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SteelEagle

Hearts in Crystal...and in Caverns! (Closed)

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The Crystal Caverns had been on Pathfinder's list of places to hit up for a long time. Of course her list was longer than the census and half of her hits turned out to be false leads provided to her by shucksters and fellow lunatics who had the sweet taste of adventure on their tongue. It was behind such luminous locations such as Starry's Rock in the Nimbusgait and in front of that one space under Carl the Dragon's place in Trottingham. There were more exciting ruins and dungeons, caves and castles, slummy ports and underwater volcanoes, but they all had a place on the list and now it came time for the Caverns to be hit. And Pathfinder was nothing if not a very proficient follower of her own rules of adventure which dictated that she hit all of the locations on her list. So as she sat down on a tree stump one night and plotted her route there, she got deliriously excited for all the prospects in front of her.

The caverns were potentially a level five adventure location. Each level indicated a rise in the potential for adventure. Of the eight levels, level fives were the first type where it started to get rare. Traps of a good caliber and loot of an unusual kind separated this from lower levels which maybe had a combination of one or the other but not two. And if it was a level five, that meant it could be a highly productive level five! The Crystal Caverns were one of the more undersold locations in the northern half of Equestria to Pathfinder's ears. In times beyond Sombra, the caverns played host to an ancient city that was a hub of trade and culture. Around the time that Sombra came to power a great earthquake brought sections of the mountains above down on top of it. Most were able to escape but the city was abandoned. Over the eons, snow piled on snow and it faded from history. Now with the Empire back, it was a place she could visit before every other adventurer in the world got there. Prime time baby! Woooo! Woooo! Woooo!

The path she took also brought to mind a second equally prime time thing, a prime time love in her path. Stalliongrad was directly in the middle of her path and Stalliongrad mattered to Pathfinder for one reason. Her mare Snowfall was there and it brought to mind that it had been a while since they had seen one another and that drove Pathfinder nutso! She had experienced crushes before. Heck, she modeled herself after her one true crush love lifestyle coach Daring Do. But when Snowfall was around her heart did tricks. It danced in her chest. It danced in her mind. Her mind and her heart danced on her chest and sang songs together and shot rockets off and lots of other things that she stopped noticing when the mental image of her own heart doing that disturbed her. But she also wondered why she even had that anymore- Snowfall had stolen it. With that resolved, she decided that the trip would involve Snowfall. It would be a date. It would be an adventure. It would be a dateventure!

So in the dark of the night without any real warning she had visited the window of her love and snatched her up, grabbing only a few essentials as they went. Luckily the caverns were just a solid hour's flight time southeast of the capital. There were more than a few entrances and Pathfinder took the highest she could find, a peak free of the heavy snowfall that covered the others. The cave was also oddly small, big enough for a few ponies and that was all. Around the cave was the ancient crystal structure long since collapsed of a small and basic checkpoint for ponies leaving or entering. The space was so small that a single column just a few feet wide that had fallen cut the cave evenly in two. The good thing was that this provided the inner part of the cave with a degree of protection from the terrible winds outside. It was in this inner part which ended in a delipated and small crystal staircase that Pathfinder made camp.

Usually Pathie didn't bother with a tent, but she had big plans for this cavern. A single tent big enough for two ponies, a fireplace, and three saddlebags she had hauled along full of supplies that were perched against the collapsed column. The fire was the most important part and she had made sure to cut down an Everfree Willow tree on her way over as the wood was known to burn strong and long. She had brought a few logs along and hopefully that would see her through the next month or so if she had to keep this camp site. The tent was a basic affair, repaired time and time again after every conceivable attempt at destroying it had failed. The important thing was that after enough bark covering it was warm enough to take care of her needs, and to give them the privacy they needed. Very much needed. All in all for Pathfinder it was a wonderful little setup made all the better by the beautiful mare next to her.

Speaking of- as Pathfinder made the fire roar with the Willow log in flames in front of them, she remembered she had yet to reveal some things to her mare. Pathie curled up , placing her head on a rock, yawning loudly as she limply levitated a stick with marshmallows on them with her wing in the fire.

"So, are you excited for adventure? Sorry for not telling you I was coming. Or where we're going. Or what we're doing! Ever hear of the Crystal Caverns, Snowy?"

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There was a particular vivid memory of a certain dream Snowfall held from from her fillyhood. It was a cold winter night, not too long after she received her cutie mark. For months she had been sneaking out of the manor during the dead of night quite regularly to fly around the city and experience it for herself. It was something that brought her a lot of happiness and made her feel free, but when one of the servants happened to catch her in the act, it was made to stop. Her father scolded her and assured her it could never happen again. Her window was sealed shut and ponies were made to monitor her room as she slept. It had felt so unfair, like she was being caged. She recalled nights lost crying over until she forced herself to be strong. Even if she was confined to her room, she realized there was still a way for her to feel as if she was free and exploring exciting places and things. Perhaps it wasn't a perfect substitute for feeling the cool wind under her wings for herself, but by reading from an adventure tale each night she found it was easier to feel complete and ready to meet the demands of each new day.

It was a couple years into this routine that she first discovered Daring Do. She was deep in her fillyhood and for the first time entertaining romantic thoughts when she came across the first book in the series about a pegasus so brave, cool and free. She read that book at least twice in that first week and even went to bed with it at times. It was no surprise then, when one night she happened to have a dream where Daring Do herself came and thre open her window to sweep her off her hooves and carry her off on a grand adventurer. She had sighed upon waking from that dream, half because she felt silly for having it and half because it wasn't reality. It was perhaps slightly ridiculous, but it was an image that stuck with her. Even after her father's disappearance, even after she became the CEO of NSI, it was something she would recall at time and laugh about.

Which is why Snowfinder presently found herself very much bewildered. In some comical sort of déjà vu, her fillyfriend Pathfinder, who happened to look almost exactly like Daring Do, had come to her room and collected her in a fashion that perfectly mirrored that distant dream. Snowfall wasn't even sure what to think. She had been convinced at first it was another dream at first--her fillyhood memories mixing with her current yearning to see the mare she loved again to create a new and comical vision. As they flew along, however, she realized it was very real. Her mare really had come to her at night and effectively kidnapped her for some reason or other. It was odd, almost surreal, but it'd be a lie to say it wasn't also very much exciting. She was curious to know where they were going, what they were doing but so far Pathfinder hadn't really explained anything.

