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[Bridlebank Beach] The Lost Library - The Search is On!

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The sea, endless and ever-moving, raised a constant rush of wave and wind. White birds winged by far overhead, circling as they searched for food, and the waves themselves lapped over the dark stones and black sand of Briddlebank Beach. Small, dark crabs scurried along the shore, ducking from stone to stone, hiding from the white birds above. Beyond the large boulders along the shore, dark trees swayed in the everpresent wind, the soft sounds of the sea, the land, and the sky, all mixing together in the harmony of nature.

Amongst this rocky shore, a strange sound intruded itself. A repetitive wheezing sound echoed 'vworp, vworp, vworp' across the landscape, starting out soft, then growing louder and louder. A blue light appeared glowing behind a hill, and then a cart like no other sprang over the hill and down onto the beach. This cart had no pony pulling it, nor anything else, but seemed propelled by its own need for movement. A ship's wheel was at the front of the cart, and a brown pony with a slicked back, dark-brown mane manned that wheel, a manic grin on his face. Behind him in the cart was another pony, a soft blue unicorn pony with a silky pale blue mane, garbed in bestarred garments of royal purple. And in the rear of the cart, the blue glow came from the metal box back there, which belched out clouds of blue smoke and glowed with a flickering blue light as the contraption bounced haphazardly across the landscape.

"Woooooo! There you are, beautiful! That's my girl!" cried Doctor Whooves as he gave the wheel a spin, then hammered on a control panel wildly, pulling levers turning dials almost randomly. "She almost got away from me there, but I got her under control! Only a little further! I told you I could get us there faster, Trixie!"

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The Great and Powerful Trixie was feeling a little bit like The Stiff and Queasy Trixie; she wasn't used to such a rapid, noisy, and bumpy way of travel. She always moved her own wagon with magic - it wasn't as fast, but it was a much smoother and more comfortable ride, especially when she stuck to the roads. Alas, there were no roads, nor even paths, at this remote beach. There was only the rough ground, and now the sand that sluiced up on either side, making the cart slide queasily to the side as if the pilot was losing control.

The blue unicorn clung tightly to the side of the wagon, an anxious look on her face. She wasn't at all frightened, she told herself. Not at all. Especially not in front of this Doctor Whooves. Not even when they went over a hill and on the way down, she could feel her hooves leaving the floor. No, she was just holding on so that this mad pony didn't fling her out of the cart with his careless driving. Yes, that's what it was. Not scared at all.

Still, even so, she couldn't deny to herself that she was more than a little bit impressed by the contraption propelling the wagon - some weird device that didn’t use magic. Was it griffin technology, such as that that pink feathered griffin, Lola, spoke of? She couldn't figure it out, and that both dazzled and perplexed her.

That train of thought was broken by Whooves' strange habit of talking to his own cart before addressing her. Trixie just gave a simple hmmph, and shouted, "thank Celestia we are looking for an ancient library in the middle of nowhere, because anypony could hear us from ten miles away in his noisy, garish, dirty contraption of yours!" Still, he was right - it definitely was fast. "But, yeah, you were right, we did get here before sunset. I didn't think that was possible!" she muttered the last, in a low tone she hoped the noisy contraption covered up. She had found if she didn't speak up, the wind whipped her words away.

She didn't like to be shown up in any manner, but the discomfort, the strange traveling companion, the random rants and speeches, they would all be worth it if the stories were true about the ancient library and its trove of magic. Oh, what wonders could it contain, what secrets might it hold? Perhaps enough to achieve her goal, to be the greatest magical equine who ever lived! She leaned forward enough to look at Doctor Whooves, giving him a sly smile that betrayed her eagerness as she raised her voice again. "So! How soon will it be before we arrive, my faithful guide?"

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Malediction was skulking along the beach, not far ahead. She'd heard rumors of some old ruins, and had figured they might be worth looking for, but without any specifics, she was mostly just wandering. The sound of the waves reminded her of the house in Hoofington where she'd lived in as a filly, before her parents had died. You couldn't see the beach from it, but the sound carried through the neighborhood. That sound had pervaded everything there. Celestia did it make her feel sick to hear it again.

She had little hope of actually finding the ruins, but it had seemed like it may be a welcome change from combing the Everfree for the umpteenth time. Now she was missing the excitement of that forest, the beach was just boring and its over-familiarity grated on her. It was with some relief that she noticed a bizarre sound. Completely taken aback, she headed towards it.

Mal spotted some strange lights coming over a hill, and they seemed to be getting closer. Though she had no idea what it might be, she decided to take no chances, and she quickly set up a trap. She conjured up a wall of green flame, just behind the hill ahead of the source of the sounds, and crouched down in a shrubbery not too far out of its path. She'd catch this strange monster in her trap, slay it, and then sort out details like what it was.

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Doctor Whooves was lost in the joy of it. History, right around the corner! Something no pony had seen for ages! A new companion to show off to - er - to share in the delight of the unknown! And she was pretty good at showing off, too! What a magnificent adventure this would be!

He piloted his cart just a little more carelessly than usual, making his jumps bigger, faster, more wild - just for how cute she looked as she clung desperately to the edge of the cart, her cloak blowing wildly in the wind of their passage. He gave the wheel a twist, and leapt another hill, letting out a joyful cry.

Then he saw what he was jumping into. A wall of green flame, terrible and fierce, burning brightly ahead of him! And he was in mid-air, spinning the wheel was useless! He spun the wheel to the side, throwing his weight in the opposite direction. "Trixie!" he cried, desperately!

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Trixie clung to the side of the cart, as this ... this Doctor slid his cart sideways across patches of loose sand, or leapt off hills, her annoyance starting to overcome her fear. The way he was going on, cackling at the sprays of sand they threw up, well ... she knew showing off when she saw it. She was an *artist* at showing off! This arrogant earth pony was amusing himself at her expense!

Well, two could play at that game. She could give him a start, too... illusions were a simple thing, and she could summon up a dragon, or a ravine, or a wall of flame, or -

When his sharp cry rang out, she looked up swiftly, and saw the wall of green flame before them. Time seemed to slow down. She felt the hot rush of the hungry fires baking her face, saw the flames crackling, digging down into the black beach itself, as if consuming the very sand for fuel. She saw very clearly the trails of dark, molten glass trailing away from the flames reaching out to consume them.

