them. They tend to hibernate between mid-spring to mid-autumn, only really being active around winter and the colder, harsher times of the year. " "The one weakness of the Nuckelavee is that it cannot stand natural fresh water. It is literally one of the few things that can actually cause it pain. Strangely enough, magically created fresh water doesn't harm it at all and no one can quite agree as to why. As for how I encountered it... well, I was on a ship that was carrying much needed supplies through a stretch of sea where it was believed a Nuckelavee had claimed as part of its territory. My role in that encounter was, to put it bluntly, to be an 'annoying pest'. While the Pegusi crew members were working together, actively fighting against the magical drought to create rain clouds, the rest of us were doing our best to annoy the hell out of it and divert its attention away from the cloud makers so it couldn't just make their efforts null and void. It is not a pleasant sensation, throwing everything you have at something and doing little more then annoy it... " There was a quick exhale of breath... before he perked up again "But the plan worked, rain water drove it away and we made landfall soon after." The smile of victory slowly started to fade into a more... pensive look. "The second... was a manticore. I don't feel I need to explain what a manticore is here because... well, some live in the Everfree. A powerful and dangerous creature when it wants to be, but highly intelligent and generally tends to leave ponies alone unless you wander into its hunting grounds. Plenty of tales about ponies befriending them as well. " A sigh escaped him as he sadly shook his head to himself "This is not one of those stories. It wasn't really its fault either. The poor thing had been infected with a strain of rabies and... well, by the time the nearby settlement figured out that there was a problem and called me in to figure out what was attacking the local herds of cows, the manticore was simply to far gone to be helped. The illness consumed it until all that was left was pain and blind, murderous rage.... and in that pain fueled rage it attacked the town directly." For a moment, Strong Copper said nothing. There was a glazed look in his eyes, suggesting that he wasn't on a stage and looking out at those gathered to hear him speak... but that moment was short lived as he suddenly shook his head and refocused "Thankfully, the only death that day was the manticore itself but... not from lack of trying. A number of brave and unlucky ponies will bare scars from that day for the rest of their lives. I should stress that when it comes to working with animals in my career, I generally do not fight to kill unless there is truly a pressing need to do so. Be it to protect my own life or safeguard the lives of others directly at risk. This, alas, was one of those times. " There was another pause, as he closed his eyes and picked his words carefully. "I will not burden you by going into details but... I honestly hope that no one here ever finds themselves in a situation where they are forced to contend with a creature so consumed by mind breaking pain and rage that they've abandoned caring about their own well being or even basic survival instincts. It is a hauntingly terrible, nightmarish thing to be witness to." His last words on the matter said, Copper was sullen for a few moments more before he lifted his head up and put on a brave face as he changed the subject and left the past behind "Any other questions?"
  2. Ponyville Town Hall, 8th of March. "Ladies and Gentlecolts, I wish to discuss a matter with you all that means a lot to me. In fact, it was the main reason I moved to Ponyville in the first place. You see, professionally, I work in... well, to put it bluntly I work in animal control... through not strictly speaking the kind you would normally find on the town hall bulletin board, offering to deal with a rodent infestation or a wasp nest that's being built up in your backyard. This world we live in is filled with all manner of creatures great and small, magical and mundane... and the sad truth of the matter is that a great deal of them are fully capable of causing a pony grave bodily harm. Having a wild fox or a stray cat declare your backyard as part of their hunting grounds is inconvenient for sure, but when a manticore or a timber wolf does it the situation gets somewhat more risky with much higher stakes. It is creatures of the latter group in which I tend to work with. I do not need to tell you that Ponyville is in an... interesting location when it comes to nearby sources of dangerous fauna. The Everfree Forest itself of course is the most well known, but the relatively nearby boggy bottom swamp has its fair share of dangerous creatures, the rarest but most dangerous being a full grown, four headed hydra. Fortunately, that one has decided to stay put in its home swamp, but you don't need me to tell you that incidents between animals native to the Everfree leaving the forest and entering Ponyville are fairly common. In fact, I confess that when I did my research of the last five years of Ponyville's incident history I can't help but feel like Ponyville has been given the strangest blessing I have ever seen: Last year alone, there was no less then twenty one reported incidents where a dangerous wild animal entered the town and caused havoc and panic, as well as property damage... and yet not a single fatality or serious injury was reported. While I give credit to those who have stepped up to ensure that these incidents have gone as well as they have, part of my platform as Mayor of Ponyville is to take some more active steps towards ensuring the safety of its citizens going forward. While I have several projects I would wish to introduce, there are two that I can promise I will put into affect when I enter office. The first is a 'Wildlife Watch' program in order to give Ponyville locals enough forewarning about approaching dangerous animals coming from the wild areas around town so that they can prepare themselves properly, rather then only find out about it when its stalking down the main street. The second is an educational program about the various fauna and flora found in these areas, so that in the event that a citizen comes across or encounters them they will have some understanding of what they are dealing with and what the best way to respond is. Now that you understand me a little better, I'm happy to take any questions you all might have for me."