What she did know is that they had flown quite a ways from Stalliongrad, across some very cold skies to the area around the Crystal Empire. Pathfinder had lead them to some cave that appeared to be made from crystals. it was a beautiful place for sure, which made Snowfall wonder if this wasn't just Pathfinder's idea of a beautiful and romantic place to share with the one she loved. It was a fine idea, though Snowfall knew better than to expect that that would be at the heart of why they were here. No, Snowfall instinctively knew the plan wasn't just to huddle up together next to the fire, enjoy the beauty of this cave together and see what happened until the sun came up. No, Pathfinder almost invariably was planning to venture deeper into the cavern.


"So, are you excited for adventure? Sorry for not telling you I was coming. Or where we're going. Or what we're doing! Ever hear of the Crystal Caverns, Snowy?"

"You know I'll go anywhere with you, any time you like," Snowfall purred as she snuggled against the other mare in their tent. She smiled as she then retrieved the perfectly roasted marshmallows she had over the fire. She blew on them a while and then slipped the first gooey morsel off. She looked at it a second and then pushed it into Pathfinder's mouth.

"But no, the only crystal caves I know of are those they found under Canterlot," she said as she sampled one of her marshmallows herself, smiling at the sweet taste. "It's quite beautiful though. Having seen what I have already, I'd think it'd be well known."
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It was good to have a fillyfriend who was totally down with doing anything anywhere anyhow any style for any reason. It meant that Pathfinder's list of super romantic dating locations could include locations as far away as the deep interior of the Everfree or the highest mountains around the dragons. Tea time in Tartarus would be a bit difficult as would deep diving in the oceans around Okeanos but heck, if her filly friend was up for it then why would Pathfinder at least give it the ol' college try? If everything went belly up she could always shrug and move on to the next. Her mare may not have been ad adventurer by trade but she had an adventurer's heart and that was what Pathfinder want to feel. Not physically, mind you. That would be creepy and scary to a certain extent since how the hay could you feel the heart unless it was out of the body and that may be a bit dangerous for Snowy. Nah, she meant emotionally. Because love! Love love love, loving love love!

"That's good! I have so many cool places to show you. Have you ever tried to liberate relics from changelings? That's, like, the perfect romantic atmosphere! It has cool lighting and danger and wine and everything. We'll go, maybe, I dunno, when we're done here! And then-" Pathfinder started rattling off ideas in breathless excitement before a marshmallow made its way like a heat seeking missile right into her mouth direct from Snowy's hoof. That made it extra tasty. And gooey!

The gooeyness made her stop and listen to her Snowy. Well, she couldn't expect many ponies to know about the Caverns. Because of the way it went down many, many. many centuries ago, it was forgotten to even a good percentage of the Crystal ponies. It was the sort of thing rumored about by the dreamers and idealists of adventure, and that included Pathfinder hook, line, and sinker. Confirmation of its existence and reality was new and not widespread. That meant it would be wide open for them to have all sorts of good adventure time in and it would behoove them to hit it with full force non-stop! Well, except for when they slept. Snowy needed her sleepies! Pathfinder gobbled down the marshmallow and sighed before speaking.

"Well, that's not a shocker at all. Few ponies know about this place! Used to be the second biggest city in all of the Empire. Then a major natural disaster buried it. Rumors say it is mostly intact- well, for an ancient ruin hit by a major disaster. This happened right before the fall of the Empire to Sombra, so it was just about beaten out of their collective memories before they took a thousand year nappies. Only recently has the ice-sheen that covered the entrances warmed off. We'll be one of the first ponies to have seen it in over a thousand years!" Pathfinder bellowed a she flew up in the air, her boundless energy wanting to take her down. But she quickly landed next to the tent. Priorities.

"So we're gonna go down there and catalogue whatever we can find and take back enough relics to start a river of bits. I'm expecting it to not be too incredibly dangerous of a ruin. It was a city, not a temple. We might run into some giant worms, a dragon, some diamond dogs, but nothing too severe. Not expecting high-magical traps. Tripwires and other traps set by say Diamond Dogs, but eh. This is more about you and how awesome you are! Speaking of awesome," Pathfinder knocked open the flap to her tent. Inside, one blanket on the ground and one comforter with tears and rips beside two pillows stitched together out of leaves lay there cold and inviting.

"We'll need our rest! I have lots of plans for us and such so I need you to be at your tippity toppity best. I normally don't rest too much buuuut..." She swiftly hugged Snowfall's head, shaking and squeezing with love, "I normally don't have to worry about my Snowy Snowfall here! Mwahh!" She kissed Snowfall on the bridge of her snout as her wing picked up the stick with her marshmallow. She then shoved it in a few inches and pulled it out, leaving a gooey trail on Snowfall's lips.

"After you're done eating my gooey deliciousness, meet me in the tent! Huzzah!" She squeaked as she let go of her mare and the stick, trotting lazily into the tent.

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"That's good! I have so many cool places to show you. Have you ever tried to liberate relics from changelings? That's, like, the perfect romantic atmosphere! It has cool lighting and danger and wine and everything. We'll go, maybe, I dunno, when we're done here! And then-"

Snowfall giggled as Pathfinder chewed the marshmallow she had been fed. Liberating relics from changelings? She had never even seen a changeling (as far as she was aware) much less taken something belonging to one. It hardly seemed a romantic event as Pathfinder described, though she was sure that there was fun to be had in such things regardless.

"Well, that's not a shocker at all. Few ponies know about this place! Used to be the second biggest city in all of the Empire. Then a major natural disaster buried it. Rumors say it is mostly intact- well, for an ancient ruin hit by a major disaster. This happened right before the fall of the Empire to Sombra, so it was just about beaten out of their collective memories before they took a thousand year nappies. Only recently has the ice-sheen that covered the entrances warmed off. We'll be one of the first ponies to have seen it in over a thousand years!"