When a unicorn's life is in danger, her magic is more powerful than ever, comes more rapidly than it ever would be. A start of surprise could produce amazing displays of ethereal might. This was no different. Reaching into the skies, she seized the clouds hanging heavy with the promise of rain above them, straining to release. Her magic clenched on those clouds, wrung them out like used washrags, releasing their collected water for her use.

The purple streams of water cascaded down, thin tendrils combining into pouring spouts, twining around each other to become great torrents, and finally splashing together to create a great deluge, coming down behind the cart, sweeping past it to increase its speed, and crashing into the green flames to part them dramatically before her, like Mosey Twist parting the Red-mane Sea.

And even amongst her shock, fear, and casting, still she had time to scoff. GREEN flames? Any amateur who wanted to show off could change the color of fire. Now purple water, *that* was stylish. If this was the best defense of this magical library, well ... she wondered if it truly held such wonders as she had heard.

The cart was carried along on the wave of lavender liquid, sluicing down a stream of mud streaked with black and bright purple, the water cooling off the molten sand so that it hardened into waves around the cart's wheels, arcing gracefully into the air, its depths curling black and purple currents around each other, frozen in a moment of time.

Trixie stepped off the rear of the now-stopped cart onto the wave of glass, looking for all the world, with her lavender cloak waving in the wind behind her, and her hat tilted back to show off her glowing horn, like a Pony of Legend, riding upon a mystic wave of water, its semi-transparent depths lit mysteriously with the light of her magic. Had that fire, some ancient defense, signified that they had finally arrived at their location?

"Trixie, the Great and Powerful, Mistress of Magical Pursuits... HAS ARRIVED!" she pronounced grandiosely. "Let the library reveal its secrets to her!" She turned her head to look down her muzzle at Doctor Whooves, a playfulness mixed with the haughty grin on her face. Let him try to scare her, would he? Well, he was good, but she was better! She reached her hoof out to help him from the cart. "Don't worry, you have Trixie along to save you from the consequences of your reckless driving!"

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(ooc: A new Doctor Whooves adventure? This is relevant to my interests!)

Lyra's vacation wasn't exactly what she had planned. She'd wanted sun, sand and sea, to relax on the beach and to do a little sight seeing at some ruins she'd heard about. Sadly, the beach was rocky and uncomfortable to rest on and it had turned out that nopony actually knew where the ruins were. To top it all off, there's was nopony else around. Her usual friends had all been too busy to come along with her, and the beach was strangly empty. Had she come to the wrong place? She sighed loudly. As least she could take some pictures while she was here.

Levitating her large, boxy camera up, she scouted around for something to photograph. Not far ahead she saw something shimmering in the sand. Looking down, it was a large shell, shining with colour; pink, blue and green, not unlike Equestria's Princess. "Ooh! That's pretty. I should show it to Bon Bon, she'll love it!" she said. But when she went to pick it up, a hermit crab crawled out of it and waved its claws at her. "Ack! Oh well, maybe I'll just show her the picture instead."

*CLICK*

A little further down the beach she saw something else that caught her eye. A seagull, playing with a bottlecap. It was flipping it in the air with its beak and catching it on the way down. "Ooh! That's so cute! I bet Derpy will want to see this!"

*CLICK*

Further still and another fascinating sight. This one slightly larger than before. A burning curtain of green flame! It was beautiful! What had caused it? Why was it there? Lyra had no idea, but she wanted to get a closer look. She slowly moved forward, camera at the ready. Upon closer inspection the flame was in fact a wall of fire, and it... what the heck was that noise?

Lyra looked around for the souce of the strange "vworp, vworp" sound that seemed to be getting louder and louder... or closer and closer! Lyra yelped as a large cart jumped over a hill, heading straight into the fire! She stood dumbfounded, watching as the cart was suddenly engulfed by water from the sky, washing over the flames that stood in its path, and extinguished them. As the cart came to a halt, time seemed to stop for a moment, until eventually, a pony wearing a purple cloak and hat stepped from the cart and loudly annouced her presence. Lyra was amazed. Had nopony been hurt? What was that flame? Where had that water come from? Who was that? Her mind filled with questions, Lyra did the only thing that she could think to do.

"..."

"Neat!" *CLICK*

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Surprised at the appearance of the strange vehicle, Mal forgot about her spell momentarily and the flames that had not already been smothered by Trixie's water spell simply winked out of existence, leaving a thin layer of ice where the water had gotten close to them. She stood up from her hiding spot and glared at the other blue unicorn who stepped out of the cart.

"What's the big idea? I thought you foals were some kinda monster with all the noise your ridiculous-looking contraption was making. Wait, did you say library?" They must be looking for the same ruins she'd heard of. Mal's first thought was to eliminate the competition, but it then occurred to her that they might have a lead on where exactly it was. Her own search was relying on little more than the faint hope that she might stumble across it by chance. And if the ruins actually were a library, they could prove even more useful than she had dared hope.

She didn't notice the green unicorn taking pictures, focusing on Trixie, who she assumed to be the leader of some sort of expedition. "What library is this, exactly? Does it have to do with the ruins?"

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Doctor Whooves took hold of Trixie's preferred hoof and drew himself from the cart, grinning broadly. "Magnificent!" he cried, totally unfazed. "You, my dear, are a jewel amongst unicorns!" He peered down at the frozen wave of glass with great interest, but some deep, profound instinct drew him around, posing with Trixie, a hoof over her shoulders and a broad and cocky grin on his face just as the camera went off. *click*

"Neat indeed!" he agreed. He seemed to have already forgotten about the green flames still flickering, and hardly gave the photographer a thought, as he hopped down onto the black sand and peered into the depths of the darkly purple glass, letting out a low, appreciative whistle. "You don't do things by halves, do you? This is a lovely piece of work! Style, my dear, sheer style... no, no, we're not at the library yet. This is just a stop on the way... gotta take a reading, here. This is the start of the journey not the end, but the journey *is* the fun part after all!"

