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Straying Far And Wide (Closed: EPIC Team Maretonia)

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Kastrot was a city that was unkind to a great many types of creatures unless they had horns. Of course, it depended on what specific island or neighborhood you found yourself in. Some islands were laissez-faire in their relations with other types of pony and creatures. As long as the bits flowed and troublemakers were kept out they didn't care. Others were more open, actively trying to be equal partners with the outside world. But the majority were various kinds of discriminatory towards non-unicorns. Maybe you paid a tax. Maybe you had to serve the island for a set period of time. Each island was different and that made Kastrot a city utterly unknowable to anypony not from the area, shaded and colored by island so vibrantly and differently that most could not hope to keep track of it all. Well, maybe those who weren't the best adventure pegasus of all time, anyway! Pathfinder knew Kastrot pretty well.

 

Pathfinder loved Kastrot. It was a really interesting city and since each family had castles and holdings stretching back through the eons there was a great number of relics and other adventurable items. And because the families were constantly in a state of infighting she could always try to work with one pony to find ways to another's secret vault guarded by mercenaries. And Maretonian mercenaries were totally awesome and ruthless! Pathfinder liked adventuring in Maretonia for just that reason. They were tough and their traps weren't decaying since their old places were constantly being refound and ponied by warlike elements of the population. Never a dull day in a dreary land. Maybe Hippolandinstanian(she always had trouble pronouncing that city's name) was a better entry point but Kastrot had a lot more backstabbing coolness.

 

Not that she expected backstabbing from this group. EPIC- what a name, right? This was Pathfinder's first real group. She was normally a solo adventurer, swiping relics and beating villains without breaking a sweat like a boss.But after what happened during the attack at the Crystal Faire, Pathfinder had started to believe that the dark places of the world that she so routinely traversed had started to bite the hooves that fed them. She wasn't worried for her own safety because, well, nothing could make Pathfinder concerned for something that was never really in doubt. But even Daring Do had to work for the greater good in her stunning quintet “Daring Do and the Conflict of the Heartbreak Ridge”. And just like that book, no doubt there would be hidden relics as the cause of it all! So how could Pathfinder NOT join up? It would be like high treason to Daring DO not to!

 

So she had joined and now the group was heading to Maretonia, Kastrot specifically. Sombra had been from this city and one of the unicorns who led the attack on the Empire also hailed from Kastrot. They had so little to go on so why not pay the city a visit? Besides, the city was likely quite popular as a WRAITH recruitment center. If Pathfinder knew anything about secret societies, it was that they recruited from lawless settlements and tyrannically lawful cities alike. Disenfranchised strong ponies or scheming family members alike could be promised gold and fame to help bring down Equestria, the state that mocked their origins as being unworthy. Geez, if Pathfinder was an upset strongpony or spoiled richfilly trying to make a name for herself maybe she'd take them up on the offer!

 

Showing up in an airship would attract attention. That was bad- they weren't supposed to be ponies of note. Just a bunch of travelers. Airships were rare for travelers. Their destination- Flamme Island, owned by the family of the same name, They weren't very kind to non-unicorns but aside from a tax on visitors and some unkind words there wasn't much Pathfinder expected unusual. More important, she knew the tunnels under the city and had a few, err, friends who could help with some exchanges of currency. Soon they'd look like normal unhappy Maretonians and could get to work. Huzzah! Pathfinder was at the head of the ship, playing as if she was steering the rickety old thing from a wheel unattached to anything up front. Behind her on the cracking boat were a few dozen immigrants and travelers as well as other members of EPIC, some below and some on the deck as they passed through the opening of the island's harbor, the city's massive walls passing directly overhead as the ship was surrounded in darkness for a moment...before bursting into the light of the active harbor, Pathfinder turning to her friend-compatriots.

“This is gonna be super cool! Who's ready for some adventurin'?!”  

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Night Watcher's mind swam with doubts as she paced the deck of the airship. The mare had just given up something that she once thought was so precious but now seemed to hold her back from truly setting out what she wanted to do: protect others from danger. Granted her time in the Lunar Guard was something to pass off as she did protect the cities she frequented, and with her title as Staff Sergeant she helped to train and lead others to carry on the legacy of the Lunar Guard. But where would she go from there? She could be a general one day, but she was unsure if she could have the entire fate of the Lunar Guard or the REA on her shoulders. Then there was the option of becoming a bodyguard, but despite guarding a Princess she wouldn't really be protecting anypony as any of the Alicorns were perfectly capable of protecting them from most aggressors. 

 

Thanks to a certain mercenary pony named Swift Squall Night looked for a new alternative that wasn't being a vigilante but was one where she could protect others more efficiently. She found it, or rather it found her in the form of this mysterious group called EPIC. They seemed to be a legitimate group recognized by the higher ups in the military and sworn to carry out the most dangerous and secretive of missions but were not controlled by any military entity. To her surprise she was easily asked to join for her cool head under pressure and her military prowess. Although she didn't know who recommended who she had the strange feeling one of the Princesses pulled some strings. Well one chapter closed as another opened.

 

It was strange standing on the deck without her silvery Lunar Guard armor. It was like a second skin to her, giving her at least mentally if not physically a sense of protection. She had to make it a priority to find a new suit of armor somehow. But there was something else that distracted her, a Pegasus who strangely looked like she was Daring Do from the novel series. Night didn't read much of these stories but respected that it was a very popular series by foals and adults alike. Maybe she was a tourist. Surely she wasn't a member of EPIC right?

 

“This is gonna be super cool! Who's ready for some adventurin'?!”  