Snowfall listened with interest. How curious such a thing would be unearthed only now, after the Crystal Empire had returned to the world. Was it coincidence, or was there perhaps some strong natural magic to the world which had kept this place hidden for a millennium as the core of its empire was lost in the shadows of its curse? Snowfall didn't know much about such things, but Daring Do seemed to always suggest that there were powerful unexplained magics at work in places like this, controlling the environment and revealing only what needed to be revealed. In Yearling's prose, it often sounded like the ruins Daring visited lived and breathed as she did. Whatever the case, this place was fascinating. A city frozen in time and from the world by tragedy. Snowfall was eager to experience its wonders.

"So we're gonna go down there and catalogue whatever we can find and take back enough relics to start a river of bits. I'm expecting it to not be too incredibly dangerous of a ruin. It was a city, not a temple. We might run into some giant worms, a dragon, some diamond dogs, but nothing too severe. Not expecting high-magical traps. Tripwires and other traps set by say Diamond Dogs, but eh. This is more about you and how awesome you are! Speaking of awesome,"

Of course there would be dangers. Snowfall was as prepared as she could be. She hadn't attended the civilian leaders' boot camp for nothing, and when it came to dragons, she had already once survived capture by one. She wasn't so worried about Diamond Dogs, simple creatures of greed as they were, though the worms could be concerning. She had read up about some of the varieties included in Daring Do stories. Tatzlwurms were apparently quite ferocious and also disgusting creatures. Snowfall hoped they could avoid such manner of beast if at all possible. Though she did have Pathfinder, so even if they did encounter horrible things, she felt like she would be safe. Those were her thoughts at least as she watched the mare retrieve their pillow at least.

"We'll need our rest! I have lots of plans for us and such so I need you to be at your tippity toppity best. I normally don't rest too much buuuut.. I normally don't have to worry about my Snowy Snowfall here! Mwahh!After you're done eating my gooey deliciousness, meet me in the tent! Huzzah!"

Pathfinder hugged her and then fed her a marshmallow, returning the favor from earlier. It was sweet and quite wonderful. Gooey deliciousness indeed. She stared at Pathfinder a moment with softened eyes, getting a good night's rest not exactly the first thing on her mind. She gave a small purr and then moved quickly to join Pathfinder in the tent where she lay atop the pillow. She pulled Pathfinder close to her and realized she hadn't cared to speak for some time now.

"I'm happy you're so considerate, my love. I hope I do not slow you down too badly," she said with a giggle and she wrapped her forelegs around Pathfinder gently. "I do look forward to exploring all of the many wonders down here, good and bad, at your side..." she nearly cooed, planting kisses at Pathfinder's neck.

As she lay there, part of Snowfall still felt like she was dreaming. Reality might have screamed at her that this was foolishness, that those back home were bound to be furious for her to leave her duties with the company behind for her spell. There was no fighting any of it however. Lying there, holding Pathfinder tight, there was no other place in all the whole world she'd rather have been. Whatever perils this adventure was bound to contain, she was nothing but confident that every minute of it would be worthwhile.

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Pathfinder allowed herself to be buried in Sniwfall physically and emotionally. Few things were as good as being with the mare you lived in a place you were excited to poke around in. Of course, Pathfinder was an expert in poking things. One time she had not so accidentaly poked a dragon in the eye to distract him for his friends to make an escape, and then poked him several more times to frustrate him enough to bring the whole cave down on top of them. One creature was a lithe, exciting, awesome pegasus who could avoid debris and the other was a dumb dragon who couldn't on account of being big and dumb. Spoiler: The first one was Pathfinder! She also poked the Nimbusgait Eeel once and that was a shocking experience. Shocking because of electricity, you see. That hadn't turned out all that well but she still got into the underwater caves. That Eeel didn't have a lick of fun traps left when Pathfinder was finished with her! And now here she was, about to poke and prod her Snowy all night and all adventure long. Eeel monster, take that and shove it!

For now, she would just wirry about the Snowy monster and the endless mane she was trapped in underneath the beautiful monster's neck. It would be hard to get out of its tender and vice like grip or away from the mind-controlling aroma, but then again, Pathfinder was thinking she didn't really have to. She'd be fine here for a while, tucked safe and secure with her lover in a tent, in a cave, on a remote mountain in a remote nation. Besides she may as well get comfortable as the apir would be here for a while. She should get used to the mane in her snout and the neck she breathed on warmly as she pulled her Snowy in tight as Snowy did the same to Pathfinder. The only thing that could make this better was ice cream. If there was ice cream they could share the tub and maybe even be super naughty and share the spoon. That'd show them! Who, one might ask? Well, those who said Pathfinder wasn't super romantic or anything like that. Why, sharing an ice cream spoon was the most romantic and naughtiest thing in all of recorded history, right? Duh!

"Well Snow, thats good that you're confident because we've got so much to do- mwah- tomorrow," She said, planting a kiss huskily on Snowfall's neck as she wiggled close.

"In six hours we wake up and start exploring. Dn't worry- I brought all sorts of stuff. You'll have something better than a stick to bat a any potential ghoulies with, I guarantee it! Speaking of, the Crystal ghosts in this area aren't supposed to be all that bad. They can eat your life away but they only move when you aren't looking, and they move slowly. So keep those peepers open! Goodnight! Mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah!" Pathfinder finished before laying a barrage of kisses down onto Snowy, cuddling close and getting ready to hit the sack and poke the love bear!

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"Well Snow, thats good that you're confident because we've got so much to do- mwah- tomorrow, In six hours we wake up and start exploring. Dn't worry- I brought all sorts of stuff. You'll have something better than a stick to bat a any potential ghoulies with, I guarantee it! Speaking of, the Crystal ghosts in this area aren't supposed to be all that bad. They can eat your life away but they only move when you aren't looking, and they move slowly. So keep those peepers open! Goodnight! Mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah!"

There were a number of interesting thoughts Snowfall could have been having at that moment. Where she was there apparently were crystal ghosts that ate away at ponies' lives while they they aren't looking. if that was something to be thrown off casually here and now, it probably only spoke to a small part of what horrors they might encounter here. Pathfinder, had taken her somewhere dangerous. it was likely she'd have to make use of every thing she had learned to keep her safe. Even though she had Pathfinder at her side, and there was no pony she'd have rather been facing something dangerous with, there was a real chance in a place like this that things could get precarious and easily. But Snowfall couldn't worry about any of those things.