He didn't really seem to be paying attention to Malediction at all, not a whit, till she mentioned the ruins. And at that magic word, he spun around. "Ruins?" he said, eagerly. "What ruins?" He peered around brightly, as if figuring out where he was. An odd thing for the driver to have to do, in a journey. "Ah! Right, of course! Bridlebank! Once the Black Sands Beach, and the Stone Swath before that! Ancient ponies used this place as a rock quarry to get black rock from, elegant black stone for magnificent architecture. You know, the workers around here were known for their carrot pasties, delicious recipe, found an old copy of it once. Course, it hasn't been made for over two thousand years. Welllll, two years. Wellllll, if you count me, of course. Other than me, two thousand."

He paused, then his mouth pursed. "Oohhhhhh, those ruins!" he cried eagerly, as his train of thought caromed back on track. "Have we already gotten that far?! Oh, I *love* the port ruins of Bridlebank! Oh, Trixie, you'll just *love* this, I'm sure, and it's just the right place to take a reading. And there's this *wonderful* little town next to the ruins where they have the loveliest flute music! Weeeelllll, more of a village. Weeeeellllll, it's a shack or two. But good flute music! And a seaweed salad to die for! Come along, Trixie!" And he turned to the cart and started working to free its wheels from the solidified glass that had hardened around the rims.

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Trixie hadn't meant to show off, but she had held a small hope that her spontaneous magical prowess would have humbled the boisterous Doctor. It was part of why even such an unrehearsed expression of her talent resulted in such a stupendous, extravagant performance - partly because showing off was just so much fun, and partially because she was starting to notice that he always seemed to have this faintly amused expression when he looked at her. Instead, he seemed genuinely jubilant about the entire experience, but at least he had the good sense to give her the praise which was so richly deserved after gracing him once again with another performance of awe from the greatest showpony in magic.

And the next thing she knew, she was posing for a camera. She hadn't even noticed the pale green unicorn taking snapshots! But like Doctor Whooves, her instincts kicked in, and she threw out her chest as she lifted her head, her cloak waving in the wind. Before Trixie had a chance to think, the Doctor was again making seemingly incoherent observations interspaced with praise. Well ... at least he is finally starting to revere the magnificence of the magic of the Great and Powerful Trixie! She preened slightly under his approval but otherwise ignored him as she looked at the mysterious photographer. She seems harmless ... but if the library didn't make the fire, and she was innocent, then who... Before she could complete the thought, Trixie heard a shrill voice from up over the hill angrily yelling at her. No one yelled at the Great and Powerful Trixie! Even if she silently agreed with the strange unicorn about how noisy that contraption was ... Trixie snarled back, "What kind of miserable conjurer of cheap tricks puts up such an lethal but obvious 'trap' that a half blind decrepit mule could see it? Are you trying to kill us or just displaying your own ineptitude?!"

Just as Trixie was about to give the shaggy blue unicorn a real piece of her mind, and a little bit of her awesome magic as well, the both of them were suddenly distracted by Whooves' sudden mention of ruins. Well, not the library, then, but at least it was a good step! And she could have a little time to recover from riding that ridiculous-looking contraption. Maybe this all paid off after all!

Trixie swung around in an overly dramatic fashion that allowed her cloak to wildly flutter in the wind. "It would appear that the Lady Trixie has once again shown timing by stopping us in the perfect location! This should surprise none! Well my faithful companion, I should at least allow you the privilege of taking some, er, readings! I wouldn't want you to feel you don't contribute to my great expedition!" Trixie wondered if she was taking it a little too far - in the past she wouldn't had a second thought about taking all the credit, but the past few weeks had made her rethink some of her attitudes. Still, these were strangers, and even two strangers were a far better audience than one Doctor Whooves, and she could not resist a performance! "The rest of you may watch in awe if you like!" She smiled coyly, her confident demeanor holding unperturbed by silent inner misgivings.

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Lyra certainly wasn't expected the ponies she was photographing to pose for her so suddenly, but she couldn't deny that it was a great shot. She couldn't wait to get back home and get the pictures developed!

Then the yelling started and she stepped back a little, a little worried that a fight was about to start. Something about monsters and traps and ruins and... wait. Ruins? The brown earth pony (Lyra was certain she'd seen him in Ponyville before, but couldn't put a name to his face) seemed to be very enthusiastic about them suddenly. And he said he knew where they were? What great luck! "Oh, you know where they are? Cool! I was trying to find out about them but nopony I asked seemed to know. If you're going can I come along too? Please please pleeeease!?" she said, bouncing up and down in excitement.

Then the pony in the pointy hat started talking. Lady Trixie? The name certainly sounded familiar. And that face. And that voice. And that attitude. "Oh! I remember you!" Lyra blurted out as the realisation hit her. "You put on that magic show in Ponyville a while back, right?" she said, her love of magic rushing to the surface, overcoming her initial worry about these strange ponies suddenly turning up. "I remember you did some really cool tricks!"

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Mal glared at the Doctor venomously. She disliked being ignored, and even when he has acknowledged her, he hadn't actually answered her question. At least Trixie's feeble insults were actually directed at her. She sneered at the other blue unicorn. "Half-blind mule, huh? And yet, you still blundered right into it, so I wonder what that makes you..."

Mal gave the green unicorn a casual look over, quickly deciding that she was no threat and ignoring her. She turned back to Trixie and grinned malevolently. "Your buffoon seems to be broken, so I'll ask again, this time to the sane one. What library is it exactly that you were heading to? I know of libraries in Hoofington and Canterlot, but you're currently going the wrong way to get to either of those, which led me to conclude that it's a ruin. That's even better than what I was hoping to stumble across."

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Doctor Whooves smiled warmly to Lyra's eagerness. His talent, his special talent, had always been about time... history being one of his great loves. To see a pony so eager just to see a piece of the past... it warmed his heart, to know that there were more out there than just himself who found delight in the ancient world.

And on top of it, he recognized the cute filly from his own town of Ponyville. :D "But of course, Lyra! We'd be *delighted* to have you along! I'll give you a special historian's tour of the ruins! It'll be a blast! I didn't know you were interested in such things!"

He raised an eyebrow then at Mal. "Oh, I assure you, this buffoon has been broken for *quite* a long time, but that has nothing to do with me answering you and you not hearing it. Do try to keep up, we move fast around these parts. If it needs repeating, I said no, the library isn't here in the ruins, so no, you don't need to worry about us going the wrong way. But thank you so much for the thoughtful concern. I do believe I know you, as well ... you're the one who was dancing tango with the little kid at the Gala, right? As for the rest of the introductions ... The Powerful Trixie, there, is the one who cancelled your flames, the photographer there is Lyra, and I am simply Doctor Whooves, a ... historian."

