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IceStorm

Operation Get Our Friends Back (Moondancer and Pocket Change)

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Celestia's sun was rising in the eastern part of the sky, though in this region Ice wasn't really even sure that the sun was even under Celestia's control anymore. This was technically on the border so it was possible her reign may stretch out this far, but no pony could rightfully be sure anymore. Ice Storm looked over the terrain that lay in front of them, and it didn't look at all forgiving. If fact, she was fairly certain that with as many dangers as were here, the Everfree Forest was a safer place than trying to traverse this geyser filled, lava pitted, crevice riddled stretch of land. It looked like just about everything here could easily remove a pony from existence.

Regardless of how dangerous the task in front of them was, the group of ponies were here for a reason. One of their best friends, and one of Ice's closest had been kidnapped by a dragon. A dragon that was wanting a rather large ransom for the prestigious painter. Ice was determined that this dragon was not going to get a single bit, and that she would do everything she could to help get her friend back. Naturally, Moondancer and Pocket Change felt the same way, and while she didn't know too much about the grey unicorn, as she had only met him during a few of the Spellbound meetings. Outside of that she never really had much of a chance to speak with him otherwise. The few times she had though, she could tell that his heart and mind were in the right place.

Right now though, her thoughts weren't about him, or Moondancer for that matter. At least, not in that sense. She was more concerned about Pressy and her safety. After all, as long as they were still together, they knew that they were as safe as they could be. The didn't have the same luxury of knowing if Pressy was even still alive. Ice shook her head at the thought. "Come on Ice, stop thinking like that. This is Pressy we're talking about here. She's definitely no slouch when it comes to holding her own." She told herself confidently. "Then again, we are dealing with a dragon...." she said starting to now second guess herself.

She took another gander out to what was in store for them. It was bad enough that they knew that they were going to have to deal with at least one dragon. The tricky part was the fact that there were many dragons here. This was their migration site after all. What if they accidentally went into the wrong dragon's lair and demanded that they released a pony that they didn't have? Sure they had a description of the dragon to go off of, but they couldn't be certain that they wouldn't run into multiple dragons of that description around. One of the geysers not too far away from the went off, and attracted her attention. That was another thing. They would have to be super careful traversing through this. For all they knew, dragons weren't the only things here. While she was fairly certain that they would be able to see something coming after them fairly easily, the same held true for what they were seeking as well.

There wasn't a whole lot in the way of cover that they had to work with so anything would be able to spot them, and should any other random dragon become hungry and decide that they would be a good lunch, they didn't really have many options to hide from them with. There were no trees, no bushes, no anything. There was a few areas that had some larger rocks than others but that was about it. Nothing that would provide them any real protection from a flying reptilian with fire. It didn't really protect them from anything else either. The were completely exposed to all of the elements. Thankfully, Ice could at the very least keep them from being roasted alive from the heat given off of the ground itself. If need be, she could cast her ice layer on the three of them that would act as personal air conditioners at least until it melted.

She turned back to the other two as the looked to appear to be waking up themselves. "Alright. Now that we are here we need to come up with some sort of plan. This heat won't be a problem for any of us. I have enough control over Ice to make sure that we don't overheat. Or even stay at a comfortable temperature for that matter. With that in mind, I did a quick scan of the area that we're most likely going to be going through, and.... it's a compete wasteland. It's filled with geysers, lava pools, and crevices that could swallow a pony whole. To top it all off, I didn't see anything that we could stick to for cover, so during most of this journey we're going to be out in the very wide open with no where to run should any dragon decide they want breakfast that morning. Not to mention, we need to narrow down the general location of where this beast is in this caldera. The last thing I want to do is go into the wrong dragon cave and make more dragons angry than we need to. One crazy, raging dragon is more than enough for me," she spoke to them awaiting their responses.

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Oh how time flies! It had been just a week after the 'Spellbound Open House Extravaganza, and there was already a desperate cry of need from one of the guildies. From what he had heard, Presteza had been pony-napped by a dragon! At first, second and third, Pocket Change could not believe his ears. A dragon? While they had been an issue in the past, the fearsome creatures had for the most part, kept out of the affairs of the citizens of Equestria for quite sometime. Still, he had heard stories of dragons who had simply gone 'rouge' and did whatever they pleased. This dragon snatched the plucky freckle-enthusiast simply to gain access to her family's great wealth. He was rather confused at the time. Why didn't her parents hire the best of the best to rescue their daughter? There were several heroes of note out there that could have rescued the painter, from Princess Celestia's champions to the assorted hero guilds that scattered the more adventuresome parts of Equestria. While he had heard that Pressy's parents had sort of disowned the girl, he still felt it hard to believe that even her kidnapping did not put an halt to their current feud.