There was also home. She didn't know what Pathfinder had planned, but it remained that she had been taken from her home.in the night without making any kind of preparations. Now, she had ever confidence NSI would be fine without her. The people who worked for her were competent and capable and she was only one mare in the first place. It was sure to make a lot of the board members cross with her though. it would be hard to explain, especially if she was gone long. It wasn't going to look good. In fact, it actually would probably look like she had been kidnapped a second time. She supposed, in a way, she had. She wondered if they'd suspect that dragon again. Probably not. It was just an empty bedroom window this time...Whatever the case, it was a lot to think about there, though Snowfall didn't dwell on any of it.

No, her mind wasn't full of concerns for her safety or thoughts for her return at all. No, every thought she had was on the mare who was kissing her so many times. She was lucky. Truly she was. She met the shower of kisses with her own. There was much kissing that night, and neither mare was very quick to find sleep...

Despite this, Snowfall awoke very early. Pathfinder had said they'd sleep for six hours, but Snow found herself wide awake after just over five. She wasn't sure why. There were no bad dreams, or any especially good ones for that matter. Nothing she could even remember. Pathfinder hadn't kicked her awake in her sleep either or anything like that. Snowfall wasn't really sure what it was, probably something subconscious, but there she was wide awake. She brushed some hair out of the sleeping Pathfinder's face and smiled down at her warmly. She was snoring a little, but she looked so sweet in her slumber. Snowfall wouldn't think to wake her. She gave a little giggle and rose from where they slept.

Walking from the tent, she stepped out into the caverns and admired them. She wouldn't think of straying from the tent without Pathfinder with her, but she was eager to take in the beauty of the caves once more and remind herself this all wasn't just some odd, wonderful dream. She smiled a soft smile as she looked for a while at all of it. Thoughts found her now, but they were of different things than she might have expected. She thought not of the danger of where they were or of what was waiting for her back home, but of things more distant. She wondered for a moment if her father had found any place like this when he made his expedition north from Stalliongrad. Pathdinfer had said this cavern was only newly opened, and Snowfall doubted there was another anything like it, so probably not. Still, for her it was a somewhat pretty thought. At the very least, he surely had a similar feeling in his heart when he left the manor for the deepest unknowns, never to return. Snowfall, however, had every confidence she would return from this dangerous mystery though. The reason was her, Pathfinder. With her there, she felt invincible. There was nothing in all of these caverns that might stop the two of them together. She honestly felt that.

As her thoughts drifted back to the mare, and the night before, she smiled. She glanced back toward the tent and gave a small laugh. Pathfinder would likely wake up soon. Snowfall couldn't help but be full of curiosity as to what the day would hold for them.

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Pathfinder was a snorer. She knew it. She recorded it! The only time she didn't snore was when she was in the throes of some mad adventure and she was under the guard of terrible beasts who sought her ruin. Her brain knew to turn the snoring off then. But Snowy wasn't a terrible monster guarding her. She was a terrible maker of sandwiches perhaps, terrible at dodging arrows, and terrible at being a bad lover. So Pathfinder felt fine snoring her little hat off all night, likely deep into her mare's mane all night long. Or however long she was still next to her because Pathfinder felt a certain presence in her mind slither away as her mare did likewise, opening Pathfinder up to her normal sleep of being on the floor. Still the snoring continued ad naseum.

She woke up some time later, yawning swiftly as she turned on her back, notcing that she was without Snowy! She panicked momentarily, hoof to mouth as she scrambled up. Those darnable Crystal Ghosts must have taken her life force! Oh no! Oh my! Oh goodess! Pathfinder would have to adventure through space and time and the afterlife to save her marefriend because she had taken Snowy here for a reason and Crystal Ghost or not she was going to bear witness to what it was. Did bears witness a lot? How did that term come about? She could only imagine a secret society of wise sage bears. Sounds like another adventure in the planner for Pathfinder! Back on topic: Missing Mare. Her lover mare. Pathfinder put her hat on in a huff, clapping it on and preparing to charge out of her tent and find her Snowfall before the Crystal Ghosts made her lose all her memory and forgot about that thing she did with the-

-And then she heard Snowy laugh and she was less concerned, poking her head out of the tent to see her mare at the top of the staircase that led below into the crystal city. Well, well, well, lookie who was up all early, bright eyed and bushy tailed like an overeager squirrel looking down on a world of acorns and nuts. That made Pathfinder happy, no last second regrets from her Snowy about going down into the dark and dangerous depths of the abanoned city below. She wasn't going to force Snowfall to stay if she didn't want to, but she had brought a lot of supplies for two ponies for an extended amount of time for a reason. She flew to Snowy and grabbed her in a tight embrace, kissed her, and then flew around some more with her in Pathie's hooves as if Snowy was a large stuffed animal. Which she may as well have been.

"Gooood morning Snow! So nice to see you up all bright and early. Just like me! Stay up late, wake up early, eat moss, just like me! Soon we'll be almost the exact same except I need to get you a nice coat dye- JUST KIDDING. You're too beautiful to change!" Another kiss and she flew back down, letting her Snowfall escape as she brought out saddlebag.

"Okay, so we're going down today. Since we don't know what is down there really, we'll be sorta cautious. You have to find the adventure after all! We'll go down for six hours and come back, so twelve hours spent down there. I brought this ticker tape that we can attach to the bottom of our hooves that will trail us, so when we go back we'll be able to find our way easy. Here is some chalk, we'll mark buildings we've investigated with them. Check mark means it is clean, ex means dangerous, exclamation means something possibly cool. After we've explored a bit of the city we'll start to double back and hit up those cool places. A notebook and some quills for you so we can keep cool notes in our adventure buddy journals. I have some hay and barley grass that we can eat, but anything special needs to be done back here. As for cool supplies, I have winches, ropes, ziplines, marbles, smoke bombs, a pointy helmet, and a lot of other cool odds and ends that can help out. Ready?!" Pathfinder ended after she had buzzed around, filling both saddlebags up with as much as she thought reasonable. This was time for the fun adventure to begin...and, if legends were true, the single most important relic of Pathfinder's life to be found!

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"Gooood morning Snow! So nice to see you up all bright and early. Just like me! Stay up late, wake up early, eat moss, just like me! Soon we'll be almost the exact same except I need to get you a nice coat dye- JUST KIDDING. You're too beautiful to change!"