He lowered his shoulder and rammed against the cart, trying to knock it free of the glass again. he stepped back and let out a soft *hrmmmmm*, looking down at the purple-black glass thoughtfully as he considered his next move.

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Lyra grinned and nodded at the Doctor's suggestion of a full tour. "Oh, that sounds wonderful!" When he mentioned that he didn't know about her interests she decided to elaborate. "Well, I took music history at school, you see? I find it's a good way to find inspiration by looking at the past. Some ponies say my choice of instrument" she paused to tap the cutie mark on her flank with a hoof "is a little old fashioned, but I find that it suits me well." she smiled sweetly.

After speaking with him, Lyra remembered where she'd seen the Doctor before. Everywhere in Ponyville. The stallion had a knack for showing up in places with weird new gadgets. Lyra had never really had a chance to talk to him before. She realised that the Doctor had used her name though. She suspected that they must have met briefly at a Pinkie Pie party, or maybe at one of Lyra's own concerts.

When Doctor Whooves introduced her to the scary-looking blue pony, Lyra gave a smile and waved meekly. "Um, hi!" Judging from her attitude, Lyra decided that it probably wasn't a good idea to ask her to pose for a photo.

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Trixie wasn't nearly as excited about these ruins as the others were - for her, they were merely a stop on the way, a means to an end, that end being the lost library and its treasure trove of grimoires. She wasn't going to let any of these noisy newcomers know that, though. It was bad enough they knew about the ruins! Not that her loudmouthed companion could resist telling every. Single. Pony. Ah well. As long as they were just going to the ruins, it didn't really matter, and at least there was now an audience to impress with her awe and magnificence with magic!

Trixie's ears perked forward and her chest puffed up when she heard the minty green unicorn proclaim her talents. Well, of course she knew the Great and Powerful Trixie! Who could not know of her wonderful splendor, her magnif- ... Ponyville? She was from ... Ponyville ... from that night. Trixie felt that uncharacteristic feeling of anxiety and doubt in the pit of her stomach again, being reminding of that place. But the smiling, cheerful unicorn mentioned only her show ... perhaps she had missed the night of Trixie's unfair humiliation. "Tricks? Oh, no, no, no my adorable little admirer, those were no tricks! Those were magnificent displays of the true power and majesty of magic, presented by that purveyer of esoteric and etheric erudition that is Trixie!" She stood up upon her hind legs as she finished the declaration, her forehooves in the air, a rainbow of small spiraling lights shooting upwards from behind her to explode in a cornucopia of color.

Landing back lightly on all fours, she pranced past the blue unicorn, giving her a condescending smile. While the Doctor might remember her from the Gala, Trixie certainly didn't recall seeing her. But then, she might have had a few too many banana daquiris... "Before we can figure anything out, we need to determine the proper location within the ruins; do try and keep up." Trixie said, subconsciously echoing what the Doctor had said. Of course, she had no real idea what the Doctor was up to, but she wasn't going to let anypony else know that! "Why, what are you looking for around here?" She hoped with that question she could pry something out of the blue unicorn to get an idea how much, if anything, she knew.

She had to shake her head as the Doctor struggled uselessly with his stuck cart, sighing dramatically while rolling her eyes. "Earth ponies ... so helpless! Move aside! And watch in awe as the Powerful Lady Trixie easily saves your quaint little contraption!" Trixie motioned with her right forehoof for him to move aside before her horn began to glow. For dramatic effect, she added a bit of wind around her, sending her cape to billow impressively, before once again lifting her forehooves both straight up. The lavender glow formed around the cart and lifted it from where it was mired solidly into the darkly purple glass. She didn't need to motion with her hooves, but it looked more astounding if she did! As she levitated the cart, the wheel ruts left behind by the wooden wheels rippled, flowed together, and smoothed out as if nothing had ever interrupted the perfect smoothness of the cresting wave. After all, she had created this piece, and thus it was a work of a master artist! Let nothing mar it!

She moved the cart over an empty patch of black, sandy beach, and let it drop quite suddenly, with an impressive, muffled 'whump' and a dark cloud spurting up around it, along with the rattle of several smaller devices bouncing about inside. Trixie didn't have to be so careless, but she was still a little miffed about how Doctor Whooves had scaring her - no, not scared - made her nervous, earlier, with his reckless "driving".

"Now, if you are finished foaling around, let's get on to the ruins! You can pull out that little trinket of yours that I, Trixie, helped you to perfect, and take your readings. We don't want to keep our admirers waiting now, do we? History awaits!"

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Mal's eyes narrowed as the Doctor evaded her question again. She was about to press the matter again, but he brought up a rather embarrassing subject. "D-dance? Me? What a preposterous waste of time. Besides, do I look like the sort of pony who gets invited to that sort of party? And he wasn't that young, nor am I that old if that's what you're inferring!" She blustered thoughtlessly, giving herself away.

It only took her a moment to realize her slip, but she started fuming, literally, as her anger spilled out into her magical energies. Licks of cold flame played around her horn, and she snarled wordlessly at Lyra when the green unicorn tried to talk to her.

"I.. am Malediction," she said, introducing herself with nearly as much arrogance as Trixie, though she lacked the dramatic flair. "I was looking for the ruins in search of a book that might help me with a... limitation on my magic. I've already checked all the other libraries from Canterlot to Fillydelphia, hence my familiarity with them, and there was nothing. Looking for ancient texts in ruins is sort of a last resort." She glared meaningfully back at the Doctor. "Which is why I was intrigued when you mentioned a library out here."

With any luck the usual pony helpfulness would kick in, and these awful ponies would bring her along. She already hated this Trixie, and the Doctor made her very suspicious, but if it brought her closer to more magic, she'd put up with anypony.

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Doctor Whooves eyed Mal with a raised eyebrow. Not that young? If that little paint balloon-throwing colt was out of middle school, it wasn't by much. But he let it drop - self-deluded ponies rarely appreciated it when you pointed it out. And then she started snarling and threatening the sweet kindness that was Lyra with green fire. No way he was letting her anywhere near ancient tomes of powerful magic. He'd already made that mistake two or three times too often.