 

"Well it looks like you are all ready for adventure," Night Watcher said as she approached the excited Pegasus, "Doing a little sightseeing here?" 

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Tehengu stood on the boat that was taking them to their destination, letting the cool air blow through his fur and feathers as he stared out from the front of the ship. He was back with a group again... It had been a while since he had been a part of any sort of orginization, especially like the one he found himself in now. EPIC... It sounded like a good cause, and while he usually required payment before he did anything, this was something he didn't mind doing for free. He was protecting his home, after all.

Kastrot was... Not his favorite place to be. While it seemed to have no shortage of jobs for him to do, mostly the more unsavory ones, he didn't enjoy the atmosphere of unicorn superiority that seemed to exist in some extent over most of the area.

The large griffin had wanted to bring his full gear, but they were supposed to be a little more inconspicuous than that, which unfortunately meant leaving most of his stuff behind. He was wearing a simple shirt to help hide the one weapon he did bring with him, his knife. He also had his bandanna on to cover his blind eye. He sighed slightly as a pegasus mare spoke, and another answered. This was no adventure, it was a mission. He remained silent for the moment, resuming his staring out the front of the boat after glancing back at the two mares.

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Maud Pie was excited to visit Maretonia, though it was of course difficult for one to tell at sight. The soil was of a different mineral composition in the foreign land. There would be innumerable varieties of rock there which she had never seen before. She would be able to collect new samples to take back with her to the university. At the rate her field research was going, she was sure that she would soon be able to attain the doctorate degree she desired, and then new worlds of rock research would lie before her.

 

And yet, while those thoughts were very forward in her mind, what had happened in the Crystal Empire had shaken her right down to the minerals. She had never been through anything quite like it. It made her angry just thinking about it, though again it was hard to observe this. She could recall seeing Twilight in pain in the aftermath. She could recall as well the beautiful crystal palace reduced to rubble. Fury found her when she recalled that the perpetrator had escaped from her. A molten fire within her sought to find him wherever he hid and make him answer for what he had done... but this was not something Maud would be able to do on her own.

 

Before the incident, Maud would have been quick--in Maud terms at least--to say that something like EPIC did not interest her, but now it certainly did. She had, in the wake of the invasion, supplied the Crystal Princess with all of her notes regarding the makeup of the crystal palace, which would help to see it rebuilt--but that was not enough. She had, during the ordeal, used the impossible strength within her to fight, and for the ire within her, she would continue to fight. EPIC would be that opportunity.

 

As the boat pulled up to Flamme Island's harbor, Maud wore a blank expression. She showed little interest in the other ponies on board, not knowing even who were her compatriots for the mission. She glanced toward the reddish sands of the shore and nodded. "Iron oxides are visible in the sand," she observed through a drone. She pointed her hoof at a large rock formation standing tall from out of the shore. "Ironstone. An impressive specimen."

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Well, Pathfinder was certainly not the only Adventurin' Pegasus on board the EPIC! 

“This is gonna be super cool! Who's ready for some adventurin'?!”
 

Almost on que the form of a blue furred, bright-silver maned and shimmering, amber eye'd pegasus flew down and onto the guard rails of the ongoing ship; tail flicking this way and that and his goggles practically fogging from his burning excitement.

"Am I?! I've not been on a big journey like this in a long time!" the azure pegasus exclaimed, doing a momentary wing-flutter in sheer delight, "And with such a cool group of ponies too, how could I not be excited!" finally the adventurer hopped from his perch on the guard rail and trotted alongside the other members of EPIC that were so far present. Pathfinder; to think that a fellow adventuring pegasus would be on the same team as him was making Razor all the more ecstatic. The awesomeness they'd be getting into was unimaginable! They both knew their ways around parts of the world, weren't strangers to delving solo into ancient ruins and avoiding traps of all various arrow, gas, or reptilian natures, -and- she was just about as excited as he was!

Of course he couldn't forget the other present members, such as Night Watcher.. whom Razor couldn't exactly read very well. This one seemed like a pony fallen from grace, or perhaps what they perceived as grace? Their steps carried a lot of weight as if something was heavily on their mind.. but they were nice enough it seemed, and as she approached the other adventurin' pegasus he nodded to her politely!

Tehengu was also seen looming about in the distance, a griffin that didn't seem -the- most social at the moment, then again Razor never knew many griffin's that were all open arms, smiles and hugs (even if hugs were awesome) as they seemed to be a more rough 'n tumblin' kind of crowd, but nothing the pegasus couldn't respect. They were certainly strong on average, and quite imposingly large so such a companion would be nice to have a long, and of course Razor was eager to make new friends.

Then there was Maud... what the hay could he say about her? She was stern as a rock, colorful as a rock, excited as a rock.. you could see the pattern there. But she was here to help, same as everypony (and griffin!) else so Razor held nothing against her, even if she -weren't- here he wouldn't... she was just so frikkin' hard to get a read on. Still, she was strong, knowledgeable and the most level headed of the group, so that rounded out there current present folk rather nicely. That of course didn't leave out anyone else that may be hiding below deck!

Speaking of below deck, Razor felt a little odd not having his light leather and chain armor to hide beneath that crimson red cloak he still wore, and his back felt oddly empty without the heavy blade of his Greatsword weighing upon it.. who knew that being without gear he almost always had on would feel just a tad odd? Still, he coudln't exactly waltz around the ship or their destination -visibly heavily armed- so he had to keep it all stashed in a packing sack down below deck for the moment. That probably wouldn't hold up against any kind of security but he was a craft 'sus; he'd figure something out!