But here he was, in the flank-end of nowheresville looking for the mare. While normally, common sense would have kept him away from such a place, it was Moondancer that got him here. She simply asked him to go, and he did. It was impossible to say no to his super-sweetie-pumpkin-pie-honey-bunny-sugar-pie. She could have asked him to pop over to the moon so he could steal a ton of Caciocavallo Podolico cheese from the Moon King, and while he pretty sure there was no cheeses or kings on the moon, he would have found a way! His new mare-friend was the idea model of pretty-pony-perfect-ality. Her beauty knew no limits. She was as clever as a fox who majored in 'Advanced Clever Studies' and became a Professor in the Clever fields. The only living ponies who could match or beat her magic usually had the word 'princess' in their names. When he thought of the unicorn, he couldn't help but lay waste to the nearby environment with his magic pink and red hearts that would suddenly appear and cover the surrounding areas.

Thankfully, he was also here with a fellow guild member, who was a very clever pony known as Ice Storm. She specialized in Abjuration spells, which kept them relativity safe from the harsh environment, even more so than his enchanted jacket that had been ensorcelled to do the same, but not as well. The threesome would be safe from the majority of what they would run into during their travels here, but they would have to keep an eye out for random trouble like lava, hostile animals, pitfalls and other unpleasant things one could find here. Pocket listened patiently to the mare as his eyes crept along the hostel terrain, making sure not to let any nasty beastie get the drop on them.

"Er, Moonie.", he turned away from the ice blue coated mare, "I wonder if Press had her Spellbound membership badge with her? From what I recalled, we had, or did we do....I believe this was discussed at one time, that we were going to put tracking spells on those things? Did we ever?", he smiled politely at the mare, and as he did, a few little hearts slowly drifted from his horn, "Ah nuts."

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To say that Ice Storm didn’t take news of Presteza’s ponynapping very well was a gross understatement to say the least. Her first instinct after learning of Craven’s ransom demand from Duchess Silver Belle had been to prepare for a search for the dragon’s lair to rescue her friend herself. Moondancer cared deeply for her new friend Pressy too, but at first Moony tried to convince Icy of the inherent dangers making an unendorsed rescue attempt close to impossible. Then the moon-flanked unicorn remembered the futility of changing Ice Storm’s mind, now dead-set on saving Presteza.

So Moondancer did the second-best thing she could do: tell all her teachers that she’d be leaving all classes for emergency reasons, and join Ice Storm in her mission. If Ice Storm couldn’t be convinced to wander onto the lands marked on Equestrian maps as “Here Be Dragons”, she sure as heck wouldn’t go alone! As much as Moony thought about how this was all a bad idea, that part of her telling the young mare to never let her friends down won out.

Even so, the two girls needed the services of a seasoned adventurer, and Moondancer obtained one by asking her boyfriend, Pocket Change, to help them. Pocket proved completely incapable of resisting Moony’s charm, either because of his innate love for adventure or his weakness for pretty mares (which included the abducted Presteza, Moondancer slyly noted). Moondancer was grateful that her stallion chose to come along, just in case something bad happened.

Apparently, all the leads collected by the Royal Equestrian Army indicated that Craven’s hideout was somewhere in the tundra between Stalliongrad and the Crystal Empire. But from research conducted by the three ponies about recent ponynappings by a dragon, all the ransomed abductees indicated being held in the Dragon Peaks before their release. With the REA intent on pursuing its own evidence, Moondancer’s friends were on their own in the fiery wastes of the dragons’ Caldera.

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"Alright. Now that we are here we need to come up with some sort of plan..... we need to narrow down the general location of where this beast is in this caldera. The last thing I want to do is go into the wrong dragon cave and make more dragons angry than we need to. One crazy, raging dragon is more than enough for me."

"Er, Moonie. I wonder if Press had her Spellbound membership badge with her? From what I recalled, we had, or did we do....I believe this was discussed at one time, that we were going to put tracking spells on those things? Did we ever? .....Ah nuts."

Despite the bleak surroundings they were in, Moondancer just had to blush and grin at Pocket Change’s small display of affection. That didn’t mean though she had good news; “Sorry, we never got around to putting homing enchantments on these badges. I didn’t think we’d be suffering our first magic guild crisis this soon!”

A brief, depressed sigh from the girl swiftly turned into a candle flickering to life in her clever brain, and she brought out her own Spellbound badge to stare at; “What I could do though is to try a long-range scan for the badge. All these things are pretty much the same down to the last detail, so it’d only be a trivially-complicated matter of using magic to molecularly analyze every part of the landscape, and see if any object matches the composition of our badges. I’ll need a safe spot for this scanning spell though. I'll surely be drained of most of my energy by the end, and it could take me as long as a week to find our needle in the haystack... if it even exists.”