  3. "But of course. After all, having and maintaining a good friendship with you will almost certainly serve to improve the professional relationship between our respective organizations once both of us have established ourselves here properly." Ridge answered, a practiced smile on his face as he expertly swallowed his disgust at having to use such sugary sweet language. Sadly, it was something of a necessity when talking to ponies to use such terms as 'friendship' at least once every three sentences in order to maintain their daydream about what the world was like. It's honestly why he preferred the griffons. It was nice to be in the company of creatures who understood and respected the value of material goods above all else. In fact, as he turned to look at the griffon in question that had joined the conversation, he listened in as he asked " Tehengu wasn't it? I am curious. Would you be taking part in the conversation about Griffonstone's future in an official capacity, or is this more just two old friends catching up with each other while bouncing ideas off of each other?"
  4. For a moment, Ridge pondered the offer Ice was making. Of course, having Equestria provide security for his venture absolutely free of charge was a cost saver and a half, but it brought with it complications to the plan that he had originally envisioned. Still... it wasn't like such complications ruined everything and they could be worked around while still giving him his end goal... and other opportunities would arise as well. "You make a persuasive argument Miss... no, sorry, Fleet Admiral Storm. I would have to be some kind of stone headed idiot in order to try and stand in the way of such a development. Once this base of yours is underway I would be honored if you were to introduce me to whomever is going to be running it in your absence." A small, practiced smile appeared on his face as he added "After all, this beneficial friendship would be better served if I knew the name of who I would be working with the most. It gets kind of awkward 'Oh hello Hard Working Orange One. Is Lazy Green One in?'" And a harmless little joke as well.
  5. "You would be correct." Ridge answered easily enough. After all, it wasn't like anyone would come to this dump on a holiday if they had the option. Still, the possiblity that this Ice Storm was interesting... through he couldn't help but see a major flaw in her plan. "You are aware that Griffonstone is an independent nation and thus Equestria setting up military operations here with the intent of recruiting the locals to fight for them would..." he paused for a moment, clicking his tongue in his mouth in thought as he tried to place the right word. "I believe it's called 'colonialism', but I might be completely wrong on that." Unsurprising that Equestria was trying to influence and move into the area; They had attempted it before after all... but Ridge hadn't expected them to be trying again before he had started to borrow his roots, let alone do so in such a ham fisted way.
  6. "Oh really?" Ridge answered, his eyebrow ridge raising in curiosity at her answer. "Others have tried to drag Griffionstone back onto its talons before. They have not been successful. So you can forgive me if I'm curious about how you intend to be any different." The fact that she was a solder of the Lunar Guard didn't seem to phase the white dragon in the slightest... maybe because he honestly didn't know the difference between Equestria's military branches. The arrival of a griffon wearing armor named Tehengu was unexpected, but as he turned his head to stop looking down at the pony and look at the griffon, the dragon offered a practiced, professional smile as he answered "Funny you should mention Prosperity. I am Ridge, CEO and owner of Prosperity Mining. Since we seem to be making the effort to introduce ourselves after all."
  7. For his part, Ridge easily stood out from the locals because... well, he was a dragon and they weren't. Griffonstone wasn't exactly well known for being a hot spot for dragon kind after all (that being said, back during the old glory days the odd dragon did occasionally try and raid the place. They tended not to go well for anyone involved). However, his attention quickly caught sight of something almost as strange as he was; A unicorn mare, decked out in armor and surrounded by a series of magical orbs that seemed to be radiating magic of a sort. Curiosity was there, but Ridge had the decency to calmly put the emerald in his claw back into its bag before he pushed himself to his feet and left the table behind. Making sure both the parchment and sack were secure on his person, he confidently walked over to the mare while barely paying attention to the local griffons. It was only once he was in an acceptable social range that he finally deemed to speak. "If you were that worried about being the victim of mugging, you shouldn't have worn such expensive looking armor Miss. To a calculating mind, it just makes you a bigger target."