"Well," he said, with an energetic lift to his voice, "I'm afraid that I don't know of a library in the ruins near here. I could be wrong, though - finding one there would be a great discovery! We're just stopping off on the way through, you know how it is. Long trip and all, sightseeing. But I hope that you indeed find a way to fix what's wrong with you!" He leapt into the cart once more, and let out a cheerful cry of, "Come along, Lyra!" He knew Trixie would be in quickly, and he fully approved of his lovely companion keeping her ego quite large around an obviously unstable pony as this.

But he doubted being left a couple miles behind would dissuade this pony. He was going to have to keep his eyes open when they got to the port ruins.

Doctor Whooves waited for Lyra and Trixie to get into the cart, then cranked at a lever on the control panel, pumping it several times before pulling out a knob and letting it snap back into place. He waited a few moments, and when it didn't turn over, he aimed a very practiced kick back at the engine box behind him with a loud, deep metal *gong*, which was immediately followed by the wheezing *vworp vworp vworp* as the cart leapt into motion, zipping off down the black-sanded beach with blue puffs of smoke lifting up behind them.

The ruins were only a couple miles further down the rocky shoreline, old buildings made of giant rocks as big as his cart, but barely one standing atop another any longer. The large stones stretched far out into the sea, with a few pillars reaching up above the waves here and there, making huge stone wharves that generations of ponies had used to tie their boats up against. At the closer side, a tiny little collection of newer wooden buildings stood, silhouetted against the dark sea.

"Originally, this was an incredible stone quarry!" Doctor Whooves cried as he worked at his controls furiously, trying to keep the 'vworp vworp vworp' of the steam engine running smoothly, maintaining the pressure through an esoteric series of movements. "The original support stones for the base of Canterlot Castle and many other ancient wonders came from here, carved out by the combined efforts of earth pony miners and their diamond dog allies! When the veins of purple marble ran out, though, followed soon after by the white marble getting played out, the common stone was no longer valuable enough to haul over long distances! At its heyday, though, this place had trade routes open to every major city in Ancient Equestria! The main city had actually been out there on the peninsula!" He pointed with one hoof out over the water, where the breakers rose up with white foam against the huge stone quays. "Those piers out there are actually walls of buildings, and most of the city has half-sunk under the water! But the seafaring ponies who still live here make the most amazing seaweed salad, and I'm hungry!"

Strange, though. There should have been at least a little indication that somepony was here - a bit of smoke from the chimney, the light of a candle in a window. He drove up by the ramshackle homes looking out over the sea, and the cart eased to a stop, its wheezing noises echoing off against the surrounding countryside and fading away. Doctor Whooves leaned on the edge of his cart and smiled happily, looking out over the dark sea, the cloudy sky, and the ancient, water-smoothed stones that history had mostly forgotten. "Ahhh," he said, ever-so-contentedly. "What a view!"

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Trixie rolled her eyes - so now she would have to put up with Whooves' new little fan-filly. Well, at least she was also properly impressed by the Etheric Wonders of the Great and Powerful Trixie! The pony, what was her name? Lyric? Lamplight? She took a quick glance at the cutie mark - Lyra! That was it. Whatever - Lyra wasn't Trixie's main concern - the punk-looking blue unicorn was. She was definitely hostile and on edge, certainly not trustworthy, not that any pony truly was, but she seemed beyond the norm. More important than the barely restrained anger or simmering green flame was the other unicorn's admission of weakness. This unicorn, this Malediction, had admitted to her magic having a flaw… Trixie wasn't sure what it was, yet, but any weakness was exploitable, if need be.

Trixie silently climbed aboard, watching cautiously from the back, sitting on her haunches with her forehooves crossed; this was taking entirely too long. At least the Doctor didn't invite the other unicorn along, but Trixie knew she would not be far behind ... following. That was what Trixie would do in her place, after all, especially if it involved ancient magic secrets!

Trixie grumbled to herself as they resumed their trip, her soft mutters lost to the noisy engine. As short as the journey was, it seemed long and uncomfortable to her, as the cart bounced and slid along. At least he didn't seem to be showing off as much this time. "I should have dropped it from higher up", she said under her breath.

Her annoyance was abated only when the stone ruins finally came into view. She had heard about this place from her studies as a foal, but couldn't remember much; history wasn't really all that interesting. Whooves' nonstop rambling on the subject washed over her unheard - blah blah rock blah blah stone blah blah who cared? The mention of food, though, was the cue for her stomach to rumble hungrily. Trixie ignored the noise, sure no one could hear it over the rattle and wheezing of the device, but as soon as the cart slid to a stop in the black sand, she hopped off quickly. "Well, we'll see if this seaweed salad matches the high standards of the Great and Powerful Trixie! Besides, the sooner we can eat, the sooner you can take your readings, and the sooner I - er, we - can find the library!"

Trixie didn't share the Doctor's admiration of the view, and instead headed towards the buildings with a much more immediate interest in food - but she felt a shiver of unease spread across her as she approached. It was strange, she pondered - this was the first time in years that she'd entered a village of any size without putting on a show that caught every single eye. Without her theatrics drawing faces to every window, the place seemed almost deserted. No, wait - no smoke from the chimneys, no ponies at the windows, no boats on the sea. This tiny cluster of huts at the edge of the ruins had no sound of activity other than the crashing waves behind her. The nervous itch grew to a genuine sense of foreboding. It's not just me - this place is empty. Something is very wrong here...

She hurried into one of the larger buildings, which wasn't saying much - perhaps this was their concept of a cafe? Her horn glowed with a soft lavender light, illuminating the interior along with the drab sunlight barely making it through the windows. Tables, chairs, yes - this was someplace to eat, but ... this place was not only deserted, it was interrupted. Half eaten donuts and knocked over cups scattered across the tables and floor, and slimy green plants and assorted old cut vegetables were mixed in over it all. From the pungent odor, the food had been laying out far too long. Whomever lived here had left in a hurry, and had been gone for several days. The foreboding feeling dropped into the pit of her stomach and turned terribly cold and heavy, and she strained every sense, trying to figure out what had driven the inhabitants away. Her horn swelled in brightness, and she didn't know if it was her imagination, but she felt ... something ...