Commence an even longer sigh from the young mare.

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A small sigh could be heard from the icy unicorn's mouth. It wasn't the fact that she didn't know what she was getting into. She knew full well what was lying in store for them when they got here. In fact, Moondancer made for sure that she knew what they were getting themselves into before they even left Canterlot. That being said, there was absolutely nothing that was going to stop Ice Storm from getting her friend back. She even made sure to mention the fact to Moony that she'd don't the same thing if it had been her, and that Pressy would most definitely do the same for either one of them.

Regardless of how much they knew about the dangers before hand though, didn't make them any less dangerous now, and they still had to come up with some way to get around these dangers without anypony getting hurt. the last thing that they needed was somepony not making it home. Ice didn't think that she could live with herself if she led this mission and lost somepony. She wasn't about to let that happen. Pocket Changed listened to what she had to say before turning to Moondancer and asking about the badges and if they had ever gotten around too putting the tracking spells on them. He tried to do something with his magic, but it apparently didn't work. Moondancer answered stating that they hadn't been able to get to that yet. She also added that the weren't really expecting to have their first guild emergency so soon. Then again, when did anypony plan an emergency? That was kinda the opposite of planning.

Once she finished explaining that there wasn't anything on the badges, she said that she could try to do a long-range scanning spell. Since everything was pretty much the same down to almost every aspect, she could identify the molecular structure and they could find Pressy that way. That was of course, until Moondancer added the fact that they would need a safe spot for her to cast it from and that it could potentially take up to a week to find their friend that way. "Hmm, as good as an idea that would be, I don't think this over-grown lizard is going to sit around and wait for a week while we try to find out where he's at. Perhaps its something that we could look at once we get closer to some caves. After all, just by looking out in front of us we know where she's not, so it wouldn't make sense to try to make the scanning spell cover terrain that it doesn't need to. Perhaps it won't strain you as much as well," Ice Storm mentioned. "My main concern right now is getting to the caves. We have nothing to hide behind once we leave the edge of the caldera."

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Pocket Change managed to disperse the remaining hearts with a few swats with his front right hoof, “Do we even know what this Craven looks like? I’d hate to stumble right into his lair unprepared.”, the stallion added, “As for the other dragons, I’m not too concerned with dealing with proper mature dragons. They will at best be of use in discovering this ponynapper, or at the worst, would simply have us leave their lairs. It's the younger wyverns, those who are unaware of the rather toilsome past ponykind has had with their kind, and how we all managed to keep a rather distant peace with them." The young stallion had originally wanted to bring more than a few more experienced members of the guild, knowing a unicorn like Grey Lexis and Professor Hoofcourt probably have more than enough magic to take down a full grown dragon on their own. But it was decided that a small team would be easier and quicker to maneuver through the outlands.

"Moon, could you simply limit your spell to finding the type of gems that were included in our badges? I know we have a few chea, er, less precious stones in our little badges. We could simply try to detect the nearest instance of those gems, which I believe no proper hoarding dragon worth their weight would bother collecting. And for the record, I did try to contact Miss Presteza's very good friend, the good First Lieutenant Fire Walker. The two grew up together and have a rather strong bond. However, I was informed that Miss Walker was in dispose of at the time.She is not going to be happy when she finds out that her friend was kidnapped.", his smile quickly shifted into a frown on those words.

As they tried their best to find a suitable spot for the spell, the unicorn asked, "Have any of you encountered dragons before? I have. As long as you treat them like royalty and look them directly in the eyes, they will treat you kindly. If they have treasure, don't even bother to eyeball it, or they'll assume you're out to swipe it."

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Ice Storm suggested that it’d be more efficient to wait to get close to an actual cave before using Moondancer’s spell, which Moony thought made perfect sense. But that talk about efficiency led the moon-flanked unicorn to wonder about her friend’s status. “Hey Icy, how’s your magic holding out by the way? How long do you think you can keep it up before needing a break? ‘Cause it’s gonna suck if we’re out in the open when your spell starts failing.”

Pocket Change brought up a good point too; dragons wouldn’t be interested in tacky pyrite badges with images painted on them. Presteza wasn’t part of the first generation of Spellbound members, so she wouldn’t have owned one of the original, way-cheaper plastic badges. Anywho, Moondancer wouldn’t have much trouble scanning a cave for any sign of Pressy’s magic guild badge.