"So!... uh, when we get there what's the first order of business again?" well he said he was crafty, he didn't say anything about being attentive! 

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Rose wasn't particularly happy to visit maretonia. Her experiences with this place in the past weren't particularly happy ones. Her school in Fet-loch had once taken her to this place before on a field trip and the attitude of the ponies here was kinda creepy to her. Much like the rest of modern equestrian society (or so she imagined); the idea that one species of pony was inherently superior to the was incredibly offensive. The only comfort she felt from this trip was being with her friend, Maud pie.

 

While Rubble and Maud hadn't met very long ago, the two mares had already been through quite a lot. The events in the crystal faire were still fresh in both there minds, and how couldn't it be? The two powerhouses had managed to fight of the leader of a rengade faction of viking caribou and more or less win. Rose had expended a great deal of her physical strength in that fight, as well as using an incredible amount of magical energy in her usual manner where she broke a great deal of material apart and eventually the ordeal had left her tired enough to pass out, then be left to recover from her wounds and exhaustion. It didn't take too long for the young demolition worker to heal, but she was always glad to see that Maud continued to visit her... although most ponies wouldn't have been able to tell that. Maud and Rose were on a similar wavelength in terms of personality and interactions so they seemed to be able to read and understand eachother's emotions easier. 

 

The demomare was happy to hear that her friend would like to see the Red Jarl brought to justice and she could tell that Maud was happy to hear she would be joining her; if there was one thing Rose hated to do it was to leave a wrecking job half finished. The boat ride to Kastrot wasn't too bad, Rose had to forgo her headphones for a while so her little quirk of colliding with walls wouldn't cost the ship it's seaworthiness. As soon as they set foot on the beach, the headphones had went right back on and everyone could hear some rather chill sounding rock music coming from her headphones that were shaking on her head from their impressive volume. On the trip she'd told everyone that she could read lips so they could still talk to her while she wore them but she'd remove them if they really wanted her to.

 

“This is gonna be super cool! Who's ready for some adventurin'?!”  

 

Pathfinder acted pretty much how her cousin had described, hyper, exciteable, and ready for any kind of adventure. On the trip she seemed to be one of the most excited at the prospect of foiling some kind of master plot that WRAITH had planned. She saw the motion of the khaki colored pegasus's lips and nodded sternly and stoicly before she slowly walked about on the beach, noting the interesting color of the sand...  

 

"Iron oxides are visible in the sand," she observed through a drone. She pointed her hoof at a large rock formation standing tall from out of the shore. "Ironstone. An impressive specimen."

 

"Uh-huh." Said the scarlet maned unicorn, "Very useful component for construction." Rose calmly walked up to the large formation and paused once she felt her hoof collide with a smaller bit of ore, the unicorn held it in her hoof and tucked it in her pocket. Maybe Maud would like it later as a gift, or a companion for her pet. Rose looked around over the formation and noticed one side had been already been heavily hollowed out , likely by mining work by the locals. As she looked over some of the carts and pickaxes on the ground she shrugged and figured it didn't have anything to do with their mission here... but now that she thought about it, what -was- the mission here again? 

 

"Um... who is our leader again? I have a question."

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An airship was a rather grand entrance to the city Kastrot. Dunder ddn't know who funded this EPIC organization, but since his two comrades and referrals to the organization were both born with golden spoons in their mouths the pegasus guessed it was probably funded by similarly well off ponies. The pegasus wished that somepony he knew would have accompanied him on this quest, but for now it seemed that he was with a brand new group of strangers. A brand new group of hopefully-not-awkward introductions so that they could at least get some sense of comradery going. Since the beginning of the flight all he had done was laze around in the ship and hang around wherever he could find a comfortable spot to sit. After traveling enough, one could find a comfortable spot to rest fairly easily.

 

On the stern of the airship, hanging off the edge is where he sat. The sky didn't scare him, he was a pegasus after all. In a city he heard and read was hostile to horn lacking flavor of pony. And the mercenaries there were no joke either. As long as they all stayed together or at least out of his way, the pegasus was eager to prove himself again after bitter defeat was fresh in his heart.

 

Dunder pulled out his letter of acceptance and orders again. At least whoever wrote it spelt Dunder's first name right. He looked at the greeting, "Dunder Blast" in some fancy script. The pegasus sighed and put the paper in his mouth, tearing off the incorrect section of the letter and dampening the immediate area around the bite mark. He spat it out, the torrents off the aft of the airship quickly whipping it away. The stallion grunted and shoved the letter back into his saddlebag.

Under his dangling hindlegs the city moved lazily under some wispy clouds. He knew they'd be landing soon, then the party could begin.

The pegasus used his wing to flip himself onto his stomach, and then used his wings and forelegs to pull himself back over the small wall onto the deck. He landed with a thud sufficient enough to make the old wood below him creak. Right now he was naked, but he wasn't unprepared. His saddlebags were stuffed with light armor. A thin gambeson, long leather coat with some metal reinforcements, some metal plates to guard his shoulders, and some armor manchettes for his legs. Though he couldn't smuggle in his saddlebag a sword. Java was still working on a telescopic sword. for now he just wore his red sash under his sword belt around his waist. To get as little attention as possible he took a cup hilted rapier, not as intimidating as its larger cousins, but still as vicious in Dunder's skilled hooves. To compliment it, on his right was a matching cup hilted, bone gripped, parrying dagger.

The stallion navigated to the head of the crowd that was gathering at the head of the ship. He knew his team leader was that Pathfinder character. He could recognize some of the other EPIC members. They stood out like sore wings in the crowd of the other airship travelers. Just in time to hear her.