Trixie quickly ran back out to where Lyra and the Doctor were relaxing, trying to keep her voice from sounding too worried. She was The Great and Powerful Trixie! What could she have to worry about? "Something is very wrong here!" Oh, that sounded almost panicked. She could do better than that! What if it was another Ursa Minor? But no ... nothing was smashed ... just vanished. "Everypony seems to be gone, and I know ... " she dropped her voice dramatically, more a warning to them than a worry of her own. "We are not alone." She blinked. Wait, that contradicted itself. "There are no ponies, but... there is a presence. I can sense it." She looked around with narrowed eyes. She couldn't tell what it was, or where it was, but it wasn't far.

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(ooc: Okay, time to play catch-up. Sorry to keep you waiting)

Lyra "ooh"ed and "aah"ed at Trixie's display of magical fireworks. That was the kind of magic she had always wanted to do while growing up. Not the simplicity of telekinesis or her own musical magic (though she still loved those spells) but BIG and FLASHY magic with EXPLOSIONS that made every pony turn and stare in awe! If only she had that kind of magic. No! She would! She just needed more practice, that was all... She clopped her hooves on the ground in appreciation. Thinking back, she had remembered Trixie's poor attitude and treatment of the other ponies at her show, as well as her less than graceful exit from town after the Ursa incident. Luckily for Trixie much of her humilation had been missed as Lyra, like most of the Ponyvillians, had been too busy running for her life. But she certainly had seen her reaction to Twilight Sparkle's magnificant taming of the Ursa Minor (Lyra had not long after mastered the lullaby trick, her talent for musical magic aiding her greatly). Not the show pony's best moment. But here was Trixie being so nice and helpful to the Doctor, lifting his cart out of the glass. Admittedly, she still had much of her arrogant behavior, but perhaps that was all for show? After all, Doctor Whooves was such a nice pony, surely he wouldn't hang around with somepony so mean. Lyra decided to keep quiet about the Ursa, and give Trixie the benefit of the doubt.

When the cart was ready to go she focused through her horn, using her levitation to place her camera on the cart, before clambering on herself. She felt a little guilty about simply leaving Malediction behind, as nasty as she was, it seemed rude, but before she could think further on it the cart began making that strange noise again and lurched off. The ride was long and ever so bumpy and try as she might, Lyra just couldn't get any decent pictures. Any time she tried the cart would jolt just as she hit the button. It was almost as if it knew. She made a note to practice steadying her levitation spell later on. For now she was content to listen to her "tour guide". When the Doctor mentioned Diamond dogs, Lyra's eyes widened. "Diamond dogs and ponies working together? Wow, I didn't know that. I heard a while back that there are roving gangs of diamond dogs who kidnap ponies and force them to work in their gem mines!" This was only partly true, it had only been one pony and had only happened once, but the local paper loved to sensationalise these things. And this was the same paper that continuously reported sightings of the mythical creature "Bighoof".

Once the cart stopped Lyra got off, a little shakey and wobbly, and with a slightly upset stomach too, but otherwise okay. She gazed out in awe and reverance at the magnificant ruins, and she levitated her camera to take a few snapshots. The size of the rocks used to create the ancient buildings was incredible. After getting some decent pictures she turned towards the quaint buildings of the sleepy town. And sleepy seemed to be an apt description. It was eerily quiet. When Trixie ran back Lyra could already tell something was wrong. And when she spoke there was fear in her voice.

"We are not alone. There are no ponies, but... there is a presence. I can sense it."

The mint green unicorn shuddered at this line. Something about how Trixie said "presence". Lyra looked around nervously. But she couldn't feel any presence. Was that one of the magician's spells? "W-w-what do you mean by... presence? A-a-are we in d-d-danger?" she stammered out, crouching down, her ears flattened against her head, her eyes darting from left to right to try and spot any enemies. "Is it- *gulp* diamond dog slave drivers? Or... Or maybe even Bighoof!?"

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Mal spat when the Doctor tried to deny the existence of a library he'd already mentioned and ditch her. When they all piled in, Mal had only a short window of time to act as the cart took an extra few seconds to start up. She grabbed onto side of the machine and held on as tightly as she could with her legs.

The contraption sputtered into life and accelerated at an improbable rate. Mal nearly lost her grip immediately, but somehow she managed to stay on nearly all the way to the ruin, only finally losing her grip when the cat hit a bump while making a turn towards the ruins. She went flying into a shrubbery, rolling a few times before coming to an angry, bruised, and slightly lacerated stop. She paused for a moment to pull a few thorns out of her flesh before standing up and stalking towards the vehicle.

As they milled about, clearly not expecting her to have caught up just yet, Mal stalked up to the cart and ducked underneath it. Mal turned her glare up towards its mechanical underbelly. Its speed could be useful, but it could also be used against her, and she wasn't about to let that happen again. "All right, Doctor," she muttered to herself, "you want to be evasive? Evade this."

She focused her flames into a baseball-sized orb and forced it straight up, through the thickest part of the contraption. She was no engineer, but she knew enough about machines to know that the more complex it was, the more damage a simple problem like say, a giant hole, could cause. Mal's fireball ate a clean hole straight through, burning through metal like it was paper, and leaving a powder of metallic ash under the cart. A strange-looking liquid leaked out onto the ash, which was unusual, as most liquids froze when exposed to her flames, but Mal wasn't about to complain. Leaking fluids probably meant she'd hit something important.

Reassured that they wouldn't be able to speed off without her again, she rolled out from under the vehicle and stood up, pulling her flaming orb through the last layer of metal as she strode towards the Doctor. She let her focus drop a fraction of a second before nullifying her spell, and the flaming orb blossomed into a small explosion with a bang before vanishing.

"I hope you didn't think that was going to dissuade me," she snarled at them. "All you did was make me really pi-uh," She stopped short, when she finally noticed the strange aura the other ponies had been complaining about. "What the heck's wrong with this dump? What did you do?" She glared at the Doctor, already deciding that he was to blame.

(Edit: Oops, I saw that Trixie went into the cafe, but didn't see her come back out and thought everyone was in there. Fixed)

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Doctor Whooves stood next to the cart, and next to Lyra, looking out quite contentedly over the sea. Ahhhh, it was moments like these that he treasured, where he had only history to look forward to, wonderful history, glorious knowledge, with no threat to life or limb, no emminent danger, no suddenly malfunctioning cart that he needed to fix before they all died ...