One moment Snowfall was standing quietly, admiring the beauty of the cave, the next she was being hugged forcibly and met with loving kisses from her Pathfinder. She smiled, finding the change, sudden as it was a pleasant one. Pathfinder's enthusiastic words were likewise amusing. It was a wonder how much energy she had right first thing in the morning, especially on only so much sleep. Even if she wasn't entirely sure she would take very well to having to eat moss, it was exactly what she liked to hear from Pathfinder. The final compliment brought a smile and light blush to her face. There was just something so powerful about Pathfinder saying something romantic that made it strike a clear chord. She kissed the other pegasus back tenderly before she flew back.

"How sweet of you," she said softly. "But yes, a dye job is probably too much. I think I could pull off a vest and pith helmet well enough though if I wanted to. Don't you agree?" she started playfully, smiling at the other mare.

"Okay, so we're going down today. Since we don't know what is down there really, we'll be sorta cautious. You have to find the adventure after all! We'll go down for six hours and come back, so twelve hours spent down there. I brought this ticker tape that we can attach to the bottom of our hooves that will trail us, so when we go back we'll be able to find our way easy. Here is some chalk, we'll mark buildings we've investigated with them. Check mark means it is clean, ex means dangerous, exclamation means something possibly cool. After we've explored a bit of the city we'll start to double back and hit up those cool places. A notebook and some quills for you so we can keep cool notes in our adventure buddy journals. I have some hay and barley grass that we can eat, but anything special needs to be done back here. As for cool supplies, I have winches, ropes, ziplines, marbles, smoke bombs, a pointy helmet, and a lot of other cool odds and ends that can help out. Ready?!"

Pathfinder spoke fast, but it wasn't so hard for Snowfall to keep up with it all. All of it seemed very logical to her, and some of the ideas were lifted from Daring Do books she could recall reading. She took the notebook gladly. She was pretty good at taking notes and was eager to record the adventure. Pathfinder's own accounts of her adventures could be a little... opaque. Depending on what they found down there, maybe she'd be able to someday write a book about her adventures in this very cave.

"Understood, Pathfinder," she said with a smile. "It's good to see you're so well prepared..." she added, giving it some thought. When Pathfinder wrote or spoke of her adventures, she never really went into the preparations she made for it. Snowfall hadn't ever really considered that part of it before, but she supposed it only followed naturally. Pathfinder might seem like the sort to jump into situations blindly, but if that was truly the case she wouldn't have ever lasted this long. She got by danger partly because she knew how to prepare for it. She truly was an adventurer. She was in her element in a place like this and truly knew what she was doing.

"I'm ready to get started whenever you are," she added with a smile. Sure, there were bound to be danger, but already Snowfall knew this would be worth it. For once, she would be seeing Pathfinder shine brightly at her best. For her, that was a more precious prize than any relics the ruins might hold.

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That would be a good look for her! She'd have to cut her mane down a bit to get it under the pith helmet for decent protection. She would maybe need a tophat-pith helmet combination to really get it all protected. Pathfinder's wasn't all that protected but her mane was too adventurey for protection. It was washed a few months ago and only a few sapient brain-leeching leeches had made their home there over the past few months so it wasn't a major concern anyway. Without the modified pith helmet though she would be far more susceptible to evil arrows attacking her cool mane and face. Luckily she had Pathie the Lovefinder all over, and Pathfinder could take those arrows! She did anyway. Pathfinder had been hit by so many arrows in her lifetime that she wondered why she didn't just spring a thousand leaks and collapse into a wet rag. But she probably had a few times and the good ol' hounding Equestrian healthcare system had patched her up! Yay hospital bills!

"Oooh, maybe! Maybe! But you're so cute anyway I'd rather just have you like that. You'd need a new sorta pith helmet to protect your cute mane and I don't know where they sell one like that. You could make it though! Oooh, oooh, oooh! Maybe NSI could put steam engines into a pith helmet and we can fly around while sleeping? That would cut down on the time it took to get from one adventure to the other. You could make literally dozens and dozens of bits, oh my Celestia I'm a genius! You should hire me to be one of your engineers," Pathfinder said with as much seriousnessity as she could muster, which was the surest sign of all she was...super serious! She was obviously the best idea mare in the history of marekind. She also knew everything about everything else so she was obviously the top doggie of the pile, the bee's ankles, the best meat- as told to her by the griffons, anyway.

"And I'm always prepared, my marey mare. I also get more stuff with every adventure! I don't have any explodey things this time because I don't think I want to make anything here explode. I do have this cool thing though!" Pathfinder quickly pulled out a what looked like a two-sided hoof-held jackhammer, and then used her mouth to insert a small magical battery into it. She then tapped it and it started going off for a little while, Pathfinder shaking in place due to the power. She then shook it again and it stopped, "it is a thingie mobobber! I found it in some Earth Pony Supremacists fort from the ancient era. But it is it a bit ironic, right? They still had to use this magical battery thing, probably unicorn. There were so many really cool tech things back then because Earth ponies couldn't rely on other pony's magic. Same thing with pegasi and unicorns, but each was different. Pretty cool stuff! I wanna find some more. But anyway, let's go and find your eng- gift!" Pathfinder nearly flubbed, swiftly kissing her mare to cover it up and then placing her hoof around her neck.

She then attached ticker tape to the floor and then their hooves, "gotta keep track!" she laughed, pulling her mare in close with a bear hug, "and we're off!" she said before flying leisurely with her mare in a death grip down the crystal staircase It was old and a shll of its former glory, the dust and ruins of the cave seeping in through the cracks in the crystal facade. Ancient words of encouragement and welcome were etched on low hanging backwards facing walls that at one time were likely sparkling signs of friendship. Every few hundred feet there would be a small checkpoint with holes in the wall behind crystal decks where in ancient times security would check ponies entering. Now they were just full of cute little star spiders eating giant crystal moths. Adorable wildlife! It was good to see such a show on the way down. It took a while to get down the many hundreds of feet that occasionally went sideways for a while. Some of these little security alcoves would be interesting to check out, and a few times the doors were cracked open to reveal larger security stations where security used to sleep, prepare, get debriefed, and maybe even hold trespassers! But that would be later. She was here for the city proper.