“This is gonna be super cool! Who's ready for some adventurin'?!” 

At least she was happy to set out, some of the other members looked like they were ready to take a nap.

"I'm ready, but this place isn't the most accepting of locations. I'd rather get off the streets." He said to the leader mare.

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Pathfinder was pretty excited to get to know her adventure companions better. There must have been a reason why they were all selected, right? It would be silly if they were picked at random. They all must have had special skills and talents if they were the best of the best that Twilight could conjure up. First off the list- Maude Pie! She was supposed to be freakishly super strong and some sort of super smart pony who knew all manner of rock-related trivia. Pathfinder would have to challenge her to a hoof wrestling competition on a rock-clay surface at some point to find out if the stories matched the reality. Or was it the other way around? Did it matter? Not really to Pathfinder! Hopefully they were one and the same. Pathfinder loved having a super strong teammate because they tended to be able to pull off some sick, Pathfinder saving moves. And she was smart, too! Pathfinder didn't know what she was talking about but she was more than happy to play along as she hovered over, looking at what Maude was looking at. “Yeah, Ironstone is totally impressive. A lot better than bronzestone! And filly, don't get me STARTED on bronze ixodes in sand! I mean, total fail, right?” Pathfinder was totally smooth!

You know who wasn't smooth? The former Lunar Guard mare Night Watcher. Pathfinder had only read up on the others in a cursory fashion- breaking into Canterlot archives only afforded her so long before the guards discovered her and cited her for the seventh such breakthrough- but they all were suitably interesting. Night was a loyal Guardsmare but seemed a bit broken up by the prospect of being on EPIC in lieu of it, which seemed silly to Pathfinder! Couldn't she see she was doing her Princess a much better service by going out there and kicking some flank in her name rather than just standing idly by? Well, she would eventually. There would be lots of awesome villains on this journey and Nighty poo would be able to kick flank and chew bubblegum (or something similar) all the way to the bank! Well, by bank she meant evil villain lair but depending on the loot it could be quite similar! “Oh, totally taking in the sights. I'm a little sad that this island doesn't have rotational automatic ballistas. Some do! Those things are totally bad-flank!” Pathfinder said as she few over to Night Watcher, pointing off in the distance towards some of the other islands. Too bad this one didn't have such awesome defenses. Laaaame.

 

They did do well to have some griffeys along for the ride. One of them was a bit quiet and Pathfinder didn't know much about her beyond her name, Tehengu, which she was confident was translated back to Equestrians as “Super cool badflank griffon” or something similar. She liked having griffons around. They could always turn traitor and were cool foes to face, or they could stay loyal and totally bail out the adventurers at a late hour. She seemed to be focused too, so no doubt she would be the straight griffon to the group's charms, providing a solid foundation just like Doctor Mettle did whenever he was in a Daring Do story. Pathfinder liked to imagine he secretly went down to the clubs to 'get jiggy with it' and she did so in her stories, but she'd have to be okay with Tehengu probably not doing any jiggying with anything else. And that was okay, because she was a griffon and griffon were cool.

 

Also cool- Dunder. Pathie hadn't heard too much but what she had READ was that he was a cool stallion full of winning potential. He had a rapier cutie mark! How cool was THAT? Most ponies had cutie marks that spoke to more etheral qualities, something indirect and full of 'meaning'. But he had a rapier! Awesomesauce! Also a big fella. She imagined he was totally strong too. Wow, they had lots of really strong ponies on this team. It was almost like they were expecting hooficuffs under a drawbridge or something. He also smelled faintly of olives and other cookery thingies, which made sense since he was a cook of some sort. Maybe he could do something with Kastroti leather. Last time she was here some mare had her all laced up in, well, lace and leather. She had to eat her way out and the leather hadn't sat well. “Don't worry Dundi, we're not gonna be on the streets long at all!” Pathfinder offered joyfully. Yeah, no way would she be caught dead as a pegasus on a Kastroti street, not with the well known desires of the rapacity of the ponies who lived there. Hopefully the action wouldn't be too much for him.

BUT GUESS WHO IT WOULDN'T BE TOO MUCH FOR? Pathfinder and her momentary PFABF (Pony Friend-Adventurer Buddy Forever) Razor, a pegasus who seemed to realize just how awesome cool sauce this all was. Pathfinder hadn't gotten too much info on Razor before she was cited by the Guard but sometimes you didn't need to know a pony to know a pony. You had to trust your gut instincts and Pathfinder's gut told her- well, it probably first screamed, “PLEASE SEE A DOCTOR ABOUT THE POISON YOU INGESTED A WEEK AGO PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!”- but beyond that it told her that Razor was totally rad and that was good enough for Pathfinder! If Pathfinder was knocked out for a moment or so then Razor could be a good sub for a fun adventure pony or the group. “Well, its pretty simple. Get a place to stay, one half do this thang topside, the rest of us cool customers do it down below,” she hovered closer, “WRAITH recruitment could come from above or below,” Pathfinder said, keeping it low for secrets.

Just like this Rosey Posey pony. She seemed aloof and distant but that was probably because of some sweet jamilicious music she was listening to. Pathfinder couldn't blame her because when the tunes overcame her she felt the need to boogie down too! Of course, Pathfinder was more likely to have music force her to boogie down, ya know, hypnotic suggestion and stuff. She was some sort of construction mare and Pathfinder could only guess that some manner of silliness in the future would demand that skill set. It seemed odd but if Pathfinder had to count the times when such specialized skill-sets came into the spotlight she'd lose count, partially because she wasn't good with numbers but more so because it happened a lot. Plus she had a cool cutie mark. Sweet life. “Well, I know lots about this place...but if there is one thing I know, its that we'll be under lots of scrutiny if we walk around without a unicorn leading us. By right, you're gonna be the leader! All hail Grand Leader Rose!” Pathfinder hailed and laughed as the ship pulled directly into the harbor.