And then Trixie came running out crying about everyone missing, and something approaching. Ahhh, well, he knew it was too good to last. And then there was a *sparking* noise, a sound of fluids spilling out onto the dark sand, and Doctor Whooves was moving before Mal was even halfway out from under the cart.

"NOnononoNOnoNO!" he cried desperately, leaping up into the cart and looking down to the small gap between the wooden floor and the metal box in back. "What did the mean old mare DO to you?!" he cried desperately, jabbing his front hooves into some insulating socks and throwing the top of the box open. A fierce green and blue glow illuminated him as he reached in, tinkering. "NonononoNONONONO!" he cried in anguish, "Oh, baby, oh, sexy, don't worry, I'll fix you! I'll make you all better!" He pulled out a small log, a log burning with leaping, flickering blue and green flames, and tossed it over the side into the dark sand where it smoldered and burned contentedly. He peered into the open box. "You put a HOLE right through the interlocator gearbox! A great bloody hole!"

It was as if Mal had no importance other than the inconvenience she put him through, all his attention was now on his cart. The sea, the ruins, the shacks, the salad, all were forgotten. Mal may as well not have even been there, nor Lyra or Trixie. And certainly not the large, lumbering thing coming up out of the waters, slightly bigger than the largest stallion, covered in slimy purple and green seaweed and barnacles, plodding along on four heavy feet through the surf to mount the beach, letting out a strange and moaning noise, and a quiet chittering clatter as if of a thousand mandibles all chattering hungrily at once, the salt water pouring out from underneath the thick coating of seaweed in huge gouts as it made its way from the briny depths.

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Trixie sighed, seeing that ragged unicorn, Malediction, standing next to the cart. She had followed, of course she had. She probably wanted the same thing Trixie wanted - ancient secrets of power. Trixie wasn't surprised; she herself wouldn't have been so easily dissuaded. Trixie had a quest to be a great and powerful unicorn, and nothing would get in her way, and she certainly wasn't worried about an ugly blue unicorn like this one. First off, the blue color was just *off*, not even close to the gorgeous blue of her own coat. And what was with that horrible mane? What had she used to cut it, a shovel?! And those bits of metal poked through -

Her train of thought was broken when Doctor Whooves reacted in such a frantic fashion, freaking out and leaping into his ridiculous cart panicing about ... something or other. Now what? Didn't he ever sit still?

She listened, half-understanding, to his fearful rant. Sexy? Was he talking about the cart? She raised an eyebrow at Doctor Whooves, and then shared a resigned look with Lyra. Stallions. She hopped her forehooves up onto the edge of the cart, peering inside. "Perhaps if you would take better - EYIPE!" She ducked to the side as a great flaming lump of something or other flew through the air where her head had been. "HEY!"

Doctor Whooves didn't even seem to notice, peering into his contraption. Hrmph. If he'd take better care of that contraption, perhaps it wouldn't have sprung a ... whatever it was it would spring. Probably broke it going over one of those hills at such ridiculous speeds ...

Wait. That was no hole from a stray rock; those edges were smooth, melted smooth, and perfectly circular. That was no accident; that was outright destruction! What petty small-mindedness! Just because his noisesome contraption was an almighty annoyance - and it was - that was no reason to destroy it! Even if she could understand, just a little, the desire to ... anypony could destroy. It took a true artist ... to CREATE! And to that, she had to give this ... Whooves ... at least some credit. And understand at least a little what he meant about being truly great.

"You foal! Can't you feel it?!" she declared, glaring at Malediction, then glancing for confirmation to Lyra. "I know you must feel it!" she said to the friendlier and more intelligent pony, who was at least smart enough to be a fan of the Great and Powerful Trixie. She looked back to Malediction. "Annoying as it may be, this contraption moves much faster than we, and can run all day! Who knows if our own hooves could carry us away from whatever malignant force approaches! What danger looms because your foalish actions have trapped us here?!" She snorted. "I understand feeling no danger because you stand under the protective and comforting presence of the Great and Powerful Trixie, but that is no call to tempt fate!"

She looked up, and saw the approaching mound of sea life, approximating the general shape of a pony, but much too large. Vegetation and the alien shapes of barnacles speckling its covered form. Fear shot through her, though she stood steady against it, shivering only a little. What ... what could that possibly be?! "Doctor!" she cried, "it ... has arrived!"

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Lyra's nerves were getting the better of her. As Malediction's fireball burst through the Doctor's cart the noise made her jump and yelp. Her levitation spell fizzled and her camera clattered noisily on the ground. Putting a hoof to her chest and breathing deeply to try and calm herself she watched as Doctor Whooves jumped into his cart and began his frantic yelling about his "sexy" cart. She returned Trixie's look of exasperation with a weak smile. Was this normal for these two?

When the deep blue unicorn with the ragged mane appeared from behind the cart Lyra took a few steps back. She had not only followed them, but had severaly damaged the Doctor's machine. Why? Out of spite? Or was she planning to trap them there? Worried about what this crazy mare might do, Lyra didn't even notice her own horn begin to resonate slightly. It was only when Trixie turned to her that she finally realised.

"I know you must feel it!"

Lyra nodded. She could feel something. A- yes, a presense. That was the only way to describe it. It was like how you can feel when somepony is looking over your shoulder without actually seeing them. "Y-Yes. It's- It's coming from the water!" she cried. Sure enough, seconds later, some... creature appeared from the sea, plodding it's way up the beach. Its appearance was grotesque. Lyra felt a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach and her hooves were rooted to the ground in fear. "What is that thing!?" she cried, hoping that one of the other ponies had an answer. Reflexively and without thinking, she picked up her camera again and hovered it in front of her, not to take a picture, but more to hide behind it.

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"Ha!" Mal laughed derisively at the Doctor, a rush of schadenfreude lightening her mood. "Serves you right for getting so attached to a big pile of worthless metal." Ignoring his ministrations, she walked past him towards Trixie, who seemed more inclined to actually converse with her, even if the only likely end result of any such conversation was further deepening the antagonism she felt towards the other blue unicorn.