They eventually reached an opening six or seven ponies big after the staircase opened up which led to a landing. Pathfinder finally let go of her mare after about a mile and a half of not so swift gliding and trotting as they came to it and peeked over into the city- and what a city it was! In the distance, in the deepest part of the cavern, was a skyline that would make Manehattan proud. Silver skyscrapers glittered under their protective spells while unfolding below them on the floor of the cavern was untold numbers of smaller but still impressive looking buildings. Stores, museums, and thousands of smaller buildings littered the view while on the walls were etched hundreds if not thousands of smaller shops in between a dozen large holes in the cavern walls, each one with a name above and a staircase leading up to. They were the many districts away from what was the downtown caverns area. The city was HUGE. It even shocked Pathfinder!

"Holy moley artichokey! This is bigger than I ever thought it'd be. They said that it was one of the largest cities of antiquity, with over a hundred thousand ponies but this looks like it could have been double or triple! Hehehe, we'll be having lots of fun I bet," Pathfinder said deliriously, hiding her worry. She was here to find something and if she didn't find it...well, she'd search even if it took a few years, but yikes!

"Well, where should we start? We could try one of those districts or we can tackle the big colt downtown!"

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"Oooh, maybe! Maybe! But you're so cute anyway I'd rather just have you like that. You'd need a new sorta pith helmet to protect your cute mane and I don't know where they sell one like that. You could make it though! Oooh, oooh, oooh! Maybe NSI could put steam engines into a pith helmet and we can fly around while sleeping? That would cut down on the time it took to get from one adventure to the other. You could make literally dozens and dozens of bits, oh my Celestia I'm a genius! You should hire me to be one of your engineers,"

Snowfall sometimes didn't know what to make of Pathfinder's stream of silliness. One moment she could see only the practical, that a pith helmet on Snowfall would not protect her mane, the next she was talking about flying helmets that carried ponies about while they were sleeping. As much as she loved Pathfinder, she was pretty sure she wasn't entirely fit to be one of her engineers. She giggled and nodded all the same, just happy to be there with the other mare..

"I'm not sure I see the logistics of such an invention, my dear," she said in a soft, amused voice. "I mean, the helmet would just fly away without the pony, wouldn't it? You'd have to really strap it on to get it to stay, and I don't think that would be especially comfortable for sleeping, especially since an engine would already make it so heavy."

"And I'm always prepared, my marey mare. I also get more stuff with every adventure! I don't have any explodey things this time because I don't think I want to make anything here explode. I do have this cool thing thoughit is a thingie mobobber! I found it in some Earth Pony Supremacists fort from the ancient era. But it is it a bit ironic, right? They still had to use this magical battery thing, probably unicorn. There were so many really cool tech things back then because Earth ponies couldn't rely on other pony's magic. Same thing with pegasi and unicorns, but each was different. Pretty cool stuff! I wanna find some more. But anyway, let's go and find your eng- gift!"

Snowfall looked at the bizarre jackhammer with interest enough that she didn't notice at all whatever it was Pathfinder almost let slip at the end. It was of curious design, and looked quite advanced for something of a bygone era. Pathfinder truly did unearth some intriguing things. Really, it belonged in a museum of ancient feats of engineering rather than being used for adventuring.

"It's a jackhammer," she said, nodding as she looked closed. "A pneumatic drill. It's a useful tool for tunnelling and excavation. NSI makes one powered by steam and pistons. Much bigger and with just a single , but the general concept appears to be the same. They helped us build the tunnels so we could lay the rails for the Trans-Equestria Railroad." She gave a laugh and then smiled at Pathfinder. "I would have assumed it was a more modern invention. That ancient ponies had one, powered by magic no less, is fascinating."

"gotta keep track! And we're off!"

Snow nodded as Pathfinder grabbed hold of her and took to wing. She wasn't expecting them to fly together like that, gut she supposed it was practical in a way and it was also quite fun. Keeping track of their progress with tape also seemed only prudent. Pathfinder seemed silly at time, but she really would need to know what she was doing to have survived so many adventures. The caves proved to continue to be beautiful. Though the sight of the crystal moth they passed getting itself gruesomely eaten by a hungry star spider was enough to make Snowfall wince a little, she expected to see such things in nature. She was content to continue past it into the crystaline city where Pathfinder let her go. There they found an amazing sight. The city in the crystal was so very gigantic and beautiful that it was easy to become quickly overwhelmed.

"Holy moley artichokey! This is bigger than I ever thought it'd be. They said that it was one of the largest cities of antiquity, with over a hundred thousand ponies but this looks like it could have been double or triple! Hehehe, we'll be having lots of fun I bet, Well, where should we start? We could try one of those districts or we can tackle the big colt downtown!"

"It's amazing..." Snowfall remarked, looking all around. "I cannot believe all of this is down here... it's just staggering to think," she said after a while, completely dumbstruck by what she was seeing.

She found her senses overtaken by all the many beautiful sites of the great city entirely buried and cut off from the world. "I don't think it matters where we start," she said after a while. "I'm sure all of it contains things worth seeing. Instead the important thing is we start exploring right away!' she added, with a full nod.

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Her mare was one of the smartest mares of all the mares in all the maredom. She knew that for sure. She had seen the results of her own study where she talked to herself and got all the relevant data to make that statement. But for all of her wonderful brain powers powered by the power of her brain matter she was a two-dimensional thinker. She should have been a three dimensional thinker as a pegasus but even then Pathfinder was a five dimensional thinker. She was a pegasus and that gave her three dimensional thinking. Reading lots of Daring Do gave you another dimension. Being a full-time adventure gave you two more dimensions. Finding the Three Dimensional Orb of Truth gave her four more so she had ten dimensions, five of which were disabled due to head trauma, leaving her with five. That explained her lack of understanding with the one and all flying helmet as well as the old timey jackhammering thingie mobobber!

Pathfinder ruffled little Snowfall's mane, kissing her on top.

"Oh Snowie powie! See, the flying helmet is perfect! You use steam so it keeps you warm while you're flying around in the sky and when you hit something you wake up with only a small concussion! Of course if you're an earth pony or a unicorn maybe you have troubles after you've hit whatever but that is why you then invent rocket steam boots too. Imagine the utility! Oh well. Five dimensional thinking for three dimensional problems! And yeah, you'd be super jazzed to see all the stuff the ancient ponies made. I think that ponies in the ancient times were as advanced as we are now or even more advanced, but then bad stuff happened and then they were just cool relics for me to find. I like it this way more. I think if we didn't have all that happen in the past then I would probably just hide under a bed and die of boredom. Dying of boredom is not as fun as not dying of boredom because of adventures!" Pathfinder blathered as she wandered around the entrance to the city.