It was tugged unnaturally by a small squadron of unicorns on the port, attaching them to a series of hooks above. The ship would have jolted had it not been for the magic, which aided in stabilizing the ship as it was lifted out of the water and onto the port itself. Ramps from below dropped as cargo was released- ramps from the top then dropped onto a second level of the port. Unicorns were the first ones off and trotted off if they wished to do so unmolested. Others were now allowed to go, though there were various charges based on what species they were. The whole group moved as one, foregoing the one free unicorn in the group because they were all new to the island and in need of official documentation. Huzzah! “Alright everypony, time to get it!”

Heart Stopper looked at the ship with a sincere case of boredom. She only had to help out on Flamme Island once a month but it was always the worst. She got fewer concubines and played fewer hearts than any other day, even though once or twice she did get a tasty treat. The good thing about the new immigrants was that if they were caught this early she could whisk them away to Heart Island and nopony would even know! The best concubines were those she could shape. Promises of a better life were useful in getting them to then agree to her arranged relationships, increasing the power of her family. Of course with such ambitions today would generally be great had it not been for the severe lack of interesting ponies. So instead of being a lover she was a tax collector! Uggh. What a waste of a beautiful day. The baths at her castle were sure to be brimming with such beautiful specimens of Maretonian delight. The delegation from Acroneighos was in town and she was dying to see what they looked like unarmored and unguarded.

“Oooh, look at these ones,” she purred, getting up off of her seat at the end of the dock where she was assessing a rather ugly Earth pony. Her aides went about doing the tax collecting as she trotted up to the group of seven who came off. A motley assortment, Equestrian no doubt. They were always troubling to deal with, what with their incessant moaning about equality. Yuck.

“Hmm...unclean, two-hundred Kastris,” she said, passing Pathfinder with her nose upturned reaching Maude, inspecting her bangs and musculature with a simple spell, “ooh, I approve. One-hundred Kastris,” Night Watcher's turn, the spell roiling over over the body, “well-toned but still pretty, and look at those wings! What I could do with this one. Seventy-five Kastris,” and then Razor, bringing a smile to Heart Stopper's face, “my my, look at this specimen! I could just eat you up! Seventy-five Kastris- ooh, look at this handsome devil,” she purred, brushing past Dunder with a wink, “fifty Kastris! A hundred and fifty for the griffon. They're adorable but tend to be a bit clawy!”

She trotted up to Rose, smiling all the while. “My dear, you've chosen some fine specimens to travel with. Ten kastris for you. That is six-sixty for the lot as an entry fee. That is three-thirty in bits. I'll cut in half if you give me the handsome fellow with a rapier,” she spoke with a silver tongue, her marvelous features sparkling in the merriment of the sun.

Edited by SteelEagle
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It wasn't that Night was totally oblivious to the fact that Pathfinder was a member of EPIC. She didn't know every member but at least she was given a dossier of all the ponies in her team including the team leader. Pathfinder was a rather interesting mare, one who seemed maybe a little too excited about starting the mission. The same could be said about her rather conspicuous attire. Still this actually may work for her favor as she looked like a tourist ready to explore the city. What she was trying to do was to not reveal what everypony was doing, padding it as the group going on a tour. 

 

“Oh, totally taking in the sights. I'm a little sad that this island doesn't have rotational automatic ballistas. Some do! Those things are totally bad-flank!” 

 

"I see that you are a fan of artillery," Night said not sure why the Pegasus would be interested in them or why she expected Kastrot to have them. Did this pony expect the worst of seeing things happen? 

 

"You attire is very interesting. It reminds me of a book that I read: Daring Do. Is that what interested you in exploring, this character?" 

 

She looked at the other ponies on the deck of the airship as it made its final docking. There was a griffon who said nothing but merely looked forward as if he had one goal in mind. This must be her team leader, a griffon named Tenghu. Another was a mare wearing a blank expression ans said nothing other than some talk about the content of the sand on the beach. She must be the one named Maud Pie who was an expert in geology. 

 

"No doubt this Ironstone was used in many of the buildings in the city for construction," she said trying to strike a conversation. After all, the ponies couldn't work together unless they talked to each other. 

 

"Um... who is our leader again? I have a question," a unicorn said standing nearby, one she remembered was the construction and demolitions expert Rubble Rose. It was no wonder that she was interested in the topic Maud explained. 

 

"I wouldn't broadcast that," Night said quietly, "But our 'tour guide' is the griffon up on the bow." 

 

A sudden thud snapped Night to attention as the mare looked to see a Pegasus stallion who must have flown from another part of the ship. 

 

"I'm ready, but this place isn't the most accepting of locations. I'd rather get off the streets." 

 

"Yes, I heard that non-unicorns aren't treated too kindly here. Hopefully things among the civilians are stable enough. I have a feeling that the local will be the least of our problems." 

 

"So!... uh, when we get there what's the first order of business again?" 

 

"That would be up to our leader," Night said to the last of the group, a pony named Razor.