She blinked as Trixie spoke of the presence. "Of course I can feel it. A disruption in the localized aetheric fields, but what's-" She was cut off by the rise of a... thing from the sea. In all her trips through the Everfree, she'd never seen anything like this. That made sense, she supposed. Sea monsters would be quite different from the normal forest fauna (and the occasional aggressive flora) that occasionally attacked in that land-locked forest.

"Woah, finally, some action." She glared irritably at Trixie. "No call to tempt fate, huh? I LIVE to tempt fate!" With that she stepped in front of the others and let out an inarticulate battle-scream. She unleashed a torrent of viridian flames that chilled the air around them. Unfortunately, she'd already expended a good deal of her emotional energies melting the car, so the flames burned significantly weaker than she'd intended. They washed over the creature, freezing solid the layer of water that was still dripping from it, and catching it partway in the water, freezing it in place until it managed to break through the ice. However, she did little actual harm to it, inflicting moderate burns across its body at worst. It was, sadly, still quite alive in its temporary tomb, and it loosed a muffled roar of rage and pain from within its prison.

"Look what you made happen!" Mal snarled, glancing back at the Doctor. "I had to melt a hole in your stupid cart, and now I don't have enough juice left to properly kill this giant, stinking, pile of garbage!"

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Doctor Whooves looked more wild than ever, running a hoof through his spiky, slicked-back mane and staring into the engine with a wide-eyed, helpless look on his face. And everyone couldn't even be quiet while he dealt with this catastrophe, could they? NO, no, of course not, they had to keep jabbering on and on as if there were some horrible monster coming up out of the surf! What in Equestria was their problem?!

He looked up and glared out at the ponies and their surroundings.

Oh. There was a horrible mosnter coming up out of the surf! Well, then, that was interesting! That was new! He'd not seen that sort of beast before. He wondered if he could talk with it, find out where it came from, what it wa-

And it was suddenly engulfed in green flame.

He leveled an exasperated look over at Malediction. "Is that all you do!?" he exclaimed. "Set things on fire? Somepony's coming towards me! Let's set them on fire! Somepony's moving away from me! Let's set their cart on fire! Something's popped back from its swim! Let's set it on fire! When you stub your hoof, do you set your hoof on fire, too?!"

While he was talking, the seaweed and barnacles were burning away from the massive hulk that had just emerged from the sea, the salt water freezing solid around it, revealing it at last for what it was - a massive earth stallion crafted of brass and glass. The ice inside its structure froze the gears both large and small that had been ticking away, bringing silence to the chittering sound that the beast had emitted. The brass was discolored from untold centuries, the glass deformed and twisted, darkened from the fires scorching its form, and it moved another half-step before freezing solid, held in its transparent chill shell.

Doctor Whooves forgot about scolding Malediction, staring instead in awe at the clockwork pony, his jaw dropped. "Well, hell-O! Aren't you *gorgeous*!" he said in amazement, fumbling at the dashboard to pull out a pair of glasses, propping them up on his muzzle. "Oh, *yes*. Oh my goodness! I'd heard of these, but I didn't think any would still be around! Admittedly, there used to be hundreds of them in the city, but -"

"COMMUNICATION WITH UNIT FOUR-TWO-THREE LOST" came a deep, gravelly, booming, and emotionless voice from the sand under Lyra's feet. "CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR DETECTED. CONTACTING PEACEKEEPING FORCES. PEACEKEEPING FORCES UNAVAILABLE. ENACTING EMERGENCY PROTOCOLS. SUMMONING OTHER MAINTENANCE UNITS. DE-TAIN. DE-TAIN. DE-TAIN."

The damp black sand under Lyra's feet started to bulge and lift up, swelling as something started to emerge from under the beach, the sand pouring away as the mound lifted and lifted underneath the pale green unicorn. Voices started sounding from all around, the sand bulging upwards in several places along the beach, and more figures starting to rise up out of the sea.

"Oh my," murmured Doctor Whooves.

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Eyes wide with a mix of fear and wonder, the mint coloured pony stared at the bizarre sight of the giant clockwork pony. She wouldn't have called it "gorgeous" like the Doctor did. But it was impressive. Had the ponies who had lived here so long ago made this machine? Despite her nerves, she lifted her camera to take a picture. Why not, after all? Whatever Maledicition had done to it had put it out of commission and it was no longer a danger. Looking through the viewfinder, she focused on the head of the majestic metal stallion.

"Say cheese! Hee hee!" "COMMUNICATION WITH UNIT FOUR-TWO-THREE LOST" "WAAAAAAAH!" *CLICK*

Nearly jumping out of her skin at the sound of a voice from directly under her feet, Lyra leapt backwards, her camera catching nothing more than blank sky as it tumbled out of her magical grasp. Panting with deep breaths, a hoof on her chest to try and steady the pounding of her heart, Lyra listened to the strange booming voice coming from where she had just been standing.

"DE-TAIN. DE-TAIN. DE-TAIN."

The ground under Lyra's hooves began to shake, but this time the terrified unicorn was too exhausted from her previous jump to leap away. Desperately trying not to lose her balance, she could only watch as the rest of the beach seemed to lower away from her. The form of yet another clockwork pony, covered in scratches and dents, no doubt from a lifetime of wating under the sand, rose underneath her. She was standing on it's back. The head of the great pony creature turned a full 180 degrees and looked straight at her with eerie blank eyes.

"DE-TAIN." came the hollow voice again, much louder this time with no sand to muffle the noise. Unable to contain herself anymore Lyra let out a scream and her horn began to glow. Heavy stress took its toll, and Lyra's magic flowed forth, unbidden, perhaps in a subconscious attempt to remove the nearby threat. With a brilliant blue-white glow, a powerful, high-pitched sound, like that of a hundred opera singers hitting a high note in unison, spilled from the unicorn's horn, focused directly at the head of the clockwork monster. The air in front of Lyra wavered as though from heat, as the waves of sonic energy hit the creature full in the face. In moments, the metal pony's glass eyes had both shattered and black smoke began to billow from within.

"ER-ROR. VISION IMPAIRED. ER-ROR. VISION IMPAIRED." It began to walk forward, ignoring all obsticles in its path. "THIS UNIT REQUIRES EMERGENCY REPAIRS." Lyra took the opportunity to drop from the clockwork stallion's back, landing roughly, but safely, on the sand. Looking up, she could see the out of control giant was walking straight towards the others! "Look out!" she managed to yell.

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