When the stallion asked about dragons, Moony eagerly chimed in; “Oh ohhh, I knew a dragon once! His name was Spike, and he was an adorable little kid. On my birthday, he’d always get me this...“ the girl sensed that her story had not been quite what Pocket wanted, prompting her ears to flop downwards; “Oh... you mean a bigger dragon. In that case; nope, got nothin’. Although you’d think that not every single dragon in the world is interested in collecting treasure.”

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Pocket Change continued to help come up with ideas that would be able to help them out by giving them an advantage to try and find Pressy. The most recent one, was again still referencing the guild badge, but it was the easiest thing that they could try to locate that Pressy would have. If the could find where the badge was, then they would most likely find where Pressy was. She waited and listened as he asked Moondancer if she would be able to track just the gems that were in the badge. That they wouldn't really be valuable enough to a dragon to want to keep. Personally, Ice thought the gems were really nice, but ultimately it didn't take a lot to impress her anymore so the point was moot. With that in mind, she awaited a response. Moon looked confident when the question was asked, but Ice was still a bit concerned when she didn't answer the question. However, she the lack of an answer could have also meant that it was a given fact, which, it pretty much was. If she was this confident, then Icy wasn't as concerned as she could be.

When she asked about the efficiency of her own magic, Ice smiled. "This particular spell? I've used it so often that I can pretty much keep it up indefinitely. It takes almost no energy to use at all, and what energy I would expend for it regenerates faster than I use it. I would be more concerned with the amount of energy we'll need to get through that plateau. As long as we don't run into any extra issues, which, we most likely will, I can keep it up until we stop," she said with a pause looking out over the caldera itself as Pocket asked if they had ever encountered a dragon before. "No, I can't really say that I have. I've seen Spike in passing when I lived in Ponyville, but I can't really say that I knew him or encountered him at all. Plus I hardly think that he would classify as the type of dragon that we would run into here. So, I really can't say that I know what to expect. All I know is, they are big, breath fire, ponynap ponies, and are usually mean. Of course, this is my first major interaction with a dragon and it's dealing with a very non-friendly dragon so... I might be just the teencie bit biased," she smiled sheepishly.

"With that in mind though, what direction should we take first? We could always go clockwise around the Caldera, but then we run the risk of missing any underground caves that are in the center. Of course, the further out we go as well, the thinner the rock probably gets, and there's probably sections where the rock is as fragile as ice. That could hold true for any region near lava though, so we could run into that around the caldera as well. Regardless though, we need to try to cover as much ground as possible, as this will likely be a multi-day search. Just like last night, I'll make our shelters, though with as warm as it is here, I'll have to make it extremely dense in order to last until morning, so we may not have sectioned rooms like last night," she added.

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"Always felt bad for Spike.", Pocket Change realized that the less they thought of the actual weather, the better off they'd feel. "That was one of the reasons I did not care for Miss Twilight Sparkle back then.", he couldn't help but smile as the unicorn made herself even more adorable with her little ear-maneuver. "She always seemed to treat him more of a slave and less like a friend back then. Probably why he was so friendly with the staff and students. Little guy wanted friends, while his anti-social Mistress marched through the school grounds with her snout in the air, obvious the rest of us. And yet during all that,you still invited her to all of your parties.", he had slowly made his way over to the mare as he spoke, and gave her a quick peck on the cheek, "When we're not in this depressing heck-hole, I'll have to tell you about my new gaming group. I'm actually in a group with Princess Twilight's brother and his wife, the actual really and truthfully Princess of Love, along with a few other guys.", he chuckled to himself before adding, "Whole thing felt like a fever dream. Here I am with the ruler's of an actual kingdom, just hanging out. Eating chips. Rolling dice."

Images of a pitiful little dragon popped back up in his mind. He always hated seeing Spike at school. He was always holding far too many books in his claws, and was just a few short steps behind Twilight. Thankfully things got better for the pair, or at least Twilight. She lost the stick in her rump, found a few friends, and saved the world. "From what I've read, and this is relatively new information from a year back, dragons don't really need to want to horde things, it just comes upon them, and the more they horde, the faster they grow. That is their bodies, not their brains, so this dragon we're facing might not be a properly aged beastie."

He paused to listen to the blue mare and nodded his head as she finished, "Right, let's get moving. Miss Storm, could you lead the way?"

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“Aww Pocket, don’t be so flattering please.” The blushing Moondancer teased her boyfriend as best she could, but receiving that cute peck made certain that a few hearts popped out from her horn. Guess Pocket Change wasn’t the only pony with that condition afterall. But when the stallion started yammering about how his gaming group had royals in it, Moony rolled her eyes. “Heh, some of my friends and I got to spend part of my Gallopocus vacation chilling with Princess Celestia. You’d be surprised how much fun she can be when, tehehe, properly motivated.”