 

As the ship landed a unicorn who was possibly a toll keeper and not from EPIC boarded and began to give certain fees, ones that were clearly unbalanced. The ones she looked less upon were given a higher fee while the others a lower one. Night was lucky that the mare saw something in her and only charged her 75 bits compared to many others except for the Pegasus Dunder and Rubble Rose. The total number of bits though was an unfathomable amount for just simply entering a port. Night waited to see if their leader would provide the funds or if she needed to pitch in. 

Edited by Scootalux

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Tehengu listened silently to the talk going on between the members of his team. If he was remembering correctly, only Night had any experience in the military aside from him. So far they all seemed capable enough, they likely wouldn't even be part of EPIC otherwise, but those two pegusi...

This was not an adventure. This was not some trip into unkown places to discover new things. This was a mission, a mission to help uncover and stop an evil organization. He could deal with their personalities, but it was frustrating that Pathfinder and Razor weren't taking this seriously.

As they docked, it seemed there were questions for him, which Night directed to him. He nodded to her, finally turning towards his teammates as they departed. Pathfinder had suggested one good thing, at least.

"Yes, things will be better if we look like we're being led by a unicorn. This place has a distaste for anything without a horn." He said, his eye narrowing at that last part. He believed that everyone should be judged for who they are, not what they are. He looked over at the approaching mare, listening as she began dealing out the fees for them to be visiting. He stood by impassively as the racial bias was displayed, Rose, the unicorn, getting the lowest fee. At least they made unicorns pay at all, though that wasn't particularly helpful for the current situation.

After a momentary glance at Dunder, then at Rose, he fished out the bits for the fee, tossing the bag at the mare. He wasn't about to give up his ally simply to save some money. He looked at the mare for a second before looking away, giving a snort before walking off with the group when they were ready.

"What was your question?" He asked Rose after they were far enough away from the mare giving the fees. He looked to the unicorn as he said it, frowning at her wearing headphones. Really, was nobody in this group going to take this seriously? He supposed it would help with the appearance of tourists of a sort, but it was still frustrating.

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"Uh-huh. Very useful component for construction."

 

Maud nodded in agreement at this. "Yes..." she said. "it is also known to be a source in which concentrations of opals to be found and the red and black striped varieties of the stone are known as tiger iron and are prized for their appearance." She was pleased to have Rose along with her. The two of them seemed to operate on close to the same wavelength. For all the unfortunate things which had happened during the fair, Maud was happy to have met this pony.

 

She was not the only familiar face in the group as it was. One of them, Dunder, was a pony Maud had ventured with before. She couldn't claim to know the rest, but she was sure in time that she would learn much about all of them. Perhaps she would make some more friends.

 

“Yeah, Ironstone is totally impressive. A lot better than bronzestone! And filly, don't get me STARTED on bronze ixodes in sand! I mean, total fail, right?”

 

As another of the potential friends came to her with some words, Maud found herself less sure about the prospect of getting to know these others. Maud stared at the paint covered pegasus in the dirty clothes like she was speaking another language. It was immediately apparent that she knew nothing about anything and yet talked like she was informed. Energy was fine, but flaunting your own ignorance was the antithesis of scientific process.

 

"There is no such thing as bronzestone. Bronze is an alloy made from combining copper with tin and on occasion other metals or elements such as arsenic, phosphorous, aluminium or silicon. It is not a mineral found in nature as iron is and there are no bronze oxides--or ixodes, though that is not even a real word," Maud lectured in a dull drone, her face blanker than usual for her disdain. She continued to look at the ironstone and not at the pony herself.

 

She continued to look at the rock as the group began to move, Rose's question about who the leader was being answered by the others before Maud could--not that she had a particular awareness for that detail in the first place. When they were ashore, some unicorn started to look at them and named prices. When all was said and done, it was a pretty steep price demanded of them, but nevertheless the griffon in the group supplied the full amount without much fuss. This was a surprising gesture. Was the griffon perhaps wealthy to the point where the money did not mean anything to him, or was it just out of the bigness of his heart? Whatever the case, it seemed a rash solution when it came without any discussion by the party.

 

She walked ahead to catch up to the griffon as he spoke with Rose. "You should not assume the burden for us all without discussing it first," she said in a low voice as she reached into her pocket, pulling out a small but very pretty red gemstone. "Take this. It will make up for my amount," she said.

 

In truth, the small ruby was worth quite a bit more than fifty bits or 100 kastris, but Maud wasn't going to say anything about that.

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"That would be up to our leader," the voice of Night responded first, just before Pathfinder chimed in with said explanation. Needless to say the azure furred pegasus was a hundred percent on board with the situation!... even if he didn't -completely- understand the circumstances and wasn't that familiar with this particular, not-so-fun town they were making their way towards. Still, he knew enough to know for sure he was on the right side and everypony (and griffon!) present seemed upstanding enough.

As Razor was sitting upon his haunches idly listening to the chatter of his group mates, the ship seemed to finally come to a stop. Brimming with excitement, the pegasus quickly dashed below deck and re-emerged with the brown, roped and wrapped up 'bag' that contained his trusty weapon. Conspicuous? Yes, of course, but subtly was never the adventurer's strong suite.. as Pathfinder, Razor's (hopeful!) future best buddy in adventure-and-awesome-stuff would most certainly relate!

The initial... examination by a strange unicorn was a bit odd, to say the least, and certainly caught the pegasus off guard. While the supposed 'collector' seemed to pass off several members of the group as lower then her 'expectations' she seemed to instantly change her tone upon laying eyes upon him. His lightly shimmering, golden eyes widened a tad at her comment and seeming intrigue in him and the deep-blue fur of his cheeks slowly darkened as he awkwardly shuffled a hoof upon the dock, clearing his throat and shifting the heavy package upon his back. 