So now they had some important stuff to do. Pathfinder took out a piece of chalk and then another, tossing one to her mare. The whole city would need to be explored but they would have to go building by building, neighborhood by neighborhood. Well, PATHFINDER would. No way no how would she take up Snowfall's next year of her life on this. Less for Pathfinder. Naw, Pathfinder had made sure to get some information about the thing she sought. There were sixteen different locations it could be at. Looking out, Pathfinder saw the sort of building she was looking for. Large crystal cylinder buildings. Judging by what Pathie wafie safie saw, there were probably three dozen or so different of these tall, cylinder structures about fifteen or so stories high. It was in one of them. Once that was solved she could search the rest, but for now she would be focused on those areas for greatest utility.

"Okey dokey! Well, doing it by district may take too long. But see those cylinder looking buildings? From what little I know, those are where kings and queens here either lived, stored stuff, or hosted art galleries and the such. We'll have so much fun with those I bet. Most likely to have boobytraps that haven't faded just yet! Let's roll!"

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"Oh Snowie powie! See, the flying helmet is perfect! You use steam so it keeps you warm while you're flying around in the sky and when you hit something you wake up with only a small concussion! Of course if you're an earth pony or a unicorn maybe you have troubles after you've hit whatever but that is why you then invent rocket steam boots too. Imagine the utility! Oh well. Five dimensional thinking for three dimensional problems! And yeah, you'd be super jazzed to see all the stuff the ancient ponies made. I think that ponies in the ancient times were as advanced as we are now or even more advanced, but then bad stuff happened and then they were just cool relics for me to find. I like it this way more. I think if we didn't have all that happen in the past then I would probably just hide under a bed and die of boredom. Dying of boredom is not as fun as not dying of boredom because of adventures!"

Snowfall couldn't say she understood Pathfinder and her five dimensions. She had a young heart that called out for whimsy and freedom, but Snowfall was still when you got right down to it just another component of her father's logical world of business and structure. Maybe there were whole dimensions separating her and the wonderful mare in front of her, but that was the allure of Pathfinder. If she ever let herself become normal, if she ever lost those extra dimensions and became a sensible creature like Snowfall was, she would just stop being Pathfinder. Ultimately she was entirely right, after all. In a world without secrets and mysteries, a Pathfinder would have no purpose. Pathfinder was the very essence of what made the world they lived in magical and fascinating and worth living in. That was why Snowfall loved her.

"It's a good thing that that stuff exists then. A world where Pathfinder could not be Pathfinder would not be a one I would ever want to see," she said in a soft voice, smiling.

That said, the steam powered flying helmet was still a very silly idea no matter how it was approached.

"But, you know, while the rocket boots could actually be practical-- four engines working together could keep a pony upright and balanced flying through the air--attaching an engine to the head alone though, and expecting that to push the pony through the air just sounds like a recipe for a lot broken or at the very least sore necks," Snowfall said in a soft voice.

"Okey dokey! Well, doing it by district may take too long. But see those cylinder looking buildings? From what little I know, those are where kings and queens here either lived, stored stuff, or hosted art galleries and the such. We'll have so much fun with those I bet. Most likely to have boobytraps that haven't faded just yet! Let's roll!"

Snowfall followed Pathfinder's eyes to the strange cylinders. She somehow hadn't noticed them before for they really didn't even look like buildings as she recognized them. Focusing in on them, she found she found the beautiful.

"What intriguing architecture. I've never seen anything like it," she said as she continued to stare. "Not even in Crystal Spire do they have anything that looks like that..."

"And if that is where the wealthy and powerful lived, it's certainly a great place to start. Let's go look!" she added, finding herself legitimately excited to get started.

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Pathfinder was very happy to have a practical smart mare like Snowfall distracting Pathfinder from her decidedly unpractical and silly ideas, even if Pathfinder immediately discarded the advice and suggestions based on her own experience and otherworldy ability to ignore good sense and order. And who needed that anyway if they were an adventurer? Good sense told you to go away from the super cool places of the world because there was the chance of being permanently removed from the adventuring equation by finding a nice cold resting spot. Good sense was normally a cheap liar though because if you were actually a super cool adventure pegasus then you would get through it all like Pathfinder had, and she was the super cooliest of all the adventure pegasi. So she would ignore her love's practical advice regarding helmet and work on it on her spare time.

“Silly, that's why you make it a bit trigger so a pony has to bite it! And you make the engine out of pure arcanium gemstone. Sure those might explode about half the time but you're already wearing the helmet, kablam!” Pathfinder offered as the paur went into the city.

Once you got past the sheer verticality of the city and the buildings, the unusual circular structures they approached had many of the same features of some of Canterlot's older cities. The veneer of ice that had crept over everything and the crystals that glistened duly behind them hid the fact that the structure was familiar to Pathfinder. Large and circular structures were often the purview of the Griffons but in Caterlot some of the old style apartments had them, each floor given to one family. Other circular structures of that era had been torn down and replaced with royal libraries and royal this and royal that. Griffon structures were all like this. Crystal? Well, what little Pathfinder knew about this city told her that was where the high and mighty lived, operated, and stored their precious items. Pathfinder's job would be easy if the first building they checked had what she was looking for. Probably not. They approached the first tall circular structure, the door basically welded shut with ice. No problem. She wasn't here to preserve doors. Pathfinder removed the tape she had attached to her wings and hooves and tied them down around a rock near the entrance. She then reared up an bucked the door clear open, a crack and a pow of shattering ice sickles and creaking ancient crystal being moved for the first time in centuries. Pathfinder pulled out a small cylinder and shook it for a few seconds.

She then twisted it a few times and it produced a light, the geode crystals inside reacting to the layered magic. She then slathered it in a sap like substance and put it between her ear and her head, giving her good light ahead of her. She then put her saddlebag back on and stepped into the building, prodding her mare to follow, quill and pad and chalk in hooves.

“Alright, if you see anything super special take it. Note the rest and keep your eyes out for anything especially super pretty! When we're done on this floor, we go up. If you trigger a trap gimme some time so I can join in, 'kay?”