Peeking at the vista overlooking the Caldera, Moondancer cringed as she witnessed all the horrors of Mother Nature down below. “It’s not just the lava we need to worry about down there,” she explained as she fetched a heavily-scribbled map from her saddlebag; “There’s also the accumulated dragon smoke and the toxic gases venting from everywhere, meaning the very air we breathe down there is lethal to ponies. We can try skimming the ridge, but we can’t get too close to Fort Drogan up north, because that’s where the aether lay lines from Tartarus collide with those from the Dragon Peaks, so really dangerous stuff there happens. I suppose though that dragon that needs to keep somepony alive for ransom would find a place where his hostage won’t suffocate to death.....”

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Most of the small talk was acknowledged, but then ignored as Pocket mentioned that he had always felt kinda bad for Spike because of how Twilight used to treat him. It was true, that early when they lived in Canterlot the first time that Twilight seemed a bit harsh on the dragon. Rather, at least it seemed as such to Ice who had only heard stories about it from other ponies. She didn't really know Twilight herself prior to their meeting in Ponyville. that being said, their meeting in Ponyville could prove to be invaluable here. After all, one wrong move, or overly exerted spell out here could lead to catastrophes and Ice felt that she had much better control over her own magic at this point to where that shouldn't be too much of an issue. However that being said, she gave a gentle nod when Pocket mentioned showing them his gaming group once they were out of this wretched place.

The more Ice looked around, she had to agree. She could easily see why a dragon would enjoy this place, as it had everything they'd ever want. However, as Moondancer had just finished saying, the very air that they breath is toxic to ponies and would cause them to suffocate rather quickly, so going though the center of the caldera where the hazy exhalations from the overgrown reptilians would be at it's thickest wasn't a good idea. She also noted that the dragon would know that ponies wouldn't be able to withstand such poor air quality for very long, so that the den that they were looking for would have to be one at least relatively close to the outer ring as to where Pressy wouldn't suffocate. She added that after all, Pressy served no purpose to the dragon dead as long as he continues to think that he can get shinies for her ransom.

"Alright, so that pretty much eliminates anything from the center of the caldera from our search. If a pony can't survive there, and the dragon is intelligent enough to realize that, then they wouldn't keep something valuable in danger. That being said, it still leaves us with the undecided question. Do we go left or right from here?" she asked still looking for the best possible starting point. She would much rather not have to circle the entire caldera if they didn't have to.

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The stallion was relieved and rather happy to see that he wasn't the only one who 'suffered' from the case of the 'Love Bubbles', which was pretty common for young unicorns in love. He tried his very best to not be further distracted, since this was all a very serious mission they were on, and they were currently standing in a rather parlous place. It did not help when the image of a bathing suit clad Moondancer bounced into his mind, followed by Celestia in a clingy, but royal suit of her own. This was dangerous, hopefully Ice Storm would be of....It didn't take long before the mare herself was in his mind's eye, also wearing a rather fetching one-piece. This needed to end! His mind needed to be clear!

Thankfully Pocket Change was able to focus, and in doing so, the pretty mares vanished and were replaced by the old and very nasty lunch-mare he had to deal with every weekday at his elementary school. Old Miss Mulligan Stew. The old mare must have been a hundred and twenty four, and as the story went, Death himself was so afraid of the terrifying old mare, that he would not dare even an attempt to collect her soul. So she would live on forever, serving the same old watery gruel till the end of time. Images of the wrinkly old crone in jams quickly snapped him from his daydream.

Now clear-minded and fully focused on the mission, Pocket Change smiled gracefully at Moondancer as she finished her bit about Celestia and got into the more gritty details of the mission. Ice Storm also pointed out a few very useful facts about the surrounding area, and then asked an very important question...

"Alright, so that pretty much eliminates anything from the center of the caldera from our search. If a pony can't survive there, and the dragon is intelligent enough to realize that, then they wouldn't keep something valuable in danger. That being said, it still leaves us with the undecided question. Do we go left or right from here?" she asked still looking for the best possible starting point. She would much rather not have to circle the entire caldera if they didn't have to.

"I wonder if this dragon is a sociable fellow? Would his neighbors know of Miss Presteza and the other mare's value? This would probably make our ponynapper find a cave that was not so close to the other lairs.", he glanced towards the direction they needed to head. "Whatever direction we need to go, we need to make up our minds and take it before it's too late."

Left? Right? What direction looked the least well traveled? The least...cavey?