"U-uh, thanks! I uh-" of course his words were swiftly ignored as the inspector went on to the other group mates... this was a weird place already. Still, fees needed to be payed, and reaching his snout into his saddlebag the pegasus snatched up his own small pouch of bits. Taking a moment to count out his share of the fee and hoofing it over; one foreleg having to keep a hold of his large bag, making the process a tad awkward..

Seemed Tehengu and Maude were already speaking, and as they were Razor took notice of the immensely small fee being given to the unicorn in their group.. jeez, that's unfair. True he was told this patch of land was distasteful towards anything that wasn't lucky enough to be born with a horn and four hooves but still, didn't mean the pegasus had to like it. A faint, little huff of dissapointment left his snout before shaking his head; this wasn't going to get his good mood down! Adventuring with new friends was always exciting, and being in hostile territory just made it more interesting!

...perhaps he was a bit more naive then he was willing to admit to himself.

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Dunder stood there, eyeing the mare as she examined his group mates and gave them entry fees based on how they looked. The mare navigating through the group and charging the entry fees really set the tone of casual discrimination. Why didn't their command assemble an all unicorn team or something? Dunder thought, and just huffed hot breath out of his nose to whisk the thought away. To think these were the government officials of an Equestrian ally! In all his years... wait, what?

“fifty Kastris!"

She declared his fee, with a certain gusto. And when she brushed past he caught a whiff of something elegant. Maybe she wasn't so bad after all. Her eyes and mane were well kept, and she had curvacious features of an attractive body. But! He shook his head, he couldn't stray from the path. Especially for such a dangerous mare, a mare who was beautiful and knew it. The radiance of her features in the sun didn't make his decision any easier.

Even though the compliment and attention caught him off guard, he reached into his saddlebag with a wing and held it out to her. He glanced up at his boss, then back down at her, "Sorry. Boss's orders." He grinned at her, "If we meet again though, I'll show you how we do it in my patria." He leaned in close, brushing the tips of his muzzle's coat against hers. "And you'll never look down at another pegasus."

When she took the bits, he trotted on, back to his group. They were talking about something chemical. "Hm, I almost studied chemistry. It's exactly like cooking but you can't lick the spoon afterwards." The stallion said to the earth mare who always spoke in a monotone.

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MVpVzwhl.jpg

 

 

 

 

Rose stared at the exciteable pegasus after she had proclaimed her the group's grand leader. Many ponies would likely confuse the look the unicorn gave Pathfinder as a simple glare in annoyance, but in reality, Rose was staring in disbelief. She supposed it did make sense, Kastrot was a city where unicorns were considered the cream of the crop and the best of all pony species. Rose had never had any experience even -acting- the part of a leader, she was usually just the pony who was told what to do. She didn't see any other Unicorns here so she couldn't really turn down this notion seeing as they had no other options. "Okay... " said the distant, scarlet maned mare, "I guess he first order of business is to get off this boat." 

 

No sooner did she say that did the boat dock, the sound of chains and creaking wood echoing around the group for a few moments before the gangplank was lowered. Several unicorns got off the vessel first, almost as if they wanted to escape the team's presence at any cost. As soon as everypony was off the boat, a pink unicorn approached them and began to speak aloud of the various costs of each passenger. She seemed kind of flirtatious  at least with the stallions. Rose showed a less subtle frown when she saw how she reacted to Maud but as usual the expression faded back to her neutral look in a second.

 

The mare then appraoched the 'grand leader' with the entry fee which was pretty pricey even when she translated it to equestrian currency. She wasn't really sure what she was talking about when she said cutting the fee if she 'gave' her Dunder. was she talking about a date or something? If so, that wasn't a bad deal. Rose looked to Dunder, "What do you think?" She asked in a listless tone. Before Dunder could voice his thoughts it seemed a griffin, Tehengu, had decided to pay his fee for him. This honestly wasn't the smartest move since by association with his race, his money was more or less worthless here... Rose simply cleared her throat and reached into her pocket pulling out a checkbook, "You accept checks, right?"

 

"What was your question?" He asked Rose after they were far enough away from the mare giving the fees. He looked to the unicorn as he said it, frowning at her wearing headphones. Really, was nobody in this group going to take this seriously? He supposed it would help with the appearance of tourists of a sort, but it was still frustrating.

 

When rose took notice of his disapproving gaze at her headphones, she levitated them off, the music still going strong. She evidently played her music very loud as once they were away from her ears pretty much everypony could hear the music playing, the lyrics being sung in throaty tone, "'Cause every colt crazy 'bout a sharp dressed mare~" Rose simply reached into her jacket and turned down the volume before returning her attention to the griffin, "Not now. We'll talk at a tavern." Rose began to write out her check while also taking into account the payments the others were coming up with.

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Heart Stopper wasn't caught off guard by the rudeness of Tehengu's actions. After all, she dealt with plenty of foreigners who failed to understand the utter perfection of how Kastrot operated. This was especially true when she knew they were coming from Equestria, a place that gagged itself on the rotten edifice of equality like the confused sheep they were. Their lack of proper experience and education, ugly forms of crossbreeded generations, their failure to comprehend beyond their pitiful life experiences all marked them as ignorant savages. Their ignorance did little to bother her. It did far more to bother them and would certainly make their time on kastrot much more difficult. Oh well, their loss- her gain. She caught the bag of bits tossed at her in a flash, more than happy to keep the extra he had sent. After all, she had directed her charge towards the unicorn amongst them. She was going to be the one paying for them all. One by one they paid her and bit by bit, Kastroti by Kastroti, she giggled. They were truly stupid creatures, these Equestrians.