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“Silly, that's why you make it a bit trigger so a pony has to bite it! And you make the engine out of pure arcanium gemstone. Sure those might explode about half the time but you're already wearing the helmet, kablam!”

Snowfall sighed a little and shook her head. Pathfinder's enthusiasm was such that she wished she could let go of her practicality some times, but that was a little precarious when it could mean Pathfinder strapping some highly explosive engine to her head expecting it to propel her across the sky.

"We've been doing a lot of testing on arcanium and it's practical use as a fuel. I think in the future we might have something more stable and less of a hazard, but I'd have to advise against using that until the technology gets to that point," Snowfall explained, recalling some of the R&D projects she had underway. "But you miss my point, love. It doesn't matter what the engine is powered with--unless perhaps the entire body is locked in place in some kind of brace, a thrusting engine strapped only to the head is very likely to snap a pony's neck, and regardless it doesn't seem like a comfortable or effective place for controlling such a device. There is far less inherit danger in putting thrusters somewhere that would allow for more control, such as on the hooves or strapped to the pony's back."

Despite her attempts, Snowfall had some doubts Pathfinder would actually listen. She could only hope that Pathfinder wasn't actually making this bizarre rocket helmet and, that in the case that she was, it never actually saw any kind of completion. She just sighed and followed after her mare as she continued to approach the tall cylindrical building. She watched with excitement as Pathfinder bucked the ice from the ancient door. She was very much looking forward to seeing Pathfinder in her element and this was just a small taste.

When Pathfinder pulled out her magic light, Snow stared at it in wonder. Pathfinder had at her disposal quite an interesting number of toys. Most of them were likely quite old things she uncovered on her adventures. Snowfall had to wonder if the mare even realized they were each likely exceptionally valuable as artifacts to museums and collectors. A magic light was not a common thing, most ponies content still to use lanterns lit by firefly, or when they're not found, just common candles.

"That's a curious device, Pathfinder. Did you find it in the same place as your intriguing little jackhammer?" she asked as she stared at is as Pathfinder stuck it to her helm with sap. "We have similar devices on the table. One of our engineers has designed a dry electric battery that could be safely inserted into portable devices. We only need to find a way to mass produce them effectively and we could be able to use them to power small lights like that."

“Alright, if you see anything super special take it. Note the rest and keep your eyes out for anything especially super pretty! When we're done on this floor, we go up. If you trigger a trap gimme some time so I can join in, 'kay?”

"I don't think there is anything more special or pretty to find than the mare by my side," Snowfall affectionately replied at these words and then gave a soft giggle. "But I'll keep my eyes open. And I think I'll do my best to avoid triggering traps, if you don't mind."

She smiled and then proceeded to look around the building's ground floor. Within the light provided by Pathfinder's magic torch, Snowfall could see it all pretty well, but it was kind of hard to immediately get much of a sense of what anything was. Honestly, she supposed any of the crystalline things furnishing the area would be of some value to the right collector, but nothing she yet saw was calling out to her in any real way.

"See anything you like, Pathfinder?" she asked to see if Pathfinder was in the same boat as her.

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Pathfinder was a pretty good search pony. You had to be! How the heck else did you find all the cool stuff she found if not for that? Well, some luck played into it for sure, even if Pathie was loathe to admit that luck existed and it wasn't just her adventurer's guile and smashing good looks that sent arrows and lava cascading away from her. Sometimes you cracked open a chest and the only thing that you found was a hyper venomous spider-bat that leapt out at you in an attempt to poison you so much your wings fell off. Other times you cracked it open only to find an even smaller chest in the infinity loop of tease and denial that the Mistress' chamber was so well laid out to do. But once in a while you opened the chest and found some ancient tool of greatness that allowed you to do things you couldn't do with your broken wings or bones. Now she was a super pony! Tech and desire in one. Huzzah!

One day her Snowy would recognize that, especially when she saw the rocket helmet she was making! One flight with that and no doubt she'd be able to see the glory in it. Pathfinder continued her search hoping ger good adventuringness would give her the gold. She had her eye out for one very specific item but no doubt Pathfinder would gather whatever she spotted of worth. Most of it wasn't too worthy of being worth. Pathfinder sorta kinda had an idea that her search would be long and mostly fruitless.but the thing about fruit was that it went bad but the stuff here would never rot, so it was a search that would be pretty gentle if it wasn't for Pathfinder really really really really wanting one very specific thing. Storage piles were broken into, chests hacked open, and she lockpicked her way into one small lockbox. Currency and tapestries long since faded and worn were the only rewards for her efforts. GOSH DARNIT PINEAPPLES.

"That's a curious device, Pathfinder. Did you find it in the same place as your intriguing little jackhammer? We have similar devices on the table. One of our engineers has designed a dry electric battery that could be safely inserted into portable devices. We only need to find a way to mass produce them effectively and we could be able to use them to power small lights like that."

Pathfinder looked at her little device and smiled, pulling it off of her little snug place and showing it. “Nah, different place, almost the same story though. I found this in Maretonia in one of their ruined pegasi cities. From what I read, this was taken as tribute from a small Earth pony tribe that the pegasi had smashed nearby. But those wily earthies had rigged some of them to explode, which you can imagine turned the pegasi city into one chaotic place. The earthies had built some really tall siege towers secretly and some flying machines and then drove away the pegasi before tethering the city with the help of some other pegasi,” Pathfinder put hers back, “those which weren't sabotaged remained, and now I have one. You should really look into earth pony ruins. All sorts of cool tech type stuff can be found there, especially in Maretonia! Well, if they'd allow you. Or you can just wing it- HA, PUN- and dare them to stop you. Which they couldn't because you're too darn adorabs,” Pathfinder chortled before hugging her Snowy and returning to her search.

"See anything you like, Pathfinder?"

Pathfinder sighed as she started tapping on the ceiling.

“Nothing too great. I mean some of this stuff is cool and all, but nothing too big. Some jewels and tapestries, old currency, but for the most part nothing too dramatic. Not unexpected- not every room yields cool stuff. If it did, I'd still be back in Vanhoover!” Pathfinder laughed as she knocked on the ceiling some more. She then licked it.

“Hmm...seems good. Okay, next floor up!”

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