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Right, or left? Pretty tough question, Moondancer admitted. The young mare supposed there was always a chance that Presteza’s dragon captor somehow found a spot in the Caldera’s center free from all the toxic fumes, but the odds of that looked really low. By Moony’s estimates, it also didn’t appear likely that other dragons wouldn’t care for either stealing hostages from their brethren or letting ponies know of their whereabouts, so few of them caring at all for the world outside their lairs and isolated hot spots (tehehe, the unicorn ought to make a joke with that pun sometime).

With little-to-no means to determine the correct direction to take, Moondancer shut her eyes to focus, hoping that intuition lead her on the right path. “Hmmmmmm....... I seem to be feeling a lot of foreboding coming from this direction.” Moony randomly pointed to her right, hoping that one of her counterparts did not feel more foreboding coming from the left. The last thing the rescue party needed right now was a cliche where-to-go argument.

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AS the other two continued to speak, they questioned whether any of the other dragons would know of something of the likes going on if this dragon was a sociable one. However, given what few facts that they did know about the dragon, Icy determined at least in her mind that this wouldn't be the case. It wasn't to say that the other dragons wouldn't have found out what was going on, but more or less that the dragon that they were dealing with didn't seem like the dragon that went around striking up a conversation with any random being. He seemed more the type that would find a way to claim one's worth and be done with them.

Pocket changed only reiterated her question about what direction that the should go, adding further variables to distinguish from. Ice gave kind of a dead-pan look before she heard Moondancer speak up, pointing to a hoof to the right stating that she felt a lot of foreboding coming from that direction. It made little sense to her because the entire region was foreboding, but at the very least it gave them a direction to move in. They could figure everything else out while they were walking. "Alright, because of my ability to make armor, and can weaponize my Ice Spells pretty easily, I'll take point. Moonie, you should be in the middle, since you have at least some method for tracking, that way we both can hear you at any time," she said as she took a few steps into the direction that Moon had pointed, forming her Ice Armor around her as she did. "I'm ready when you guys are. Let's go get our friend back!"

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“Right, it’s the right path then.”, Pocket Change smiled as he glanced over at the direction they would soon be heading. Curious, he also eyeballed the path towards the left to see if it was in fact any less foreboding. Both were very wastelandy. Both were festooned with crevices, lava pools and geysers. They looked exactly the same! But since his beloved Moondancer said they should go right, they would go right! While the unicorn was a bit more clear-minded than before, his love of the mare planted the idea that everything she said was 100% correct. But that wasn't too far fetched, since he always knew her to be so clever, from the first day he had met her. And while a flashback would be suitable, he avoided that as well. The unicorn wouldn't want to stumble into a lava pit while remembering the start of his very early elementary school-crush on the mare.

As he continued his trek to find 'Pressy the prestigious painter pony' with the others, he pondered something. "Alright, I'm wondering about something.", the unicorn kept his voice down low, "We find Miss Presteza, and give the vile dragon a good whooping. What's next? Is there some sort of jail we can toss the fellow into? I'm not sure about the whole political aspect of this. I was pretty sure that dragons were not supposed to be bothering us, and we cannot bother them, but I guess, if this dragon is not a properly grown one, he will have the mind of either a beast or child and would not be responsible for his actions."

The stallion continued to walk along with the two mares. He managed to keep a brave expression on his face, but one could tell he was a little on the worried side. As anything could happen! Lava spills. Earthquakes. Lavaquakes. Or an attack by any monster or creature that managed to survive in such an environment!

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Moondancer was ready to do this thing from the day she was born. Well, not actually; maybe ever since the day she graduated from Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. Regardless, nothing could stop Moony and her friends from carrying out their rescue mission. “Let’s head out then,” she advised before turning towards Pocket Change with a wink; “You paying attention, Pocket? You get to cover our rear in the back. Stay focused now, mmkay?” For all their sakes, Moondancer hoped that nothing would distract her boyfriend while keeping watch for anything that dared sneak up behind the trio.

Without further debate, the group proceeded towards the right. Reasonably secure in the belief that they were as momentarily safe as one could be around the Dragon Peaks, Moondancer quietly did her best to answer Pocket’s questions; “If you mean if we can bring this pal to justice, I honestly don’t think the three of us are going to cut it. Saving Pressy is one thing, but like, dragging back a vicious dragon with us? Heh, tough luck with that. Who knows though..... maybe Icy here can teach that fire-breather how to chill... te-hehehe.” No dangerous situation could hope to stand between Moony and her word plays.