After all, she was the one who would allow them to do or disallow them to do whatever she pleased. The Crown Prince of this Island was one of her many lovers, after all, wrapped around her hooves like a love drunk snake seeking solace by the mere mention of her warmth. She'd keep her eye on Dunder, that little cutie seemed to play along a bit. Looking down on a pegasus, eh? Oh sweetie, Heart Stopper had looked down on pegasi plenty before. She had just done so the night before! Just because they were flying rats didn't mean there wasn't some prime meat amongst them and when it came to love she was a voracious, cunning carnivore. As for Tehengu- he'd get his. She'd see to it, one way or another. Maybe she'd have him grovel for forgiveness. Maybe she'd grant it.

Maybe not.
And why should see? This group was quite dumb. She didn't expect that- ignorant or not, within their false belief system they were at least intelligent enough to spot problems and adapt. But they seemingly followed Tehengu- why would anypony follow him in Kastrot? They were either incredibly idiotic or ignorant. Either way it made them stick out like a sore thumb. They'd be noticed if they followed him around and didn't follow the unicorn. Better to be smart rather than foolhardy. It made her job easier, in any case.

"You accept checks, right?"

Heart Stopper smiled. “No. No we do not. Also my dear- I'm afraid I strained my horn a little catching that ruffian's throw, so the price is doubled. Oh-” she said, levitating Rose's bitpurse out and over the collections she had, tipping it over until it was nearly empty, “-that should handle it, sweetie. Welcome to Kastrot- if you have any questions, please feel free to contact the administration. I'm sure they'd be dying to help out such a wonderful and considerate group. Ta ta,” she finished, bouncing off and away until se was with the rest of her own group.


Once there, she waited until the group was gone. Once out of sight, she started creating posters using her magic, a whole set of the group being made in ten seconds. Then she made more and more, more sets, more sets. She handed them out to her two aides. “Give a set to each shop keep, each place of lodging, everything- triple the rate of EVERYTHING until that one-” she pointed to a picture of Tehengu, “-is with me. I have a place I can sell such impudent pups for and make a mint. My allies always need strong talons. Chop chop!”

Pathinder paid absentmindedly, not really paying attention to the debate and arguments and the ponies being strange. This was Kastrot, this was how they operated! If Pathfinder was alone she could sneak into the city but alas, they didn't have the sneaky sneaky types. Pathfinder finished and hovered ahead, humming to herself the song of adventure and EXCITEMENT. This was gonna be fun! First they had to get settled and then do some investigation. Finding the source of that one unicorn during the attack was alpha importance. For that, they needed to have a unicorn in the lead. Huzzah! They had one of those. “So Rosey, if I was you, I'd go ahead and get us settled in. Then we can go around turning ove rtables, getting into fights, or just asking questions until we find what we need. Sound coooool?”

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"Yes, things will be better if we look like we're being led by a unicorn. This place has a distaste for anything without a horn."

 

Night nodded, realizing that this was going to be harder than she expected. She didn't like the fact of venturing out without a unicorn accompanying to avoid being mistreated by the locals. The Pegasus couldn't help but cringe at seeing Tehengu unceremoniously tossing the bag of bits at Heart Stopper. She wouldn't question the leader, but in a hostile situation this would inevitably make things harder. Her military tactics training taught her about the ripple effects of even the most mundane of events. 

 

-that should handle it, sweetie. Welcome to Kastrot- if you have any questions, please feel free to contact the administration. I'm sure they'd be dying to help out such a wonderful and considerate group. Ta ta,”

 

"Thank you. I'm sure they are willing to help," Night said happily to the mare although she knew that they would get no help from the town. It was them against the locals until they could prove otherwise. 

 

"Not now. We'll talk at a tavern." 

 

"That might be slightly better than out on the streets, although have a feeling we'll have eyes and ears turned towards us. I personally don't trust that Heart Stopper and I have a feeling that there are others in her group."

 

“So Rosey, if I was you, I'd go ahead and get us settled in. Then we can go around turning over tables, getting into fights, or just asking questions until we find what we need. Sound coooool?”

 

"Or get us thrown into whatever hole this town calls a dungeon. I think first we need just like any 'tour group' to get our bearings. Of course Rubble and Tehengu since you're leading this mission I'm ready for the next move."

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Why were they all paying? He had given the full amount to that stupid unicorn. At least some of his group didn't try to give this place extra money. Actually, knowing this place, most of the money would be going straight into that unicorn's pocket. In retrospect, he probably should have left the payment to Rose, as she was the only unicorn, but it was too late to change that now. He would just have to keep a lookout for any repercussions coming his way from it.

 

Oh well, that was an issue for later. He let Rose take the lead to give the illusion that she was leading them around as she responded to him, saying she would ask her question later when they weren't out in the open. Night immediately brought up a good point in that they would probably still have eyes and ears on them. He nodded at that, looking at Rose again.

 

"Right, we'll talk later. Unless you can be sure there is nobody eavesdropping, don't reveal too much in conversation." He said, right before Pathfinder spoke up again, drawing an annoyed growl from him.

 

"Pathfinder, we're not supposed to be drawing attention to ourselves. No sense in showing ourselves before we're ready to face our enemies. Admittedly, I did a poor job of that back there, but it would be better to not get into fights or draw undue attention to ourselves." Tehengu said, looking at the pegasus momentarily before speaking again. "I say we get a place to sleep before they have a chance to make it more difficult on us. That's open to suggestions though."

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