  8. Griffonstone. Once, it had been the shining jewel of griffon kind. It's wealth and influence reached far and wide, allowing the catbirds who grew up and lived there a great deal of prestige and pride that they could lord over those unfortunate enough to not have the grace or wealth to live their themselves. But as is often the case with history, the wheel turned ever onward; Their greatest trading partner disappeared off the face of the planet, one of their kings great treasures was stolen with their monarchs spending to much time and resources trying to get it back in vain... and while the authority of Griffonstone crumbled to dust other powers rose up to fill the void it left behind. Now, Griffonstone was little more then a dump for old griffons to stubborn to admit that the old days were over and die and those poor, unfortunate souls that were too poor to live anywhere else. The glories of the past long destroyed, outright ransacked or simply abandoned to rot while the slums in their shadows grew more dilapidated and cheap as the years passed by. But as he sat at an outdoors chair that somehow seemed to have all of its legs be the short one making it wobbly, Ridge the dragon did not see Griffonstone's distant past or its depressing present. Instead the white dragon's eye gaze was focused on a piece of parchment that the pony he had hired to confirm his suspicions had taken the time to write their detailed report on, only occasionally letting it flicker over to the sack of 'samples' that had been unearthed in the process before his attention returned to ink on paper. It was a complicated document in the fact that the terminology employed by it would have confused most beings able to read and write who didn't have a background in geology, but for Ridge it teased out a smile. Putting the parchment down, he opened up the sack of samples in order to draw one of them out to see it with his own eyes. While he would confess that emeralds were low on his personal list of favorite flavors when it came to gems (through some of them were good for decoration) the one that he held in his claw had earned something of a special place in his heart as it seemed to glow in the light, twisting the light of the sun into a rather pleasant dark green color. It wasn't big or that impressive looking, through it would easily be able to purchase a couple of the slum homes that made up Griffionstone itself, but the emerald itself was nowhere near as important as what its presence represented. Griffionstone had a future... and Ridge was going to claim it.
  9. "Of course." Strong Copper offered back to Mr Rich, offering a small smile. "I fully intend to run a clean and friendly campaign. After all, once all is said and done I know we're going to have to work together." In this case, he didn't want to interrupt the filly if she decided to do some more advertising. That would just be rude after all.
  10. Strong Copper tilted his head as he watched the orange filly perform her song and dance number... even as his ear flicked as he overheard what might have been considered to be a 'private' conversation if the speaker clearly hadn't intended for her words to be overheard by others. Pretending to ignore Mrs Rich's statement, he instead kept his attention on the singing filly and was one of those who offered a round of stomping in acknowledgement and support for her efforts. For an song that had been made up on the spot, it wasn't actually a bad one. While he intended to run a good, clean campaign going forwards, just the brief interactions with Mrs Rich so far told him far more about her character then one would think... and thus how to use it against her to further his own goals. Once Scootaloo was done, Strong Copper turned to Mrs Rich and offered her an honest smile. Mimicking the tone of voice that she had made use of (seemingly a private conversation, but meant to be overheard), he politely said "Considering how much hard work you must have put in to help lay the foundations of such a progressive system of government, I'm sure your years of experience will be taken into account when it comes time for ponies to vote." A simple compliment to a mare who had clearly worked hard and volunteered her time to help run the town. It would take some kind of egotistical, vain pony to even consider it to be anything else but a kind word.
  11. Very few would have recognized the unicorn wearing a hooded jumper walking towards the stage. Truth be told he had only just recently moved into Ponyville a little before Hearth's Warming. Strong Copper honestly doubted that the number of ponies in the crowd that he was just about to step in front of could be counted off of on his own hooves... But he was a child of Canterlot. Even if his cutie mark had absolutely nothing to do with the political scene, one did learn how to read a crowd and do some research in order to figure out who was actually important in a given organization; Spoiled Rich was a well known name in Ponyville and not for the right reasons. In fact, just from his position in the crowd and watching the reaction to her announcement that she was going to run for Mayor would have been enough to prove just how unpopular Mrs Rich actually was. Would this mean that he actually had a chance at winning an election against her? Sweet Celestia he hoped not. Strong Copper knew himself well enough that he would likely run Ponyville into the ground if he was put in charge, through he would give it his all in order to try and make it work regardless. He had his own reasons for walking up the stairs of the stage, crossing the floor and standing just a little way away from the Riches with a polite, respectful smile on his face as he waited for them to be done with their announcements. Taking a deep breath, he turned to face the crowd "Hello Ponyville! Following the example of Mrs Rich, I would like to start by offering some congratulations to the resigning Mayor and complimenting her what I suspect has been stressful but highly successful career in public office. I have only recently moved into this wonderful little town, but I've been hearing stories come out about Ponyville for years now. The appearance of Nightmare Moon, the brief reign of Discord, not to mention countless other tales of crisis and disasters both natural and unnatural that has threatened it from time to time. There are plenty of places in Equestria that would struggle to recover from even one of these situations, but Ponyville has taken each and every one of the blows given to it and not only is it still standing, it's thriving!" He paused for a moment in order to let his words sink in, taking a breath to keep himself going; Public speaking wasn't a strong point for him, but when he needed to by hell and high water would he step up to the task. "Most holders of public office would have either given up due to stress or have been thrown out of office for not being up to the task by an angry public... and yet, after all this time Mayor Mare has continued to serve Ponyville as its Mayor without complaint, but is going to be leaving office with the town looking better then when she arrived. So remember to keep showing her the respect she deserves even after she is no longer the mare to talk to about getting parking licenses and zoning permits." With his peace seemingly said, Strong Copper turned to leave the stage... before suddenly stopping. Raising a hoof and bringing it down in a small stamp, he chuckled as he turned back to the crowd. "Almost forgot. My name is Strong Copper and I humbly would like to become your mayor. I'm sure you'll be getting to know me in the coming month, but might as well make it official. Take care of each other, alright?" With that, his hat was thrown into the political ring.