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Ice Storm could only roll her eyes slightly as she was in front of Moondancer and Pocket Change, hearing Moon tell him to stay focus behind them. She couldn't help but smile though because he would be behind two very good looking mares, one of which was his marefriend so she couldn't help but chuckle at the thought. Moon was right though, he wouldn't be able to just gawk at them all the time if he was going to defend them properly, and she didn't have eyes in the back of her head, even though she could technically make a block of ice to act as a mirror to where she could look behind her on occasion. Perhaps that would be something worth looking into if the stallion behind them wouldn't be able to keep his eyes off their rears.

When he asked about what they were going to do with the dragon when they found him. Ice began thinking herself. "I knew there was some detail that I was missing when I made this plan..." she said silently to herself. When Moondancer began to answer that question saying that they weren't really equipped to bring a dragon to justice. Ice nodded, but when her name was brought up she kinda blushed a bit. "Actually... How to deal with the dragon once we got Pressy out was um.... how do I say.... completely overlooked when I came up with the plan? Ehehe, the plan was get in and get Pressy... I um.... didn't really plan an escape route..." she said hoping they wouldn't need too much of one. She was hoping to get to Pressy without the dragon noticing, but the odds of that were slim to none, and she felt like slim was getting their bags packed to leave town.

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“Right, I’ll cover both of your, er, rears.”, the stallion turned several shades of red as he realized what he had just said. Moondancer had to have said that on purpose! She was such a evil girl! He backed up a little to keep an eye on their backs! Yes! He needed to keep his mind on the goal, “I have faith in your magic, Moon. This dragon is probably no better than most bullies.”, he continued to keep his voice down low, “Probably had to sneak up on Miss Presteza, or maybe he took advantage of her good heart. I'm sure he'll give up the moment he runs into three more than capable ponies.", he slowly followed behind. "We'll give him a good whooping and he'll have to choice but to run how to his momma." He tried to sound very sure of himself, but there was a hint of fear in his voice. Was he afraid of the dragon, or was it the current bleak environment they were currently lurking around in that bothered the unicorn?

OOC: Who is controlling the actual gaming world? Like the NPCs?

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Geez, thanks a lot Icy. Way to remind Moondancer that the group lacked a well thought-out plan for dealing with the draconic kidnapper itself. The white unicorn’s ears flopped downwards as doubt crept in, but as Pocket Change tried his best to lift their spirits up, Moony realized she needed to do her best to not let their bleak task get the better of the three ponies. “You know,” the girl suggested, shooting off a phoned-in grin; “Every time Twilight Sparkle and her friends saved Equestria, it’s not like they ever had much of a plan to go on either. Well, as far I know anyway. And they always turned out alright in the end. So if those six can wing it, then you know, anypony can.”

In the ashen skies above, three moderately-sized figures flew overhead, wondering what to make of the trio of equine intruders. The over-watchers were not exactly malicious in heart, but their adolescent minds sure were bored, and craved any sort of excitement. Especially the sort of kind that allowed the showing off of how tough they were.....

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Hearing Pocket Change speak about their situation kinda irritated Ice Storm slightly, though she didn't let it show. He began to summarize ways that Pressy could have been taken, saying that it would have been hard to sneak up on her. Ice knew this for a fact. Pressy was always alert and she would always hear her sneaking up on her and be ready for her pouncing hug of almost death. It wasn't that, that she was upset about, nor was it the dragon possibly taking advantage of her soft heart. She could also see that being true as well, but to imply that she wasn't capable when he added that three capable ponies would likely run him off struck a nerve. Pressy wasn't no push-over when it came to magic, and while Ice hadn't seen much herself, she presumed that there was more to her than just her art. She remained quiet though as she knew that Pocket probably wasn't meaning for it to sound the way it came out. That in of itself was a testament to how much she's grown recently, as before she wouldn't have even considered what the pony meant and would have just lashed at him.

Moondancer also picked up on the fact that they had no plan, and she didn't seem too thrilled when Icy brought it back up. She noticed her ears droop a bit, which made her own do so for hampering the morale of the three of them. Right now, low morale was the last thing that they needed while trying to traverse this dangerous area. Moondancer did rebound the morale though when she said that Twilight and her friends have saved Equestria, and at least to her knowledge never had a plan and everything turned out okay, so perhaps they should just have a bit of faith that they would be fine as well. "That's kinda the idea that I had. It would be rather nice though if the dragon didn't even notice us entering and we got in and out with Pressy before the dragon even realized what happened," she smiled even though she realized just how improbably that strategy and event was.

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A little part of Pocket Change died as he caught sight of his very special some-pony's ears flopping down in sorrow and maybe even defeat. He fought off the desire to rush over to her, sweep her off her hooves and cover her in kisses. Knowing his luck, he'd probably stumble into a soft part of the ground and drag the two of them into a very painful and fiery lava-bath, which would not help his love-life. Still, there was something that bothered him. "Miss, I mean, Princess Twilight Sparkle not having a plan? I sort of find that hard to believe. She's the type of girl that would schedule and process a ten step plan for her morning belch, but I get where you're going. Just wish we had a Pegasus with us. He or she would be able to get a better look at everything from above."