  12. The expression on Copper's face darkened a little as the unlikely became reality: This wasn't Cloudy the Hippogriff. He didn't know how many hippogriffs were in the Everfree, but logic dictated that it should have been a relatively small amount. There was a very real possibility that he had in fact been following the wrong trail completely. While the urge to stamp on the ground and say a couple of curse words that would have offended Princess Celestia herself if she had heard them was strong, he pushed it down as he took a deep breath to stop himself from making the situation worse. "A group went into the Everfree and got chased out by one or more things... and a hippogriff named Cloudy got split up from the group. I decided to come and see if I could find him... but I seem to have found your trail instead. What are you even doing in here?" Pausing for a moment, he quickly added "And are there more of you wondering about?"
  13. Strong Copper suddenly came to a sudden stop as he came across what appeared to be his target. Bird like front, pony like back parts... male. This seemed to be ticking off every box on the check list... apart from the last one. Tilting his head, Strong Copper called out "Cloudy?" in order to ensure that this was the right hippogriff and there wasn't a whole colony of the shape shifting buggers hiding out in the Everfree this whole time and nopony knew about it.
  14. Copper paused for a moment in his search. He had suspected that Cloudy was going to prefer flying in an attempt to make his escape, but he had been betting that the nature of the Everfree Forest (IE, that it was a tightly packed forest) would have forced the Hippogriff to travel on the ground in order to try and avoid flying into tree branches or getting stuck in the foliage. It was a gamble that had not paid off and time had been wasted because of it... but all he could do was accept the mistake and move forward with a new plan. Using the few clawmarks he had been able to uncover in order to get an idea of what direction that Cloudy was fleeing in, he turned his gaze upwards in order to look for signs of passage. He wasn't looking for disturbed greenery or the like (a stiff breeze or a passing bird would easily remove or give a false lead, not to mention his concerns about the plant life being a bit more hostile then he wanted), but actual signs of damage that couldn't be replicated easily by just moving a few twigs around. Broken twigs, claw marks on bark, branches that had a number of leaves violently removed by something going past. Plus even if they were sporadic, there were still the odd claw makes on the ground to help get a loose idea of what direction Cloudy was heading.
  15. Copper was experienced with dangerous animals and plant life and he had taken the time to do some research on the Everfree before he had ever seen or set hoof in it himself. Sure, it wasn't the same as getting first hoof experience with the location itself, but unlike many who had gone into the Forest, at least he wasn't going in inexperienced or blind to the nature of the risks it had to offer. Those who had written about the Everfree had made a point to mention how easy it was to get lost within it. Paths disappearing mere moments after walking along them. Some had argued that the Forest itself was a living entity, possessed of a savage intelligence of some sort... but Copper doubted that the Everfree was a hive mind. It was alive in the sense that a forest was a living breathing entity, but to believe it could plot and scheme was paranoia. That said, he didn't trust the plants themselves... Some of Iggy's ramblings from earlier had made him wary as he slowed his pace from a gallop to something more cautious but unafraid. The Everfree was a dangerous place after all. Rushing to the aid of someone in danger blindly would just as likely to endanger himself then anything else. Still, the trail left behind by Iggy and Jasper in the ground itself was a good indication of where he needed to go... all he had to find was were a third trail made up of hooves and claws broke away from theirs and he would have a baring to work with.
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