The whole idea of 'flying' sent the stallion into his 'think-mode' as he pondered what they could do. While a flight spell would be possible, from what he had heard, it generally ended up giving a pony a pair of very fragile, temporary wings that would simply burn up in this environment. But he continued to try to come up with something. "Do any of you know a scout spell? This is a rather useful spell that acts as a flying 'eye'. We could summon one of those and have it fly a good distance upwards and then look down, allowing us to see the surrounding area."

He turned to Ice Storm, "If we were able to find the dragon's lair with the scout, we could then have it find a way into the lair to find Miss Presteza, and give us a proper route to the mare, where we would then be able to plan a way to properly rescue her and the others without alerting the dragon....How about that?"

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There was only one small flaw with Pocket Change’s logic: that it didn’t take Nerfy’s Law into account. Schedules by their very nature fly out the window when an emergency comes in and stomps on the tranquility of ponies everywhere. Ergo, you can’t really follow a plan for an unforeseen crisis.

However, Moondancer’s coltfriend kept on offering clever solutions for finding Presteza and her captor... even if Moony herself didn’t quite understand what he meant. “Uh, you mean something like a flying golem Pocket?” the young mare sought clarification; “I remember enough golemancy that I could come up with something that obeys basic commands, and just maybe I can get it airborne, but the thingy isn’t going to find Pressy that easy. Remember guys, there are dragon lairs in every direction. We’re probably better off promising treasure to the locals in exchange for information.”

Moondancer just then barely caught faint shadows circling around the group. Looking above, she observed the three adolescent dragons far above, cackling with laughter like the hooligans they were. But the moon-flanked unicorn saw this situation through rose-tinted glasses; “Oh look, there’s some locals now.” Without waiting to consult with her friends, Moony waved to the draconic trio, shouting; “Hey you three; wanna’ come down and help us ponies out!? It’ll be worth your while!!!” Snorting amongst themselves, the bored drakes quickly begun to swoop down to the volcano-formed ground. Moondancer was sure this would work out for the best.

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Ice kinda rolled her eyes when Pocket Change suggested that Twilight would most definitely not be a mare without a plan, and that she probably had a ten step process for how to do her morning belch. While she couldn't really disagree, certain things happen so quickly that it's impossible to plan for them. She knew this well herself. That said as it stood right now, the didn't really have much of one. Pocket suggested the idea of possibly creating a scout that they could send ahead, but the issue with that was the fact that there were so many dragon dens here, they would be here almost quite literally forever. That was something that Ice wanted to avoid at almost any cost, as she was pretty sure she would roast alive here

Then Moondancer suggested trading treasure for information. This was a good plan except for the fact that they didn't have any treasure. So what exactly she was planning on bargaining with was beyond her. She continued traveling until she heard Moondancer call for a few dragons that had started circling them. They began to descend and Ice wasn't sure if this was a good idea or not. She readied herself to protect the three of them using any means necessary to do so if needed. "I do have to ask... we have no treasure. What exactly are we going to be able to give them?" she asked.

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Pocket Change couldn't help but feel a little on the helpless side. They still did not have much of a plan, and the longer they waited, the higher chance poor Presteza had to coming into harm's way. The unicorn glanced back at his very special some-pony as she spoke. Treasure? Dragons were an off race that feed on greed, and he doubted that even if he had anything resembling treasure, the three of them would not be able afford or even carry all that would satisfy a dragon's hunger for sparkly possessions. He still looked, just to be safe.

"Don't have much on me.", the stallion glanced around, "Beyond my gear, I have my hat and watch.", he waved his front right leg which he wore a stylish timepiece with an (imitation) leather band. He wanted to mention that his only 'real treasure' was Moondancer herself, but even that was beyond the realms of cheese for the unicorn. Knowing that there were dragon lairs in every direction did not help his nerves, thankfully, when they were not taking part in their migration, dragons usually preferred an lonely existence, at least that's what he had heard.

His ears perked up as the mare greeted not one, but three actual dragons. "Oh wow.", Pocket muttered as the creatures came into view. While he had seen dragons up close before, he still couldn't help but be amazed by their presence. "Sorry to bother you, er, gentlemen, but we are looking for this mare. Have you seen her?"

A small photo from the stallion's pack quickly made its way out though the use of the stallion's magic. It floated near the trio so they could all get a good look. It was a simple 'glamor' shot of Presteza.

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